The Basic Principles of Successful Leadership
Regardless of the kind of organization, a leader must master and apply these principles:
- A leader at all times must embody a personal integrity, which is the foundation of leadership. Followers want to believe that their leader is unshakably fair in public and in private.
- A leader applies basically the same principles of leadership regardless of context, but the style of execution is very different in different contexts. That is, execution in leadership is to a great extent about context.
- In normal times, a leader should make faster progress taking opportunities that are ready for change rather than trying to take on areas that the leader knows will be more resisted. Later these resistance areas could be more conducive to change.
- In times of crisis, a leader must step out ahead of the followers and make the difficult decisions without consensus and at times even without adequate explanation in order to resolve the threat to the organization.
- A leader’s ultimate goal is to release the human potential of the followers. This will benefit not only the followers but also the overall organization.
- In today’s global marketplace, leaders need to foster innovation at all levels of the organization, and that means listening to workers and giving them ample latitude to experiment, make mistakes, and seek new products and services that will compete in a constantly changing competitive landscape.
- A leader mobilizes followers by finding out their goals, desires, wants, and needs, and makes them believe that the leader is truly trying to help them achieve these aspirations. At the same time, in order to achieve the goals of the organization, the leader must bridge the individual goals of the followers and the overall goals that are incorporated in, for example, a strategic plan.
- A leader’s most important and essential attribute is good judgment. This is innate and really can’t be taught, although it can be matured with experience.
- A leader must build confidence among the followers. Like teachers, a leader must communicate high expectations and then ensure that followers develop confidence that they can meet those expectations. They can who think they can.
- A leader must give considerable thought and careful execution to the whole area of rational and intangible rewards in relation to motivation of followers. For example, it is critical to the execution of a strategic plan that the compensation system be tied to the plan and not exclusively to earnings per share or the budget.
- A leader can’t get too far out in front of the troops in leading without risking failure to achieve the leader’s goals. A leader will always be ahead in thinking, but the group must be brought along so that members understand what is happening and why—or the leader may be faced with a disconnect between the leader’s goals and those that the members are willing to accept.
- A leader must communicate the leader’s goals to the entire organization—ideally in person, but at least in writing in his or her own words—since communication is crucial to an effective organization.
- A leader serves as a symbol and is perceived by followers to be on a different plane from the rest of the organization. Thus, the leader is constrained in what behavior is appropriate and not appropriate. He or she can only go so far in being “one of the boys.”
- Leadership is the main differentiator in performance in most environments. People think that formulas, slick marketing, being first, the latest management tool, programs such as Six Sigma, and so on are the key differentiators in an organization. These other areas matter, but leadership alone is the key differentiator between organizations that succeed and those that fail.
I will return to these principles throughout the book as I explain how context affects the way they are applied.