Monday, May 12, 2008

Four Commitments a Leader Should Make

Over the past year I have been part of the Executive Forums of Silicon Valley run by Sandy McMahon. It provides an opportunity for leaders of companies to meet together and discuss issues of common interest to the benefit of all. Sandy does a great job of bringing in guest speakers for best practices or on hot topics. He also provides weekly food for though via a newsletter like the message below in blue. It ties directly with the messages of several of my previous posts. If you want more information contact Sandy at 650-591-3855. You will be glad you did.

In good times and more challenging times, leaders have to lead. There are four commitments a leader needs to make to effectively lead.

To Envision
People who work in organization want to know “where are we headed, what is our goal.” It is the responsibility of the leader to determine the goal and to regularly and clearly communicate it. The leader who fails to create a vision is doing a disservice to those who work in the organization. If there is no goal, what is the future? What is the focus? Why toil to uncertainty except for a paycheck? People want to work towards something and for something that is bigger than themselves and the leader must provide this vision.

To Lead
The wisest leaders understand that they would never ask their subordinates to do something that they would not be willing to do themselves. In the movie “Saving Private Ryan” Captain Miller, played by Tom Hanks, earned and kept the respect of his men because he landed with them on Omaha Beach. Later, when challenged by his squad about the rationale for a mission to save the last remaining son of Mrs. Ryan, Miller used the goodwill he had earned to keep the mission on track. But the commitment to lead must be more than that. The leader must be willing to lead from the front. While Saving Private Ryan is fictional, contrast Captain Miller’s approach to General MacArthur’s approach in Korea. MacArthur never spent the night on the Korean Peninsula, instead returning to his own bed in Tokyo or sleeping on board a ship during the invasion at Inchon. The soldiers that fought under his command knew this and as a result, many did not respect him.

To Communicate
The leader cannot hide behind the desk, isolated in the office. Those that lead must not only be visible, but must communicate to those they lead. Chief among the responsibilities of leadership is to ask what people think. What are they seeing and experiencing within the company? How can we do the job better? The leader is often the most removed from clients, suppliers and employees, so seeking opinions of others is critical to learning. Tied to this is listening with intentionality to what is being said. Many leaders hear but don’t listen. Leaders must actively listen, seeking first to understand, then be understood. There is a quote that serves leaders well: “People should know what you stand for. They should also know won’t you won’t stand for."

To Learn
The leader must be open, willing and ready to become better - as a person and as a leader. This is done by growing, by being open to new ideas and concepts, and by being open to coaching by others. Someone who has a closed mind, who believes that they know all there is to know, is not a leader who will take any organization far. Being in charge and being open to growth does not stop with the person at the top. The responsibility of leadership means that the person at the top should be requiring the same commitment to growth from their direct reports. If those reporting to the top executive aren’t interesting in growing, what kind of message do those people send to those in their departments or divisions?

Sandy McMahon’s concepts are right on target. Being a senior executive is not a plateau. It is a continuous journey and its direction is determined by just how good a leader you are.

Once again, if you want more information on the Executive forums of Silicon Valley contact Sandy McMahon at 650-591-3855

Thanks Sandy.


John Maver
Maver Management Group
(925) 648-7561
Maver Management

View John Maver's profile on LinkedIn

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