Six Principles of Successful Leadership

Rising to a leadership position (CEO, Sr. Executive, General Manager, VP, etc.) is a highly sought objective for many in key management and contributor positions.  Many get there as a result of hard work, significant accomplishments, demonstrated ability and successful track record.

An important part of a successful transition into this new role is the recognition that they need to help others reach the success that prompted their promotion.   However, many overlook and avoid this important responsibility of their new position. Consequently they just work harder to do what they did to get there instead of mentoring, coaching and developing others to improve their performance – freeing them to address the true leadership responsibilities.

Here are a number of principles that will have a significant impact on your performance in a leadership position if executed properly.

Work Smarter – Not Harder
It is easy to fall into the trap of just working harder.  It is easy to take on additional responsibilities as an example of what you are willing to do to demonstrate that you have “really” earned the new job.  In some organizations there are peers that will take advantage of this “weakness”.  Working harder will saturate your bandwidth with non-value add busy work that should be done by subordinates or by others elsewhere in the company.
Know what is Consuming Your Time
Know how you are using your time each day, week and month.  How much of it is consumed by crisis and tasks that can really be delegated to subordinates?  True, a lot of your time will be devoted to short-term tactical activities.  Recurring (repeating) crisis, however, should be resolved over time.  Someone is not taking responsibility for dealing with the crisis before it becomes a crisis.  A repeating source of crisis is an indication of a subordinate that is in need of some level of assistance and development.
Pedal to the Metal
On occasion you may need to rely upon the skills that propelled you into your senior leadership position.  As step forward and grasp the reigns that others are struggling with do so with an exit plan in mind.  Help the team regain focus, realize its strengths and how to overcome weakness, instill confidence and then step back and return control to the project leadership.
The team should see that they were able to recover and succeed and earn the credit for a job well done with only a minimal of involvement from you.  This is an education process for you and not one to seek credit.
Devote Time and Energy to your Planning Horizon
The key question is how much of each day or week is applied to your planning horizon?  Are the strategies and related tactics still on schedule?  Is your plan still realistic ands believable? Identify what resource issues need to be brought to bear in order to keep priority objectives on target.
Regularly Examine the Performance of Subordinates
Your path to “leadership” success will depend more upon others than the individual performance that may have earned you the title of executive.  Step back and evaluate how your key subordinates are doing.  Are they growing in their jobs or standing still or worse backsliding?  Are they responding to mentor sessions or coaching?  If not you need to schedule time to discuss this with them to bring this to their attention.
If you are not the best mentor for them then help recruit a mentor for them.  You do not need to do it all.  The key objective is for them to grow even if it involves someone other than you.  Do not protect your people be excluding them from working with an executive or professional outside your control.
Select a Mentor
You may not feel you need a mentor but select a mentor to be a resource for you.  As a member of leadership you will benefit from outside input on various issues that will confront you and alternatives on how to deal with them.  In some companies this might be a recently retired executive from the same company who knows the culture and where the skeletons are hidden.
Executive management is a minefield.  Having an outside perspective help you identify where “some” missteps can occur will help you climb the executive experience curve.  Succeeding as a leader or on a leadership team will require the mastery of skills that most likely were not required in you previous position and may not come naturally to you.  Benefit from someone that has the background and personal relationship that you trust to advise you. They should help you adopt and perfect the necessary skills and behavior to be successful.

As a leader you will take on significant responsibility that can place unreasonable demands upon you.  Do not let these demands consume you.  There are measures you can take that have been listed above to help balance the load and keep urgencies and crisis in perspective.  It is not a job where you are expected to do it all by yourself even though you feel those are the signals you are getting.

Reach out and use others to help you succeed through their own growth and development handling delegated responsibilities.   Succeed as a result of the success of those that work for you.  Devote your self to their success and preserve the time and energy necessary to accomplish the long-term goals and objectives that your position carries.

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