Insights for Leaders

Growing Others

“Before you become a leader success is all about growing yourself.  Once you become a leader success is all about growing others.”  — Jack Welch

Two American business icons agree on the importance of growing others.  Ray Kroc said, “The more I help others to succeed, the more I succeed.”  Sam Walton: “Outstanding leaders go out of their way to boost the self-esteem of their personnel.  If people believe in themselves, it’s amazing what they can accomplish.”

Robert Woodruff, the primary builder of the Coca-Cola global soft drink empire for six decades in the 20th century was know for a plaque on his desk that read, “There is no limit to what a man can do or where he can go if he doesn’t mind who gets the credit.”

The Bottom Line: Leaders intentionally grow their people and readily share credit for success with others.

The Art of Delegating

“No person will make a business great who wants to do it all himself or get all the credit.”  –  Andrew Carnegie

Management guru Peter Drucker wrote, “Delegation requires clear assignment of a specific task, clear definition of the expected results and a deadlineAbove all it requires that the subordinate to whom it is delegated keep the boss fully informed.  It is the subordinate’s job to alert the boss immediately to any possible ‘surprise’.”

Common pitfalls: 1.) Abidicating responsbility.  Successful business founder/CEO Robert Half wrote, “Delegating works provided the one delegating works too.”  2.) Interferance.  President Ronald Reagan said, “Surround yourself with the best people you can find, delegate authority, and don’t interfere.”

The Bottom Line: Leaders exponentially multiply their impact by delegating authority, staying fully informed but not interfering.

Eagle Eye

“Concentrate all your thoughts upon the work at hand.  The sun’s rays do not burn until brought to a focus.” — Alexander Graham Bell

Focus is critical to success – we see this principle in nature, war and business. Once an eagle has spotted its prey, it does not take its eyes off the creature until it strikes.   Neither Alexander the Great nor Julius Caesar could have conquered the then known world if he had neglected to concentrate forces.  Nike’s then CEO, Philip Knight, declared, “We wanted Nike to be the world’s best sports and fitness company. Once you say that, you have a focus. You don’t end up making wing tips.”

Legendary Coach Vincent Lombardi said, “Success demands singleness of purpose.”  Coach Lombardi knew how to bring his coaches and players into alignment behind a single game plan with a pure focus.

 The Bottom LineLeaders work to bring alignment to their people and an unrelenting focus on their mission.

Instant Vacation

“I am thankful for laughter, except when milk comes out my nose.” — Woody Allen

In this pressure packed, fast paced world of constant change and uncertainty, we need to remember not to be so serious.  President Lincoln said, “With this fearful strain that is on me night and day, if I did not laugh I should die.”

The classic Christmas carol extols, “T’is the season to be jolly!”  We would all be wise to adopt a cheerful attitude more often.  Comedian Milton Berle quipped, “Laughter is an instant vacation.”  Golfing legend Ben Hogan put it this way, “As you walk down the fairway of life you must smell the roses, for you only get to play one round.”

The Bottom Line:  Leaders understand the timeless proverb, “A cheerful heart is good medicine.”

The Brutal Facts

“The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality.” — Max Dupree,  The Art of Leadership

Today more than ever, we are bombarded with more information than we can reasonably process.  The leader cuts through this overload to discover the key facts of the current situation – providing others with a reliable contextual interpretation and direction.

In this quest to define reality, the leader courageously pursues the truth, knowing that clear, fact-based communication takes extra work but is the doorway to creativity and consensus.  Jim Collins writes, that organizations that become ’great’ exercise ”the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of their current reality, whatever they might be.”

The Bottom Line: Leaders pursue reality and truth knowing it is the key to their biggest insights and breakthroughs.

Achieving Greatness

“Good is the enemy of great.  And that is one of the key reasons why we have so little that becomes great.” — Jim Collins, Good to Great

When Tiger Woods changed his golf swing in 2003, most people criticized because he did not win a major in 2003 or 2004, failing to dominate the game as before.  With yesterday’s five shot win at the British Open, on top of his victory this year at the Masters, he is once again dominating the sport.  Tiger’s “good” golf swing was the enemy of his “great” swing.

As Tiger has demonstrated, what you are doing well may be the barrier to your next breakthrough.  For example, if you are a ”good” leader, you may be blocking the greater growth of your organization by not empowering others to lead with you.  Mario Andretti said it this way, “If things seem under control, you are just not going fast enough.”

The Bottom Line:  Leaders have the vision and courage to let go of the good in pursuit of what is truly great.

Indispensable Planning

“Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.” — Abraham Lincoln

Leaders take time to sharpen the axe before they start swinging at the trees. They prepare and plan before they go into action. They also understand that planning is of no value unless it results in action. Or as Peter Drucker put it, “Plans are only good intentions unless they immediately degenerate into hard work.”

Dwight Eisenhower said, “Plans are useless but planning indispensable.” The planning process is critical to success — it is where the preparation for the battle takes place. Likewise, a business that does not take time to plan is daily going into battle unprepared and setting itself up for chaos and defeat.

The Bottom Line: Leaders invest time in planning and they work their plans.

Leaders vs Nonleaders

“To lead you must be a doer.  The way to quickly spot a nonleader is to watch for “should”….The real leader never uses the word “should”.  His or her response to a good suggestion is “Let’s do it.” — Jack Trout (author)

Leaders get things done — they execute.  Veteran consultant, Dr. Ram Charan writes, “Execution is the great unaddressed issue in the business world today.  Its absence is the single biggest obstacle to success.”

An action orientation is a distinguishing mark of a leader.  But action itself does not ensure success.  An action orientation can also be the mark of a nonleader if the action is not aligned with a vision of where you are going.  Vision with action can change the world.

The Bottom Line: Leaders translate big thoughts into concrete action steps – and they execute.

The Power of Vision

“There is no more powerful engine driving an organization toward excellence and long range success than an attractive, worthwhile and achievable vision of the future widely held.” – Burt Nanus, Professor of Management at the University of Southern California

Vision is a destination toward which your organization should aim, a future that is better, more successful, or more desirable than the present.

Vision is a “life or death” proposition. If you’ve got the right vision for your organization, you’ve got a powerful engine that will drive you and your people into the future. If you don’t, you are at best limping along; or, you may be in the process of dying.

Professor Nanus contends that the right vision “is an idea so energizing that it in effect jump-starts the future by calling forth the skills, talents, and resources to make it happen.” At Visionworks, when we help a client “jump-start the future” with a compelling vision, there is an energy and unity that grips the organization and propels it forward.

The Bottom Line: Leaders create the future by unleashing the power of vision.