Leadership Quotes

This collection of leadership quotes is a great source of inspiration.  If there is a great quote we missed, please add it in the comments below.

Quotations can be a powerful part of your personal leadership development plan. Taking a few quotes from people you admire and spending some time, deeply thinking about them, can help you better understand the mindset behind the leader.  Over the course of a year, you can cover a number of leadership quotes and develop a much better understanding of the person who said it how their perspective applies to your leadership style.

When nothing is sure, everything is possible.
~Margaret Drabble

This quote speaks to the possibilities that exist when you and your team don’t have a bunch of preconceived ideas.  Everyone is limited by what they are sure is possible.  Without those barriers, the glass ceiling goes away.

In matters of style, swim with the current;
In matters of principle, stand like a rock.
~T. Jefferson

Thomas Jefferson’s gives a strong reminder about when to be flexible and when to stand strong. To often people are rigid on their style and flexible on their principles–the exact opposite of what he recommends.

And when we think we lead, we are most led.
~Lord Byron

Leadership is a give and take process.

The only real training for leadership is leadership.
~Antony Jay

If you want to lead you have to practice leading.  Classroom experience isn’t nearly as valuable as actually leading people and learning from your mistakes.

The task of the leader is to get his people from where they are to where they have not been.
~Henry Kissinger

Kissinger knew that it was no great feat to get people to do something they had done before.  Real leadership skill is getting them to do something they haven’t ever done or aren’t even sure is possible.

People are more easily led than driven.
~David Harold Fink

This leadership quote is an excellent reminder that leading is different than forcing people to do what you say.

Leadership should be born out of the understanding of the needs of those who would be affected by it.
~Marian Anderson

This is a reminder to see things from the perspective of the people whose lives we impact–a very important lesson for leaders in any position.

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Leadership Styles

1 Introduction

Leadership traits tell who a leader is as leader. Leadership styles tell what a leader does in the process of leading. In this article we are going to explore the leadership styles found in the research of three different researches:

  1. Kurt Lewin
  2. Renis Likert
  3. Daniel Goleman

Each of these individuals discovered a different set of leadership styles. While there is a great deal of overlap, they all allow you to view leadership from a different vantage point. In addition to these three, there are many other researchers who have developed many other systems for categorizing leadership styles. Each has a slightly different emphasis and perspective on how to view the way people lead.

There is no “correct” point of view in examining leadership styles. Each view is valuable and emphasizes different aspects of leadership in different environments. As a leader, a study of different leadership styles can help give you better perspective and make you more conscious about what methods you utilize to lead others.

In matters of style, swim with the current;
In matters of principle, stand like a rock.
~T. Jefferson (leadership quotes)

A good leader is not going to be stuck using a single leadership style. Leaders will consciously or unconsciously shift between and blend leadership styles in order to best achieve their goal. The most valuable thing you can get out of this article is a better understanding of what your default style is, its weaknesses and strengths, and the ability to deliberately choose an appropriate leadership style when faced with a new situation.

 

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Hiring a Good Leader

For this post, I asked a number or prominent leadership experts the following question:

If you were hiring someone you hoped to groom for a leadership position, what key things would you look for?

Below you will find their insightful answers along with some comments of my own.

I would look for someone willing to take risks. Fail often, fail fast, fail cheap. I would look for someone who wants to learn and who is coachable. I would look for someone who is willing to serve those they lead. I would look for someone who is willing to take a stand. Someone with vision. Someone who can simplify and clarify thoughts.

Jim Estill from Time Leadership – CEO Blog

Risk taking isn’t always the first thing people think of looking for in a new leader, but Jim makes a good point that you want someone who knows how to take and learn from small risks so they can grow quickly with minimal negative consequences from mistakes.

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Five Most Important Leadership Traits

Some sit and pontificate about whether leaders are made or born. The true leader ignores such arguments and instead concentrates on developing the leadership qualities necessary for success. In this article, we are going to discuss five leadership traits or leadership qualities that people look for in a leader. If you are able to increase your skill in displaying these five quality characteristics, you will make it easier for people to want to follow you. The less time you have to spend on getting others to follow you, the more time you have to spend refining exactly where you want to go and how to get there.

The five leadership traits/leadership qualities are:

  1. Honest
  2. Forward-Looking
  3. Competent
  4. Inspiring
  5. Intelligent

These five qualities come from Kouzes and Posner’s research into leadership that was done for the book The Leadership Challenge.

Your skill at exhibiting these five leadership qualities is strongly correlated with people’s desire to follow your lead. Exhibiting these traits will inspire confidence in your leadership. Not exhibiting these traits or exhibiting the opposite of these traits will decrease your leadership influence with those around you.

It is important to exhibit, model and display these traits. Simply possessing each trait is not enough; you have to display it in a way that people notice. People want to see that you actively demonstrate these leadership qualities and will not just assume that you have them. It isn’t enough to just be neutral. For example, just because you are not dishonest will not cause people to recognize that you are honest. Just avoiding displays of incompetence won’t inspire the same confidence as truly displaying competence.

