Successful Corporate CEOs & Presidents… of the Future, 2016 and Beyond

 

UP FRONT

SUCCESS Through Employees

Disaffected Employees & Losses

Productive Employees & Investments

Disabled Employees

SUCCESS Through Yourself

Yourself

Vision, Creativity, Ethics

Knowledge

Communication

Connections

Conclusion                                                             

 

 

UP FRONT

This writing is for those individuals who aspire to become Successful corporate CEOs and Presidents down the road as I stated, in 2016 and beyond.

And if you really do want to achieve these prominent positions of responsibility, you must really want to and you have to be the type of person who can successfully thrive in those positions.

Success is not just about working hard for 70 – 80 hours a week (or more) in perpetuity; it is about working SMART and HARD in productive, efficient and success steps. And doing so means learning to delegate instead of micro-managing everything.

Many of you know that micro-managing does not work well in the long run and it sure does not help your staff and employees grow or your business. Nor is working 70 hours or more hours a week a permanent and sustainable solution, your health will give in whether you are successful or not. And you can bet, in nearly every situation, the family life will be a shambles.

Take care in being successful. There are three areas where you must tread with great and sincere care, you must be a willing:

  1. Champion / Sponsor to multiple ideas, some brilliant, some exotic and some seemingly crazy (not meant in a bad way) but exceptional while other crazy ideas are complete duds – this is the price for innovation and creativity
  2. Collaborator with great people as well as with highly odious people – you must bridge that gap and act professionally, not just for your sake but for the corporation as well
  3. Risk taker, not just an ordinary risk taker but an intelligent and calculated risk taker, one who listens with eyes, ears and brain wide open – then to be truly successful, you must do YOUR OWN due diligence in finding out the facts, truths, positives and negatives behind each risk for today, tomorrow and in the future – you cannot just take the words of others without information (that is what Big Data and Analytics can help with) – you have a fiduciary duty and obligation to all

And one area, due to today’s digital arenas, where you have got to be explicitly aware of – Information & Cyber security risks to:

  • Your employee’s Personally Identifiable Information (health, financial records)
  • Corporate financials
  • Corporate Intellectual Property (business processes, partnerships, R & D efforts and product secrets)

You need to be cognizant of the massively numerous digital risks as well as having on staff a CIO and CISO who are not only aware of those risks but are up to date as to what has to be done to protect the corporation. This means detecting, defending, deterring, mitigating and performing root cause analysis of what happened, why it happened and how prevent the breach from occurring again).

 

SUCCESS Through Employees

Do not worry, I will come back to other topics but this one prominent thought springs to mind time and time again. And yes, there will be some disagreement on this point. You absolutely have to take care of your employees first and foremost! Why? Because if you do not care for them, these unhappy employees can and will sink your company faster than a Mark VI torpedo striking an adversarial target of opportunity…

You must realize that caring for, nurturing and growing your corporate staff means your company can continue to flourish and thrive in tight economic times.

Employees should come first. Why would this be the case? It is the case because employees are the people who make your company hum. They are the ones who make customers happy and WANT to come back, continuing to do business with your firm. Employees are the face to the world and you most definitely want the best face facing out to the world. You want staff that is happy, satisfied and eager to do more. So care for them. 

Disaffected Employees & Losses

This paper is not to dwell on the negative aspects of employees, only to point out several items.

Unhappy, disgruntled, disappointed and unchallenged employees will make your firm drown in morass. This will manifest itself in myriad manners. Sure, you will see these individuals energetically working – while you are present but what about when you or other senior leaders are not visible?

These same unhappy individuals will revert to what they normally do, such as:

  • Sluggish or haphazard anemic work efforts, getting only the most pressing or urgent tasks completed and not at blazing speeds either nor at a sufficient level of competency either
  • Performing inaccurate work that is not as thorough or complete as it should be
  • High rates of absenteeism for any number of reasons but mainly to not show up to work
  • Spending more time searching the web for things that have absolutely nothing to do with work, just to pass the time
  • Low levels of morale
  • High levels of adversarial teamwork, combativeness, insubordination
  • Disgruntled employees could also walk out with your most highly prized Intellectual Property (IP) before you realize it
  • On, and on, and on – the list is long

And for any senior leaders, who do happen to have the time and inclination to read this, tell other readers the truth, “Do you by chance manage to catch employees in these various states of mind and attitude?” 

Productive Employees & Investments

For any new CEO and President, it does not take a rocket scientist or a brilliant psychologist to see that there are many things that can make employees ever more satisfied and productive at your firm. And all the while with investments that do not have to be super-significantly expensive. The investments will pay off in spades in the short term and in the long term, making your ROI a number you can trot out time and time again to your investors and customers.

Some of these employee investments can be minor for things such as:

  • Better noise abatement and cubicle designs to give workers some satisfaction of privacy from other nosy AND noisy neighbors
  • Computer Based Training (CBT) and online courses to improve the employee knowledge base or to stretch their skills to go to the next level
  • Communication, “honest,” communication from the top in a more frequent manner – even just managing by walking around to see what the current state of affairs is like throughout the organization – unannounced walkabouts, not to catch staff doing things wrong but to say ‘hello’ and see what can be improved – having open and honest dialogue with junior staff, with middle management and with other senior executives

Then there are employee investments which can be major but worthwhile:

  • Better lighting, brighter and full spectrum lighting – LED – to move away from the harsh or dull old style lighting still used in many organizations – it has been shown time after time that brighter and better lighting, which also mimics natural sunlight, cuts on depression boosting productivity – the better lighting rejuvenates people on an healthier, unconscious level – causing a lasting spring in their steps (and in their work)
  • Better and brighter paint schemes – too many organizations have dull, drab and even worn paint schemes throughout their buildings, who wants to be around that…
  • Windows – add more windows if possible, replace old inefficient and well, crappy looking windows/frames to allow more sunlight in and a view out to the world
  • Plants – bring in plants, “real” plants to bring color AND oxygen as well as absorbing some of the soul killing dead air
  • Skylights
  • Have privacy rooms for those who need to make short private phone calls without their cube mates hearing everything – or else, the employee who needs to make a call will go out to their car, taking off time from work
  • Have power nap rooms for those who need them, with strict policies – these can revitalize those who really want to work but could use a nap
  • Ergonomic chairs – these should not just be relegated to the senior and executive staff, comfortable workers are more productive workers

