STRONG LEADERSHIP: the key to success
Sep 1, 1998 12:00 PM,
Whenever we come across an article, book or seminar on leadership, most ofus instinctively either head for the nearest door or close the book.Unfortunately, there was a time where I would have done the same. Icouldn’t have imagined a more boring topic with minimal impact on mycompany’s bottom line than leadership. It wasn’t the first time in mybusiness career that I was wrong. Over the years, I learned that leadershipis a key factor affecting a company’s growth and profitability. For thoseneeding a quick course on leadership, I’ve broken it down into three keyareas-corporate vision, setting the example and expectations.
Corporate visionAs the owner or key manager in a company, you are the leader. Whether youenjoy the role or simply endure it, your employees view you (consciously ornot) as the role model for success. Employees will emulate your beliefsystem and your attitude toward your clients. If success is important toyou, it will inevitably be important to them.
To be a good leader, you need a goal, a vision. The first step to createthis vision is through a corporate mission statement. A good corporatemission statement includes two components-the message and the truth. Themessage clearly states the attitude, values and mission of your business toeveryone, including your employees. It should be clean, short and simple.It is like a telephone number-if it’s too long or complicated, no one willremember it. Regardless of the message presented in your mission statement,it must be one that you honestly believe and are totally committed to.Otherwise, your employees will reject the statement as mere windowdressing, and your level of service, your client base and your businesswill surely suffer.
Your corporate mission statement should be professionally printed, framedand openly displayed for all to see. You may pooh-pooh the idea of having amission statement, but if you’re the leader, you must let everyone knowboth your vision and your purpose.
Setting the exampleAs the de facto leader, we often forget the impact our actions have uponour troops. As the role model, you must be on your toes, and you have tolead by example. This means that you must be involved and visible by beinga day-to-day presence, touring your facility, meeting with employees andasking them about their problems, thereby demonstrating an interest in yourpeople. It is a prerequisite for leadership-if your staff believes that youhave their well-being at heart, they’re more likely to follow your lead.
Stay down to earth. Employees don’t expect (and probably don’t want) you todo menial tasks like cleaning up the trash in the parking lot, but gettingyour hands a little dirty shows your employees that you’re not above anyjob that helps the company meet its mission, and it builds employee loyaltyand respect.
Practice what you preach about customer service. As the ultimatedecision-maker, you have to remind your employees constantly that theclients are the ones who really deliver the paychecks. Optimizing customerservice and keeping the customers satisfied means that you place thecustomers first, and you’re willing to allocate the resources that willallow your staff to provide excellent service.
Share the wealth (but don’t flaunt it). When your company succeeds andtimes are good, your employees should share in your success. Employeesshould receive bonuses in good years, and even in bad years, they shouldreceive small ones. Also, always be discrete and avoid displays of overtmaterialism while helping them to feel that they’re moving up in the world.
Share the credit. Although you may be the single biggest reason for thesuccess of a given project, you’ll get the most mileage by sharing thecredit with your staff. Everyone has an ego that could use a little puffingup, and sharing the credit (or giving all the credit to your staff) is oneof the keys to employee job satisfaction, helping you to build a betterteam that will excel in its future endeavors. A your-success-is-my-successattitude goes a long way towards ensuring that everyone in your companysucceeds.
ExpectationsAs leaders, most of us assume that our managers-through company-wideosmosis-know exactly what is expected of them. Unfortunately, that isusually farthest from the truth. Believe it or not, your subordinates wantyou to establish written goals and objectives. They want a system in placeto measure themselves as well as to be measured by you, their leader.
The best way to let your employees know what is expected is through amanagement by objective (MBO) program. Under an MBO program, a set ofwritten objectives is developed jointly between each key employee and hisrespective leader at the end of the fiscal year. These are the goals fornext year. To get the most from your employees, make goals high yetobtainable. If they are unreasonable, then they become worthless as amanagement tool. Perform reviews monthly (verbal) and quarterly (written).Putting everything in writing makes it a commitment and makes thedifference.
The list of what constitutes good leadership is endless, but the bottomline on leadership is straightforward-practice what you preach, and projecta positive attitude toward your clients and employees. You are the rolemodel for corporate behavior. Set the example; no one else will.