Basic Business Cents

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Leaders Model the Way!

by Lou Schultz, SCORE counselor

Original publish date 03/19/2009 (#4)

Ever notice how people tend to emulate their leaders? It is not necessarily what you might think but a sincere form of flattery because they respect their leader's judgment. This presents a burden on the leader to make sure they are modeling the desired behavior of the organization at all times. People do not watch the leader's lips; they watch their feet. In other words, what the leaders do is much more important than what they say.

It is helpful to define a set of operating principles to guide behavior throughout the organization. Leaders must work to develop an environment or culture in the organization that allows employees to work without fear in a spirit of cooperation and teamwork. Mutual trust and respect across the organization, from customers to suppliers, from yesterday's new hire to the top of the organization are extremely important. Mutual trust and respect can be defined as honestly feeling and showing confidence in the integrity, ability, character, and truth of others.

Another part of the operating principles is a culture of continued learning, improving, and innovating. Improvement and innovation in technology, methods, and tools are constantly changing so we can never stand still. Change is the culture today. Education and training are never completed.

A self-check mechanism is useful to not only measure where we are today with our leadership style, but also to re-check for improvement from time to time. Such a mechanism is described below:

Complete this survey by reading each expectation and scoring how well the expectations are met on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being high.

  • Our management team provides leadership for the organization
  • The long-term vision of our organization is well defined
  • Employees understand and agree with the vision
  • Employees understand and agree with the organization's strategic plan
  • Employees have action plans to help achieve the strategic plan
  • Management understand the obstacles faced by the employees in completing their action plans
  • Management views the total organization as a system
  • Employees understand the organization viewed as a system
  • Employees understand who their internal suppliers and customers are
  • The needs and expectations of our customers are understood by our employees
  • The needs and expectations of our employees are understood by our managers
  • The needs and expectations of our owners and stockholders are understood by the employees
  • The values of our organization are clearly defined and are in harmony with individual values of the employees
  • The goals of the organization are clearly defined and deployed to all employees
  • Our organization is a contributor to society and our environment
  • Employees in our organization display mutual trust and respect

The new leaders must be part psychologist, with a profound understanding of the inner forces that create a desire in people to want to work and a well-developed ability to listen to their ideas and wishes. They must be able to challenge people and processes. The new leaders will have to model the important characteristics of honesty, competence, understanding, vision, trust, respect, and inspiration. They must be prepared to lead by coaching and walking with employees through difficult tasks. Again, leaders lead!

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