"Keep looking below surface appearances. Don't shrink from doing so (just) because you
might not like what you find."
"If it ain't broke, don't fix it" is the slogan of the complacent, the arrogant or the scared. It's an excuse for inaction, a call to non-arms. It's a mind-set that assumes (or hopes) that today's realities will continue tomorrow in a tidy, linear and predictable fashion. Pure fantasy. In this sort of culture, you won't find
people who pro-actively take steps to solve problems as they emerge. Here's a little tip: don't invest in these companies.
"Organization doesn't really accomplish anything. Plans don't accomplish anything, either. Theories of management don't much matter. Endeavors succeed or fail because of the people involved. Only by attracting the best people will you accomplish great deeds."
In a brain-based economy, your best assets are people. We've heard this expression so often that it's become trite. But how many leaders really "walk the talk" with this stuff? Too often, people are assumed to be empty chess pieces to be moved around by grand viziers, which may explain why so many top managers immerse their calendar time in deal making, restructuring and the latest management fad. How many immerse themselves in the goal of creating an environment where the best, the brightest, the most creative are
attracted, retained and, most importantly, unleashed?
"Organization charts and fancy titles count for next to nothing."
Organization charts are frozen, anachronistic photos in a work place that ought
to be as dynamic as the external environment around you. If people really
followed organization charts, companies would collapse. In well-run
organizations, titles are also pretty meaningless. At best, they advertise
some authority, an official status conferring the ability to give orders and
induce obedience. But titles mean little in terms of real power, which is the
capacity to influence and inspire. Have you ever noticed that people will
personally commit to certain individuals who on paper (or on the organization
chart) possess little authority, but instead possess pizzazz, drive, expertise,
and genuine caring for teammates and products? On the flip side, non-leaders
in management may be formally anointed with all the perks and frills
associated with high positions, but they have little influence on others, apart
from their ability to extract minimal compliance to minimal standards.
"Never let your ego get so close to your position that when your position goes, your ego goes with it."
Too often, change is stifled by people who cling to familiar turfs and job descriptions. One reason that even large organizations wither is that managers won't challenge old, comfortable ways of doing things. But
real leaders understand that, nowadays, every one of our jobs is becoming obsolete. The proper response is to obsolete our activities before someone else does. Effective leaders create a climate where people’s worth is determined by their willingness to learn new skills and grab new responsibilities, thus perpetually reinventing their jobs. The most important question in performance evaluation becomes not, "How well did you perform your job since the last time we met?" but, "How much did you change it?"
"Fit no stereotypes. Don't chase the latest management fads. The situation dictates which approach best
accomplishes the team's mission."
Flitting from fad to fad creates team confusion, reduces the leader's credibility, and drains organizational coffers. Blindly following a particular fad generates rigidity in thought and action. Sometimes speed to market is more important than total quality. Sometimes an unapologetic directive is more appropriate
than participatory discussion. Some situations require the leader to hover closely; others require long, loose leashes. Leaders honor their core values, but they are flexible in how they execute them. They understand that management techniques are not magic mantras but simply tools to be reached for at the right times.
"Perpetual optimism is a force multiplier."
The ripple effect of a leader's enthusiasm and optimism is awesome. So is the impact of cynicism and pessimism. Leaders who whine and blame engender those same behaviors among their colleagues. I am not talking about stoically accepting organizational stupidity and performance incompetence with a "what,
me worry?" smile. I am talking about a gung-ho attitude that says "we can change things here, we can achieve awesome goals, we can be the best." Spare me the grim litany of the "realist," give me the unrealistic aspirations of the optimist any day.
Next time I will publish the last of General Powell's Leadership Lessons
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