May 222012

Leadership is a topic many people analyze and write about. There are many different styles of leaders but too many people get confused about what works over the long term and what does not.

It really is simpler than most authors make it out to be.

Creating a shared vision — a brilliant optimistic vision that everyone buys into — will create long term success. Leaders that lead by command and control do sometimes enjoy short-term progress, but over the longer term, few of the most talented troops stick around. You must sell the group on a scenario that is win-win for all. I win, you lose, does not work, and creates distrust.

Leading by example is an important component. Never ask anyone to do anything that you are unwilling to do yourself. Volunteer for the dirty work often enough. It will be noticed.

Celebrate your team members and always think from a “we” perspective. Never say or think “my” team — say and think “our” team — and you are headed in the right direction.

Lastly, it does not matter what your official role is, if you are willing to let others take the credit. Never make the mistake that you cannot be a leader just because you report to someone else. A leader is a person that can influence others to be optimistic, to take action, to be more than they thought they could be, and to succeed.

This is most easily seen in sports. Just because you are bigger, stronger, and faster than others does not make you the leader. The same holds true in every walk of life. In the workplace, the smartest scientists or the most extreme workaholics are rarely the CEO. At 6’1″ and 175 lbs, no one would argue that John Stockton was likely to win many physical battles, but he was unquestionably one of the best leaders the NBA has ever seen.

Here are five great leadership quotes to think about over your cup of coffee today:

Our chief want is someone who will inspire us to be what we know we could be.
— Ralph Waldo Emerson

If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.
— John Quincy Adams

The leaders who work most effectively, it seems to me, never say “I.” And that’s not because they have trained themselves not to say “I.” They don’t think “I.” They think “we”; they think “team.” They understand their job to be to make the team function. They accept responsibility and don’t sidestep it, but “we” gets the credit…. This is what creates trust, what enables you to get the task done.
— Peter Drucker

To lead people, walk beside them … As for the best leaders, the people do not notice their existence. The next best, the people honor and praise. The next, the people fear; and the next, the people hate … When the best leader’s work is done the people say, ‘We did it ourselves!
— Lao-Tsu

Example is not the main thing in influencing others, it is the only thing.
— Albert Schweitzer

Parents would be smart to teach leadership — what it really means to lead — to their kids. TV and the movies teach that leadership is for those “anointed” as the general or the president. If you teach them right — and early in life — this knowledge and practice will pay dividends for decades to come. You don’t become a leader when the coach hands you the captain’s armband. You become a leader when you inspire those around, lead by example, and improve everyone’s optimism.

I.M. Optimism Man

P. S.   I add this section not that it adds much to my main points — those are contained in entirety above — but rather to illustrate that you do not need direct reports and a given “title” to be an extraordinary leader.

If we measure by breadth of influence, Peter Drucker may have be one of the greatest “leaders” in modern capitalism and American society. America leads the world in proving that capitalism is a superior social system and America continues to evolve capitalism to new heights. His theories and vision will live on for many generations to come and is seen daily in the actions of business leaders and managers worldwide.

Here is Peter Drucker’s section on Wikipedia. I have excerpted his key ideas from the listing for your convenience but encourage you to read the entire story on Wikipedia to see how influence and leadership does not always require a person to be officially “in charge” or anything.

[start excerpt from Wikipedia]

Key ideas

Several ideas run through most of Drucker’s writings:

  • Decentralization and simplification.[32] Drucker discounted the command and control model and asserted that companies work best when they are decentralized. According to Drucker, corporations tend to produce too many products, hire employees they don’t need (when a better solution would be outsourcing), and expand into economic sectors that they should avoid.
  • The concept of “Knowledge Worker” in his 1959 book “The Landmarks of Tomorrow”.[33] Since then, knowledge-based work has become increasingly important in businesses worldwide.
  • The prediction of the death of the “Blue Collar” worker.[34] A blue collar worker is a typical high school dropout who was paid middle class wages with all benefits for assembling cars in Detroit. The changing face of the US Auto Industry is a testimony to this prediction.
  • The concept of what eventually came to be known as “outsourcing.”[35] He used the example of front room and a back room of each business: A company should be engaged in only the front room activities that are core to supporting its business. Back room activities should be handed over to other companies, for whom these are the front room activities.
  • The importance of the non-profit sector,[36] which he calls the third sector (private sector and the Government sector being the first two.) Non-Government Organizations (NGOs) play crucial roles in countries around the world.
  • A profound skepticism of macroeconomic theory.[37] Drucker contended that economists of all schools fail to explain significant aspects of modern economies.
  • Respect of the worker. Drucker believed that employees are assets and not liabilities. He taught that knowledgeable workers are the essential ingredients of the modern economy. Central to this philosophy is the view that people are an organization’s most valuable resource, and that a manager’s job is both to prepare people to perform and give them freedom to do so.[38]
  • A belief in what he called “the sickness of government.” Drucker made nonpartisan claims that government is often unable or unwilling to provide new services that people need or want, though he believed that this condition is not inherent to the form of government. The chapter “The Sickness of Government”[39] in his book The Age of Discontinuity formed the basis of New Public Management,[40] a theory of public administration that dominated the discipline in the 1980s and 1990s.
  • The need for “planned abandonment.” Businesses and governments have a natural human tendency to cling to “yesterday’s successes” rather than seeing when they are no longer useful.[41]
  • A belief that taking action without thinking is the cause of every failure.[42]
  • The need for community. Early in his career, Drucker predicted the “end of economic man” and advocated the creation of a “plant community”[43] where an individual’s social needs could be met. He later acknowledged that the plant community never materialized, and by the 1980s, suggested that volunteering in the nonprofit sector was the key to fostering a healthy society where people found a sense of belonging and civic pride.[44]
  • The need to manage business by balancing a variety of needs and goals, rather than subordinating an institution to a single value.[45][46] This concept of management by objectives forms the keynote of his 1954 landmark The Practice of Management.[47]
  • A company’s primary responsibility is to serve its customers. Profit is not the primary goal, but rather an essential condition for the company’s continued existence.[48]
  • A belief in the notion that great companies could stand among humankind’s noblest inventions.[49]

[end excerpt from Wikipedia]

None of this sounds like rocket science today, because it is now part of the core fabric of business. But it is amazing when you realize that Peter helped develop the foundation for all these key ideas that are now reality.

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