Over time, you learn from watching leaders and from leading your own teams. You see things differently at different times, and if you pay attention, you make new distinctions. You see new patterns.
Here are four beliefs about leadership that I have developed over the years. I become more and more convinced of the truth of each of these ideas over time.
It’s About Execution
Leaders would do better to flip the amount of time they spend on strategy for time spent on execution.
Strategy is important, but we spend way too much time thinking about—and taking about—strategy and way too little time focused on execution. Strategy is fun and exciting. Execution is messy, political, difficult, and frustrating (in the best of cases). But execution is what delivers the results.
The odds are that your strategy is fine (whatever it is) and that your execution is broken (and neglected).
It’s About People
I have come to believe that instilling people with meaning, mission, and personal growth is what allows you to build a great company, and treating people as a means to an end makes you an undifferentiated commodity. People can go anywhere and be treated like a number.
You win or lose with people. There isn’t anything more important to the success of your business.
People generally want to perform well. They want to succeed. And they want to learn and grow. The more you feed them what they need, the better they do. But the opposite is also true: the more you treat people as a transaction, the more they behave in kind.
It’s About Caring
I have come to believe that there are only two business models, caring and not caring. This ties the first two ideas together. If you care about your clients and customers, you execute for them. If you care about your people, you help them grow big enough to take care of your clients (and themselves).
If you are uncomfortable with the soft stuff, like caring, then you aren’t going to be a great leader. You may be the authority, the boss, or the manager, but you will never be a leader that people will follow into Hell. That kind of leadership requires caring. [Hint: You can start by spending time listening to people as far down the organizational chart as possible.]
If you think caring is too soft, then prepare to have a commoditized, price-driven business that struggles to capture value.
It’s About Change
To lead, you have to have an enormous capacity for uncertainty, growth, change, and complex problems.
You will only lead up to the highest level of uncertainty you are comfortable dealing with. You will only lead to the highest level you are willing to grow into as a leader. You can’t be a leader if you are unwilling to deal with change—or change yourself.
The leader has to make decisions without complete information, especially when it comes to complex problems. Leaders make decisions and act. They make change happen.
If you are being honest, is it likely that your strategy is broken or your execution?
How does a leader help people grow?
Does it matter if a leader cares about her people? Her customers? How is that caring made real?
How does a leader decide with incomplete information and uncertainty?
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