Leadership by Design
As an owner, principal, or
executive of a business you recognize that you have authority over those
who work with you. You may refer to yourself by your title, but you have
a more important job; that of a leader. Leader -- this conjures up
visions of power, charisma, and great people. Most of us don't really
connect these images with our own businesses and, in some respects, this
is correct. However, before you dismiss the comparison, it is important
to recognize certain fundamental principles of leadership and how you
can apply them to your role as a leader.
The defining proof of
leadership is the ability to obtain followers. It
really is that simple - and that difficult. Since most individuals do
not follow people easily or blindly, it pays to understand and apply two
business concepts and three fundamentals of effective leaders within the
small or medium size business environment.
Most courses or articles about leadership speak about the importance of
a vision and a mission. Do you have a clear understanding of these
Vision Statement -
How the organization wishes to be viewed as a result of its
Mission Statement - Clear statements defining what the
organization needs to achieve and how it will be measured.
A Vision Statement
defines the reputation you wish your organization to have; how you want to
differentiate your company in the marketplace. After all, if you can't make
doing business with you distinctive, you fail to give your customers a
compelling reason to buy from you. Also, when you identify and transmit a
clear vision, your employees will be able to move in a consistent direction
towards that vision. This will result in better decisions because, whenever
your employees are confronted with a variety of alternatives and a difficult
choice, they merely have to ask themselves "which of the options is more in
line with the vision of the organization?" Try this simple test: Ask your
employees what the vision of the organization is. If there is no consistency
in their responses, you can understand why the teamwork in your company is
less than you desire.
The Mission Statement is more specific. It tells your employees what
success looks like and describes the concrete ways in which success will be
evaluated. Quantitative ways of determining success provide truth in
results. Measurement areas may be revenues, sales growth, profit margin
increases, and retention rates of customers, among others.
There are also three fundamentals that must be mastered in order to be an
1) Communicate the vision
This is accomplished by comparing existing viewpoints of the vision and
the vision as you see it. Where there is a gap, encourage the other
person to offer a reason for the gap and suggestions as to how the gap
can be closed. By asking others for suggestions, you increase their
willingness and motivation to become engaged in making things better.
2) Learn and master the art of effective questioning.
Too often, owners and managers direct individuals by doing all the
talking. Effective leaders are skillful listeners, too. They ask the
types of questions that challenge others to offer their solutions to
problems. Those closest to the situation are often able to identify the
reasons for breakdowns and ways to avoid them. No leader has ever been
criticized for "listening too much."
3) Be willing to praise early and often.
Dr. Ken Blanchard, who wrote The One-Minute Manager, said it best when
he coined the cliche, "Catch someone doing something right." The optimal
leaders are those who are always on the lookout for appreciating the
good work done by others. They recognize that the best type of
complimentary feedback is sincere and specific. This approach has power,
because the person on the receiving end is already aware of the things
that he or she is performing effectively. It also lets employees know
their efforts are not being taken for granted. By creating appreciation
and goodwill, any improvements you suggest will be received with less
All leaders should recognize
that they have a powerful impact on those with whom they work. When you
apply the essential elements of vision statements, mission statements,
communication, questioning, and providing feedback, you dramatically
increase the chances that you will receive better performance from your
employees. Do you really want better followers? Then try being a more
Related Leadership Programs:
Essential Skills of Leadership
Related Leadership Products:
Leadership & Management