2017 Leadership Series – 2017-01

Entrepreneurs and Small to Mid Size Business Owners

Welcome to 2017

It is my goal to bring you once every 2 weeks an article that will assist you in becoming a better leader, making better decisions and hopefully provide you a better balance between business commitments, personal relationships and your spiritual walk.

2017- January 12 – LEADERSHIP STYLES

When I returned [as CEO] to Perot Systems, my first job as a leader was to create a new understanding of myself … I told myself I was having the same experience as a caterpillar entering a cocoon. The caterpillar doesn’t know that he’ll come out as a butterfly. All he knows is that he’s alone, it’s dark, and it’s a little scary. I came out the other end of the experience with a new understanding of leadership. I don’t have to know everything. I don’t have to have all the customer contacts. I don’t have to make all the decisions. In fact, in the new world of business, it shouldn’t be me, and my job is to prevent it from being me.”

— Mort Meyerson, former CEO, Perot Systems, “Everything I Thought I Knew About Leadership Is Wrong,” Fast Company, April 1996

Leadership Culture

It’s an inescapable fact of business life: All organizational cultures reflect the personalities of their leaders. The leader’s behavior — how he or she goes about a daily routine, or reacts to crisis — sets the tone for the workplace. Every day, in hundreds of ways, the leader demonstrates to others what is suitable — and unsuitable — in the organization.

When, for example, a CEO insists on micro-managing and making day-to-day operational decisions, the management team becomes frozen in place, unwilling or unable to challenge decisions. If a CEO shows an inclination to avoid conflict, that behavior will be played out in the organization as well.

“CEOs need to understand that the people around them interpret their behavior through what they do and do not stand for,” says Vistage Chair and speaker Don Schmincke. “The leader’s actions profoundly shape the culture of the organization.”

The same principle applies to what Vistage speaker Lee Thayer calls “the most powerful force on earth” — mediocrity.

“An inclination towards the mean is present in any organization and can only be overcome by the leader’s personal fanaticism. Leaders face large numbers of people who tend toward mediocrity, and also have to consciously fight against it in themselves.”

As a result, the CEO must embody a distinctive, passionate style of leadership. “Nothing done conventionally by the CEO will offer any kind of competitive advantage,” Thayer says. “Conventional thinking always and everywhere leads to conventional outcomes.”

Closing the Distance

The secret to effective leadership lies in closing the distance between yourself and those you seek to lead.

“It’s easy for a CEO to stay inaccessible,” says Vistage speaker Ben Gill. “There’s always a shortage of time, an abundance of commitments — reasons why you can’t be seen and heard by employees. But these reasons become secondary once you realize that getting closer to your constituents is truly an important goal.”

“A true leader is always learning,” adds Don Schmincke. “They seek out new information through formal and informal settings. They do not discourage constructive feedback and disagreement.”

Great leaders also make themselves visible on-site. They run into people in the cafeteria and talk to them about what’s on their minds. They solicit and respond to employee email. They get to know the people who work for them, they find out who does what well and who needs more attention. They learn first-hand what’s happening on the front lines.

The leader’s visible presence serves to lessen employee anxiety, especially during times of transformation and change. Our Vistage speakers suggest various techniques to infuse courage and trust in employees, both in personal encounters and through normal organizational channels:

  • Tell it like it is. The people who follow you deserve to know what’s going on. They’ll do a better job with the facts at hand.
  • Get something done fast. Short-term victories can bolster employee resolve in the face of intimidating long-term change. Celebrate these wins and show people that you appreciate their efforts.
  • Make change exciting. Build on the short-term gains and guide employees through the next cycle of change. With a foundation of trust, they can distinguish between good ideas that didn’t pan out and those that were ill-conceived and deserved to fail.
  • Take risks on people. Leaders always persuade people to do more — and be more — than they ever thought possible. Encourage your employees to go beyond what they’ve done in the past.

Published by edstillman

I grew up in Carlsbad, north San Diego County, lost my dad as a teenager, went into the USAF for four years and hired on with 3M in 1969. Received my AA from Santa Barbara City College, BA and Masters from Redlands University and after 33 plus years, I retired from 3M in 2002. As I look back on my life, I have been creating myself and developing my skill sets to be a business coach and a Vistage Chair. I am president of SEOT, a "personal improvement" consulting firm spending most of my time working with Central Texas executives running small to medium size for-profit companies who are focusing on improving their profitability greater than their competition. My area of interest is assisting senior executives in creating a better balance between business commitments and personal relationships. I also facilatate three leadership labs each consisting of a dozen owners, presidents and CEOs. We meet monthly both in a group setting as well as in a 1-to-1 coaching session. Our focus is to sharpen each others' skills in becoming better leaders, making better decisions and taking ourselves and companies to that next level. Who are we? My members are experienced top executives who recognize that they don’t have all the answers and who actively seek the company of successful peers—both to give and receive insights and ideas. My members mine the 200 plus years of chief executive experience that comes together in our monthly meetings and members are eager to offer their own experience and insights in the process. As a group, we spend our time exploring topics members can't discuss anywhere else. My members have many other places where they can engage in idle, "cocktail party" chatter. Our mission is to provide the setting for discussing the "undiscussable." Where or who can you go to for confidential, honest feedback to assist you in minimizing your personal "Worry List"?

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