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As strange as this might seem, leadership is an abstract concept to most managers. While it seems logical that leadership is an essential element in terms of management, it is often a concept which is overlooked, simply because managers perceive it to be too grandiose and intangible to detail. In fact, neglecting leadership has harmed management in many ways. Here are a few observations about those holding leadership positions:

• Most leaders are waiting to be told what to do

• Most leaders are operating at least one level below their position

• Leaders do not think (or act) like they are running a business

• Leaders can easily point out the problems with other groups but have trouble critiquing their own operation

• Managing stakeholders is a mystery to most leaders

• Ideas exist for better performance but leaders do not know how to organize and focus their plans

So what is leadership exactly? Merriam-Webster defines it as “the office or position of a leader; the capacity to lead; the act or an instance of leading.” These seem to be pretty abstract definitions, which may be why many management professionals are not performing up to par.

Before explaining what leadership is, it is important to detail the traits of a superior leader. These traits are clarity, confidence, and courage. Clarity is the ability to engage the organization around your plans and objectives. It means providing clear and unambiguous expectations, and communicating in simple terms. Confidence refers to a positive attitude with which to build a team. Confidence is well thought out and challenged plans and approaches, and the ability to overcome obstacles. Courage, of course, is the willingness to take risks.

While keeping the “Three C’s” in mind, I have devised a list of habits for leaders to follow. We call it the leader’s daily dozen:

1. Set the example. This involves practicing your own values and the values of the organization, having a positive attitude, and creating a climate of integrity.

2. Measure. Strong leaders should know what metrics drive performance, and should use metrics to understand and improve.

3. Develop leaders. Not only should leaders develop their own skills, they should also work to develop leaders. By supporting, challenging, trusting and teaching your team, you will mold your workers into leaders.

4. Communicate. This involves selecting the best medium for communicating, planning your own communications, and listening well to others.

5. Simplify. Sort through the complexity of situations in order to reduce churn. Make sure to remove obstacles and focus on the critical issues.

6. Create ownership. By involving your employees in the planning of tasks, and helping them understand “why,” you generate commitment from the group.

7. Provide clarity. Give clear, well understood instructions, and be unambiguous in your vision and goals for the group.

8. Manage risk. Be mindful and consider what is around the corner, and build risk management into all of your groups’ activities.

9. Deliver results. Lead for results and continuous improvement, and always remember that performance matters.

10. Take action. This involves creating a sense of urgency within the group. Work to accomplish tasks that move the group forward. Always take accountability.

11. Reward success. Always acknowledge positives and don’t just manage the negatives. Make sure to always reward the efforts and successes of your people.

12. Think. Make time to think and reflect. Try to understand the situation beyond my perspective

By discovering these habits and learning to take on the traits of a superior leader, success will surely follow.

Rich Fredricksen is the founder and Principal of Strong•Leader, an organization that works to help individuals and organizations achieve success by improving their execution capabilities. PFG has created a unique program called Strong•Leader to help these organizations and leaders deliver results while developing sustainable leadership and execution skills. Rich is a graduate of The U.S. Military Academy with a BS in Engineering Management. He has an MBA from the Fuqua School of Business at Duke University.


 
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