Take a Time-out
Many leaders are massively inquisitive; they delight in ambiguity. But your job is to distill the world's complexity into a vivid path to the future. If you're not clear in your own mind, you won't be clear to the people who are trying to follow you. You can't lead unless you can conclude. And you can't conclude if you don't make time to think.
Practice Your Storytelling
As a leader, you must practice over and over what to say to describe where you're taking people. After you've found the right words, stick with them — in emails, in meetings, in speeches. Doug Degn, head of Wal-Mart's general merchandise, uses seven words to describe his customers: "the people who live paycheck to paycheck."
Show Us Your Hero
Your hero is the person in your organization who clearly embodies the future. Praising that employee helps people see the future more clearly. But you have to make clear whom she serves, what strength she embodies, what score she has achieved, and what action she has taken. That makes a very clear leadership statement.
A version of this article appeared in the March 2005 issue of Fast Company magazine.