In April, GE's CEO, Jeffrey Immelt, expanded on his top 10 leadership tips. At the same time, we asked Fast Company readers what they have learned about successful leaders, and Editor-in-Chief John A. Byrne expanded on the time he spent with Immelt and his predecessor Jack Welch. Here are some of the best responses Fast Company received.
Loretta Cochran: The one most important thing leaders need to do is fully delegate. It is critical to delegate both authority and responsibility and then stay out of the way. Presumably, you hired your staffers to be the experts on things you don't have time to manage at the detail level. Let them do what you hired them to do and always be available when they need guidance.
Denise Senter-Loyola: Communicate a clear vision for what constitutes success and help the members of their organizations understand specifically how they can contribute to the achievement of that vision.
Lucero Limon: Be consistent and fair.
Vijay Vashee: Listen, listen and then once more listen. Half of the problem has been solved or the opportunity is understood when you have listened effectively.
Robin Mayer: Get out of the way and let staff do their jobs.
Daron Sandbergh: Be able to define and communicate a vision.
Allan Schoenberg: Given the rise in crises the past few years, I believe the number one issue facing leaders is crisis management. How do leaders build trust during and after a crisis event? How do leaders avoid a crisis? How do leaders provide support and reassurance? Crisis events are becoming acceptable in the business world. In fact, a recent study by Burson-Marsteller revealed that 81% of CEOs fear damage to their company's reputation from a crisis event. What are leaders doing to prepare and lead during a crisis?
Hugh Cunningham> The most important thing a leader has to do is serve.
Darge Gonzalez: Listen and act. Leaders need to actively listen to their customers, management teams, and associates. If you allocate genuine time to this, you'll be in a much better position to lead towards the Utopian goal:
- Happy customers who receive the service and/or product they desire.
- An invigorated management team that has a stake in the business and feels connected to the organization
- Associates who are engaged and part of the community that delivers this sought-after service and product.
John Trakselis: Leaders develop a vision, along with others, get buy-in of the vision, execute according to the vision, and hold themselves and everyone else accountable for achieving the results of the vision.
Joel Orr: Love. By showing respect for the natural rights (to life, liberty, property, pursuit of happiness) of all — employees, customers, shareholders, the community.
Glenn Poy: Communicate a clear direction and foster the culture.
Moniqua Suits: Listen, discover, and communicate.
Patricia Blackwell: They need to know the strengths and weaknesses of each employee as well as their character. Skills can be taught, but character will always shine through.
Stephen Ryan: Understand their people better — especially what really motivates and energizes them.
Jimmy Chillis: Leaders must have a vision for the organization, a vision that includes all stakeholders' best interest in a more perfect light.
Robert Dato: The Law of Leadership states that leadership is the exercise of power to execute responsibility. As an equation, Leadership = Power x Responsibility. Leaders with much power but little responsibility are narcissistic tyrants. Leaders with little power but much responsibility are impotent martyrs. Superior leaders have an equal balance and high degree of both qualities. The most important thing leaders can do is maximize their power and their responsibility. To maximize power, one must maximize strength and dominance. To maximize responsibility, one must maximize compliance and commitment.
Des Mackle: Inspire followers. Make decisions. Give recognition. Open doors.
"DGFrank": Leaders need to help schools and colleges understand the skills that are needed for their company to survive. Their human resources people need to work with the schools to let students know what skills are required for the jobs of the future. When it becomes more important to educate students properly, then the workforce will be better prepared.
Karri Kline: The single most important thing for Leaders to do is "to know thyself." I am the best leader I can be when I know my own motivators and my own communication and decision-making styles. When I am aware of my own inner-workings, I am a better listener, participant, facilitator, manager, and leader. When I know myself, I am at choice about my actions. I am congruent. My walk matches my talk.
Bud Edwards: Find, groom and train his/her replacement.
Susan Luke: Leaders at all levels need to be very aware of the daily role they play in shaping the understanding of strategy and values to guide decision making throughout our organizations.
Marc Fey: Lead with integrity — "integrated" so that those you lead know who you are, that you are consistent from the inside out.
Brenda Nolan: Lead, not manage.
Sean Slater: Recognize the people who may have put you into that leadership role and have continued to support your vision.
David Vargas: Be aware that they are leading. Sometimes, I get so involved in what I am trying to accomplish that I forget that others are watching and waiting for me to give direction. Don't get me wrong; I am not doing their work. I set aside strategic planning projects that sometimes take weeks, and I lose track of time.
Olu Olanrewaju: Set the tone for your company and walk the talk.
Alfredo Delli Santi: Leaders need to make leaders.
Rene Meldem: Say what you do and do what you say. Create the right environment for people to learn from their mistakes. Listen with you ears, your eyes, and your heart.
Kathy Dechant: Be honest and open with employees.
Marcus Barber: Understand that consolidation can be as important as growth; that downsizing invariably is a lose-lose strategy and an admittance of poor management practices; that strategic planning requires the involvement of staff, suppliers, and customers; and that it is blind faith in self-knowledge that leads to a folly in decision making — excellent leaders have exceptional foresight, something lacking in most senior managers.
Debbie LaBarba: Listen.
What do you think? Sound Off and add a comment below. Let's keep this conversation going.
A version of this article appeared in the June 2004 issue of Fast Company magazine.