Leaders to Leader

Lessons from the Great American Leaders & How They Apply Now

Posts Tagged ‘strategies

Four Major Hindrances to Empowerment

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The concept of empowerment demands the full participation and interaction of all levels of an organization. Problems arise when there is a lack of commitment by leaders to actually implement empowerment strategies throughout the organization. They mouth the words of empowerment but fail to back them up with real actions to remove barriers for all employees.

Leaders have a powerful position to play in the transition and development of a company’s ability to successfully implement employee empowerment throughout the entire organization. Leaders understand that the implementation process of empowerment is concerned with more than just the mechanical aspects accompanying the transitions and change.

It is important to understand that many barriers to real empowerment exist because of the pitfalls many organizations stumble into. Most of them materialize because of a failure to focus on how to improve the more indirect value characteristics of the organization. These characteristics involve the issues of trust, responsibility, harmony, participation and cooperative group efforts. Often the responsibility lies with the leader who fears a change in the status quo and an erosion of his or her power and authority.

One of the key phrases that defines empowerment is “participative management.” Research has demonstrated a positive link between employee participation and work satisfaction and between motivation and performance. These links are hindered from occurring when leaders fall short in recognizing the potential of their employees and fail to see how much power these individuals potentially carry to solve major problems and issues. The four major pitfalls leaders encounter as they attempt to transition into empowering their employees become manifested when they begin to mix the messages of empowerment or fail to link actions to ideas. These include the following beliefs:

“Empowerment is just a term used to produce the same actions to get similar results.”

Decisions are being continually made at the top in spite of the organization saying it is empowering its employees. This mixed message supported by accompanying actions does much to undermine an employee’s willingness to participate, improve performance, and accept additional responsibility.

A traditional labor division still exists even though participation is actively sought. This is generally caused by leaders failing to delegate meaningful assignments, tasks and projects able to have a real impact on building confidence and worker satisfaction.

Many leaders believe that empowerment can still be accomplished through delegating, but that there must be some form of direct or indirect control when it comes to overseeing what is being delegated.

“We are all in this together…up to a point.”

Many leaders fail to realize one important fact: if employees directly affected by proposed changes are not involved in the decision to change, they will fight its progress.

Employees should not be told what to do, but be given the opportunity to learn where, when and what to do in specific situations. Many leaders have their own fears to overcome, generally believing that empowerment will lead to them relinquishing authority and ultimately losing their jobs. Most resistance to empowerment comes from middle management. Leaders fail to see how these fears can be reduced or eliminated by setting, measuring and evaluating performance together with their organizational work units.

Organizations often fail at the top levels when desiring to implement empowerment. They thwart its success because they are shortsighted in not training their own leaders and supervisors to understand empowerment concepts, the value these ideas have for the company as a whole, or how to personally cope with change.

Organizations do not recognize the importance of the primary role of leadership in empowerment: to support and stimulate their employees to cooperate in overcoming cross-functional barriers and eliminating fear within their own work units.

“Empowerment begins at the top and works downward.”

Many organizations feel it is better to start empowerment changes at the top and then work down to employees, even though this limits some aspects of empowerment. Upper and even middle management often argue that employees are unable to get the whole picture of the organization and are unqualified to make most important decisions, especially those that impact profitability.

Organizations often forget or fail to recognize another important aspect of empowerment: delegating responsibility to the lowest levels of the organization. Leaders need to emphasize that the decision making process should be highly decentralized, and employees in work-designed groups or teams should be responsible for their part in work processes.

Empowerment is seen as a byproduct. Many organizations look at employee empowerment as a result of an organization’s strategy and technology that focuses on how to improve costs, speed and efficiency, not as the essential ingredient to make it happen. They fail to look upon empowerment as a direct strategy to produce higher quality, productivity and efficiency.

“Employees are not the only top priority… many others are equally as important.”

Organizations often fail to realize that without productive employees they are nothing and can do nothing. They sometimes become shortsighted and fail to realize that empowerment works best when employees need the organization as much as the organization needs them.

Organizations often feel an employee’s real need lies in an increased paycheck or better benefit package. There is a general belief that employees only wish to work for monetary compensation. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy and their demands grow accordingly because employees resort to this focus when they are not allowed to play an integral part in the organization.

Leaders forget to follow the golden rule: they must treat their employees the way they would want their bosses to treat them. Leaders must define what their actions and words mean to employees so that they realize concepts of fairness, respect, and consideration are an important element in the overall work culture and climate.

If you would like to learn more about effective empowerment strategies, refer to Empowerment: Pinpoint Leadership Skill 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.

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
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web | Blog | Catalog| 800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2011 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

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

Great! is a Timely Reminder of the Boldness of Exceptional American Leadership, at a Time When America is Crying Out for Leadership

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At a time when America is crying out for leadership, Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It, and What You Can Learn From It (Majorium Business Press, 2011)  is a timely reminder of the boldness of exceptional American leadership. Within its pages, it brings to life the names, stories, legacies and achievements of a number of truly remarkable individuals, some long forgotten by modern history.

