Leaders to Leader

Lessons from the Great American Leaders & How They Apply Now

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Don’t Push Out Figures When Facts Are Going in the Opposite Direction

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Admiral Hyman Rickover, USN

Admiral Hyman Rickover, USN

In addition to investigating new possibilities, effective leaders tend to possess an investigative mindset. Admiral Hyman Rickover (U.S. Navy) stated,

“Sit down before the facts with an open mind. Be prepared to give up every preconceived notion. Follow humbly wherever and to whatever abyss Nature leads, or you learn nothing. Don’t push out figures when facts are going in the opposite direction.”

Peter Drucker described Alfred Sloan (General Motors) in The Effective Executive. “Sloan, was anything but an ‘intuitive’ decision-maker. He always emphasized the need to test opinions against facts and the need to make absolutely sure that one did not start out with the conclusion and then look for the facts that would support it. But he knew that the right decision demands adequate disagreement.”

Meg Whitman (eBay) noted, “My job was to uncover what was going well. I think sometimes when a new senior executive comes into a company, the instinctive thing to do is to find out what’s wrong and fix it. That doesn’t actually work very well.

People are very proud of what they’ve created, and it just feels like you are second-guessing them all the time. You are much more successful coming in and finding out what’s going right and nurturing that. Along the way, you’ll find out what’s going wrong and fix that.”

Other effective leaders used other specific techniques that were extremely beneficial and fruitful, including probing for answers. Irwin Miller (Cummins) was noted for this attribute. “He was a teacher, not by providing answers, but by asking tough questions.

On many occasions his question ‘Ten years from now, what will you wish you had done differently today?’ caused business colleagues, community leaders, friends, and family members to reassess their points of view and reach for higher goals. If you came to tell him what you had already done, he always simply asked, ‘Did you do the right thing?’ ”

Andy Grove (Intel) was also a tough questioner, with an equally strong purpose behind it. “Andy will test his staff endlessly… If someone makes a suggestion, he’ll ask, ‘How would you do that?’ Andy wants answers that are well thought out. Gut feel doesn’t cut it with him. His test is: ‘How would you implement it?’ . . . And he challenges his staff to convince him that a particular direction is the right way to go.’

In some organizations, taking such a rigorous approach and insisting that people be prepared to thoroughly defend their ideas might discourage timid subordinates from offering suggestions – and thus stifle creative thinking. But Grove insists that isn’t really an issue.

‘If it discourages you,’ he says, ‘then you probably had a poor idea that you didn’t have much confidence in – or you are the kind of person who wouldn’t execute the idea anyway. If you can’t be expected to fill out the details of your concept, how can you be expected to execute it? It is almost a test:

‘Do you really believe in your idea well enough to defend it? And, if you are given a go-ahead, will you have enough devotion to it – a serious enough commitment to it – to make it happen?’

Clearly, Andy Grove understands how to make things happen, which helps to explain why Intel has played such a major role in shaping the digital world of the future.’ ”

William Blackie (Caterpillar) used his own power of observation to investigate the facts prior to making key decisions. During the post-Second World War years, replete with growth opportunities for Caterpillar,

“Blackie didn’t make his decisions in some comfortable office. He went out in the field to see for himself and advised others to do the same – even though doing so in the postwar years wasn’t comfortable.

‘Seeing the changes and their effects creates more conviction than being told about it or reading about it,’ he told Iron Age. ‘Therefore, one of the first things I urge any interested or skeptical U.S. businessman to do is to go abroad himself to see what’s going on.’”

Excerpt: Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI 2011) Read a Free Chapter

Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Finalist – 2011 Foreword Reviews‘ Book of the Year)
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web| Blog | Catalog |800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2012 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

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Seven Characteristics of Strong Teams

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The essence of leadership is found in team building and development where leaders apply specific skills to the task of bringing a diverse group of individuals together into an effective working team.

Leadership is ultimately an act of faith in other people. Adhering to their personal vision, leaders apply specific skills and abilities to energizing, motivating and guiding the action and direction of their teams. Additionally, leaders use their ability to delegate authority and empower their teams to implement and execute the specific strategies developed within the team environment. However, it is a mistake for leaders to assume that teams can totally operate on their own without guidance, direction and intervention from their leaders.

Within the team environment, leaders need to exert specific skills that allow them to share their vision and develop cooperation that ultimately creates a synergy that energizes the team and makes it thrive. Without active leadership, many working groups and teams will ultimately become lost and ineffective. It is important for leaders not only to cheer and motivate their teams, but also to guide and direct them.

Leaders must understand that they cannot simply label a group of individuals as a team or working group and then expect them to automatically blend themselves into an effective working unit. Rather, leaders must be actively involved and exert direct leadership upon their teams in order for them to develop and build the strength that energizes their actions and direction. The elements that build team strength and energy include:

Shared Vision

One of the hallmarks of effective leadership is a personal vision defining where it is leaders think the organization should be heading. One of the first tasks leaders should focus on when developing effective work teams is that of communicating their personal vision to their team. However, communication alone is not sufficient; leaders must also sell their teams on the vision so that it becomes a shared driving force for the entire team.

Mutual Goals

When teams and working groups are ultimately established, individual team members bring a diverse group of goals and objectives to the table. Leaders must blend those goals and objectives so that all team members share those that best fit the interests of the team. As this occurs, individual team members will set aside their personal goals and agendas for those of the team.