Lastly, there are significant corporate investments that benefit the corporation for the long term as well as the employees:

A faster network:

  • Yes, this will entail laying new cable, something like Cat 7 (category 7) or fiber optic to break up congestion and latency, specifically for those high peak times (employee work/customer access) – we will continue to see larger datasets moving across the network
  • Faster and more powerful – routers, switches, firewalls and wireless access points
  • Full or Hybrid Cloud infrastructure to complement your current data center (or to replace it) so you can scale up to as many resources as you require when you need them – including faster network bandwidth, faster CPUs for the computing devices and faster storage devices to store / retrieve data (solid state versus hard disk) – it may also cut down on your Capital Expenses
  • Better computers, tablets and servers that can function with a flow allowing employees to keep working, productively

Yes, it will mean replacing many corporate devices but it will ensure your network can handle heavier load over time. It will also mean that you do not hear about or see many, many, many of your employees sitting and watching a spinning hour glass or circle nearly every time they perform a print, retrieve or save task (not every single time but you get the point).

All of these instances across the firm will add up to wasted, unproductive time and significant revenue loss to operating expenses year over year that wind up being opportunity costs lost. By this last statement, I mean that employees could be more productive if they did not have to constantly wait for their computer system or network to respond. 

Disabled Employees

You should also be looking at the ranks of disabled employees; such as the blind who can help your company by listening to products you may produce that have an audio aspect to them. To hear how pleasing or unpleasant the product(s) may sound.

Look at deaf employees; they could help with the visual aspects of products and see things in a different manner to make those products more successful. The deaf could look for things such as color, layout and appeal to help make various products winners.

There are the individuals confined to wheel-chairs who may be mentally brilliant but are overlooked only because they are in a wheel-chair.

 

SUCCESS Through Yourself

Yourself

Now, as one who wants to be a successful leader, there are many tools you should have in your arsenal, ready to pull out and wield. Some of these tools will be tangible, while others are intangible.

You are who you are by the dint of all that you have done over the course of your life. 

Vision, Creativity, Ethics

It is necessary to be a person who is capable of having vision to look forward in time, through the hard times, to bring success to the firm. It is also a necessity in making connections where others do not see it, such as dual use for a product when the product was not originally designed for anything but what it is selling for.

You should strive to be able to see trends coming that you and your company can take advantage of to continue being successful. 

You need to have creativity, even to a small degree, to see, hear and understand what your staff is telling or presenting to you for any viable product that may come to market. This is not say you must be a marketing genius but you should be able to tie your vision to your creative juices to move forward with a product or product line.

It is also mandatory to have the ethics, strong ethics, to not bamboozle anyone – employees, customers, shareholders, no matter how dire the situation has or will become. You must be strong enough to be bold and upfront about everything. Dishonesty and deceit will never, in the long run, win you any awards. This principle of right and wrong, integrity, must be imprinted onto your DNA so that it is, well, just second nature.

Everyone fails at some point; you must be able to show your resolve and your ethics to be bigger than others when the time comes and move forward. 

Knowledge

Yes, you must be knowledgeable about EPS, ROI, Cash Reserves, 10K and 10Q statements, CapEx, OpEx – these are all a given. What is not a specific given is that you need to have other kinds of knowledge as well.

You should be curious, all the time and willing to learn more – when you make the time, which you need to pencil in. You have to be adept in picking up and learning new things and being adaptable, another requirement, to multiple instances you find yourself in and to new kinds of knowledge.

You, yourself, do not have to be the smartest and most intelligent person in the room but you do have to smart enough to know when to have the smartest and most intelligent people around. You should not be shrinking away from these smarter people; you should be embracing them and learning from them. To be successful, you must pick up knowledge in many unlikely places, not just the known and predictable places.

If you continue to try to be the smartest person in the room, it will show and many people will be repelled by it.

You should have gained, and continue to gain, your knowledge in a multitude of places, from school, in the streets (commonsense) to the many places you have been employed. You should also strive to continue learning to be better at whatever you do. 

Your knowledge, especially if it is broad based knowledge (or what can be called cognitive diversity) will continue to pay dividends for you as long as you live. Because of that broad background of knowledge and experience, you will have the tools you need in continuing to be successful.

Take for instance your school based education. Suppose you learned to play in a concert/marching band; that you played in one or more sports; you learned at least several hard sciences (advanced math, physics, areas of medicine, chemistry – male or female); you learned home economics (not to be minimized in the least); geography; languages (one or two); political science; technology based courses (male and female); history and English (if you are in the U.S.).

Then suppose you continued to learn more about these topics at least through college. With this multitude of learnings, you will have a foundation of knowledge that will last you a lifetime. You will be able to discourse on any number of topics in any setting with just about anyone who is willing to honestly hold a conversation with you and you with them. 

Communication

You should be a good to great communicator to get your point across or attempt to. The honesty of trying will win out every time in highlighting your sincerity. If you attempt to put on a choreographed, scripted performance that is not true or heart-felt, everyone will see it and make note that your brand, your reputation is not as sterling as it should be.

Your brand and reputation, after your ethics and integrity, is what defines you as a person. It is what defines you as a leader. You should bend over backwards in proving how solid your brand and reputation are, not only to yourself, but to everyone else. Those who are paying attention and looking beyond their own nose and selfish needs will see the truisms you have and will respond to accordingly. 

You are the kind of communicator that listens intently, respectfully and honestly to those talking to you. You must be acutely, but not painfully, sensitive to the needs of others. You must show some level of empathy to the people you deal with, no matter if it is on an occasional or irregular basis.

No matter the situation, in being successful, you must be an active listener. Sometimes, that is all some people really need or want, even if it does not require any action on your part, other than listening. 

