Leadership: You Have to Go First.

I love this little Dilbert storyline from Scott Adams:

Employee: “I find it rather demotivating that you never praise me for a job well done.”
Boss: “You’ve never done a job well.”
Employee: “That’s because I’m demotivated.”
Boss: “You have to go first.”
Employee: “Wouldn’t that make me the Leader?”

Dilbert.com

The 1-minute Leader

Ken Blanchard’s popular and accesible book The One Minute Manager suggests that a leader does 3 things, in the following order:

  1. 1-Minute Praising: Hunt for something the person does well, and publicly praise them – immediate and specific positive praising on actions.  Praise the Person.
  2. 1-Minute Goal-Setting: Agree on goals (no more than 5) with staff. Make sure each goal is clearly written on a separate piece of paper and kept visible daily. Keep Goals limited and focussed.
  3. 1-Minute Reprimand: If the person has the skills to do something right, and it is not done right – in private let them know “I know you are a great person, but this behaviour/result is not up to your talent. Reprimand the Behaviour.

The 4 Most Important Traits of Leaders

Jim Kouzes has spent over 30 years asking millions of people “what do you admire in the leaders that inspire you?”.  He has compiled the information over many years into his bestselling book: The Leadership Challenge.

The top 4 traits that followers seek in leaders are:

  1. Honesty
  2. Competence
  3. Inspiring
  4. Forward Looking

Work harder on honesty

Honesty is 3 times more important than the rest of the top 4 traits combined.  There is no point in working on competence, inspiration or forward looking if people don’t now perceive you as honest, as trustworthy (Read: What is Trust?).  People hate it when a leader doesn’t play it straight with them.  People hate it when a leader doesn’t have the courage to speak the honest truth about their performance, about the state of the organization, about what is going on in the team.

Credibility is the Base

The traits honesty, competence and inspiring are really about perception more than any absolute.  It is not enough to just be honest, you need to be perceived as honesty by the group.  It is not enough to be competent, you need to be perceived as competent by the group.  It is not enough to spray out messages that you think are inspiring, you really need to be perceived as inspiring by others.

Forward Looking is the Leadership Differentiator

Credibility gives you the permission, but that alone does not make the leader.  You need to build an ability to create a shared vision of the future, a forward looking but real-feeling sense of direction for the group.  How can you do this?

There are 3 aspects to being able to share a forward looking vision.

  1. WIIFM: I show others how their long term interests can be realised
  2. Connect: I appeal to others to share an exciting dream
  3. Storytelling: I describe a compelling image of what our future could be like

The key here is not the ability to see the future, it is the ability to communicate it meaningfully and tangibly to the people around you.  The crystal ball is not as valuable as the ability to communicate persuasively.   (My free online course “Speak as A Leader” can help http://bit.ly/practicespeak )

Getting Started on Vision

How can you get started on the path to a better visionary leader?  If you do nothing more than go around you asking people these 4 questions you will become clear on what you can do to contribute.

4 questions for people around you:

  1. What’s working?
  2. What’s not working?
  3. What can be done?
  4. What else is on your mind?

If you do nothing more than ask these 4 questions repeatedly and reflect the answers back to the group, you will be leading.

Further Reading:

Who are your “Passive Mentors”?

Mentors make a big difference in my life. There are 2 types of mentor: Active and Passive mentors.

Active mentors are those that you meet in person, interact with and get to know.

Passive mentors are those that you learn from without them knowing.  Book authors are one of the top sources of Passive Mentoring.

My Top Passive Business Mentors

Here are my 7 most valuable Business Book recommendations:

What books would you recommend?  Why?