How Do You Measure Up as a Leader?

Leading is easy, the hard part is getting people to follow.

- Yogi Berra

I have recently been attending tributes to Warren Bennis and book signings for his wonderfully personal and wise recent book, Still Surprised: A Memoir of a Life in Leadership. Warren is always on the short list, if not at the top, of authorities on leadership in the world. On a personal note, he is my mentor (as he has been to hundreds of other lucky mentees during his career).

As he is introduced and then when he speaks, it is clear that the audience deeply trusts, believes, has confidence in, respects and enjoys (if not adores) him. As I leave these events it occurs to me that the key to effective leadership is evoking those experiences in followers.

How as a leader do you engender those feelings in those you lead? Here are several tips that would do it for me and that would cause me to sign on as an enthusiastic follower:

I. Trust

1. Speak the truth – People will forgive an honest mistake, they won’t forgive you if you lie.

2. Do what you say you’re going to do – Follow through means never having to say you’re sorry.

3. Be consistent over time - Don't just be a flavor or the month.

4. Be transparent and candid along the way – As Louis Brandeis said, "Sunshine is the greatest disinfectant;" never be hesitant to let it shine on you.

5. Take full responsibility for the consequences of your actions and those of people working for you – The buck stops with you, don’t pass it.

6. Have your people's backs - Stand up for them in public, stand up to them in private, stand by them in crisis.

II. Confidence

7. Be clear and concise – As opposed to confused and confusing.

8. Be declarative about your intent - It was the Declaration of Independence, not the Explanation of Independence.

9. Be prepared to the best of your ability – Don’t shoot from the hip and don’t be afraid to say you’ll get back to us when you don’t know, but then get back to us.

10. Know how to get things done – By getting the right people in the right positions, doing the right things.

11. Have a track record of already getting things done that produce positive measurable results – And for the benefit of others (vs. your own ambitions) that you represent

III. Respect

12. Know what’s important and what isn’t – Have the wisdom to know the right the thing to do, the integrity to do it, the character to stand up to those who don’t, and the courage to stop those who won’t.

13. Don’t do anything in front or behind people’s back that would make others ashamed of you – When possible, have your personal house in order (you can still lead if people discover your having engaged in personal indiscretions that don’t substantively and negatively affect them, but their positive feelings for you will be sullied by wishing you hadn’t).

IV. Enjoyment

14. Be comfortable in your own skin – Comfort and discomfort are contagious.

15. Put a smile on other’s faces – And cause others to feel that they put a smile on yours.

16. When you smile, have it touch your eyes (and when possible your heart) – The eyes are the royal road to the soul and not a bad lie detector.

17. Don’t take yourself too seriously – Laugh at yourself and the world laughs with you and not at you, and we could all use a good laugh.

18. Listen well – Be more interested in your people and your customers than you are interesting.

For those who think the above are too soft and being a great leader is only about results and the bottom line, what kind of performance do you think you will get from people if instead of instilling the above, you trigger: Distrust, Doubt, a Loss of Respect and Dislike*? In fact, why not hand out this blog to your stakeholders and have them anonymously rate you on the four above categories and eighteen subcategories on a scale of: 1 to 3, where 1 = rarely, 2 = sometimes, 3 = frequently?

* One of reasons that leaders who engender Trust, Confidence, Respect and Enjoyment motivate and inspire us is that they narrow our Mirror Neuron Gap.  And one of the reasons that leaders who do the opposite trigger resentment and resistance is that they widen it.  The Mirror Neuron Gap is the difference between how much we psychologically adapt to and care about the needs and desires of others and how much we experience others as psychologically adapting to and caring about us.  Read more about this at: Narcissists, Neurotics and Mirror Neuron Gaps and at: Failure to Communicate and Close the Mirror Neuron Gap.

Now some great news to share with you if you are a fan of my book, "Just Listen," and prefer to listen rather than read.  It was recently released as a digital audiobook and has already achieved best seller status and been featured in the itunes store and if you prefer to use a kindle, it has been #1 on Kindle under Office Skills for more than a month.

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