You must be open and honest, as much as possible in whatever situation you are in. You must be affable at times because many people actually do like that, as long as you do not go overboard with it AND you do not make it a gimmick. But you must also be serious at the times when you need to and it should explicitly come across that you are serious and not wishy-washy to use a ‘highly’ technical term…  

One ultimate item of interest is that you have got to be a person who is willing to engage and very capable of collaborating with others, no matter who the other is.

The other could come from any walk of life, they could be a:

  • Woman/Man – just because the other is a woman or man should make no difference whatsoever (I’m not talking about lifting strength here)
  • Different age – this is meaningless because that person could be a better, smarter person than you, you will not know until you give them a chance
  • Race – now this, this is just a no-brainer – the color of the other should not matter in the least, it is what in the character and the heart of that person that should matter to you
  • Religion – well, this is a touchy one for which I will not get into much because there those where religion is not an albatross upsetting any engagement – then there are those where religion is a complete and intractable roadblock where they will not compromise no matter what you compromise on – so be careful in working with this latter group of people, it can be rather difficult.

The bottom line in regards to others is that you be respectful of who they are and what they represent. If you are respectful to them that is a big head start. 

Connections

To be successful, you have to be something more than average, you have to be not just a thinker but you also have to be a lateral thinker [1]. You have to be able to think in a multitude of directions, vertical, horizontal and diagonal in order to see things in a different perspective or through different rose colored glasses. You should work at and continue being a multi-spatial thinker. Do not look at just that one single tree (micro) but instead, look at that tree AND the forest (macro) for a holistic picture. This is a far better imagery to have instead of looking at a single tree, after single tree, after….. 

You will need to understand the multiple connections and axes of the organization and industry you are in. You need to understand the interrelationships between marketing and research, between research and operations, between business and technology and between technology and people – only to name a few here.

You must see those connections and see where there are possible pitfalls and negative entanglements. You must be able to strategize where there are possible successes in any number of those connections. This where predictive analytics, prescriptive analytics and even visual analytics comes in handy – all these tools can assist you with doing ‘what-if’ and ‘what-about’ scenarios to fine tune various strategies.

 

Conclusion

Again, employees should come first because if you do treat them better, rather than as a resource to bring profits to the bottom line, they will reciprocate as they should by being better workers and not using as many sick days or excuses for not coming in to work, a place they loathe.

Look for good people, whether they are handicapped or not. Look for people who different than you because many of them could be or will be smarter than you. Surround yourself with smart or smarter people, they can help you and your company be more successful.

Continue being creative and if possible, try to be innovative to make disruptive and revolutionary changes, not just incremental and evolutionary growth. Try to combine the best of all worlds; the best of the best business practices; the best technological tools that can be used for best results and certainly not least; People and what they individually and collectively can offer. 

Ultimately, to be successful, you must continue to learn, strive in growing and engaging with others and at various points, others who have altruistic intents rather than vested selfish interests will help you succeed. You in turn, can help others be / become successful. 

And that is the crux of it all, if you help others succeed, you too will be successful. If you help your company succeed, you will be successful. It is a wickedly nice circle to be in…

 

Definitions

Cognitive Diversity – He (Scott Page) suggests that cognitive diversity has four dimensions: perspectives, interpretations, heuristics, predictive models.

  • Diverse perspectives: people have different ways of representing situations and problems; they who see or envision the set of possibilities confronting them differently.
  • Diverse interpretations: people put things into different categories and classifications. To some people, I might be someone who worked at the World Bank. To others, I might be an leadership storyteller. To others, I might be an author about radical management. All are true. They are different interpretations of the world.
  • Diverse heuristics: People have different ways of generating solutions to problems. Some people like to talk through their thinking about problems; others prefer to write out his solutions first and then talk
  • Diverse predictive models: Some people analyze the situation. Others may look for the story)

(Cognitive Diversity boils down to the broad base of experience/knowledge that an individual has collected throughout their lives and the differences in what others have learned – making the collective whole that much better)

Predictive analytics – Practice of extracting information from existing data sets in order to determine patterns and predict future outcomes and trends. Predictive analytics does not tell you what will happen in the future

Prescriptive analytics – A type of business analytics that focuses on finding the best course of action for a given situation

Visual analytics – A form of analytics in which interactive graphical displays of data are used to generate analytical results and insights – it can attack certain problems whose size, complexity, and need for closely coupled human and machine analysis may make them otherwise intractable

 

References

[1] – Dr. Edward DeBono – multiple books on Lateral Thinking

[2] – Scott Page – The Difference: How the Power of Diversity Creates Better Groups, Firms, Schools, and Societies, (Princeton, 2007)

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Successful Leadership! Part II

Successful Leadership

What it does not mean

What it ‘should’ mean

Role Model

Strategy 

Diligence, Conviction & Drive

Failure

Knowledge

Delegation

Seeing

Cognitive Diversity

Thinking

Examples of Successful Leaders

Communication

Understanding/Empathy

Respect

Listening & Feedback

Conclusion

 

SPOILER ALERT: This paper does not, in any fashion portend to include all there is in being a successful leader. Additionally, “successful leadership” and “successful leaders” are synonymous terms.

 

Successful Leadership

What it does not mean

It does not mean being dogmatic, on anything, with anyone! Sure, one has a right to think and believe what they desire but is that how you would choose to lead, successfully?

To me, this is a big topic and I wanted to include some definitions on being dogmatic as well as discuss it. We have far too many people who are of this bent, who are unwilling to actually ask questions or look something up (from multiple sources) to see if what they know is valid or not. And if it is not valid, then be able to learn from what they have discovered. They would rather try to bull their own, ill-conceived and incorrect conclusions on everyone around them…

From various dictionaries, the meaning of dogmatic:

The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language

Characterized by an authoritative, arrogant assertion of unproved or unprovable principles…

Random House Kernerman Webster’s College Dictionary

Asserting opinions in a dictatorial manner; opinionated

Collins English Dictionary

1a (of a statement, opinion, etc.) forcibly asserted as if authoritative and unchallengeable

1b (of a person) prone to making such statements

2 (Philosophy) of, relating to, or constituting dogma: dogmatic writings.