The focus of each of these five traits needs to be on what people see you do–not just the things they don’t see you do. Being honest isn’t a matter of not lying–it is taking the extra effort to display honesty.

Honesty as a Leadership Quality

People want to follow an honest leader. Years ago, many employees started out by assuming that their leadership was honest simply because the authority of their position. With modern scandals, this is no longer true.

When you start a leadership position, you need to assume that people will think you are a little dishonest. In order to be seen as an honest individual, you will have to go out of your way to display honesty. People will not assume you are honest simply because you have never been caught lying.

One of the most frequent places where leaders miss an opportunity to display honesty is in handling mistakes. Much of a leader’s job is to try new things and refine the ideas that don’t work. However, many leaders want to avoid failure to the extent that they don’t admit when something did not work.

There was a medium size organization that was attempting to move to a less centralized structure. Instead of one location serving an entire city, they wanted to put smaller offices throughout the entire metro area. At the same time, they were planning an expansion for headquarters to accommodate more customers at the main site. The smaller remote offices was heralded as a way to reach more customers at a lower cost and cover more demographic areas.

After spending a considerable amount of money on a satellite location, it became clear that the cost structure would not support a separate smaller office. As the construction completed on the expanded headquarters building, the smaller office was closed. This was good decision making. The smaller offices seemed like a good idea, but when the advantages didn’t materialize (due to poor management or incorrect assumptions) it made sense to abandon the model. This was a chance for the leadership to display honesty with the employees, be candid about why things didn’t work out as expected, learn from the mistakes an move on.

Unfortunately in this situation the leadership told employees that they had planned on closing the satellite location all along and it was just a temporary measure until construction was completed on the larger headquarters building. While this wasn’t necessarily true, it didn’t quite cross over into the area of lying. Within a few months the situation was mostly forgotten and everyone moved on. Few of the employees felt that leadership was being dishonest. However, they had passed up a marvelous opportunity to display the trait of honesty in admitting a mistake.

Opportunities to display honesty on a large scale may not happen every day. As a leader, showing people that you are honest even when it means admitting to a mistake, displays a key trait that people are looking for in their leaders. By demonstrating honesty with yourself, with your organization and with outside organizations, you will increase your leadership influence. People will trust someone who actively displays honesty–not just as an honest individual, but as someone who is worth following.

Forward-Looking as a Leadership Trait

The whole point of leadership is figuring out where to go from where you are now. While you may know where you want to go, people won’t see that unless you actively communicate it with them. Remember, these traits aren’t just things you need to have, they are things you need to actively display to those around you.

When people do not consider their leader forward-looking, that leader is usually suffering from one of two possible problems:

  1. The leader doesn’t have a forward-looking vision.
  2. The leader is unwilling or scared to share the vision with others.

When a leader doesn’t have a vision for the future, it usually because they are spending so much time on today, that they haven’t really thought about tomorrow. On a very simplistic level this can be solved simply by setting aside some time for planning, strategizing and thinking about the future.

Many times when a leader has no time to think and plan for the future, it is because they are doing a poor job of leading in the present. They have created an organization and systems that rely too much on the leader for input at every stage.

Some leaders have a clear vision, but don’t wish to share it with others. Most of the time they are concerned that they will lose credibility if they share a vision of the future that doesn’t come about. This is a legitimate concern. However, people need to know that a leader has a strong vision for the future and a strong plan for going forward. Leaders run into trouble sharing their vision of the future when they start making promises to individuals. This goes back to the trait of honesty. If a leader tells someone that “next year I’m going to make you manager of your own division”, that may be a promise they can’t keep. The leader is probably basing this promotion on the organization meeting financial goals, but the individual will only hear the personal promise.

An organization I was working with was floundering. It seemed like everyone had a different idea about what they were trying to achieve. Each department head was headed in a different direction and there was very little synergy as small fiefdoms and internal politics took their toll.

Eventually a consulting firm was called in to help fix the problem. They analyzed the situation, talked to customers, talked to employees and set up a meeting with the CEO. They were going to ask him about his vision for the future. The employees were excited that finally there would be a report stating the direction for the organization.

After the meeting, the consultants came out shaking their heads. The employees asked how the important question had gone to which the consultants replied, “we asked him, but you aren’t going to like the answer”. The CEO had told the consultant that, while he had a vision and plan for the future, he wasn’t going to share it with anyone because he didn’t want there to be any disappointment if the goals were not reached.

Leaders can communicate their goals and vision for the future without making promises that they may not be able to keep. If a leader needs to make a promise to an individual, it should be tied to certain measurable objectives being met. The CEO in the example didn’t realize how much damage he was doing by not demonstrating the trait of being forward-looking by communicating his vision with the organization.

The CEO was forward-looking. He had a plan and a vision and he spent a lot of time thinking about where the organization was headed. However, his fear of communicating these things to the rest of the organization hampered his leadership potential.

