You can always tell when a subject is important by the volumes of books and articles published about it, and by the many speakers or “experts” who claim to know about it. Leadership is one of “those” important topics about which there is no shortage of information. But despite all that has been written or said concerning leadership, there are still some important areas that are all but ignored. They make up what I like to call the Rodney Dangerfield (“I get no respect”) subcategories of the leadership topic.
Below are four of these Dangerfield topics that are important for leaders to understand and incorporate into their leadership styles.
- Leadership always comes before management.
After four decades as a business owner (and observing thousands of businesses) it’s surprising how many owners and their key employees don’t understand the importance of this basic leadership principle. The fact is, in order to be successful, leaders must create a vision for where they want their businesses to be tomorrow based on where those businesses are today.
In other words, leadership plots the success destination as well as the steps needed to get there. Without this kind of leadership, effective management won’t exist; because managers don’t have the knowledge of what is important, what the expectations are, or what the leader’s definition of success is, to name just a few examples. Leaders have to create an environment for success and if they don’t even the most skilled managers will underperform.
The leadership to management one–two punch is one of those realities that has to be understood (and not just in business, as it relates to sports, politics, medical procedures, and so on). If this one–two combination isn’t understood, a business will underperform at best, and will more than likely fail.
- There are more of them than there are of you.
In most cases (but not all), leaders have a group of people over whom they preside and for whom they are responsible. The key word in this concept is “people.” We all know employees come in all shapes and sizes, as well as with different temperaments, aptitudes, attitudes, and competencies. This means that if you want to make your organization operate smoothly and work as a team, democracy cannot be the order of the day.
Successful leadership is dictatorial in nature. This is because leaders have to state the way they want things done, what to expect, and how everyone should treat each other, the customers, etc. The ‘rub’ here is that once these expectations are stated, they then have to be enforced — continually. Compromising on this type of enforced discipline shows weakness in leadership and results in the “tail wagging the dog” situation. This in turn means a loss of control, which leads to less-than-expected results and a poor job performance on the leader’s part.
As Steven Covey says, leaders have to “educate, motivate, and entertain” in order to move a department and its employees from “here to there.” However, in my opinion, Covey should have added being dictatorial and uncompromising because in order for a group of people to operate as a “well oiled” team everyone has to do what is expected of them — and do it well — consistently or the team concept breaks down and underperforms on expectations.
- Great leaders create other leaders.
Very few of us can achieve success on our own; we need others to help us in order to do so. The importance of this reality is often overlooked, but it’s a fact of a leader’s life. The more effectively you can teach others in your group to become leaders themselves, the faster the group will perform at the expected level and move past the expectations for its success.
The good news here is that leaders are not born, they are created. I learned this from my experience in business and from sports. Talk to or read about great leaders and you’ll find great mentors in their past, or a situation that forced them into a leadership role, which eventually led to the realization that they couldn’t have gotten to where they are without other leaders’ help and support.
The disconnect for some leaders is that they fail to realize the power of creating additional leaders to help them get to where they want to be. This fact may seem obvious, but in reality most leaders don’t take the time to think about creating other leaders, who they are, and the benefits they will derive.
- What if you’re wrong?
Leaders make mistakes — it’s just life as a leader. This is because success is often achieved and created through some sort of failure. There are lots of books, articles, and speakers talking about the importance of learning from mistakes. To this there is no argument. However, far too many leaders make decisions and move forward into implementing them without thinking about the consequences that might occur if they’re wrong. The reality is, a decision is never made in isolation, and there are consequences to any decision — both good and bad.
Great leaders learn to take advantage of opportunities they create or develop in the marketplace, but they also take the time to understand the consequences of those decisions. Understanding the possible negative effects of a decision is not only the right and the smart thing to do, but is an offensive move as opposed to sounding timid or defensive after the fact. The reality is, understanding the possible negative consequences of a decision actually helps minimize the potential damage and can quickly stabilize the situation. That’s because the leader is aware of what the signs of failure are and can act quickly and decisively to minimize the problem. He or she can also find ways to turn apparent failure into some type of success.
© 2013 Bill McBean, author of The Facts of Business Life: What Every Successful Business Owner Knows that You Don’t
Bill McBean, author of The Facts of Business Life: What Every Successful Business Owner Knows that You Don’t, spent many of his nearly forty years as a successful business owner in the automobile industry where, among many other achievements, he purchased several underperforming dealerships and turned them into a successful business enterprise with yearly sales of more than $160 million. Since selling the company to the world’s largest automotive retailer, AutoNation, McBean has been involved in several new businesses, including McBean Partners, an investment and business mentoring company, and Net Claims Now, which provides administrative services and support to the restoration industry.