I have dedicated my career to working with senior leadership teams and helping them to devise the strategies, organizational designs and operating models needed to better set direction and manage change. From all of this work, regardless of industry, staff size or revenue, these 10 leadership principles have proven to be the common denominators that can separate winning organizations from the "also rans" with which they compete:
- The best leaders lead and let others manage: There's a difference between leadership and management. Leaders look forward and imagine the possibilities that the future may bring in order to set direction. Managers monitor and adjust today's work, regularly looking backward to ensure that current goals and objectives are being met. The best leaders lead and let their management teams manage the work at hand.
- The best leaders inspire: Once the direction is set, the best leaders socialize their visions for tomorrow and work to inspire their colleagues to work with them to achieve it. This is done by both words and action--inspiring confidence and commitment among the people of whom they are entrusted to lead.
- The best leaders promote "In it together" as way of life: They understand that "us versus them" can be a powerful motivator. The best leaders leverage this by promoting the concept that they and their staff members are "all in it together" in defeating the competition and delighting our customers.
- The best leaders never work alone: Instead, camaraderie and trust is purposely forged by working with others on their management team to drive change and deliver outcomes. Stated another way, they're not above getting their hands dirty to get the job done.
- The best leaders build and leverage leaders from within: Regardless of reporting lines,the best leaders are constantly in search of other leaders from within their organizations to develop and cultivate. They want to establish network of that they can collaborate with and engage in active direction-setting.
- The best leaders tackle the "tough" stuff: They're not afraid to address the least pleasant aspects of setting direction and managing change. They inherently understand that there is a possibility that not everyone is prepared to make the journey to wherever they are leading, and consequently, they are willing to address the implications that come with that reality--whatever they may be.
- The best leaders take educated risks: Risk-taking is an often overlooked part of leading. But, with it comes immense responsibility. Take the wrong risks and it could mean lost jobs and livelihoods. So, "educated" risk-taking (ones based on experiences and training) becomes an art form among the best leaders among us.
- The best leaders enable success: They knock-down roadblocks and empower people to do whatever it takes to deliver results--paving the way for success and accomplishment among the people of whom they lead.
- The best leaders shift their cultures from ones of Entitlement to ones of Mutual Accountability: The "buck stops here" for among the best leaders. They are accountable and expect the same among their people. Gone are the days where seniority and title are rewarded. Rather, a commitment to upholding commitments is what the best leaders seek in their team members.
- The best leaders reward success, not effort: Working diligently without achievement is worth little when compared to any level of effort that yields demonstrative results. Thus, the best leaders pursue and reward results--paying little attention to effort or aspiration.
To close, it is my hope that you use this checklist, referring to it often over time, as you go about your personal leadership journey. It can serve to ensure you that you're doing all that you can to be the kind of leader that inspires the best effort in your people, while driving the desired results that consistently keeps your organization in the winner's circle.
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