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Long Term Leadership: Taking Advice From The Pros

Learning the skills of leadership from those who are in the lead

22Sep

Leadership has almost become a kind of cliche. We write books, run training seminars and provide entire educational structures around the concept of leadership. We do that because we recognize the importance of good government. If we learned anything at all from William Golding's, 'Lord of the Flies,' it's that bad government corrupts - and no government eventually destroys.

Without capable leadership, we soon descend into chaos. Its importance is highlighted by the number of people willing to voice their own opinion on what makes for good leadership.

As someone who has been running my own business in one form or another for around 26 years, I have learned a great deal about leadership. Namely, I have learned that the best thing I can do is listen to those who have trodden the path before me.

Rather than give you my microscopic nuggets of leadership wisdom, let me lean - and encourage you to lean - on the sage advice of those who have proved by their success that they are worthy to be heard on the subject. Into whatever sphere of leadership you are called to - or aspire to -serve lead well with these timeless leadership skills.

Leadership is not for everyone. Perhaps you have good communication skills, or you consider yourself an effective leader.

Capable of Discretion and Transparency

People are smart, and they are sharp. They recognize the counterfeit when they see it. If you want to get ahead in this world and you want to succeed, and leadership then be transparent with your colleagues, family, and friends.

Be transparent, for example about your public failures. If you make a mistake be the first one to acknowledge it, not the last.

'The keys to brand success are self-definition, transparency, authenticity, and accountability'.

Simon Mainwaring (taken from the book, 'We First: How Brands and Consumers Use Social Media to Build a Better World.' 2011)

A good leader will know how to strike a balance between discretion and transparency. They won't talk about everything to anyone. They understand the meaning of the phrase (probably coined by that noted leader, Winston Churchill),

'Loose lips sink ships.'

If you're unsure about where your company is going. Admit it and solve it. Weak leaders will either not admit it, or admit it is a defeat and not bother solving it.

Able to Maintain Balance

A successful leader is someone who knows how to maintain the balance of private and public life. They also know how to balance priorities in business. There is such a thing as oversharing and overbearing. A good leader knows their place in the pack and realizes that they are not the only hand on the wheel.

Says Steve Jobs,

'My model for business is The Beatles: They were four guys that kept each other's’ negative tendencies in check; they balanced each other. And the total was greater than the sum of the parts.'

People who overshare often find themselves in complicated relationships. They find themselves having difficulty with colleagues in the workplace. While it's true that you cannot leave your problems at home for they are part of you, it is necessary for you to hold those personal matters in abeyance.

Balance in leadership includes getting the priority - and the tone in which it is delivered - right.

Knows How to Gather Talent and Keep it.

One of the most important roles in leadership is attracting and recruiting talent to your company, suggests Jim Tolbert. A natural leader will be the kind of person who can spot and attract trained and talented staff to the company.

This is a double-sided coin. Talented people tend to gravitate toward those with leadership skills worthy of respect. They know how to spot good leadership, just as good leadership knows how to spot talent.

Consider what Google did in its early days. It set out to fill its office space with the most talented workers. And, with those capable workers, the leadership at Google have grown the company to one of the largest digital corporations in the world.

The challenge now will be keeping and caring for that talent. Quality leadership not only gathers the best, but it keeps the best. Good leadership knows how to care and nurture relationships so that the company's most valuable asset - people - stick around to keep the company moving forward.

Navigating Business Ethics

Why destroy 25 years of hard work because of early unethical practices.

Make it your mission to grind or serve as an ethical businessman or woman. This is challenging in today's world. People want fast answers and fast results, and that is tempting you to be unethical.

'Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.'

Peter Drucker (Author of, The Effective Executive, 1966)

Resist the temptation. The Ethical in all your practices internally and externally to the organization you run or work for.

Work hard to create an honest and ethical environment in your workplace. You may suffer for this, but you'll win the admiration of those who were there to work alongside you. Not only that but you're more likely to engender trust and loyalty when it counts.

Always Learning

A strong leader keeps learning new things. They take time out to learn, reflect and think: Something that is only possible when you have balance.

'Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.'

Former President of the United States, John F. Kennedy in an undelivered speech in November 1963.

Be prepared, if you want to be a great leader, to engage in lifelong learning. The world is changing fast, and there is a strong temptation to keep up with everybody else around you. Good leadership knows when to put on the brakes and go back to school.

There are only so many hours in the day, and there is so much to do. You cannot listen to everybody, so you have to be fussy. Decide early on who you're going to listen to and take advice from and who to bypass to get the job done.

It is especially important to provide an opportunity for your colleagues and teammates to communicate with you. However, for that communication to be useful and effective you need to make sure that it is focused on the task at hand and the business and hand.

Avoid being railroaded by well-meaning colleagues who want you overshare with you. Avoid being taken in by colleagues who simply just want to gossip. Loose lips sink ships.

Knowing How to Finish Well

Finally, a great leader will finish well. He or she will finish what they start. This takes courage. And courage, I would submit to you, is what sits at the root of all truly good leadership. Courage to say the course, call a spade a spade - and being willing to face your adversity.

'I am not afraid of an army of lions led by a sheep; I am afraid of an army of sheep led by a lion.' Alexander the Great

Good leadership, of course, is not greatness. Alexander was right to fear such a lion and courageous for facing it.

But each of us, in our own sphere, is called to lead in some way. If you want to finish well, then you need to walk well along the way. You need to face your dragons with your ethics, moderation, teachability and keen eye intact.

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