Leadership Headlines Again

At least this time it isn’t process control.

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Failures of leadership, that is. Last month (www.automationworld.com/columns-7356), I discussed the role that leadership played in some of the recent safety problems in process control, leading to death, injury and pollution. This month, the headlines were about the sudden departure of the chief executive officer of Hewlett-Packard (H-P), Mark Hurd. This one was the result of an apparent ethics lapse.

There were many articles written in the aftermath of Hurd’s sudden departure. Many ideas centered on ethics and the way he treated people. Research has shown that you don’t have to be a warm personality to be a good leader—but it’s essential that you be consistently fair. All of my research points to ethics and fairness as two key elements of leadership. For more perspective, check out the Automation Team department I wrote on motivation (see Motivating Knowledge Workers).

Eight leadership lessons

While I was pondering leadership questions again, I found an essay on the blog of Michael Hyatt, chairman and chief executive of Thomas Nelson Inc., a publishing house in Nashville, “Eight Leadership Lessons From Martin Luther King, Jr.” It can be found on the Web at michaelhyatt.com/eight-leadership-lessons-from-martin-luther-king-jr.html. These lessons can be used by you, today’s leaders in manufacturing, as you continue to develop your leadership ability.

Hyatt identifies the first lesson as, “Great leaders do not sugar-coat reality.” Certainly, as we’ve endured this manufacturing downturn, you’ve had to deal honestly with your team regarding the facts of the survival of your company. Next, “Great leaders engage the heart.” You will not turn around your manufacturing facility unless you engage your team in the purpose of what you are doing. While you are turning around your business, you’ll practice lesson three, “Great leaders refuse to accept the status quo.”

“Great leaders create a sense of urgency. They are impatient—in a good way. They refuse to just sit by and let things take their natural course.” Everywhere, we hear that manufacturing is in crisis in the United States. Are you impatient to get your company moving again? “Great leaders call people to act in accord with their highest values.” Once again, check out my column on motivation (see Motivating Knowledge Workers). People don’t work only for a paycheck. They want a greater purpose in life. Your product makes a difference in the quality of people’s lives. That’s cool.

“Great leaders refuse to settle.” In my career, I’ve been with companies that didn’t make it. But we always went down swinging. We didn’t settle for mediocre. We didn’t compromise. It was be the best we could be. “Great leaders acknowledge the sacrifice of their followers.” We’re in it together. I once read that one cause of the horrendous casualties of World War I resulted from not enough Generals being killed. What the remark meant was that Generals stayed back in posts far from the front. They weren’t out with the troops to acknowledge their sacrifice by participating.

“Great leaders paint a vivid picture of a better tomorrow.” I see a picture of a tomorrow where manufacturing is once again considered a worthy occupation. Where making things ethically and efficiently are honored. Where young people again dream of science and engineering and making the world a better place. And there are people working toward this end. The SME Education Foundation offers a hands-on, real-world curriculum designed by Project Lead The Way (PLTW) through its Gateway Academy. Educators at the Gateway Academy aren’t just teachers and instructors, they’re lifelong learners trained to inspire and motivate young minds. In 2010, the SME Education Foundation held 237 Gateway Academies and reached more than 4,800 students in 34 states. Sounds like something we should get on board with.

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