Competency as a Leadership Quality

People want to follow someone who is competent. This doesn’t mean a leader needs to be the foremost expert on every area of the entire organization, but they need to be able to demonstrate competency.

For a leader to demonstrate that they are competent, it isn’t enough to just avoid displaying incompetency. Some people will assume you are competent because of your leadership position, but most will have to see demonstrations before deciding that you are competent.

When people under your leadership look at some action you have taken and think, “that just goes to show why he is the one in charge”, you are demonstrating competency. If these moments are infrequent, it is likely that some demonstrations of competency will help boost your leadership influence.

Like the other traits, it isn’t enough for a leader to be competent. They must demonstrate competency in a way that people notice. This can be a delicate balance. There is a danger of drawing too much attention to yourself in a way that makes the leader seem arrogant. Another potential danger is that of minimizing others contributions and appearing to take credit for the work of others.

As a leader, one of the safest ways to “toot you own horn without blowing it”, is to celebrate and bring attention to team achievements. In this way you indirectly point out your competency as a leader. For example: “Last year I set a goal of reaching $12 million in sales and, thanks to everyone’s hard word, as of today, we have reached $13.5 million.”

Inspiration as a Leadership Trait

People want to be inspired. In fact, there is a whole class of people who will follow an inspiring leader–even when the leader has no other qualities. If you have developed the other traits in this article, being inspiring is usually just a matter of communicating clearly and with passion. Being inspiring means telling people how your organization is going to change the world.

A great example of inspiration is when Steve Jobs stole the CEO from Pepsi by asking him, “Do you want to sell sugar water for the rest of your life, or do you want to change the world?” Being inspiring means showing people the big picture and helping them see beyond a narrow focus and understand how their part fits into the big picture.

One technique to develop your ability to inspire is telling stories. Stories can be examples from your customers, fictitious examples from your customers, or even historical fables and myths. Stories can help you vividly illustrate what you are trying to communicate. Stories that communicate on an emotional level help communicate deeper than words and leave an imprint much stronger than anything you can achieve through a simple stating of the facts.

Learning to be inspiring is not easy–particularly for individuals lacking in charisma. It can be learned. Take note of people who inspire you and analyze the way they communicate. Look for ways to passionately express your vision. While there will always be room for improvement, a small investment in effort and awareness will give you a significant improvement in this leadership trait.

Intelligence as a Leadership Trait

Intelligence is something that can be difficult to develop. The road toward becoming more intelligent is difficult, long and can’t be completed without investing considerable time. Developing intelligence is a lifestyle choice. Your college graduation was the beginning of your education, not the end. In fact, much of what is taught in college functions merely as a foundational language for lifelong educational experiences.

To develop intelligence you need to commit to continual learning–both formally and informally. With modern advances in distance, education it is easy to take a class or two each year from well respected professors in the evening at your computer.

Informally, you can develop a great deal of intelligence in any field simply by investing a reasonable amount of time to reading on a daily basis. The fact is that most people won’t make a regular investment in their education. Spending 30 minutes of focused reading every day will give you 182 hours of study time each year.

For the most part, people will notice if you are intelligent by observing your behavior and attitude. Trying to display your intelligence is likely to be counterproductive. One of the greatest signs of someone who is truly intelligent is humility. The greater your education, the greater your understanding of how little we really understand.

You can demonstrate your intelligence by gently leading people toward understanding–even when you know the answer. Your focus needs to be on helping others learn–not demonstrating how smart you are. Arrogance will put you in a position where people are secretly hopeful that you’ll make a mistake and appear foolish.

As unintuitive as it may seem, one of the best ways to exhibit intelligence is by asking questions. Learning from the people you lead by asking intelligent thoughtful questions will do more to enhance your intelligence credibility than just about anything. Of course this means you need to be capable of asking intelligent questions.

Everyone considers themselves intelligent. If you ask them to explain parts of their area of expertise and spend the time to really understand (as demonstrated by asking questions), their opinion of your intelligence will go up. After all, you now know more about what makes them so intelligent, so you must be smart as well. Your ability to demonstrate respect for the intellect of others will probably do more to influence the perception of your intellect than your actual intelligence.

Summary of the Five Leadership Qualities

By consciously making an effort to exhibit these traits, people will be more likely to follow you. These are the most important traits that people look for in their leaders. By exhibiting them on a regular basis, you will be able to grow your influence to its potential as a leader.

Management Quotes

In the same spirit as our collection of leadership quotes, here are a number of management quotes for your inspiration and enjoyment.

The conventional definition of management is getting work done through people, but real management is developing people through work. ~ Agha Hasan Abedi

This quote reminds us that people matter–something that many individuals in management quickly forget.

Effective leadership is putting first things first. Effective management is discipline, carrying it out. ~ Stephen Covey

This management quote makes an interesting distinction between leadership or setting a direction and management–the execution of the plan.

