Blog: Leadership from all Angles

Imagine, expecting a rookie pitcher to come out of the bull pen in game seven in the World Series and expect to have him pitch a no-hitter. This can be likened to expecting an entrepreneur just out of school or one from leaving a company with no experience in upper management to start and take a company to tens of millions in revenue to be successful. Leadership is absolutely needed for the challenge that lies ahead for the inexperience entrepreneur.

Leadership begins with dropping the words like “me” and “I” from the leader’s vocabulary. Shareholders, customers, team, employees, investors and then me should come in this order. I hate to see the “I” word abused. When a leader with successes always says “I did it”, or on in a failure situation says, “My people screwed up”. On this subject I also suggest eliminating the “but” word. As an example, in a conversation between the leader and employee the leader said, “You did a good job with that project, but.…” and then it turns negative.  All the employee left with was the negative comments.

The successful leader needs to present Consistency, Fairness Integrity, Comfort and Confidence. That’s a lot to handle, but I like to add what I call Traits: being decisive, good communicator, good listener, consistent in mood and upbeat.

The leader should be a good listener and it’s important to provide credit and feedback when appropriate.

The following Characteristics can help a leader success: l doubt if anyone can have all of them, but it’s a good list to move to put in their M.O.  

  • Common sense
  • An understanding of the product, market and product mix
  • A strong sense of responsibility and commitment
  • Proactive but disciplined approach
  • Market and customer sensitivity
  • A willingness to stretch and try things others wouldn’t
  • Sensitivity to priorities
  • Honor
  • Good Ethics
  • Willing to take risk
  • Passion
  • Sensitivity to priorities
  • Willing to take risk
  • Passion

At the other end of the spectrum I have seen the reasons I’ve have seen leaders fail because of these problems:

  • They don’t communicate well
  • They don’t utilize their staff and others effectively
  • They don’t have the energy needed for the task
  • They don’t hire people that are better than they are
  • They demotivate staff unknowingly
  • They don’t set up proper controls or delegate responsibility and authority properly they don’t have a good reporting follow-up program
  • They don’t believe the customer is always right until proving wrong

The signs that I’ve seen that are on a path of failure for operating leadership are:

  • Focusing on projects that will not involve conflict
  • Not being stern enough when people stumble.
  • Getting on people’s back more
  • Becoming moody
  • Constantly changing their mind
  • Being influenced by the last person to whisper in their here influencing their decision making.
  • Attention always seems to be somewhere else
  • Forcing people to quit instead of firing by taking their dignity away
  • Avoiding tough customer problems
  • Stops returning customer calls
  • Continually finding reason to cancel meetings

In today’s world there is an absolute need to encourage innovation. My experience is this can be done by allowing failure, encouraging teamwork, been supportive and leading by example.  I have often used the term, hands-on management in working with what should be expected from the staff, “say what you going to do, do what you say and letting those above you know if it’s not possible, in a timely fashion, to get help.”

I believe it’s important to have the employees’ recognition and understanding of how their contribution fits in. It’s important to have them believe they are part of the destiny of the company. I believe this worked with labor employees in Gardenia, California and Hong Kong. I have found with senior staff and the right environment they were more motivated by avoiding removing what I call de-motivators.

I’ve always kept in mind many of the key employees I have hired. Many who were looking for a company that was challenging, where they could learn more in their career and a growth environment. I never took employees for granted. It is also important to make clear that managing a team and company is not a democracy. The leader always gets one more vote than the total people involved.

One of my takeover situations had a conference room next to my office and they had a weekly meeting on a major project that seem like they’ were more interested in the cheese, wine and jokes. After three weeks in this failing environment I went in and I had them vote on going forward. It was 17 to 0 for continuing. I then had to let them know I had 18 votes against it and therefore the project was dead.

Any successful organization starting at the top has a need for accountability. Therefore, it’s important for a lot of stuff mentioned above needs to be done for accountability – what can be defined should be defined. As management Peter Drucker said many years ago, “A goal is only good if it can be measured.”

In working with entrepreneurs at many levels of education and work experience there are very few having a clear understanding of what leadership is. At the start of a company the emphasis has to be on validating the product/concept followed up by raising money. I have found there is very little understanding of the leadership that is needed in the entrepreneur/CEO to take a company to a point where there’s a return on investment for the team, investors, family and friends. My best advice is to get all the help they can get from the very beginning.