3 based on assumption rather than empirical observation

So, do you really want to be seen as that kind of leader…?

Being a successful leader also does not mean being a brow-beater or dictatorial in your everyday interactions with subordinates. And it certainly does not mean that you are a softie, caving in, meekly at every turn for every employee/follower’s demands.

Being a successful leader also does not mean that one is full of pretense and bluster or beats around the bush – or, if you will, blowing smoke up someone’s pant legs

What it ‘should’ mean

Being a successful leader ‘should’ mean that you are someone that others are intentionally willing to follow.

It should mean that you have the character and integrity to say ‘no’ as much as you do in saying ‘yes.’ It means, because of your integrity that you are known for your tactful (and maybe at times blunt) honesty with those around you. You want everything to be on an open and level playing field in your interactions with others, without giving away any secrets of course…

It should mean that you have courage, the courage to stand up for the weakest amongst your team as well as for your own convictions.

It should mean that you are willing be the leader, even with knowing the burden that will be placed upon your shoulders in assuming that leadership. It might even mean your gaining gray hairs and wrinkles from assuming that position…

Role Model

Congratulations, you are the role model for all those around you, are you up for it?

One thing is for sure; you definitely are not going to be going around stating “I am your role model, so follow me.” What you ‘will’ be doing is, well, just your job but doing it to the best of your ability, all day and “everyday!”

Being a role model is not something one turns on and off, it is simply something you do that others will want to emulate and take after you. There is no higher compliment than someone watching you, listening to you and then doing the same thing – to the best of their own ability.

A bonus – someone asking you to be their mentor would be quite the compliment…

The thing is, once people see you as a role model, you cannot let people down by going off (verbally or physically) on some weird tangent/shortcut against all reasonable expectations and doing something that makes no sense or is contrary to what you stand for.

You should want to be one who is setting the example of being good, if not the best; in everything you do rather than being someone who is of the ilk of mouthing the phrase “do as I say, not as I do.”

Successful leaders do the right thing (morally), as much as they can, whenever they can. For example, you do not engage in corporate espionage.

Strategy 

Successful leaders are full of commitment to or for a cause or project; they want to see that cause or project through to fruition, a successful culmination that makes everyone happy and feel good about the ensuing results. They have a strategy about success and some of that strategy has to do with drive, conviction, diligence, openness and cognitive diversity. No successful leader should be without these…

There are many more aspects to strategic success but are not all listed here. However, I have written about other aspects in the predecessor paper to this one.

Diligence, Conviction & Drive

A successful leader has a bullet proof and solid reputation of getting things done (and done very well) and doing so through their constant diligence and drive. This leader uses this diligence and drive in order to complete whatever strategic goal they have in front of them.

It is a sterling reputation if that leader’s conviction is well known to others for reaching a successful goal, not just for the task at hand but for their team, for their customers and for the company.

Successful leaders keep driving even in the face of adversity, i.e. – resource shortages, long, long days and/or tough conditions (no a.c. or heat or pressure cooker situations). Tough leaders pick up the slack whenever and wherever they can – they are not afraid to get their hands dirty.

Failure

A successful leader also learns from mistakes, learning as much as possible from what did not go right and then incorporating those corrections for the next iteration of effort. All without letting the failures break their spirit and drive.

This leader, man or woman, seeks to take what others view as abject failure and implements it into a strategy for continuing to be successful.

A successful leader adapts and learns – period.

Knowledge

A successful leader learns all the time, as much as possible looking for any new applicable and theoretical knowledge they can in order to become better. Anyone looking to be successful embraces this concept, learning to be better – always striving to be better informed and aware, learning from everyone they can, no matter who the other is. That other person can be a peer, subordinate or a stranger – it should not matter if the knowledge being acquired is true and worthwhile.

Delegation

A successful leader knows that they cannot do everything in their division or team nor can they afford to micromanage. Being successful means that that leader knows to delegate and trust their teams to get the mission, task or issue resolved.

Micromanagement is not a way to success – what it does do is cause anger, resentment and high levels of attrition.

Seeing

As part of any strategy, successful leaders use their eyes (and ears and brain and mind) to really see, not just look at, what is happening in front of them. They use theirs eyes to see what is now and what could be, if, if that leader engages their own resources and those of others to realize a successful goal.

Many people only look at things, objects, people and ideas at the surface level, while successful leaders make the extra effort to see what is below the surface, at the deeper layers to pull the true content and essence of whatever they are seeing for an advantageous goal or result.

Cognitive Diversity

A successful leader is one who has a broad background – culturally, educationally and work experience – to draw from in going forward. Having that broad background means the successful leader can be flexible and shift gears accordingly – all without too much pain or grief.

Then too, having a background that is strong due to their cognitive diversity means the successful leader is able to adapt – willingly and adroitly – to the vagaries of daily work life (or just life itself) for whatever situation is thrown their way, overcoming any obstacles that spring up, taking it (whatever occurs) in stride.

Cognitive diversity is not just for the leader but it also applies quite well to the peers and subordinates around that leader. The more cognitive diversity or experiences a person (or group) has, from across a very wide spectrum of life and work, it will mean that more

  • Brain storming can be done
  • Innovative solutions can be brought to bear to solve problems or snags in the workplace
  • Forward thinking can take place in the group rather than the standard, staid, traditional isolated/insulated thinking that happens in many workplaces.

Thinking

Being a successful leader means that you absolutely must learn to think and think creatively at times, sometimes with ingenuity and innovation, vertically and even laterally (thinking outside the box). You must make time to think deeply and thoughtfully – you must find a quiet spot or a quiet time and do this.

You cannot be successful if you do not put enough brain power into being successful and as to how much, well, if only we knew that answer… But it is up to you to determine that answer, you have to commit to doing deep thinking as often as possible, to think through consequences, extrapolating into the future. Using data analysis (and/or vision analysis) software tools will help with your deep thinking success.