Shared Purpose

People are naturally driven to work toward something larger than themselves. As teams develop and blend, they create a shared purpose that motivates and energizes individual team members toward the accomplishment of collective goals and objectives. These individual members understand that accomplishment of a shared purpose is greater than what they can achieve on their own.

Mutual Respect

One of the hallmarks of effective teams is the mutual respect that individual team members have for one another regardless of their divergent viewpoints and perspectives. When destructive personal behaviors that sap team strength are eliminated and people understand the value of the feedback and contributions made by all team members, mutual respect is developed and cultivated. A critical aspect of the team culture, this respect is nurtured by team rules, roles and boundaries. Any undermining of mutual respect within the team is corrosive and destructive to the future actions of the team.

Embedded Best Practices

As organizations change and evolve and teams are developed and dismantled, specific best practices that have evolved and been proven over time should become crystallized and embedded within the organization. These best practices eliminate the need for each and every team to “reinvent the wheel” and allow them to get a jump start on their programs and projects. However, over time some “best practices” can become outmoded and outdated, used only because of their duration and implementation by other teams. Leaders should observe and review their best practices to assure that they are both effective and productive and do not hinder the performance of their teams.

Time to Develop and Grow

Team development must be fostered by allowing teams the time to go through various stages of development, and grow into effective working units. As each team is unique, development time will vary according to the experience and expertise of its members. Experienced and seasoned individuals who have worked together previously can appreciably shorten the time required to build team strength and develop into a working unit.

Setting Their Own Direction

Teams build strength, energize and motivate themselves when they are given the space to set their own direction. While leaders play an active role in guiding and directing their team, they should allow it the latitude to create its own rules, roles, boundaries, goals and ultimate direction.

Within some organizational settings, effective teams can become self-managing with minimal intervention by leaders; in other environments, active leadership intervention, direction and guidance is required. The degree of guidance and direction will depend on the maturity and responsibilities of individual team members. The overall goal of leaders should be to incrementally surrender more of their authority to their teams. As teams grow and demonstrate their effectiveness, leaders will develop increased confidence in their ability to assume specific roles, authority and responsibility.

Excerpt: Building Strong Teams: Pinpoint Leadership Skills Development Training Series (Majorium Business Press, 2011)

If you would like to learn more about techniques to build strong teams, refer to Building Strong Teams: Pinpoint Leadership Skills Development Training Series. This training skill-pack features eight key interrelated concepts, each with their own discussion points and training activity. It is ideal as an informal training tool for coaching or personal development. It can also be used as a handbook and guide for group training discussions. Click here to learn more.

Copyright © 2011 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

Written by Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D.

October 13, 2011 at 10:58 am

New Book Reveals The Most Accurate Gauge of Great Leadership is Legitimacy

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At a time when America is crying out for leadership in all sectors of society, a new book, which researched 160 great and influential American leaders, spanning 235 years revealed that the most accurate gauge of great leadership is legitimacy.

It illustrates that the great leaders acquired legitimacy by establishing trust, credibility, respect and emotional bonds and standing with all of their key constituencies, while delivering stellar financial performance.

The research reveals that when leaders balance the needs of all of their key constituencies, they outperform others, who sole focus on shareholder values. The focus on shareholder values concentrates upon the needs of one key constituency, often at the expense of the others. This destroys a leader’s credibility and often the long-term sustainability of the company.

The researcher and author, Timothy Bednarz, Ph.D. designated this pattern in his book Great! What Makes Leaders Great; What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Majorium Business Press) as the Legitimacy Principles.

The Legitimacy Principles enumerate the linkages of leaders’ legitimacy, credibility, trust and a balance of emotional standing and bonds with all key constituencies. The synergetic relationship produced between these key factors of success is the foundation of effective leadership, and it provides insight into a new definition of it.
The fundamental essence of leadership is legitimacy, whose substance is based upon authority and validity. While authority is conferred, validity is earned through the development of credibility, trust and a balance of emotional standing and connections with all key constituencies.

The presence of the Legitimacy Principles endow leaders with the authority to lead, manage, execute, empower, effectively communicate, sell their vision, generate a passion for success, and overcome adversity. Their absence results in ultimate failure as an effective leader.

It is often assumed that leaders automatically possess legitimacy. Great! substantiates that this is a fallacy. It shows that legitimacy is derived from two separate sources that grant leaders permission to lead.

The first source is authority or the power granted to leaders by either election, or appointment to an office. In the business setting, this is conferred by the stockholders through the board of directors.

The second source is validity. Validity is not conferred, nor is it automatically attained once one is appointed. It is earned. It becomes a contributing factor to the authority granted to a leader, typically over the span of his or her career. This defines a leader as genuine and authentic in the eyes of all key constituencies.

Both sources of legitimacy compliment each other. However, validity provides an enduring, yet fragile acquiescence of all the constituencies that gives a leader the tacit permission to lead. It is built upon three critical factors: trust, credibility and a balance of emotional bonds with each key constituency. The findings of the research presented in this book, demonstrates that these are the hallmarks of great leaders. Without the presence of these three critical factors, the leader’s validity collapses. Once a leader loses his or her validity, the authority to lead is significantly undermined, whether for a corporate executive or a political leader. The Legitimacy Principles are applicable to all forms of leadership.

An executive summary and the key findings published in Great! What Makes Leaders Great; What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It can be viewed at http://www.whatmakesleadersgreat.com. The book also can be purchased at this site, or by calling 800-654-4935.

Copyright © 2011 Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. All Rights Reserved

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