I recently revisited a speech on leadership that I gave to the Executive MBA program at the University of California Irvine's Merage School of Business. I shared with these executives what I've learned about leadership through observation, trial and (much) error.
Here's a summary of some of the core beliefs I've developed over the years:
- The role of leadership:
- Great leaders don't create followers – great leaders inspire more leaders to achieve things that matter.
- Great leaders define the organization's inspiring "why."
- Telling employees what to do is management. Showing employees how to do it better is direction. But inspiring people to make a difference is leadership.
- CEOs need to be the Chief Talent Officer.
- The traits of great leaders:
- Leaders communicate a short list of priorities that remain consistent over time. They get the organization to accomplish these goals by prioritizing alignment over consensus; by driving the mission deep into the organization through "line of sight" goals"; by providing people with the necessary resources and support; and by establishing accountability through clear measures of success.
- Leadership is about credibility. Words and actions must be in sync. If not, why should people follow your words?
- Leadership is about humility – "we > me."
- Leading change:
- When attempting to inspire change in an organization, leaders need to understand the "Principle of the 20th Row." The average employee seated in the Town Hall Meeting wants to be sure that this is not another "lucite block" exercise. They need to hear what leadership will begin doing differently before they themselves decide to work differently.
- Great leaders earn their reputations during the dark days, not the glory days. As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, "The ultimate measure of a person is not where they stand during moments of comfort, but where they stand during times of challenge."
- How leaders fail:
- According to Ram Charan, leaders tend to fail for the following reasons: They lose touch with what is going on the marketplace; they don't confront reality (hope is not a strategy!); they don't make things happen; they don't take action on poor performing direct reports.
- Employees don't measure a leader by the greatness they advocate. They measure the leader by the mediocrity they tolerate. Again, words, values and action must be in sync.