Ten Rules for Leaders

What characterizes a good leader? there are as many examples as there are management book authors. Here’s an example … // Johan
1. Leaders under-promise and over-deliver.
Leaders set deadlines—and keep them. Leaders are punctual. They are honest with themselves and others, and have the discipline to accurately assess their organization’s capabilities. If you or your organization doesn’t complete a task on time, it’s because you completed it ahead of schedule. “Early is on time. On time is late. Late is unacceptable.”

2. Leaders don’t have moods.
OK, everyone has moods, but a leader can’t allow himself to be moody when dealing with followers. You don’t want your followers to have to consider your mood before bringing an issue to you. That will slow down communication and make your venture less agile. No matter how you’re feeling, put that aside and deal with followers with a steady demeanor.

3. Leaders serve themselves last.
In the Marine Corps, when food is served, officers eat last. And the very last officer to eat is the highest ranking officer present. The message is simple: The needs of your troops come before yours. This applies to everything: perks, work schedule, time off—everything. This is part of the larger “calling” of being a leader, and also simply smart business. Followers will work relentlessly for a selfless leader, but a selfish leader can expect selfish behavior in return.

4. Leaders set the example.
Have you ever heard “Do as I say and not as I do?” That phrase was invented by a spineless idiot that couldn’t lead a troop of boy scouts out of a city park. Don’t be that guy. It’s immoral to ask someone to do something that you wouldn’t do under the same circumstances. And followers pattern their actions after what they see in their leader. Whatever you ask of your followers, you must set the example. Anything less degrades the trust and respect of your followers.

5. Leaders are decisive.
A good plan now is better than a perfect plan next week. If you value speed and responsiveness in your organization, then focus on finding the 80% solution and implementing it quickly. The 80% solution is not perfect. You may need more information or just more time to find the 100% solution. But the 80% solution can be implemented right away. Move out on what you know and adjust your plan as you discover more.

6. Sometimes leaders change the plan.
Nothing is sacred and immune from change. No process, form, method—nothing. With decisiveness comes the need for agility. You must be willing to massage the details of your plan as it unfolds. No plan survives contact with the enemy. Always be open to changing the plan if a fair evaluation of the evidence suggests you should. But…

7. Sometimes leaders stick to their guns.
Just as important as knowing when to change the plan is knowing when to lower your shoulder and charge forward. A leader’s decisions are sometimes unpopular. Furthermore, humans are intelligent; we can make a case for almost anything. When decisions are met with objections, carefully consider those objections. Drop your confirmation bias and inherent resistance to changing your plan. Examine the objections on their merits alone. But after you make a decision, move forward and do not look back. If you constantly re-open a decision for discussion or reverse course multiple times, it will completely degrade your followers’ confidence.

8. Leaders want feedback.
The most valuable thing a leader can learn is what he’s screwing up. Leaders never deliberately try to be terrible at anything. They simply can’t see what they’re doing wrong! The best way to learn your weaknesses is by soliciting feedback. Only a precious few have the cojones to tell you exactly where you’re sucking. Treasure these people; they are your best friends. When you receive feedback, drop all defensiveness. Don’t try to explain or justify your actions. Just take the feedback, internalize it, evaluate it, and move forward. Maybe you legitimately disagree with the feedback, and that’s OK. But if you act defensively then you will weaken the trusted relationship with your colleague, and future feedback will be watered down. It’s not worth it. Drop the ego. Listen.

9. Leaders are good followers.
Know when you’re not in charge, and act accordingly. That doesn’t mean you become a passive lemming. It means you don’t step on another leader’s toes or constantly offer suggestions when you’re a guest in his environment. It’s OK that people don’t do things in exactly the same way as you. They may have different values or visions for their organizations, so let them execute that vision. Moreover, practice this tenet when empowering your staff. Give them a leadership role and participate as a follower without interference. This builds follower confidence when they see that you are willing to follow the leader you empowered.

10. Leaders ask for input when making decisions.
You can never totally escape your own biases and see a situation from all angles. Accept it. Embrace it. Therefore, you can always improve your decisions by seeking input from followers. You will be flabbergasted at the many different factors you never anticipated that are important to them. You probably don’t share their concerns or even identify with them, else you would have predicted them without input. That’s OK. What’s important is that you accept those concerns as real and give them your full consideration. But temper that with…

11. Leaders make the final decision and accept responsibility.
In Rule #1 I told you that leaders under-promise and over-deliver. I promised you ten rules. Here’s #11. After they’ve sought input and carefully considered everything, leaders embrace their role as the final decision-maker. Leaders don’t flip coins. Leaders don’t take a vote. Those are just feeble attempts at mentally spreading blame if the decision goes awry. No, a leader makes a decision and accepts full responsibility for it. Did you make a decision based on input from someone else, and it resulted in a poor outcome? The responsibility is yours and yours alone. The buck stops with you.

Source: Jeff Barnett (twitter@jeffbarnett), Incblot.com

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