Taking Stock As A Leader

In good times and more challenging times, owners have to stand for something.

Employees, clients, vendors and others look to the owner, the leader, to serve as an example to follow.

The end of summer and the start of the school year make it an appropriate time to review and renew the personal and professional commitments as the organization’s leader.

Here are the five commitments a leader needs to make to and for themselves as well as  to the people they are responsible for.

The first is continuous learning. Owners must be open, willing and ready to become better. It can’t simply be lip service; it is essential to walk the walk, not just talk the talk.

This is done by becoming better at the primary responsibility, leadership, by being open to new ideas and concepts, to being coached by others, and to lead by example.

Someone who has a closed mind, who believes that they already know all that is important, is not a leader that is going to take any organization far.

The responsibility of leadership means that the man or woman at the top should be requiring the same commitment of growth from their employees.

The second is to actually lead. The wisest leaders understand that they would never ask their subordinates to do something that they would not be willing to do themselves.

Consider how General MacArthur led the United Nations military forces during the Korean War.

MacArthur never spent the night on the Korean Peninsula, returning to his own warm and comfortable bed in Tokyo. During the invasion at Inchon, he slept aboard a ship, safely harbored.

Contrast that with how his soldiers fought and slept, if they were fortunate enough to actually sleep, in bitter cold on frozen ground during the winter.

The third is to have a clear vision. People who work in organization want to know “where are we headed and what is our goal” and it is the responsibility of the leader to determine the goal and to regularly communicate progress towards it.

If there is no goal, what is the future? Why toil to uncertainty except for a paycheck; does that create loyalty or engagement?

Fourth is constant outbound communication. The leader cannot hide behind the desk, in an isolated office. It is not enough to be visible; communication must be consistent, honest and informative.

Fifth is to ask and listen. Quit telling. It is far better to ask what people think. What people need; what people want.

The leader is usually the most removed from clients, suppliers and employees and so seeking opinions is critical to learning and for making substantive change.

Many leaders hear but they don’t listen. Make the commitment to become a better listener.

When it comes to commitments, people should know what you stand for.

They should also know what you won’t stand for.

Don’t let people guess or determine this on their own based upon your mood or what day of the week it is.