If you pick the right people and give them the opportunity to spread their wings—and put compensation as a carrier behind it—you almost don’t have to manage them. ~ Jack Welch

Jack Welch points out that the right people and the right motivation can solve most management problems. Often management is the process of trying to get the wrong individual to perform for less than they are worth.

Good management is the art of making problems so interesting and their solutions so constructive that everyone wants to get to work and deal with them. ~ Paul Hawken

Employees want their jobs to be important and fulfilling. This quote by Hawken is a good reminder that management has the ability to make a problem interesting or boring–often simply in the way the problem is framed and presented.

Because a thing seems difficult for you, do not think it impossible for anyone to accomplish. ~ Marcus Aurelius

This quotation is relevant in a number of different areas. Along with other management quotes it is a good reminder that we need to find the right people for the right jobs. Just because we can’t do something well doesn’t mean there isn’t someone else out there who can do it well and easily. Management is matching those individuals with the right positions.

Just because we aren’t good at something doesn’t mean that our competition is unable to do it.

Organization doesn’t really accomplish anything. Plans don’t accomplish anything, either. Theories of management don’t much matter. Endeavors succeed or fail because of the people involved. Only by attracting the best people will you accomplish great deeds. ~ Colin Powell

People matter. I don’t think Powell lessens the importance of organization and planning, but he does point out that success depends on the people not the plans.

Make your top managers rich and they will make you rich. ~ Robert H. Johnson

I’ve seen management put more effort into trying to figure out how not to reward top performers than trying to figure out how to grow their business. This management quote reminds us that there can be a beneficial two way benefit by making high performers rich.

We cling to hierarchies because our place in a hierarchy is, rightly or wrongly, a major indicator of our social worth. ~ Harold Leavitt

There aren’t many companies that abandon traditional hierarchy structures. This statement may reveal one of the reasons why.

So much of what we call management consists in making it difficult for people to work. ~ Peter Drucker

This is a beautiful management quote and so very true. How many times have you run into all kinds of obstacles thrown up in the name of management.

Men are going to have to learn to be managers in a world where the organization will come close to consisting of all chiefs and one Indian. The Indian, of course, is the computer. ~ Thomas Whisler

This quote is different than the others as it tries to predict the future. I’m not sure that we’ll ever get there, but it is an interesting thought.

The secret of successful managing is to keep the five guys who hate you away from the four guys who haven’t made up their minds. ~ Casey Stengel

This quote is a bit more humorous than the other quotes on this page, but there is still an element of truth it it.

No business in the world has ever made more money with poorer management. ~ Bill Terry

And yet that is exactly what many businesses try when they need to make a better profit.

A good manager is a man who isn’t worried about his own career but rather the careers of those who work for him. ~ HSM Burns

This sums up a lot of management quotes. The role of the manager is to help develop others.

 

Management by objective works – if you know the objectives. Ninety percent of the time you don’t. ~ Peter Drucker

“Top” management is supposed to be a tree full of owls-hooting when management heads into the wrong part of the forest. I’m still unpersuaded they even know where the forest is. ~ Robert Townsend

When a management team with a reputation for brilliance tackles a business with a reputation for bad economics, it is the reputation of the business that remains intact. ~ Warren Buffet

Lots of folks confuse bad management with destiny. ~ Kin Hubbard

Leadership Definition

So what is the definition of leadership? Our personal leadership definition can be very different from other’s leadership definition. The goal in this post is to examine some of the different definitions of leadership. No one leadership definition is correct, but the careful analysis of multiple leadership definitions can help us better understand what it means to be a leader.

  • the activity of leading; “his leadership inspired the team”
  • the ability to lead; “he believed that leadership can be taught”

wordnetweb.princeton.edu/perl/webwn

The first definition of leadership references the activity of leading. It is important to remember that leading is something you do. It isn’t a position you hold, it is an activity. Your position may require you to lead, but it is possible to hol a leadership position without doing any actual leading.

The second definition of leadership above, talks about ability. This helps remind us that leadership is something that requires a skill. Don’t ever assume that you can lead merely because of your position. Leadership requires you to do something and it requires you to have the skills to actually lead.

  • Leadership has been written as the “process of social influence in which one person can enlist the aid and support of others in the accomplishment of a common task.” Definitions more inclusive of followers have also emerged. …

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leadership

Wikipedia’s definition examines that the social influence perspective. This definition of leadership helps point out the importance of influencing others. It isn’t enough to tell people what to do. Your social influence is what determines your ability to actually lead. Having a plan is good, but isn’t very useful unless you have people willing to help you execute your plan.

  • leader – a person who rules or guides or inspires others
  • leader – drawing card: a featured article of merchandise sold at a loss in order to draw customers

wordnetweb.princeton.edu/perl/webwn

Princeton’s definition of a leader talkes about a person who directs or inspires others. You can lead from a place of power (for example when you can fire an employee) or you can lead from a place of inspiration (where people do what you ask because they believe in you and your mission).