Walter P. Chrysler, founder of Chrysler Motors, now the Chrysler Corporation stated, “An institution is the reflection of the people who guide it.” The dominant theme in Great! echoes Chrysler’s sentiments. Effective leadership does matter. Great leaders have a strong enduring influence and impact upon the performance of their companies. Great leaders build great companies.

The book is based upon the groundbreaking research of 160 influential American leaders, spanning over 235 years, from George Washington to Bill Gates. It places leadership into a historical context, illustrating how their concepts, principles and methods were developed, forged and evolved into contemporary leadership’s best practices.

Weaving together their words and stories into a rich fabric, Great! leads readers through the paths these individuals forged, the barriers, adversities and failures they weathered and the battles they fought for their personal beliefs and values. It details the bold and decisive actions they took in the face of economic downturns, depressions and financial panics, far worse than what the country is currently experiencing. Readers will be absorbed into the characteristics of the resolve, determination, persistence, perseverance and refusal to quit that differentiated them from their competitors.

Great! clarifies the numerous ways the great leaders took advantage of emerging opportunities, often creating demand for their products where none existed. Readers will discover just what made them grand architects, who were able to forge building blocks of growth while possessing a zeal for executing their plans and strategies.

The book spotlights how the dimensions of humanity, humility, empathy and compassion were woven into their characters, which are emphasized through factual accounts and stories. Great! reveals their perceptions of wealth creation and profitability, as well as organizational sustainability. It compares and contrasts them with many contemporary attitudes and practices.

Great! is intended to inspire readers to reclaim America’s greatness, one individual at a time. Step-by-step, the book illustrates the paths, values, beliefs and examples that the great leaders left for us to follow. It is a call to action for all who wish to become more effective, if not a great leader.

Additional information about Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It, and What You Can Learn From It, including the executive summary and a sample chapter can be viewed at http://www.whatmakesleadersgreat.com

Purchase Your Copy of Great!

Copyright © 2011 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

Research Executive Summary – What Makes Leaders Great

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The following executive summary details the findings of my extensive research of 160 great and influential leaders, spanning 235 years.

The premise of my research is that in order to understand what defines effective leadership, one must study the actions and behaviors of the great leaders. If one examines this premise, then several questions become readily obvious:

  • How did some individuals earn the mantle of greatness?
  • What defines them as great, and what were they able to achieve that others did not?
  • What lessons can be learned and applied from the examples they provide?

My research and analysis aims to answer these questions, and specifically defines and focuses on the key reasons why specific individuals are considered great leaders, including:

  • They acquired legitimacy by establishing trust, credibility, respect and emotional bonds and standing with all of their key constituencies.
  • They were selfless, placing the needs of others before themselves.
  • They epitomized courage, competence and candor.
  • They consistently reflected their personal values of humility, empathy and humanity.
  • A prolonged period of adversity, disappointment, discouragement and failure early in their careers, defined their character, shaped their vision and values, refined their critical thinking and established their legitimacy as a leader.
  • They were able to identify and take advantage of major economic shifts to fuel the growth of their company into a dominant market leader.
  • They acquired the right skills and abilities to take advantage of the opportunities presented to them.
  • They were master architects and builders, immersing themselves in the details of their business.
  • They were practitioners of ruthless efficiency, improving the customer’s experience while driving down costs and increasing profit through market growth.
  • They exhibited the talent to execute and get things done, while acquiring a passion and zeal for the execution of their plans and strategies.
  • They exhibited proficiency as consummate masters of marketing and building emotional connections to their brands.
  • Many created a demand for their products and a market where none existed before.
  • They built high performing organizations by focusing on attracting the right people to their companies, and utilizing their individual strengths by placing them in the right jobs.
  • They exhibited the intellectual honesty to completely comprehend the reality surrounding their circumstances, employing a factual approach to decision-making, objectivity and open-mindedness.
  • They generated enduring organizational values that mirrored their personal attitudes, values, thinking and work ethics.
  • They generated stellar and balanced financial performance due to a long-term, strategic perspective, rather than through focusing on short-term profitability and shareholder-value.

SPECIFIC FINDINGS

Vision

The great leaders created strong, simple and deep visions that defined their purpose, shaped their thinking, and influenced their decisions.

  • They defined their major purpose in life, and staked their existence on achieving it.
  • They cultivated a strong, enduring and lifelong vision of where they wanted to go and what they wished to achieve.
  • They kept their eye on the ball through a sustained long-term focus.
  • They generated a mission focus, clearly specifying what they wanted to achieve.
  • They effectively prioritized to keep their organizations focused on what was important for accomplishing their vision and mission.

Values

The great leaders generated enduring organizational values that mirrored their personal attitudes, values, thinking and work ethics.

  • They acquired a deep sense of integrity and courage of their personal convictions.
  • They exhibited a strong moral compass, guided by deeply held religious values.
  • They developed and relied on a strong internal compass, incorporating it into their beliefs, guiding principles and core values.
  • They displayed unwavering principles and uncompromising ethical standards.
  • They possessed a deep personal sense of responsibility toward others.
  • They assumed a universal servant mentality, which was derived from personal empathy and humility.