Examples of Successful Leaders

There are plenty of examples of excellent leaders using various modes of leadership and/or strategy to achieve their goals. Look at Eisenhower, Kennedy, Benjamin Banneker, Lincoln, Israel’s PM Golda Meir and even the first president, Washington – they all used their leadership in being successful. A couple of the strategies they employed were those of listening and collaboration, while at the same time not simply caving in to someone else being dogmatic on some issue.

Communication

Communication, in all of its various forms, is what we all need to work on and to improve to be become better at our everyday engagements with others. It means you have to:

  • Listen better,
  • Understand – or at least make huge strides in trying to understand better,
  • Giving and receiving feedback to improve,
  • Seeing what is in front of you and
  • Be respectful, this point alone will pay dividends

Understanding/Empathy

Whoever works for and/or with you, you as a great leader will need to know that the old saying of “leave your home problems at home,” is not a valid saying. It is the rare individual who can compartmentalize that well to leave ‘all’ of their problems at home and only focus on work. It just is not that easy. An individuals’ problem(s) may be severely significant and will interrupt their daily productivity.

And rest assured, just because a leader exhibits empathy and understanding, it does not necessarily construe any negative meaning that the leader is weak or has no backbone.

You have got to be able to understand that from person to person, they all have varying needs and you will need to be able – and want – to work with them on an individual basis. It might mean giving them an early release for the day or half a day off to go work on their home problems. These individuals that you help, the smart ones, will be very appreciative of what you do for them and will be more productive down the road to show their gratitude.

Now, those individuals who are “not smart,” well they may attempt to abuse this time off from work. For these folks, they get one additional chance (in my eyes) before they are booted out of the company, before they waste too much of anyone else’s time at the company.

Respect

Being respectful of others, not just kowtowing to what they want you to respect, but just in making the attempt to be respectful moves people. They will notice, sometimes visibly notice it, while at other times, it is noticed subconsciously.

Being respectful to others means that you pay attention to the differences that may be present between you and the other person and try to accommodate the other. Sometimes you may not be able to understand the differences but you should try.

You need to be respectful of the other’s gender, age, race, culture background, their educational background, of whether they are a parent (especially a single parent) – to show you understand (without being in their shoes) what they are going through as they go through a rough workday.

Successful leaders respect all around them. It does not matter the other person’s rank or position, the other person could be a U.S. cabinet secretary or they could be a mailroom clerk; they could be someone older or younger; they could be a man or a woman. The point is, it should not matter who the other person is, as long as you give respect to the other person, respect due their position and respect towards them as another person.

Now, that does not mean that the successful leader kowtows to everyone. What I mean by that specific statement is that not everyone deserves respect simply because of their authoritative or senior position. That other person may be a heinous individual who gives short shrift to everyone else and holds their authoritative position through some Machiavellian machinations, which possibly means that the position was not gained honestly and fairly.

Respecting a person for whom they are “and” for the position they hold is a rare privilege and should only be afforded to those who deserve it. You do not just roll over for everyone.

Listening & Feedback

You have to learn the highly coveted skill of listening to those around you – period. What someone is talking about or discussing, it may very well be of little consequence to you and the company. But to that individual talking, it might mean a great deal and knowing that someone is ‘actively listening’ to them could mean the breakthrough to their personal logjam, allowing them to become highly productive workers.

Listening to others may also generate great ideas and solutions worthy of following up on, to break through some sticking point on the production line or in creating a Big Data algorithm that is more efficient in culling massive mounds of disparate data and generating lucrative monetized results.

Listening more than anything, means looking the talker in the eye and paying attention, absorbing what they say. It does not mean, moving your head left to right, looking for something else to grab your attention. If I am not mistaken, it would be very annoying to you when someone else does it to you, correct….?

Feedback, feedback, feedback – VERY critical, for everyone…

It should not matter who is involved or where or for what reason; good, solid feedback and constructive criticism is of paramount importance for everyone.

You want to be better at your job, right?

You want your staff to be better at their jobs too, correct?

Then feedback is needed. No one is exempt from not receiving feedback. It should never matter, as long as it is done respectfully and in the vein of helping to improve the other (or yourself), of who is giving/receiving the feedback.

It should not matter if the other person is older or younger, straight or gay, male or female, senior or subordinate, colleague or stranger, etc., etc., etc. As long as the feedback conversation is done openly, honestly, above-board, with no hint of malice and, again, with respect – then no one should have any problem with getting useful and beneficial critical feedback.

Giving or receiving this kind of feedback may hurt a bit at times but it has to be done to raise one’s abilities to a higher plateau or risk being stuck on the same plateau for months (or years), going nowhere.

Conclusion

There are quite a few things that make a successful leader but as I indicated previously, this paper only scratches the surface with a few of the long list of notable aspects.

A successful leader is also not afraid to say “I do not know.” This is a valid response because no one knows everything on every topic – no one is a subject matter expert on everything today, simply because there are too many topics with too much information for anyone to be that knowledgeable. Now, if there is someone like that, my hat is off to him or her.

Just because you do not know something is not necessarily a bad thing. But, if you do not know an answer to a question or issue, your very next statement should be “I will find out and immediately get back to you.” So do not fret or run yourself into the ground out of fear due to not knowing something. Do not be afraid to say you do not know – just go find the needed answers, the best possible answers.

A successful leader:

  • Looks out for their subordinates – you are willing take the hit and the blame for failures and mishaps. On the other hand, you generously parse out shares of credit for jobs well done,
  • Is willing to mentor and share knowledge and to help out when the need arises,
  • Is tough when it is necessary, even if it hurts one or many of those around; it is something that has to be. But, just because that successful leader is tough, it should not mean that leader is not level-headed. The successful leader should be fair-minded in all of his/her dealings with everyone around them and ‘not’ playing favorites because of looks, or age, or race, or political leanings, or what college someone went to. Being fair-minded means what it is implied, being fair-minded,
  • Thinks, continually, about the common good and goals for all, sometimes even at their own expense…

To those unaware, for which this will be a kicker, lastly and most of all – successful leaders and leadership does not require that one have any specific title to lead successfully. Anyone can be a successful leader through their actions, their words and with their heart – as long as whatever they do is true.