The final definition of a leader from Princeton is the idea of a product that draws people into your store. For example, a loss leader is an item that is priced intentionally below cost inorder to get people to the store so they wil spend money on other things. This idea of a leader is something that attracts people–it draws them in of their own free will because it is attractive and valuable. While this type of leader isn’t a person, it is helpful to think about when examining leadership definitions. being a leader requires that you attract followers in much the same way that a store product leader needs to bring in customers.

Leading on Purpose

Many people get put in a leadership position and just lead by accident. They do whatever seems good at the time without viewing each action as part of an overall plan. Sometimes they do great things and sometimes they do things that really hurt them from a leadership standpoint. Leading on purpose means making decisions as part of an overall strategy to make it easier for people to follow you.

Examine Each Action From a Leadership Perspective

Whenever you get ready to do something, ask yourself if it will help or hurt your leadership influence. For example, the evening you are asking everyone else to stay and work late, probably isn’t a good time to announce that you are head off to see a movie.

As a leader people are going to watch you very closely. If you have a good relationship with the people you lead, they will bend over backwards to come through for you, but only if they don’t think you are being hypocritical.

I have seen leaders announce they were laying off workers for budgetary reasons and then spend $50,000 on remodeling their corporate apartment. Other leaders asked people to try to conserve and save money and then spent $15,000 on a custom book shelf for their office.

Both of these expenses weren’t necessarily unreasonable, but it was clear that they hadn’t thought through the consequences of their actions from a leadership perspective. It didn’t ruin their ability to lead, but it set them back. Too many mistakes like this can erode your leadership capability and move you to a place where you are leading only by authority not by earned respect.

Leaders Shouldn’t Make Promises they Can’t Keep

This is a frequent problem for leaders. They are optimistic about the future and start making promises to people based on what they want to see happen. People will understand that plans change, but if you promise you are going to do something for someone, they will expect you to follow through. When you promise something to someone, they may make very important decisions based on your promise. If you don’t come through, it can have a much bigger impact than what you see.

Here is an example that I’ve seen happen in various shapes and forms. Your organization is going through a tough year, so you can’t give out raises as promised. You talk to a few of your direct reports and apologize and promise that next year you plan to give out bigger raises than normal to make up for this year. Some people will take you at your word and buy a new house, car, or boat based on your promise of a bigger raise. This is not prudent financial management on their part, but if you are unable to keep your word you will lose some of your ability to be an effective leader with that person.

Even when they don’t go out and make financial decisions based on your promise, they will tend to mistrust you in the future. For example, I was at one organization that promised to tie year end raises to each manager’s continued education. When the new year came around, everyone was given a standard raise and the educational goals were never mentioned. The people who had been at the organization for a long period of time had just ignored the continuing education goal because they new nothing would come of it. The individuals who were new and worked to achieve the goal lost some faith in the leadership. By itself it wasn’t a that big of deal, but the leadership consistently made similar mistakes and over time, people trusted the leadership less and less.

Long Term Leadership

Leading on purpose means taking the long term approach to leadership. It means thinking about how current actions will impact your leadership ability 4 or 5 years down the road. In many situations leaders don’t think like this. They expect to move on in 2 or 3 years, so they only think about short term impact.

The problem with this approach is that the leadership legacy that you have built will follow you beyond your current job. The world is getting smaller and it is very likely that you will be working with someone in the future that you’ve worked with before, or who is best friends with someone you’ve worked with before. If you haven’t done a good job of making long term decisions, it will come back to haunt you.

Leaders Should Know What to Do

Leaders need to be prepared. Often times this is just a simple matter of thinking ahead. There are certain circumstances that you can see coming. For example, if you take a new position and soon realize that you will probably need to let a particular person go, you should be prepared for that possibility. You should have thought through the best way to handle it and most importantly you should have thought through the ways you are not going to handle it–ways that could create an even bigger problem.

Making decisions is a big part of leadership and the more intelligent your decisions, the better of a leader you can become. A decision made on whim is much less likely to be the best choice as compared with a carefully planned out decision made in advance.

Leading in a Specific Direction

Leaders have to know where they are going and constantly communicate this direction. This is usually referred to as vision casting. Some leaders run into problems because they aren’t very good at articulating their vision. Most leaders have problems because they haven’t really figured out what their vision is. They may have a few ideas of where they want to go, but they haven’t really sat down and worked out exactly where they want to end up and their rules for getting there.

It is much easier to follow someone who is unambiguous about where they are going. When someone hasn’t really put in the effort of developing a plan for where they want to go, they are difficult to follow. A lot of inexperienced followers will think there is a problem with themselves and they will try to compensate. To do this they will create their own version of the vision. Usually that version will be very biased toward their own goals and aspirations. This isn’t their fault–they are doing the best with the information they have been given. In the end, the highly motivated people all create their own vision each heading in a slightly different direction.