Crucible

The great leaders experienced a prolonged period of adversity, disappointment, discouragement and failure early in their careers, which ultimately defined their character, refined their critical thinking and established their legitimacy as a leader.

Emerging Markets

The great leaders identified emerging market opportunities and trends that offered tremendous advantages.

  • They became market leaders in emerging markets.
  • They experienced tremendous levels of growth, fueled by dramatic expansions in their external markets.
  • The tremendous levels of growth allowed them to dominate their markets and industries.

Business Creation

The great leaders capitalized upon the opportunities presented to them.

  • They utilized the process of business creation and development to build a sound foundation for generating sustained profitability.
  •  They exhibited high degrees of confidence in themselves, and in their own ideas.
  • They boasted a strong sense of intuition, supported by wisdom and common sense.
  • They acquired accurate and circumspective thinking skills.
  • They persisted, refused to quit or accept defeat, fueled by their determination and resolve.

Capabilities

The great leaders acquired the right skills and abilities to take advantage of the opportunities presented to them.

  • They exemplified visionary thinking, anticipating the future with an acute sense of clairvoyance.
  • They embraced change to capitalize on new and emerging markets.
  • They perceived failure as a learning experience rather than as a defining event.
  • They used their failures to channel their thinking into a more fruitful direction.
  • They viewed mistakes and failure as an acceptable part of innovation.

Attention to Details

The great leaders conscientiously focused and immersed themselves in details.

  • They investigated new possibilities as imaginative, curious and investigative thinkers.
  • They employed thorough and adequate preparation.
  • They personally prepared themselves through in-depth study and analysis.
  • They accumulated a mastery of knowledge and expertise as life-long learners.

Intellectual Honesty

The great leaders carefully calculated the gains and consequences of their decisions so as not to place themselves or their companies in jeopardy.

  • They exhibited a sense of intellectual honesty for completely comprehending the reality surrounding their circumstances.
  • They employed a factual approach to decision-making, being objective and open-minded.
  • They permitted their actions and decisions to be challenged, while also challenging others’ thinking, perspectives and points of view.

Architects of Growth

The great leaders were architects and builders of growth.

  • They created detailed blueprints.
  • They forged building blocks of growth.
  • They fostered growth.
  • They built and grew their companies.

Ruthless Efficiency

The great leaders effectively practiced the concept of “ruthless efficiency.”

  • They improved the quality of their product.
  • They improved their customer experiences by building products faster and cheaper.
  • They did everything possible to drive down all associated costs.
  • They built and sustained profitability by increasing sales volumes.

Execution

The great leaders were masters of execution.

  • They acquired a passion and zeal for execution of their plans and strategies.
  • They exhibited the talent to execute and get things done.
  • They kept their finger on the pulse of their business.
  • They effectively linked structure to their actions.
  • They manifested a depth of personal commitment to execution.

Right People

The great leaders built high-performing organizations by focusing on attracting the right people to their companies, and utilizing their strengths by placing them in the right jobs.

  • They respected their employees as being valuable assets.
  • They recognized that their companies were comprised of people and not faceless assets.
  • They harnessed the organizational power of their people.
  • They empowered, motivated and inspired their employees through delegation and team building, and creating a supportive environment.
  • They exhibited the ability to effectively communicate sweeping strategies.

Marketing

The great leaders exhibited proficiency as consummate masters of marketing.

  • They built emotional connections to their brands.
  • They created a demand for product and a market for their products where none existed before.
  • They established the infrastructure to support innovation.

Organizational Reputation

The great leaders produced a strong organizational reputation that became a projection of their attitudes, values, decisions and actions.

Financial Performance

The great leaders generated stellar and balanced financial performance due to a long-term perspective, rather than by focusing on short-term profitability and shareholder-value.

  • They concentrated on their customers, not on creating wealth and developing shareholder value, considering both of these to be outcomes, not a primary driving force.
  • They leveraged resources to drive down costs.
  • They maintained a strategic focus on long-term growth to sustain their business.
  • They simplified their organization’s business process.
  • They acquired the operational savvy to deliver on quality financial goals.
  • They viewed value creation as a measurement tool, consistent with their vision and values.
  • They perceived wealth creation as a consequence of their strong vision and subsequent focus.

SUMMARY

The findings of my research substantiates that effective leadership does matter. Great leaders have a strong enduring influence and impact upon the performance of their companies. Unless their vision, values and practices are continued by their successors, the performance of their organization vastly diminishes after their retirement or departure.

Adapted from Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Majorium Business Press, 2011)

If you would like to learn more about how the great American leaders built great companies through their own inspiring words and stories, refer to Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It. It illustrates how great leaders built great companies, and how you can apply the strategies, concepts and techniques that they pioneered to improve your own leadership skills. Click here to learn more.

Copyright © 2011 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

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