A successful leader will be apparent to those looking and observing, if that observer can take their own ego out of the equation…

Diplomacy & Communication

Diplomacy

Note, this writing is not on national and international diplomacy but rather on the ‘use’ of diplomacy in any setting, any engagement – from business settings to team building (work or sports), even to relationship settings (man and woman, boy and girl, man and man or woman and woman). This is a small attempt in discussing how the use in any of those settings (an incomplete set listed) can and should be successful.

Make no mistake; diplomacy is not a Sunday drive. Diplomacy takes a massive effort on the part of everyone involved. Diplomacy is not a one-way street nor can it be construed only as my way or nothing at all.

We need good people, not the richest people, or the most attractive people, or those who might have gone to the best schools (ala the “ole boy network”). We need good people who can be level headed and look at all sides of a problem or issue at hand.

Money and looks should not play any part whatsoever in diplomacy, just the earnest and honest use of working or being with someone (yes, I am looking through rose colored glasses but there you have it).

We need good people who are:

  • Intelligent – not necessarily a Brainiac but is aware of what he or she knows and does not know,
  • Measured,
  • Studied,
  • Able to display Commonsense and
  • Collaborative – a word I use a great deal because it should be a requisite for everyone at all times,

We do “not” need nor want people who are:

  • Combative,
  • Constantly seeking the limelight,
  • Full of One-upmanship and
  • In your face

Being diplomatic in dealings with others does not always necessitate going through a formal school teaching diplomacy. Do you believe that everyone who has ever been successfully diplomatic in dealing with others always received formal training through some sanctioned institution…? I am not discussing how to have a proper place setting or who should stand where or who should enter / leave a room first. I am simply discussing how people should be interacting with each other to successful outcomes.

You do not need formal diplomatic training for that role…

Being diplomatic in life and work can stem from being aware of a situation, being able to communicate – to talk to others at a decent and respectable level (not condescending or patronizing) and experience in different walks of life. Note, the aforementioned is not a complete list.

Sometimes, those coming from humble beginnings are enough of a jump start to their being a successful diplomatic person life and work.

 

Communication

Communication skills are a prized aspect of anyone and something every person walking the planet should work on – daily and hourly. These skills will open the door to multiple successful engagements and will never let you down.

Successful communicators attempt to:

  • Talk to people at their levels,
  • See themselves, looking through the other persons’ shoes, to see the other’s perspective,
  • See, not just look, but to really see what is going on, right in front of them

Collaboration and Coalition

Having a good to great person in a position of diplomacy should boil down to who can honestly, intelligently, critically and judiciously work with one or more parties to an issue and talk it out, collaborating and compromising on a quality outcome for everyone. The outcome should not end up being a goal insidiously beneficial to one party. The outcome(s) should never favor one group more than the majority. The majority plays a significant role in society.

However, yes, the majority should normally win but there are a fair number of situations where a minority needs to have their voice heard and their rights looked after. Examples of those situations are Gay rights, Minority rights, the poor and workplace gender discrimination.

These few examples, to this day, still require their minority voices raised above those of the majority who:

  • Only see through tunnel vision,
  • Are myopic and/or
  • Narrow minded

and often times believe their way is the only and best way (i.e. religion).

You want more illustrations? Take racial / gender inequality or choices of sexual preferences:

  • Slavery,
  • Suffragettes,
  • People like Harvey Milk (former San Francisco mayor) and / or
  • Chinese who were also used as slave labor in the past.

These groupings have been pushed to the back or swept under the rug for decades or centuries. Just because the majority, of the past (and today), may not want men and women of those groups to enjoy full equality and full happiness – it is wrong to deny them the simple pleasures of life that those in the majority enjoy and quite likely take for granted…

If you look back at any era of history, the oppressors were always the ones in power, dictating life’s outcomes – that is a fact. The SOLE reason to oppress or suppress people is the will to remain in power with the adjunct reason of gaining ever more power (and money).

Oppressors and Suppressors have sought to control:

  • The thoughts of the people for centuries (i.e. the Church and slave owners)
  • What people could access for knowledge (i.e. again, the Church and slave owners)
  • Who could meet who and where and when (i.e. during the days of slavery)
  • Who had the right to vote and work and to marry (i.e. Women and Blacks and Asians) 

We need more people who are consciously willing to speak for all in collaborative settings. But, in talking about being collaborative and building coalitions to work within, I am not talking about Machiavellian machinations. We do not need someone to work in that manner behind our backs in secretive sessions.

So, be aware, even if the majority does prefer some viewpoint, they may not necessarily gain that viewpoint.

Critical Thinking

Critical thinking is a topic that I have brought up multiple times in other writings. Critical thinking is a significantly necessary side of anyone, not just the leaders in any group, but of everyone in many situations. We desperately need more people in all walks of life, not just government (where they are sorely, sorely needed) but in military, business, education and health care.

One must be able to take in as many variables as they can about the situation at hand; what happened, who were the people involved, what were the various reasoning’s for their individual actions, where did it occur, was money involved, was politics or religion driving factors, was it racially motivated, was it greed or jealousy, etc., etc., etc.

One has to be able to logically, objectively and critically think through a situation and no two situations are alike.

Problem Solving

This is another topic that I believe anyone and everyone should have or strive to obtain. Gaining the capability or capacity to do a good job at problem solving should be the top of everyone’s list of things to do.

Another prized aspect of problem solving (as well as in critical thinking) is the ability to extrapolate out into the future multiple realistic scenarios of what might and could occur, rather than dreamy possibilities.

Cognitive Diversity

This is another area that more people need to develop better skills in, cognitive diversity.

Having more and varied life and work experiences to draw from will aid in your being successful in your daily dealings with anyone and everyone.

Having a varied educational background will help you in being a better person. Look at Colin Powell, Hillary Clinton or Madeleine Albright; these individuals all had varied backgrounds to draw from and did not have formal diplomatic training before they entered their jobs of being diplomats. Of course, they did obtain formal training after taking over their role of Secretary of State, you know – who stands where, who leaves the room first, who to talk to the most or the least, etc., etc.

