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May, 2010

Leadership: You Know It When You See It!

There is a continuous dialog on the internet and in management publications as to what defines leadership. Leaders are often contrasted with managers since a manager heads an organization and therefore must, by definition, be a leader. This is not necessarily the case.

Managers normally have a defined position in the organization and generally operate on the conservative side of the guidelines of their job description. They are comfortable directing activities and addressing problems within a narrow range and when that range is exceeded they seek direction from higher ups or pass it over to peers (HR, Accounting, etc.) in the organization. To vary from this "narrow path" raises the risk component of their job as they are then "on their own", have "stuck their neck out" or have become "independent."

Most managers are out of their comfort zone when they move too far into the risk zone. They are generally risk averse and withdraw to defined areas of responsibility where they are licensed to operate. Unfortunately unpredictable and uncertain business conditions occur at inconvenient times that require someone in the organization to step forward and deal with the exceptional condition that is outside the anticipated management guidelines. Leaders rise up and "lead" either his direct reports or others in the organization to successfully confront, over come obstacles and resolve the business challenge. This is leadership!

A leader is capable of performing as a manager but is also gifted with the innate ability to recognize when they should step out and wrestle a risky situation down into a controllable event. This often exposes the leader to criticism by others who are threatened by their confidence to exceed their management responsibilities and successfully perform outside of the box. This person is a valued asset to the company providing that senior management (primarily the owner in a small company) is not threatened by them and know how to mentor and develop them to greater levels of leadership and contribution to the success of the company.

A leader possesses certain critical skills that will enable them to be effective in operating outside manager guidelines. This skill set often includes the following:

  • Vision - They have a good sense of the long range view of how things are supposed to operate.
  • High Energy & Positive Attitude - Inspiring a group to move in a critical direction over a short period of time requires energy and a positive attitude to overcome objections and obstacles that will stop and defeat others.
  • Anticipation - Able to assimilate and translate various events into a condition that if addressed early eliminates a serious problem from developing.
  • Assertiveness - Has strong convictions on why their objectives are important and will pursue them even if they are unpopular.
  • Observer of People - They realize that the strength of the team is dependant upon each individual and the leader will mentor team members where they are weak and, where possible, recruit people with key strategic skills that complement the group.
  • Accountable - Take ownership and commit to what is the right thing to do and what needs to be done.
  • Influencer - Can successfully present the need for others to respond and perform in a manner they might not have done otherwise.

This combination of skills enables a leader to see what needs to be done, energize and inspire people, lead people to focus on “I can!” and not “I can’t!”, draw the right people together into an effective team that results in above expectation performance, and place the recognition for the successful outcome on those who worked the problem and not themselves. It is truly an exceptional experience to be lead by a leader.

As a company owner are you recognized as a leader? This can be a challenge for an owner where their “power” can be mistaken for leadership. You may be termed the leader but do you demonstrate the leadership characteristics that result in empowerment and positive motivation for the organization. This may be difficult to measure by yourself and you may need to rely on an outside resource – professional associate, board member, or consultant – to give you independent perspective. Take the initiative and evaluate your leadership strengths and weakness. Experienced management professionals often struggle with the definition of what makes a leader – but – they are pretty agreed that they can recognize it in someone when they observe how they operate on a daily basis and under special (and stressful) circumstances.

They know it when they see it!

Mike Brice
Phone: (206)226-1617

Feature Article
How to Sell Your Ideas: Improve your communication style.

The effectiveness of an owner or CEO has never been more dependent upon their ability to sell their ideas. Whether you are talking to a banker, investor, customer, colleagues or employee group the key to success will be your ability to capture their attention, have them focus on your key points, get them involved in what you are saying and to understand your message.

Times have changed, the stakes are higher, people are more skeptical and you are competing against many competitors for audience attention. Here are two articles that offer easy to adopt ideas that can have a dramatic impact on the success you have speaking to others.

How To Be A Master Public Speaker by Shaun Rein
Public speaking is an invaluable skill no matter what your job is, whether you are in sales, need to talk to investors or just want to be better at getting buy-in from your colleagues. Considering how important a skill it is and how it scares so many people, it is amazing how few schools make it a course requirement.

Key Points:

  • Don't talk at the audience.
  • Talk with it. Ask a lot of questions to get their attention.
  • Try not to talk too much about yourself or your company at the beginning of a speech.
  • Get right to what will matter to the audience.
  • Go easy on the PowerPoint.

Giving a speech is pointless if no one is paying attention. You need to grab your audience from the beginning by asking questions, telling stories and relying on your own speaking rather than a bunch of boring slides.

Build Conversation Into Your Presentations by Carmine Gallo
Thumbnail: The approach was simple: Instead of forcing the audience to sit through a lecture by a solo speaker, the speaker invited one or two employees to engage in on-stage conversations with him during the presentation.

Neuroscientists have found that our brains tend to tune out of discussions after approximately 10 minutes. Few speakers are so charismatic that they can hold an audience's attention, so it makes sense to break up a single presentation with an additional speaker. Doing so also demonstrates the company's commitment to teamwork and gives the audience more confidence in the depth of the company's expertise.

These are not presentations, but conversations.
Management Resources
Self Development: Self-promotion may be key to career advancement but, let’s face it, cross that line into shameless self-congratulation and bragging and you’ll just turn people off in a major way. Spread ideas, concepts, and a greater vision and give others a cause to support.
Self-Promotion Secret: Forget You, Focus on Your Ideas

Supply Chain: Companies are reducing inventory and limiting the number of suppliers they do business with so they can consolidate purchases, gain volume discounts and reduce costs. Meanwhile, suppliers are seeing lower revenues themselves and have had difficulty securing credit to finance their working capital. As a result, the number of supplier bankruptcies continues to rise.
Domino Effect

Leadership: Motivating the troops is job one. But how do leaders motivate themselves?
Finding Your Inner Courage

Dashboards: Constructing the KPI's for your dashboard project may seem straightforward, but pitfalls lurking in the details can trap the unwary. Here's how to do it right.
7 Mistakes in Dashboard Implementations

Marketing: Learning how to interact with customers in the digital age.
Marketing 2.0: Less Spin, More Value

Scorecards: These two transformative technologies are the key to breakthrough performance.
Business Analytics and Scorecards: An Unbeatable Combination

Leadership: Jack Welch, retired CEO of General Electric, speaks about a leaders role in helping their team and business excel. Helping individuals reach their dreams by focusing on the person.
Jack Welch on Leadership and Profits (5:05 min)
Business Credit Card Rates: Bloomberg BusinessWeek reports on how credit card reform left small businesses behind -- and how card issuers are reacting now that they play by one set of rules with consumer credit cards and another set with business cards. One aspect the story didn't cover: Interest rates rising for small business cards.
Credit Card Rates Rising for Small Business Cards

Survival: Dismayed to find his company's cash flow looking like last year's, Gene Marks continues to delay hiring and is taking on jobs he wouldn't have considered before.
This Business Owner Leads His Own Recovery

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