Leaders who add real value to their organizations incorporate the following beliefs and behaviors into their daily routine:
- Lead. Sounds simple, but if it was, our economy would be in a different place. Leading and managing are not the same thing. You are leading when you are focused on the future of the company, on where it is going, where it could go, how it could get there. If you find that your focus is on where you are now, on fighting fires, on managing the work of the organization then you are, well managing! A leader’s job is to lead. Thus, there must be a place that you are taking your company to, a place that everyone sees because it is clear, shared, and memorable. Repeat this vision often, reward those who are moving the company in that direction, and as a team, you will get there faster than you think.
- Hire the right people. The companies we admire, who do well in bad times as well as good, hire the right people. Brett Blair, owner of Sanford Rose Associates in Michigan, will confirm that finding the right candidate is too important to take lightly. It starts with very clear requirements and a strong emphasis on matching values to the company culture. How do you know if you have the right people? Many companies like Zappos and Southwest Air have unique hiring processes that support their cultural norms. Zappos tries to hire the best, trains them for two weeks and then offers them $2,000 to leave! They want commitment. Many successful companies will tell you that prior industry experience is not only less important than skills and style, but in some cases (like a bank that is trying to be less “banky”), a hindrance.
- Set the stage for optimism. How do leaders expect their associates to come to work ever day and be productive if they don’t know if they will have a job tomorrow? A leader not only has to have a “great day” every day while at work, but they also offer hope. Rick Frost, CEO of LP Construction says, “giving employees hope means that they can focus on their work, not worry about their immediate future.” Most companies that come out of recessions successfully do not have a major layoff or repeated ones, but focus on productivity improvements that drop margin to the bottom line and leave employees knowing where they stand.
- Communicate consistent values. A leader needs to be consistent about how he or she makes decisions. The values of the company that drive its direction need to be clear to all employees, and part of everything that is done, everything that is decided, and everything that is communicated.
- Develop people. As Joe Scarlett, founder of the Scarlett Leadership Institute will tell you, the sure fire way to success is having great talent around you. As a leader, your job is to let your people shine. Many successful leaders make a point of hiring people smarter than they are with a different perspective that challenges them, and all great leaders agree they don’t want “yes men/women” on staff. By developing people in your organization to this level of greatness, the organization becomes great. This is one of the key principles in Jim Collins’ book, Good to Great. It is about getting the “right seats on the bus.”
If a leader is spending time on these pursuits, the employees win and, of course, so does the company. Any organization is as strong as its weakest link––as a leader, shore up the links and you shore up the company. Stay focused on these important tasks, as you are the only one who can. If you do, you will add significant value to your company.