Successful individuals in any area using diplomacy (not just international diplomacy) are those who are able to communicate clearly and succinctly, without the babble and mumble jumbo of being duplicitous.

These same individuals also should have the capacity to deal with the internal demon of cognitive dissonance. If individuals, or you, should encounter a situation, which causes discomfort or tension due to conflicting beliefs on the issue at hand – we all hope that the winning belief is the right one for all concerned.

Dignity & Respect

Everyone everywhere deserves dignity and respect in life and please note I am certainly not including criminals (war or just breaking the law) here. A diplomatic person, in their travels, should strive to honour even the poor and uneducated with dignity, just as they do with the very educated and the wealthy and powerful.

As to respect, everyone deserves to be respected – until they no longer prove that they do not deserve that respect. It should not matter how old, young, senior or junior the other person is.

It should not matter if the other person is male, female, poor, rich or what race they are nor should it matter if they are straight or gay – everyone deserves respect.

And if the other person loses your respect, you ‘still’ need to successfully do your job – see it through to fruition and then move on.

Honesty

Do I really need to embellish on this topic…?

 

Conclusion:

We need to have in place, in more organizations, in more government agencies and in the military, individuals who are willing to lead the way and do so in a fashion that all people can understand and follow – with open eyes and mindset.

We need to have in place individuals who can be or become successful change agents, who are willing to be in the midst of getting something done for what is right, not just because there is a vocal minority or a majority who is not more educated on the issue at hand.

Individuals who are successful diplomats and communicators, in any endeavor, should be ones with heart and honor in order to aid anyone and everyone, anywhere.

 

Successful Leadership

Strategy 

Creativity

Leadership

Type A individuals

Communication

Respect

Leaders

 

Successful Leadership

What does it take to be a successful leader eh? Is it being:

  • autocratic,
  • dictatorial,
  • never listening to anyone but yourself or
  • looking down your nose and patronizing everyone else

The answer as you might well know – is none of the above.

 

Being a successful leader encapsulates many, many things, too many to enumerate here. I am only including some of the more well-known and best indicators, in my eyes that is, from years of watching and observing other successful leaders.

Many people have written books on this topic and I only wanted to jot down brief notes on this. I do know there is far more that could have been included here.

 

Strategy 

Successful leaders need strategies to remain such a person for years to come. The best strategy is to listen to those around you, which is the very reason why you hired others.

  • Listening is the best medicine (strategy) but you could possibly adapt but you have to do it judiciously and with an open mind. You should listen, intently, to what others have to say but you must take everything with a grain of salt and judge whether what you heard makes any kind of sense and is potentially useful. You do not just dismiss everything others tell you. Listen to your junior staff members as well as your more experienced members – they just might surprise you with a relatively new or unique way of solving a problem or improving a product line.
  • Collaboration (a very favorite theme of mine) – a lot of folks talk a good game about this and working together with others but don’t wholeheartedly and actually follow through in the mistaken belief that they do not need anyone else to be successful, as if they always know the answers and solutions to problems/issues. Surprise, you do not, no one knows all the answers and here is where I say again, go back to the first bullet in this section – listen to others. But when you do collaborate, share the credit, better yet, parse out that credit to all the other members, let them have the lime light for the success and on the flip side, take the fall for failures – shield your team, your company from the bad spotlight, protect them.
  • Learning from failure – this one goes without saying or it should. We do not just become successful by being lucky, we also become successful when we fail and learn from that failure. As a leader, you have to let people fail and hope they ‘do’ learn from that failure rather than failing time after time and not learn anything, causing a serious loss of operating expenses… People sometimes need to fail and you, the leader, may have to bite your tongue and let it happen
  • Stop being reactive and try very, very hard to be proactive in all matters. Getting ahead of the curve, in as many areas as possible, is the best scenario to undertake.
  • Being innovative in as many ways as possible to boost your firms bottom line will show significant dividends in ways you may not have forecasted. Yes, you may have to spend more money upfront but – do you want to ‘not’ spend money upfront and waste your staff members’ productivity? If you provide for more ergonomic chairs, keyboards, more powerful PCs, better networking infrastructure (100Gbps links, better WAN optimization, document de-duplication [instead of everyone sending and resending the same doc to each other wasting bandwidth and server space], better lighting [full-spectrum instead of the mind and soul sapping depressing yellowish florescent and dull white] – I can just keep going on this one. Being innovative also means, for the brave, being disruptive to gain that edge – not reckless disruption but disruptive innovation that brings good, solid exponential growth
  • Being innovative might even mean, treating your staffs to surprise breakfast pastries now and then to perks such as training classes [the good classes and not just the plain vanilla boring CBTs they already know and not helpful to their careers]
  • Being empathetic to others who work for and with you is another perfect strategy – and not being standoffish, aloof or whatever else you may believe yourself to be
  • Look for creative sparks in others – in addition to when you are attempting to ignite creative juices of your own. Many believe they not do have that potentiality of being creative at times but they do, they all do. They, or you, just do not know what that moment of creativity will occur. You have to go with the flow and let serendipity take its course and encourage creativity

 

Creativity

Light up your creative juices and bring along all of the cognitive diversity skills that you can bring along. I mention this in the preceding section; get the creative juices flowing in your teams. Try to get them (and you too!) to be thinkers as well as doers in solving problems.

If you see people at their desks with their eyes closed, please don’t automatically assume they are sleeping… They might be trying to get to a sweet spot of thinking and creativity for whatever they are working on.

As it is, many, if not most, firms do not have quiet rooms or nap rooms where employees can take a break to get rejuvenated, away from hectic and chaotic environments.

 

Leadership

Leading is about listeningand being in charge, smartly.  It is about communication, insight, respect, integrity and ethics.

Leading is also about courage and by this I mean a leader must be willing to learn from others around him/her (I’ll just be using ‘his/he’ after this point). It is about being the ‘buck actually does stop here’ when things go wrong. Then too, it is about sharing the credit when things go right! Leading is about setting the right example! If you do a good job, those around you may like it and will attempt to emulate the examples you are setting. Trust me on this count, it does work – just do a good job. Don’t tell people to do what you do, just do a good job and others will likely follow your example(s).

