Business Leaders in Glorious Transition

The entire world is in transition: Business must transition, too.

Here, you'll read contributions of my friends, other business professionals who are working to turn from their Mechanical Business Models to ever more profitable Organic Business Models.

You'll read their successes as well as their difficulties in making the transition from the hierarchical, control based practices characteristic of most of our years in business. You'll see how wonderfully profitable companies can be when they learn to tap the powerful creative energy of employees.

CJ Coolidge & Richard Squaredime - 2008

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The Impressive Leader--Do as I Do

At a recent weekend leadership training camp for High School Sophomores conducted by the Hugh O'Brien Youth organization, I was quizzed on my professional experience. One of the queries really cut to the heart of anyone in a managerial position, or anyone who must deal with subordinates.

The student asked, "what is your work philosophy?"

A simple enough question on the surface, but as I pondered an answer I hoped would resonate with an auditorium full of 15-year olds, I was struck with two fundamental truths:
These were the leaders of tomorrow. (With my luck, a possible, future employer of mine was in that very room!)
And, this was an opportunity to prove a maxim I have always believed and followed: Actions speak louder than words.

I've worked for plenty of managers that operated on the "do as I say, not as I do" plane of existance. No matter how effective they may have been as managers in all other areas of performance, they eroded their ability to truly lead by displaying such behavior.

I find such operatives somewhat hypocritical, and feel a bit distrustful of them on all other levels as a result. That's not the way I roll, as the kiddo's say.

So I answered the question from the gut: Never ask anyone to do anything you wouldn't do yourself. Now, there's a fine nuance between that position, and the philosophy of finding talented people to do that which you cannot or should not. But when you're leading people--orchestrating personalities and blending talents into a team of professionals--you lead best by example.

I once oversaw a Sales Manager who could have sold ice to an Eskimo. In January. But this guy thought himself to be above the menial task of filling in order forms to get his work processed. He'd close great deals, but leave it up to others to decipher his hastily scribbled notes and input the work order. Of course the other AE's he "managed" were expected to do their own paperwork, but he, (sniff) was above all that.

Guess what happened?
Rarely were his customers 100% happy because rarely did the orders go through accurately.
Consequently his production suffered...and his effectiveness as a manager of other account executives was diminished. Eventually, he was demoted from sales manager, and dispatched to work in an offsite "gulag" location because of his crummy people skills and crummier work habits. He could still sell, but he had no credibility with the rest of the staff.

Regardless of your company structure, when you're asking people to follow your lead, make sure the pattern you're laying down is one that anyone can follow to success.

Brent Clanton is a Broadcast Media professional, Radio talk show host, prolific blogger and creative mentor.
He's also managed a few folks himself over the years.
You can find out more about Brent here.


Anonymous said...

This is another example of how your culture can make or break your organization. Many of the undesirable behaviors we observe in our employees are learned behaviors that we are modeling for our employees. This is where a 360 review can benefit leaders.

Anonymous said...

I don't agree, Brent, with your premise that leaders must first do what they ask their team to do.

It would be counter productive to expect that a good leader should be able to do anything or everything he might ask his people to do. There would never be any leverage in that.

In fact, if a leader isn't hiring people that are better and more capable than is he or she, and able to do things that the leader could never do, the organization will suffer under that deficient leadership.

If the leader hires well, it would be a waste of organizational resources for the leader to engage in activities that others can do better than can he or she.

It is the best leader who will identify the strengths and aspirations of his team, and allow each to perform to those strenghts.

Brent Clanton said...

Dear 2nd Anonymous Respondent:

You are correct in that the best leaders are those who correctly cast the right people with the right jobs. And, I am not saying you should have to personally DO in order to effectively lead (by definition, Leaders lead the Doers).

However, if you are unable or unwilling to demonstrate your resolve to DO along side those who do for you, you cannot be as effective; and certainly will fail to inspire others to DO above and beyond.

Thanks for the thoughtful response!