I don’t think anyone can become a better leader by merely taking a class in leadership, this to me is a honed skill that like any other talent must be practiced repeatedly, and then practiced some more. I still see the individuals who are put in leadership positions yet lack the experience dealing with people. This vacuum of experience comes at a price for both the new leader and the people they are charged with leading.
Recently I witnessed some poor leadership skills at work. A member of our senior leadership dropped what I feel to be the ball of responsibility when it comes to taking care of their people. Now he didn’t hang anyone out to dry but there has been a known problem in a section of our organization that falls under his responsibility yet when the result of this problem came to him he did not take the time to at least give the appearance of caring. I had to confront this leader and key them in on the short comings of their leadership style and how possibly it could affect how their perceived as a leader. After I gently gave this information to the leader he thanked me and it appeared he understood what it was I communicated to him, only time will tell.
A few of the books I have come across have given me what I feel some good “nuggets” of wisdom to take with me and use in my futures as a leader. A few of them are below.
In Results-Based Leadership the first chapter is “Connecting Leadership Attributes to Results,” and it does just that in this chapter. One of the focuses of this chapter lands on key elements of leadership attributes and one of those being “Set Direction.” By setting a direction leaders position their firms for and forward the future. Anticipating the future includes predicting numerous influences from customers to suppliers and everything in between. Leaders do this to create a unique identity and build value for all that are involved or could possibly hold a stake in the firm. In doing this the leaders define the future of a company in ways that excite participation and allocate resources to make the future happen. The authors go on to say “leaders who set direction, know and do at least three things: understand external events, focus on the future, and turn vision into action.” I can totally see where being a leader with vision can excite even the most subdue crowd.
In Apex Thinking, a chapter titled “Misconceptions about leadership” discusses some of the common views and “misconceptions” that are associated with leadership. One of the misconceptions identified by the author “might does not always make right” explains that leaders can force subordinates to behave in a certain way. The author reveals in the text that “the aspiring CEO who gains power thought means other than force will survive longer and more harmoniously.” Although some leaders feel that because they are the leader and they have all the power what they say is the gospel and the opinions of the followers have no bearing on the decision at hand. The fact that some leaders are drunk on power is addressed in this section as well; the statement “Their [leaders] adopted policy to sacrifice all in the name of personal satisfaction is an unfortunate by-product of many who acquire power and handle it poorly..” I feel that this statement can be validated by anyone in any form of leadership follower areas.
In The Fred Factor the author brings up the topic of rewards. Upon first coming to this chapter I thought this was where he will talk about how it makes you feel to be a Fred and try to impose some kind of “if you be a Fred you will get…” more or less to motivate the reader to see the payoff. As with the rest of the book the author discusses rewards as a motivational concept but not for the Fred, for the person the Fred comes in contact with. To take it one step further, the pay it forward concept. Though you can’t guarantee that a person you influence with your Fred-ism will go on to becoming a Fred as well; But! You can be sure that person you touched will remember it for a very long time and that one day when they are presented with a similar situation they may just respond like a Fred. After reading this book I feel that there were plenty of times in my life where I could have taken that extra effort and made someone’s day with little to no effort for me. Recognizing that there have been opportunities that I could have been the Fred in the situation it inspires me to take that opportunity.
In Treat People Right the author discusses the topic of “virtuous spirals of success,” and at first I had no clue what he was referring to or if I need to know this prior to reading this book, as he references it in the forward and describes it in the first chapter. “Virtuous Spiral, refers to a relationship that come about when an organization values and rewards its people, and as a result they are committed to performing well.” At first glance I saw this as a “bonus” idea, if someone does well in a work setting; like selling a product past their goal, then they are rewarded with some sort of bonus. After reading further I realized that this type of “bonus” could be used as a motivator but what the author’s really referring to is some sort of management practice that motivates people to excel and reward them when they achieve high levels of performance. In doing this the individuals are making a greater commitment to their organization and become more responsible for their own behaviors.
There are many good books that I have had the pleasure of reading and some that weren’t so good but these are the ones that stood out. These texts hold some knowledge of the crazy concept of leadership and pass it on to their readers in a way that’s understandable and relate-able.