Imagine 25 people all holding the edges of a large parachute. The parachute is held tight so it doesn’t touch the ground. Each one has a general idea of where they are heading, but no real plan for getting there. One person is going to head straight toward the goal. Another is going to try to head toward the goal, but stay on the sidewalk, another wants to head to a couple secondary goals before reaching the final destination, etc. When these people try to walk they will have a very difficult time working together. Since everyone is headed in a slightly different direction, they will probably end up tripping over each other, letting the parachute drag on the ground and get dirty, and in the end everyone will be frustrated with each other. There will be a lot of time spent trying to figure out whose vision is the right one.

The problem is, this really isn’t their job. It is the leaders job to set the goal and the rules for achieving that goal. This doesn’t mean the leader doesn’t take input from others and it doesn’t mean that you can’t correct your course midway as new information becomes available, but you can’t leave leadership to chance. Individuals will create their own vision when one doesn’t exist. It is unlikely that your team will all create the exact same vision.

In most organizations there is always some degree of push and pull as people head in slightly different directions. The better you define and communicate your vision the more you can minimize the unnecessary friction and keep people focused on the goal.

Leaders Create Leaders

A good leader leaves a legacy of leadership skills in others. Well led organizations become even more well led because of this. It all starts at the top with the organizational leader. If you invest in the people under you, they will learn how to invest in the people under them. If you avoid making promises you can’t keep to people under you, they will be less likely to break promises to people under them.

Many times you will find an organization that is extremely dysfunctional in a particular area. When you trace the problem, it becomes evident that the problem started with leadership at the very top. Everyone else followed the example that they were shown and turned a small flaw in one or two people into an organization wide dysfunctional problem.

Leading on Purpose Summary

Leading on purpose is not easy. It takes effort and focus. You have to be willing to practice what you preach–and that does not come naturally to many people. However, by being aware of how you lead and the impact that your decisions have on others, you can increase your leadership skill and earn respect and leadership influence with others. The more you do this, the easier it is to function as a true leader and not just someone with a title.

Leadership Coach Interviews

This is an interview with three coaches that specialize in leadership. They generously offered to answer some questions about leadership and leadership coaching for Leadership501. The coaches are:

Read on for their insights into leadership.

What is the most common mistake you see made by leaders?

Wilson Ramirez:

The most common mistake is the assumption that people ‘have to’ follow the leader. This becomes the key differentiator between management and leadership: a leader is followed because people ‘want to’. Most leaders, unfortunately, forget this and act more often than not as managers.

Carl Robinson:

Not sufficiently attending to building relationships at work. Technical competence is overrated.

Barry Zweibel:

Just one?! How about three?!

  1. With respect to ‘delegation and maximizing their leadership impact’ – Doing work that they’re capable of doing, rather than working on what only they are capable of doing. Too many leaders do their staff’s work instead of their own and then are left wondering why there are so many unanticipated problems and last-minute deadlines that keep cropping up. Job One of a leader is to keep a constant watch on the horizon, not to keep busy.
  2. With respect to ‘consensus-building and collaboration’ – Thinking that the real work happens during meetings, rather than before, and to a much lesser degree, after, them. To paraphrase Walt Disney, if you can get them to agree before they disagree, they’ll never disagree.
  3. With respect to ‘doing a good job’ – Trying to avoid risk-taking, rather than learning to how anticipate and mitigate the risks inherent in forwarding any new idea. As a leader, it’s not about playing it safe, it’s about making a difference.

What is the most important tip you can give for developing leadership skills?

Wilson Ramirez:

The first and arguably the most important step in the leadership development journey is self-awareness. Without a proper knowledge of ourselves, it is difficult to properly lead other people. Leadership requires a fine awareness of what other people are feeling, and the use of our own personality and abilities to lead them with/through/in-spite-of their feelings. Without knowing ourselves first, it is hard to know other people.

Carl Robinson:

You must develop your interpersonal intelligence skills. You have to learn how to influence people to make change. Simply giving people orders does not work. You might get compliance at the expense of buy-in and commitment.

Barry Zweibel:

Time is the ultimate scarce resource for an executive, so the ability to eliminate procrastination is an essential competency. Yet, many executives are still uncomfortable with talking to direct reports about performance issues. So they procrastinate (under the guise of being too busy to deal with that right now, of course) and as a direct result, time passes, problems fester, and things slide downhill. The most important tip I can give for developing leadership skills, then, is to learn how to be ready, willing, and able, to have those difficult conversations, when needed. That’s one of the reasons why I created an e-book called, “Employee Performance Discussions” which provides respectful, but powerful and compelling language and phrasings to help make those difficult conversations imminently less so.

What book would you recommend to someone taking on new leadership responsibilities?

Wilson Ramirez:

The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, by John C. Maxwell, is just a jewel. It is so packed with wisdom, that I go back to it quite often.

Carl Robinson:

The Extraordinary Leader by John Zenger and Joseph Folkman

Barry Zweibel:

  • Six Thinking Hats, Edward De Bono – better meetings
  • Moments of Truth, Jan Carlzon – better choices
  • Managers as Mentors, Chip Bell – better philosophy
  • Executive Intelligence, Justin Menkes – better results
  • The Art of Framing, Fairhurst & Saar – better communicating
  • Leadership and Self-Deception, Arbinger Institute – better be careful

Which leader has had the biggest personal influence on your life?

