Business Coach: Common Sense Leadership
By Dr Paul E Adams | March 31, 2004
New business owners soon find out being a boss is not easy. Asking an employee to do something is no guarantee it will automatically happen. And if you are a bit of a perfectionist, can anyone finish any job the way you wish or as well as you can? No wonder newly minted small business owners need sleeping pills to get through the night. You discover leadership is not easy, as you grasp for the right balance of doing everything yourself and training your employees to do it for you.
As it should be, the head honcho takes the heat when a business starts falling off the cliff. Monday morning quarterbacks yell about execs ill suited to the task, and cite the popular Peter Principle, which makes a case that managers rise to their level of incompetence. If you have read a book or two on management, you soon discover that leadership basics are all too often wrapped with fuzzy theories and definitions. Oh, there are plenty of courses, seminars, books, and consultants who offer up a buffet of techniques and styles budding leaders must grasp and apply to be successful. But finding the Holy Grail of leadership is about as easy as finding the Holy Grail to Wall Street wealth.
Yet, there is an ingredient missing in most of the material. Little is written about matching an exec's personality with the demands of the job. There is no one size fits all in managing business. Some leaders or owners are required to fine-tune a mature company protecting its assets, market share, and reputation. Calm and collected leadership, like the blue blazer gang that think dangerous living is not wearing a tie to the office. Or driving their Volvo in the center lane at the speed limit. Try that approach in a new industry with a new company and if the business leaves the starting gate, it will be a miracle.
In contrast, some leaders must move the sun and stars to make it. Innovation and energy coupled with the barnstorming of Ringling are necessary, as making things happen with a sense of urgency is a daily routine. New businesses, new products, unknown markets, all require leaders with a personality who love the hustle and hype of bight lights, winning an Oscar and the excitement of the unknown.
Mixing and matching such leaders with such different demands can be disastrous. If success requires caution, Mr. Ringling will take it to the edge of failure with a Las Vegas mentality. If excitement and hype are the daily fare, Mr. Calm, Collected, and Cautious will convert a Kentucky Derby winner to a plow horse.
Beyond fitting personality to the demands of the job, there are universal traits every manager and owner needs to practice. However, few consultants or teachers write or teach these basics, and it is my guess the study of the obvious is not new, not exciting, and lacks a the appeal of a secret formula that will make the talk shows.
Here are a few of these well-tried, well proven, practical and common sense routines a successful leader needs to practice daily:
Follow up. Keep your word, do as you say you are going to do. When you give orders, ask if your instructions have been carried out and what was the result. Otherwise unpleasant tasks you want done will be easily forgotten. Remember what you ask for and confirm it happened. Remember what you offer to do and do it sooner than expected.
Be clear in your instructions. Communication is important. Poor instructions will get you poor results.
Avoid off-the-cuff-on-the-run decisions. No one is impressed with reckless leadership. And such actions can be costly.
Promise only what you know you can or will deliver. Backslapping and glad-handing will show you to be a phony and not trustworthy. Everyone remembers a broken promise.
Avoid any form of favoritisms or encouraging political infighting. It will feed dissent and insecurity as well as disloyalty. Water cooler discussion groups are not productive to you business goals.
Keep any negative opinions of your employees to yourself. Otherwise, you are encouraging cliques and infighting.
Be cautious but don t procrastinate making decisions. Wavering is visible to all. Those who can not make up their minds appear as weak leaders.
You don't need an MBA and a three hundred page management text to master these rules that will well serve you. Just common sense and a keep it simple philosophy.