On being a good leader

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    In Exodus 3, Moses had his first encounter with God through the burning bush.  God heard the crying out of His people in the hands of the Egyptians.  God wanted to rescue them and asked Moses “to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey.”

    But Moses was adamant.  “Who am I, that I should to go Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt,” Moses told the Almighty.  To Moses, being a leader was a big responsibility.  And he never had any idea of being one.

    “The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality,” suggests Max DePree.  “The last is to say thank you. In between the two, the leader must become a servant and a debtor. That sums up the progress of an artful leader.”

    George Roby, owner and manager of the Arrowhead International Wildlife Management Consulting firm based in Claremont, California, has written a very timely essay on ten elements of being a successful leader.  The elements, which are nothing magic or earthshaking, are worth sharing:

    1. Be yourself.  Don’t try to be what you are not.  What worked for others may or may not work for you.  Be what you are today.  Individuals cannot drastically change their personalities and management style.  Hitler was a leader and so was Jim Jones.  Jesus of Nazareth, Martin Luther King, Jr., Winston Churchill, and John F. Kennedy all were leaders.  But their value systems and management abilities were very different.

    “Learn as much as you can, take the gems from the training, books, and role models that fit your traits best (negative and positive),” Roby suggests.  “Watch other leaders, the good and the bad, and learn from those examples.  Once you blend these gems with your own traits, experiment, then experiment some more.”

    A leader has to maximize his strengths and minimize his weaknesses.  “Capitalize on your basic strengths that have taken you to where you are today, and then enhance them,” Roby says.  “Learn your weaknesses and minimize them.”

    2. You can’t treat people the same way, but you must treat them equally.  Treat everyone fairly.  People have different goals, interests, background, needs (personal and professional), skills, problems, and contributions.  “You must treat people with dignity and respect, and you expect the same in return,” points out Roby.  “Earn respect and set the example by respecting others.”

    3. Learn to delegate and see that others do also.  “Delegation is more an art than it is a science,” Roby says.  “The age of specialization demands delegation.  Today’s and tomorrow’s leaders will have considerable difficulties being a successful leader if they do not learn the art of effective delegation.”

    4. Trust those you delegate to.  If you don’t trust a person, then don’t delegate the task to that person.  “Human nature, with few exceptions, is that people want to do a good job.  It may not get something done exactly the way you would have done it, but most individuals will do the best they can with their understanding of what it was you wanted,” Roby states.

    Here’s a word of wisdom: “You must empower people and mean it.  Trust!  Do this and you’ll find it easier to meet deadlines; moreover, quality need not suffer.  The piles of paper or backlog of projects on your desk will start disappearing.”

    5. Recognize performance, good and bad.  Remember, it takes 10 bouquets to remove one dagger.  The key is to start on positive side of people, not the negative.  “Try to recognize the positive with employees before inserting a dagger,” Roby suggests.  “Deposit a few bouquets before withdrawing your dagger.”

    6. Support your personnel through good times and bad times.  They’ll be there when you need them if you’re there when they need you.  Be fair and equitable, and they will still be there when you need them, whether or not it’s an award or disciplinary action.  “Every individual is a chapter to your success as a leader once you learn to read them,” Roby informs.

    7. Listen.  It is lonely up there and to beat that loneliness, you must listen to your subordinates and peers.  Everyone has something to offer.  Listen, analyze, make an educated decision, and hope you make the right decision most of the time.  “Listen to all levels of the organization, especially those below you,” Roby says.  “They are the key to your being successful because they carry out the job you’re expected to do.  They can also help you identify your strengths and weaknesses.”

    8. Be flexible.  There is no one style that will meet every need.  You need to be able to go from one style or strategy to another as needs change or as situation calls for.  “Be willing to change,” Roby says.  “Be flexible depending on the situation.  Learn how to operate effectively in different modes.”

    9. Learn to establish priorities and hold your ground.  You will never get al of the job done.  “We have a deep-rooted reluctance to say we can’t do something,” Roby states.  “It’s easier to hold our ground if we prioritize by ‘must do,’ ‘want to,’ and ‘nice to do’ categories.  We do a pretty good job of setting priorities, but we’re terrible at holding our ground and carrying them out as set.”

    10. Admit mistakes.  “Don’t try to fool people when you make a poor decision,” Roby says.  “They already know you’ve made it, and you only make yourself look worse when you ignore or deny it.  Admit your mistakes immediately.  It disarms your critics and helps you regain your credibility.”

    Not any one individual has all the answers.  Admit you don’t know it all.  Martin Luther King, Jr. said it right: “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”


    For comments, write me at henrytacio@gmail.com

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