Wilson Ramirez:

Although countless authors, speakers and leaders have had an impact in my life, the biggest influence would have to be Jesus. As a student and teacher of leadership, I find that the lessons he taught, his love, compassion and the consistent behavior displayed throughout his life are perfect material for a case-study on the topic, but also applicable at a personal level as a role model to follow.

Carl Robinson:

My high school Human Anatomy and Physiology teacher. He taught me to break rules and to be creative.

Barry Zweibel:

For me, I think it was John Madden back when he was head coach of the Oakland Raiders, from 1968 to 1978. I really respect how he took all the misfits from the league – galoots who had just couldn’t play nice with anyone – gave them a home, insisted they be themselves, and with owner Al Davis, challenged them to Just Win, Baby! Together, they won 17 straight games (across two seasons), won themselves a Super Bowl, never had a losing season, got Madden voted AFL Coach of the Year, gave him the best winning percentage of any coach in NFL history with over 100 wins, and a permanent seat in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

My Lessons Learned from it all?

  1. Be curious about people rather than being in judgment of them
  2. Don’t be afraid of creativity and counter-intuitive thinking
  3. People love, but also need, to do Important Work – so let them
  4. Respecting someone for who they already are, builds regard, rapport, and the ability to create some incredible magic

Who can benefit from leadership coaching?

Wilson Ramirez:

Anyone, really. Just like any athlete would benefit from a coach, any individual that desires to perform, obtain guidance or move to the next level (whatever that is) can benefit from a coach. I would particularly recommend coaching to people that feel stuck in their lives or careers, or those taking on an overwhelming challenge.

Going back to the most important tip for leadership development described earlier, the most important value a coach brings is the ability to ask good, hard, deep and thought-provoking questions that facilitate self-awareness — and to serve as an implementation monitor to ensure those lessons we discover are properly acted upon.

Carl Robinson:

Any executive who wants to stretch and grow and is willing to be open, honest and work hard.

Barry Zweibel:

The type of people who can benefit the most from leadership coaching are the ones who, notwithstanding the fruits of their labors, know they can still do better, want to do better still, and are willing to do the necessary legwork to make it so. They tend to be smart, capable, informed, creative, and caring. But whether they’re an up-and-coming star, a proverbial executive’s executive, or someone in between, they know that what brought them success in the past will likely be insufficient in sustaining their success in the future. So they’ve made it a personal and professional priority to continue to learn and grow and develop and stretch and question and consider and understand as much as they can. Regardless of circumstances or contexts, they want to be at their Absolute Best as often, and as consistently, as possible. Why? Because it’s at that level that the magic happens most regularly.

Describe how your coaching sessions works.

Wilson Ramirez:

Our focus is in understanding the innate and natural abilities of our clients. We spend a huge amount of time understanding their personality, their wants, needs and desires. We use thorough assessments to obtain metrics on different areas of their personality, and follow a clear methodology of discovery. We found that this discovery alone brings unprecedented value to our clients. Knowing their individual strengths and areas for improvement, we focus on the future and what they want to accomplish. We challenge them on specifics and help them think how their strengths could help in a given situation. We help our clients strategize about how to do the best they can with their natural abilities, and whether and how to acquire new skills to balance out and achieve greater levels of performance. We do not motivate our clients: the motivation comes from within.

Carl Robinson:

Refer to my website for greater details but … In a nut shell:

  1. Assess
  2. Action Plan
  3. Practice
  4. Refine
  5. Practice more.

You have to do a proper assessment. Find out what your strengths and developmental needs are which usually entails conducting some type of multi-rater (360) feedback survey plus a personality assessment by a consulting psychologist (the only folks really trained to do assessment well). Then we develop a plan of action and concentrate on the 2 – 3 key things the candidate needs to learn. Then we find real-time – in the their business opportunities to practice the new skills. As we do this we ask for feedback so that we can determine if we are making progress and make any necessary adjustments/refinements. Change does not happen over night and takes ongoing practice. We keep at it until the candidate has incorporated the new skills.

They can expect to have me be very direct, pragmatic and supportive. I act as their advocate and cheerleader while keeping them focused on their goals.

Barry Zweibel:

Here’s a simple diagram of the process, courtesy of an article published by the American Society of Training and Development.

The idea is that the executive shows up for the coaching call (I work mostly 1-on-1, via telephone) with whatever issues s/he is grappling with and we dig in. My job is to listen – to what’s said, to how it’s said…and to what’s not being said – and then help create a clarity and confidence around moving forward. These conversations are completely confidential and solely for the executive’s benefit. As a result, the things that need to be talked about can be talked about – without fear, judgment, or restriction of content. Tempo-wise, these 50-to-55 minute, weekly/biweekly, coaching conversations tend to be crisp, focused, engaging, and highly-interactive, each one fully-customized to issues at hand.

