There are so many papers and ideas about leadership – including many from this
author, that I think it is time to capture the essence of leadership in a helpful way
within a few sentences. Here goes!
The Sign of a Good Leader
If we start with the results first, it is not so easy to learn. “A good quarterback
engineers a lot of touchdowns” does very little to prepare the aspiring athlete for
that role. Nevertheless, here is what the young executive must aspire to: “A good
leader is in awe of the reporting staff.” I will elaborate shortly.
Manager or a Leader
First, let’s put away the silly argument about managing and leadership. A manager
is one who oversees a group of people to achieve certain ends. A good manager
has ‘leadership’ as one of the tools in the managing tool kit. Specifically, leadership
is about setting a course and getting people to assist in achieving that course with
How to attain that Managing and Leadership Stature
It is not easy to manage; it takes courage, empathy, nurturing, tolerance, hard work
and intelligence. Let’s look them over:
Courage is about telling it as it is, especially if one of the team members is not
pulling a fair weight or a client is jerking the team around. Confront the issue right
away, fairly, factually and without emotion.
Empathy is about realizing that people are people. No one sets out to be a bad
employee, so if you have a ‘bad apple’, you must look at your own contribution to
the situation (and have the courage to do so). It also means you have to care about
the person’s concerns and not trivialize the employee’s issues – even though they
may not seem very weighty to you. Listen fully to the obstacles that the employee
sees and, as a team of manager and worker, set out to overcome that obstacle. We
call this the ‘team-of-two’, consisting of the manager and the employee. Each
setback must be looked at as a team-of-two problem: “What are we going to do to
overcome this obstacle before us?” There is no room for blame in good
management. But there must be clear targets, clear lines of authority and clear
consequences for failure.
Nurturing: We ask the question of our book #9 of the nearly 3,000-page Respect
Revolution series: “Are you Feeding or Starving the Organization?” If you nurture
your employees, you are feeding them. If you ignore the employees to leave them to
continually fend on their own, you are starving them – that is, starving them of the
essential nurturing that would encourage them to grow. As a manager you must
nurture each and every employee. One essential is having weekly meetings with
your team. Your objective is fairly simple: you need to nurture the employee to
become a manager someday, perhaps to replace you as you move up the ladder, but
definitely nurture those people to grow in their jobs and in their lives.
Tolerance: In other papers, articles and seminars, we have repeatedly made that
point that all people must not be painted with the same brush. There are clear
temperamental differences. You must find out what those are and adopt the
situation for each and every difference, even those completely opposite to your own.
Once, while giving a seminar, one of the students – an experienced executive – said
that she was going to build a dream team, picking out individuals of her company all
known to achieve results in a timely way. It looked pretty good on paper until
another student asked: Who among those will do the highly detailed work? Who of
that dream team will create new innovative products? Who among that resultsoriented group will have the patience to listen to employees’ personal concerns?
The answer was none of them. The executive laughed at herself, admitting that the
dream team was just like her; they had only the temperamental trait of getting things
done. It would take no time at all for the dream team to implode. The New York
Rangers in the 1990’s repeatedly built dream hockey teams full of stars with all its
excess cash but always failed to make the playoffs, let alone getting near the prized
Stanley Cup. That is, we have to pick those who are different from ourselves and
tolerate (and benefit from) those differences. It is only with tolerance that we can
put each individual on a path uniquely good for that person. Then the individual will
excel; you will be impressed; YOU WILL BE IN AWE OF THAT PERSON.
Hard work and Intelligence are about having the determination to put all the above
together in a meaningful way and never giving up.