Yes, you are the leader but, if you as a leader cannot learn from those around you, believing that you know all the answers – you have already failed. No one knows all the answers and you should not be afraid to listen and learn from those around you. This is your team. They are your backstops, just as you are theirs. You must also not blow smoke, beat around the bush, mislead or lie about things going on that affect your team, your customers. I am not saying your team is always right, of course not but, they may have an aspect that you could use. They, or you, may have an insight that could be useful for that project, that task or some effort down the road.

Being a good to great leader means being a thought leader too. You are what you present to the company, to your teams and to the public. It is in your demeanor, your character – the way you hold your head up when you walk and look others in the eye. And being loud, brash and outspoken is not always the best way of leading – many successful leaders are quiet and understated…

Being a successful leader means that you are not afraid to listen to those who may be smarter than you, in multiple areas, yet you still listen to their input. And it should not matter who these folks are, whether they: have a different sexual preference than you do, are older/younger, nerds, of a different race or male or female. They all have a voice and a voice that might mean the difference to success for the organization.

Being a leader means that your handshake and word is your bond – at least that is what it means to others I have encountered over the years and for myself. It is too bad that so many people around the world have sullied that aspect, reducing it to lip service, rendering it meaningless in lots of circles.

By this I mean those folks who say they have an MBA to gain a leadership role in some firm when they do not, they only lied about it and were eventually found out later. Or those who state they have a Masters’ or even a Doctorate when they only made it up and printed out the certificates at home. These individuals make promises that they have no intention of keeping or knowing full well that they cannot come close to some successful agreement. These people are simply braggarts.

You may have read or heard me talk about integrity and ethics before (many times) but I cannot emphasize these enough. These two are corner stones of what makes an individual and leaders specifically must have these two aspects. To me, they are not only corner stones but are the foundational bedrock of a person.

For the time being, as we all observe daily, we still have ethics issues around the country… In all levels of life!

 

Type A individuals – we don’t always need or want an individual who will drive themselves into the ground, or worse, drive those around them into the ground needlessly (or worse still – intentionally). Sure, some of them end up being very successful, while many do not. And look at the cost of these folks.

Many of us have seen and worked for this type of person. We have far too many Type A’s ruining the lives of others or causing those team members to leave that company for what is hopefully a better workplace elsewhere. These Type A’s are individuals who think they know all the answers while no one else does. Or that no one else really matters. To these Type A’s, the end goal is everything – no matter what transpires in getting to the goal.

As a result, the staff working for that leader may end up providing answers the leader wants to hear and not the answers that should have been provided. Just to keep the leader happy.

Why can’t we have more Type A leaders who actively use moderation? We need leaders who are willing to critically listen to feedback and possible answers and use that information, not just toss it out when that team member leaves the room. We need leaders that can recognize when they are stressing out their team and others around them. We need leaders that can recognize when to slow activities down and when there is the need to move things along a bit faster.

 

Communication

All good leaders have got to learn or know how to communicate, whether it is speaking or writing – a good leader has “got” to know how to communicate to the team; subordinate, equals and that person’s own leadership.

Good communication means that that leader conveys valuable, timely and effective information to all who needs it by ensuring that:

a) The communication has “got” to include enough nuances to ensure the message is coming across as intended.

b) That leader knows his audience and is aware of how he crafts his message(s) to ensure it is received as intended (see below).

c) That leader needs to determine how best to craft and send his message because some people in the audience prefer written information, while others prefer getting that same info verbally – or even visually.

Sometimes, saying more is too much. Sometimes, saying too little is bad. The point is, one has to be aware when one is talking too much as well as being aware when the message is not coming across to the various levels of the audience.

By that last statement, I mean that, as much as is possible, one has to know who they are addressing;

1) Educational levels of the audience,

2) Cultural backgrounds,

3) Age ranges,

4) Economic levels,

5) Gender

6) Etc.

Sometimes, delivering bad news info requires that a leader will also need to know how to do that eloquently, elegantly, respectfully and with dignity…

 

Then we come to Respect.

Respect is a two way street but it has to be earned. I personally am happy with everyone using first names, regardless of titles, as long as everyone respects the position they are in and that others hold. Respect should be earned and not used without any forethought.

I ‘do’ realize these are my own observations and desires but they are ideas and ideals I prefer. As a result, I continually try to get those around me to try to follow these principles:

a) Show respect to each other, and yourself, as much and as often as possible – do not take others for granted,

b) Listen, constantly and consciously, not as an afterthought,

c) Show courage, especially when you have failed in some task or endeavor – you only learn from your mistakes, you ‘must’ learn from your mistakes to grow

d) Provide insight, useful insight, whenever possible to ongoing tasks – use some of that cognitive diversity that each of us has (we all have different learning’s, different backgrounds and different experiences) that can prove beneficial and most of all

e) Leaders encourage others to speak up, especially the shy team members, the non-confident team members so their voices too can be heard.

 

Leaders

Leaders also know right from wrong – or they should, even though we continue to see so many leaders in the news around the world with their hands in the cookie jar or doing something so egregiously wrong.

We probably need more ethics classes, not just in college but in high school, junior high and likely, even grade school. It should be a mandatory class/course – and repeated a couple of times along the educational track, using real world examples. And yes, I need to say it, we need to expand ethics classes/courses in the workplace – private companies, city, state and federal organizations too, that is, those not currently doing so.
Successful leaders are not made up of liars and those who do not give 100% of themselves. These successful leaders engage and share and collaborate (yep, I used it again) and they look to the future and not just the right here and right now…

GREAT leaders have ethics and character and useful charisma, the type that encourages others from all walks of life to follow them without asking them to. Not the fake charisma where the individual in question is only looking out after their fortunes and not helping others.

GREAT leaders tell you the truth, even when it is bad news. GREAT leaders make time to talk to the mail room clerks, the front desk receptionist and even have good words with the cleaning staff.

GREAT leaders treat all those around them with dignity and respect because others are people too, people who like being respected and listened to.

GREAT leaders help others become successful.