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Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Where are the Leaders?

Yes, the economy's bad. "Let's not make waves." Yes, many of us are far from top management. "Just keep my head down and fly under the radar." Wow! A great way to keep a job, maybe, but what does it really do for you or the company? Not much. Long before the economic downturn, leaders disappeared at alarming rates. Workers became more and more passive, carrying out orders from above. And those "above" were busy carrying out orders of the "top." No thinking, just robotic, rote performance. No wonder the business is stale. And no wonder there are no new ideas. It's not just fear of job loss or of being branded a renegade. It's that no one knows how to lead. So why's that? How about no one's really been given any responsibility. Home, school, work, everyone gets a pass. What I mean is that they get correction instead of guidance. Lists and procedures instead of goals and opportunities. They will look down on a new idea and promote conformity - their conformity - in the home, at school, and in the workplace. Worse still, they can't get to you fast enough with "help." Their help; their solutions; their thinking. Follow that with a reluctance to rate performance, and you have a couple of generations used to being bailed out...used to following. So, are you a leader? Are you willing to go out on a limb for a good idea? Ready to gather people around your thinking in order to produce a better product or sell more spots or cut the costs on a remote broadcast? Or do you wait for the thinking of others. It's a sad thing, going along day to day waiting for requests from above, below or to the side, offered along with suggestions on how to accomplish someone else's goals. Just as sad to be doing so out of fear. But there's a way out. Be a leader. Sounds simple enough. Get yourself a "Leader" button, pin it on and start marching around. Or you could try this:
  • Engage in conversation and think about what other people are saying
  • Listen to the problems
  • Evaluate your own problems or challenges
  • Devise a solution
  • Write it down, concisely, so you can explain it to others
  • Look at the solution logically. If it really works, great. If there are hitches, write them down, too
  • When you're talking to those that can "approve" your idea, work your way into it slowly. With luck, the subject will be brought up by the other party. Be ready with the :30 - the "elevator speech" that sells in your idea
  • You'll get asked for more. Be prepared with backup
  • Make that backup honest. Up front! If there are flaws or elements that need to be worked out, put them out there along with a solution.
  • Go back to others whose help you will need and sell the idea in. No doubt, the "approver" will seek counsel from at least one of them
  • When the go-ahead comes down, move! Have a plan of attack and execute
  • Keep people apprised of the status
  • Once executed, rate it fairly and make sure everyone knows
  • Do it all with enthusiasm

A lot of work? Sure, but that's leading. Once you get one in the bag, others come more easily and that easing is exponential. It becomes habit.

Leadership isn't being the loudest voice at the table. It's creating or recognizing good ideas, being willing to embrace them then taking the baton and running with it.