The Art of Leadership

June 13, 2007
Leaders rely on good people, and good people deliver results because they know that they are relied upon.

Whatever you do, you can enhance your job, your results—and your pay—by acquiring leadership skills. Success involves identifying the correct results required and knowing the right steps—which includes recognizing the wrong steps. Leaders must have a clear understanding of what it takes to accomplish the overall objective effectively. And that means doing the job quickly, and well.

A leader does not require detailed knowledge; it suffices to have someone on the team who has the required expertise. It’s important for the leader to recognize what’s needed, and where to get it. The broad knowledge is important, not the details. Leadership involves willing followers—people who are motivated to work as a team to accomplish the objectives. When workers put in their best efforts, leaders must offer something in return—respect, encouragement, appreciation and reward. Getting the best out of people is the hallmark of a good leader.

Different people have different needs and motivations. Spend some time with each person on your team, listening to their ideas. Here’s an old axiom that helps: "People like to do what they’re good at, and are good at what they like to do." Understanding what a person enjoys will go a long way toward getting the best out of that person. The days of the slave-driver are long gone; intimidation achieves very little beyond immediate acceptance by timid followers, or angry rejection by good workers. People who are yelled at may go back to do the job correctly, but it’s never their best effort. Leaders have the ability to inspire and motivate people to do their best.

A good leader trusts, which engenders trust. Don’t hide mistakes. When there is a setback, share your problems openly and get the team involved in solutions. Respect people’s differences and needs, their weaknesses and their strengths. Use people for their skills, and provide teamwork where experience is lacking. Celebrate small successes. Give credit when it’s due. Get the team involved to recognize jobs well done. When extra effort is put in, recognize and reward it appropriately. Good communication seeks to achieve and resolve, not to defeat or humiliate others. Never back anyone into a corner. Don’t seek to prove the other person wrong. It is important to remember that no one is always right.

Focus on solutions

Leaders have confidence in themselves and the people working for them. No matter what the situation, when a problem comes up, leaders takes responsibility. The best way to solve a problem is to resolve it by focusing 100 percent on the solutions. And after the problem has been resolved, review the "lessons learned." The benefit of leadership is that everyone can learn from both success and failure—bad and good experiences alike. Problem solving can be a good experience and a great builder of character and leadership.

Taking the blame means taking responsibility. "Finger-pointing" is shirking responsibility. If you make a mistake, admit it. Look for people who accepted the blame when something goes wrong—promote them quickly for taking responsibility. A team quickly closes ranks behind a person who admits failure. Indeed, failure is "experience" that is unlikely to be repeated.

Good leaders don’t need status and meaningless titles to inspire support. Rewards follow good results. What counts most is the ability to bring out the best in others. Leaders rely on good people, and good people deliver results because they know that they are relied upon. Keep moving, to make sure you reinvent yourself and your business on a daily basis. Finally, in the words of Andy Grove (former Intel Corp. chief): "Only the paranoid survive." When you understand that statement, you’re ready to lead.

Jim Pinto is an industry analyst and commentator, writer, technology futurist and angel investor. You can e-mail him at: [email protected]. Or review his prognostications and predictions on his Web site:

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