The ultimate leadership wish list

January 12, 2015 | By Neil Ducoff | No Comments

leadership_definedIn its most distilled state, leadership is about getting to a better place. It is about leadership of the self, leadership of other people, leadership of processes, and leadership of resources. At a deeper, cerebral level, leadership is purely about shaping the disciplines of thinking and behavior. So what does this all mean? It means that being a truly effective leader capable of achieving and sustaining forward progress and growth is more a journey of self-discovery than a destination.

Leaders come in many styles. Some are great communicators while others are abrasive. Some are disciplined and organized while others are inconsistent train wrecks. Some courageously lead through various crises while others struggle with daily stressors, like making tough decisions and finding a light at the end of the tunnel. Some are compassionate and appreciative while others are … well … buttheads.

No matter where you are on your leadership journey or what “style” you utilize, there are things for which, by word or thought, all leaders hope. The following list represents the most commonly shared “wishes” that leaders make. I’m sure you’ve made a few of them yourself.

  • Can’t they just do their job? You hire people to fill a position and do a job. What’s so hard about that? FACT: There is a lot that’s hard about doing a job. If this is a recurring wish of yours, it’s time to turn the mirror around and examine your systems, your training, your skills at clarifying expectations and your company’s ability to provide the resources to do said job. It’s also time to reconnect yourself and your people to the purpose and vision of your company.
  • Why can’t they “see” stuff? What kind of stuff? Dirt, burnt out light bulbs, a fellow employee in need of help, customer service issues, depleted inventory, etc. The wish here is for people to take personal responsibility for the good of the company. FACT: Your employees’ eyes work just like yours … but what they “see” mostly has to do with the level of indifference infecting your company’s culture. Indifference sounds like, “It’s not my job,” and it’s happening on your watch. If you find yourself making this wish more often than not, it’s time to initiate a culture shift. Remember, leadership is about thinking and behavior … and a company’s culture is the collective thinking and behavior of its people. Shaping and protecting your company’s culture is your job. You do “see” that, don’t you?
  • How many times do I have to tell them? I’ve addressed this many times in my Monday Morning Wake Ups. FACT: You have to tell them until they get it … and be prepared to tell them again when they forget they got it. This is the “coaching” aspect of leadership where you help people achieve their full potential. Done respectfully, you coach people to perform at levels even they never thought possible. But … you have to be passionately relentless.
  • Why don’t they care about the numbers? In business, there are sales goals and critical numbers. Numbers tell a story … and numbers tell the truth about performance. For leaders, it’s frustrating to hear employees say, “All you care about are the numbers,” when you’re fighting to pay the bills and meet payroll. FACT: It’s true that “what gets measured gets repeated.” But when you measure and keep score on everything, you do become “all about the numbers” in the eyes of those you lead. There is a big difference between “leading through the numbers” and “leading by the numbers.” Leading through the numbers is about vision, purpose, sense of urgency, respect, trust, preparation, clarified expectations … all that human spirit stuff. Employees will embrace the numbers when their leader establishes an emotional connection to those numbers. This is the essence of open-book management. If you want people to think and act like owners, you need to give them deeper access to the information that owners have.
  • Why do I always fight cash flow? It’s stressful when you’re always fighting cash flow and struggling to pay bills, cover payroll, and leave a little left over for yours truly. FACT: Cash-flow challenges are most often the result of poor spending habits and financial decisions that are based more on emotion than reality. If you’re fighting cash flow, you’re also fighting your own commitment to learning and locking into financial disciplines. The cash flow “fight” will end whenever you decide to step up to the financial plate.
  • Why do I have to be there to make things happen? The need to have your tentacles wired into every nook and cranny of your company is outright exhausting. More importantly, it is unsustainable and puts you on the fast track to leadership burnout. FACT: If your company cannot perform to expectation without you being present, that’s the way you designed it. Simply put … YOU have become the system. The cure is a total restructuring of your role in the company and its operations. Your mantra must become, “Systems will set me free.” And in order to be set free, you must establish a clear understanding of the meaning of accountability and trust throughout your company. This is easier said than done, but still totally doable. It begins with a decision to change your personal leadership thinking and behavior.

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Categories: Leadership , Monday Morning Wake-Up , No-Compromise Leadership

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