Wanted: Leaders

ThinkerWanted: Leaders. Must know who deserves a pat on the back. Inquire at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington, D.C. Possible multiple openings soon.

A lesson I learned quite early is that tough talk is not a positive leadership attribute. Good leaders, actually just adequate leaders, realize that all of the led need an occasional pat on the back. The target of those pats is a little higher for some than for others, but each is delivered with the same level of respect for its recipient. Regardless of the location it is delivered, the purpose of the pat on the back is to provide positive direction. A leader does not need to convene a seminar of so-called intellectuals to tell him who deserves a pat on the back or to advise him if it should be a high or a low pat.

A leader, who is a true leader, delivers his message in positive tones. Tones that are firm and honest and are meant to inspire action not place blame. A leader is not concerned with who gets the blame or who gets the credit. A leader is concerned with outcomes.

A leader knows where the blame lies and he does not need a commission to figure that out for him. He does not dwell on who is at fault because it is wasted time better spent on solving the problem. He knows where the responsibility lies because his first step toward identifying the cause of a problem in the entity that he leads, whether it’s an Army squad or a nation, was a long look in the mirror. If the culprit cannot be identified after some honest introspect, then he broadens the search by increasingly larger circles around himself. Most often the cause for problems is close by and failing to look there first is a fatal leadership flaw.

Identifying a major problem does not require much thought. Just flip on the 24/7 news and the problems will be everywhere. Being the pivot man in a circle and wanting that circle to determine for you where to place your boot, whether it’s on an oil company’s neck or on its CEO’s hind end, does nothing toward solving the problem. You just come away looking immature, wholly unqualified to lead anything and well, small like a community organizer. A person who has always been more focused on trying to build his stature by placing blame on others rather than offering solutions.

A leader’s job is to move his organization from problem identification to problem solution. It is not to place blame or issue what may be construed as a physical threat toward those who might solve the problem. The leader’s job is to tell the led what the fixed problem looks like and then ensure that they are focused on the goal and resourced to solve the problem. The leader does not have the time or energy to dedicate to low level back pats delivered to the incompetent. A mature leader simply thanks the incompetent person for their try and replaces them with someone else. For a reference on how this is done research Abraham Lincoln, Civil War, Generals who couldn’t get the job done.

I have encountered a lot of tough talkers in my life. My experience has been that action talks and bovine scatology walks. If you are capable of delivering the promised A-kicking you do not posture, spin, and blame and threaten, you deliver. In Washington, there is not much delivering going on these days.

Happy Birthday to the Warriors of the United States Army who have always delivered for us!

© 2010

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