What is the first step someone should take if they are interested in your coaching services?

Wilson Ramirez:

Get in touch with us. Visit our website for more information on our programs. Send us an email to info@leadershipwisdom.com or give us a call at (416) 284-1799. We would be pleased to discuss whether and how we can be of help for your specific situation.

Carl Robinson:

Go to my website and read in more detail what the typical coaching process looks like. And… Look at my testimonials. Call me with your questions.

Barry Zweibel:

For more information, visit my website; read some articles; read my blog; call (847-291-9735) or email (info@ggci.com) to set up a time to talk. Thank you.

Leadership and Writing

Writing is an important leadership skill that is often overlooked. It is unlikely that you will ever see writing at the top of any list of important leadership skills. For a leader to be effective they must communicate their outlook, vision and worldview to the people they are leading. A leader who cannot communicate well using written words is going to be severely handicapped.

Another reason leaders need to write is to help them develop and clarify their ideas. Much of what makes someone a good leader is his or her viewpoint and perspective. Someone who makes good decisions usually does so because of how they look at problems. Someone who instinctively does the right thing will often have a difficult time explaining their decision-making process to others.

A leader who doesn’t take the time to develop and refine ideas and viewpoint can still be successful. But they will have a difficult time replicating their skills in others. You can’t teach someone to have the same “gut feeling” as you.

Leading Through Communication

It is possible for a leader to lead without using written communication. We have examples of many leaders who were unable to read or write. However, leadership greatly depends on communication and in modern times much of our communication is written. Written communication gives people a source to refer back to. If you only communicate verbally, there is no real standard to refer to if someone has a question.

It is also much easier to hold people accountable for something that you’ve communicated in writing. By putting your thoughts into words you give people a concrete standard that they can reference. Making your thoughts concrete can help align everyone’s efforts toward the same goal.

Clarifying Your Thoughts

Writing also gives you the opportunity to clarify your thoughts and better understand what you really think in your subconscious. Writing gives a leader the chance to privately develop their way of looking at problems in a way that can be communicated to others. In this sense, writing gives leaders a method for organizing and clarifying their thoughts. It allows them to take what they know instinctively and make it something concrete that can be conveyed to others.

This clarifying process can be immensely helpful in explaining strategy. Often a good leader will know what to do instinctively. However, the instincts of a single person are difficult scale for a large organization. Writing down the thoughts behind your instincts can allow you to replicate your skills in others.

The writing process can help you understand your decision-making methods in a deeper way. This makes it easier to teach your way of doing things to others. Often it will provide you with deeper insights into how you can make better decisions as well.

Writing isn’t the most important skill for a leader to possess. However, it is a very valuable skill to develop and practice because it lets you replicate and improve your other skills.

Tips for New Supervisors

This is a collection of tips for new supervisors. The advice is useful to anyone in a management position. Most people are thrown into supervisory positions with very little in the way of training or guidance. These tips for supervisors can help you be proactive in avoiding problems that can occur further down the road.

  • Know the Rules – In order to be an effective supervisor, you need to be aware of your organization’s policies and procedures. If you don’t, you’ll likely make promises you can’t keep or deal with situations inappropriately simply because you don’t understand the correct procedure. The procedures and policies are there to help you make good decisions even when you are under pressure or time constraints.
  • Manage Up – Don’t forget that your relationship upward is just as important as your relationships with the people you supervise. Don’t expect your boss to be competent just because he or she is the boss. Take the time to understand their strengths and weaknesses. Anticipate problems ahead of time being proactive to help your boss succeed.
  • Build a Base of Influence – Develop relationships across your organization. People need to know who you are and like you. The fact that someone likes you can go a long ways in helping you out of political situations or when someone else is opposing you. If people know who you are and like you, they will start from the standpoint of assuming that you are a good person. If they don’t know who you are, they will start from the standpoint of whoever is talking to them.
  • Develop a Separate Social Life – Make sure you aren’t completely reliant on your coworkers and direct reports for your social life needs. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t ever do things outside of work with your co-workers, but if your only friends are at work, you are putting yourself in a dangerous situation. If your social and work life are too intertwined, it can cloud your judgment in ways that can be harmful to your career.
  • Master Performance Reviews – Effective performance reviews require a lot of work on your part, but having a good process is one of the most important ways you set and track employee achievement and goals. If done correctly, performance reviews are a great tool and something both supervisor and employee can look forward to. Whether you use a simple paper based system or some type of performance review software, take the time to make sure the process helps drive the behavior and environment you want to create.
  • Walk the Talk – Just because you are a supervisor doesn’t give you an excuse to break the rules. You shouldn’t be asking people to do things that they don’t see you doing yourself.
  • Keep Good Records – Keep good records of interactions and issues. Modern work environments are political and often full of lawsuits. By keeping good records, you’ll put yourself in a much better position to stop frivolous claims before they become problems.