Our guest blogger is Lonnie Martin, Vistage Chair. For more information about Vistage, please visit http://www.vistage.com.
I wonder how many times I’ve been asked what leadership is all about?…many, many times. My answer always includes that oft spoken yet vague cliché “leading by example” that I picked up along the way of my life and made my own. I decided to think the other day what that phrase means beyond the obvious.
I played on a lot of sport teams in my life, and probably the first time I heard “lead by example” was from one of my coaches. You could guess how a coach uses the phrase to mold behavior, e.g. come to practice on time, run hard to 1st base on infield hits, wear my uniform right, etc. But the phrase stuck with me…and that’s because my leadership style has been to not ask something of an employee that wasn’t both important (in my view) and that I wasn’t willing to do myself.
Plus, when I used that phrase I also hoped my employees would embody all those attributes of myself that I considered to be my “good qualities.”
It was only much later when I realized I might also be unthinkingly setting the example of my less good traits.
In fact, we do lead by example. People pay attention to what leaders do in ways large, small, and even very small. The examples and patterns we purposely, or inadvertently or unconsciously, set in their eyes might be good, or less good, or even bad with respect to what’s required to operate a company, to serve customers, to interact with each other, to accomplish individual and team goals, etc.
I do indeed believe leadership is leading by example, and actually, maybe it’s only about that—what part of running a business, or department isn’t encompassed by “leading by example?”
But are you self-aware enough about how you go about your business and personal life so everybody has a chance to observe and mimic what’s important to you? The list of things we do to set examples, and that people observe about us is endless. Are you on time? Do you listen well? Are you organized or disorganized? Are you detail oriented? Do you follow up promptly? Do your meetings have agendas? How do you treat customers? How do you deal with stress? Etc., etc., etc. ad infinitum.
There are no right answers about the very many best practices in running a business, and different businesses may need or want practices others don’t want. But as the leader you do need to think deeply about all those practices you believe serve the business the best, and then live all of them all the time to the best of your ability so your employees understand the basis of your expectations. And you need to always be on the search for “better best practices” than you even know (which is one thing a Vistage CEO peer group is great at uncovering).
There’s been a long running “nature-or-nurture” debate as to whether leaders are born or can be molded/made. My conclusion is that the best leaders are the most self-aware and think the deepest about all those individual traits (we often call that culture) and practices that a business needs to consistently practice. And in my view, both can be learned and/or decided…we need not count on Mother Nature to randomly anoint good leaders.
If you’re not a good leader then either you haven’t thought too deeply about what cultural traits/behaviors the business needs to be successful, or your own behavior is not consistent with that culture leading to confusion among the troops. One of the most important examples for a leader to set is to not let the organization deviate from that culture through benign neglect or compromise.
We have all been touched in some way by the economic downturn in our region, professionally and personally. Many have felt the cold hand of fate grabbing at our dreams and plans for our future/ business and personal goals. Companies that stayed open dealt with the uncertain business landscape in a variety of ways. Some CEO’s laid off long term employees to avoid the negative spiraling bottom line results. Other CEO’s modified positions, changed responsibilities and tried to right size the operation the best they knew how. And, there were those CEO’s who closed their doors completely; the burden was just too large to manage. Those days were very dark, doubtful and relentless. I am sure many leaders sat at their desks alone and wondered, “Did I make the right decision? Could I have done something different? Would the business outcome be different? What if…., Where do I turn? Who can I talk to?”
Today, hope for our business future is taking shape again. We are seeing a resurgence of focused energy and innovation from our leaders. It finally feels like a spring day—the sun is out and the birds are singing. People are smiling again. However, the economic downturn has left a deep scar that may never fully become invisible. I like to call this period of new growth a Period of Reengineering.
CEO’s have a fresh start, a new look at their organization and workforce. They can once again begin to build a thriving and prosperous business and create a positive and engaging employee culture. Vistage International can become that voice, that resource for executives and business owners who supports and guides them through extremely uncertain business decisions. The time is now to reach out, seek guidance and support from a confidential, peer advisory group of CEO’s.
Vistage International brings together successful CEO’s, executives and business owners into private advisory groups. Each group is purpose-built to help members help each other improve the performance and outcomes of their business and personal lives. Vistage International works with each CEO to be a better leader who can make better decisions and get better results. In fact, they have helped over 75,000 members since 1957 when they began. And the support does not look at one dimension of a CEO’s life; the business. Discussions also center on a person’s health and personal life—it is strongly believed that the “whole person” adds to the strategic direction of a company. If issues are present in any of the three categories listed above, they are freely discussed inside the confidence of a member meeting.
Although peer advisory groups are a great help towards success, leadership and management trainings and assessments should not be ignored. These tools allow those in management to be aware of their strengths and weaknesses, ultimately allowing them to build upon their skills.
For more information regarding Vistage International and e-VentExe, please call Amelya Stevenson, M.A., SPHR-CA Vistage Chair and owner of e-VentExe, a full service Human Resource Consulting Firm at 916.458.5820.
Founded in 2000 by Amelya and Craig Stevenson, e-VentExe provides businesses with strategic and compliance human resources tips and techniques, organizational effectiveness (or ineffectiveness) and overall strategic and healthy cultural influences in the workplace. We also make HR administration easy for small businesses with our eBasicHR and Compliance package. At e-VentExe, we keep the “Human” in Human Resources. Let us show our dedication to you! For more information, please visit us at www.e-ventexe.com,“LIKE” us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter!
Do all employees have the capability of being Creative at work?
Bruce Nussbaum thinks so. There are 5 categories describing Creative Intelligence. Under the “Playing” category, Nussbaum describes the art of play that employs having fun and being creative in a team environment. Most Creative Intelligent people find working within a team allows them to think outside of themselves. And the discovery of how new information forms is how Creative Intelligence takes shape.
“The best preparation for good work tomorrow is to do good work today.” – Elbert Hubbard