Leadership made simple

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Why should things be so complicated? If you browse books on amazon.com and search for leadership you will get 90264 hits. Much is written about leadership and more will come, but is there really that much magic to being a leader? Today I will try to make a short list of things that are important as a leader. Feel free to add additonal points in the comments section.

  1. Have a clear vision
    Put 30 people in the middle of a wilderness and tell them; “let’s be the best!” As an alternative to that – Explain the map, give them the direction and time limits, or even better, give them the map and let them find the best route to your goal. How can your staff know what to do if you do not have a clear vision of where you are going? And yes, you need to tell them, because mind reading is still not a part of the general humans DNA.
  2. Respect your employees
    Yes, it needs to be said. A lot of leaders look down on their staff, you are dealing with people, and as soon as you realize this and know a little about psychology, you will understand that people are capable of doing great things. You used to be people once too. Be very careful about how you market your staff to the world around you.
  3. Communicate what you expect
    Back to the wilderness at point one. If your staff is going to survive you must make sure they know, that today is about walking in the wilderness, they need good boots, warm clothes, and you expect them to get to the camp before lunch. And if someone shows up in slippers send them home. My point is that for people to be able to understand what is expected they need to know. I have had a job where I was wondering if I did a good job, if I was going in the right direction, is this what is expected? What is important? And yes, I quit that job as I felt bad, even though the boss told me afterwards that I did a good job… imagine that, how would I know? Well I always do my best to be honest, but if you are Usain Bolt and run the opposite way in the Olympics, you might run as fast and far as you will, it might even be the best run ever, but it will never be a world record.
  4. Make time for your staff
    Make time in your calendar for your staff. You might be going to a bunch of meetings with different departments, managers and with your boss. But to get results, there is one meeting you should not skip. Make at least 30 minutes a month with each employee – to talk. About results, expectations, how they are doing, are they happy and so on. This talk has a purpose, and it is a talk about their performance and goals.
  5. Give the right feedback, at the right time
    Negative feedback – one on one, positive feedback, also one on one maybe… The “old” line is, praise in public, and criticize one on one. But you need to know your staff, some people want to be on public television giving a speech if they did something good (most men) – and some would rather be in a coffin, six feet under, than being the center of attention. You need to know what motivates them, how they like to be praised and when you should praise/criticize the team or individuals. Remember that an individual success might come because of the support of the team or other people. There is nothing more demotivated than listening to a boss praising the asshole that held the presentation you spent hours on making.
  6. Be inspirational
    Instead of telling your staff about the exact number on the bottom line, try to tell them how you are going to improve it. Accountants should never present the numbers; it will make your staff fall asleep. Listening to the specifics of a car is boring, hearing a story about how it is to drive is better; getting to drive it is the best. As a leader you might have to present boring stuff, but do you have to make it boring too? Talk in pictures, talk about what you need to do, to get to your goal, and be enthusiastic. Leadership is not about wearing a nice suit and be boring.
  7. Make things happen
    Depending on where you are in the leadership chain of command, and what tools you have been given. But your job as a leader is also to get things to happen. Your staff creates results, but you are supposed to get the stuff your staff needs. It might be new equipment, making sure that the IT-department fixes your departments troubles first. Feeling stuck is very demotivating, your job as a leader is to show that things are happening even, the small steps that take you in the right direction. Are you a middle manager, you also need to get things through to the top level management team to get things to happen.
  8. Have some fun
    A taxi passenger tapped the driver on the shoulder to ask him a question.
    The driver screamed, lost control of the car, nearly hit a bus, went up on the footpath, and stopped centimeters from a shop window.
    For a second everything went quiet in the cab, then the driver said: “Look mate, don’t ever do that again. You scared the daylights out of me!”
    The passenger apologized and said, “I didn’t realize that a little tap would scare you so much.”
    The driver replied, “Sorry, it’s not really your fault. Today is my first day as a cab driver – I’ve been driving a van carrying dead bodies for the last 25 years…..(40 more or less fun stuff to do at work)
  9. Get out of the way
    Some leaders are never to be seen, and other get in on everything. Do not micromanage; guess you hired the best people in the first place? Give them what they need to do a good job, sit back, read my blog to pass time and given the right direction and tools, they will perform. Football managers do not play the field, neither should you!
  10. Be human
    It is ok to: be home when you are sick, take a day off when you need to recharge your batteries, to show emotions, to smile, have a bad day at work, and let people know. By being human, you will show your staff that they too can be human, it will prevent burnouts. Show that you care, even about their life outside your job.

You will get a long way being a leader, as long as you realize that you deal with people. There is one thing I left out of the list that is important. On Amazon there are more than 90.000 books for you to read about leadership. Leadership is a journey; you will never have enough knowledge. There is always room for improvement, and you should do your best to improve all the time. Leadership is about learning. Life is about learning, but I guess you already knew that.

Have a great day, and thank you for reading my blog.

Frode Heimen
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3 Comments on "Leadership made simple"

  1.  @FrodeHeimen Yes, but I guess truly great leaders are taking people where they want to go in the first place.  They just might not know it
     
    James

  2.  @SquawkPoint
     Hi James. Thanks for reading and providing a great point. So to lead you need to help getting people to where they want to go, but also get them to want to go the way you want 🙂
     
    Frode

  3. Frode,
     
    If there are that many books we are making things too difficult
     
    The act of leading implies you are taking somebody somewhere.  So for me the key is to be very clear about where you are going (and why)  I think that covers off a handful of your points succinctly.
     
    James

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