ShutterstockThe makings of great leadership have been analyzed for centuries. Marcus Buckingham, in his best-selling book " The One Thing You Need to Know: ...About Great Managing, Great Leading, and Sustained Individual Success ," aims to pierce through that complexity with one simple maxim:
To be a great leader, you must find what’s universal, and capitalize on it.
Unlike managers, who are concerned with the incremental growth of individuals, Buckingham says leaders “rally people to a better future.” In order to unite large groups around a single vision, leaders find success by filling universal human needs, he says. Chief among them is the need for clarity.
Leaders are able to provide clarity in four basic areas:
1. Who the organization serves: Clarifying the audience calms employees’ anxiety about trying to please everyone, he says, and focuses their thinking. That focus gives them greater confidence in their decisions.
2. The core strengths of the organization: While defining competencies may help allocate resources, more important is the emotional rather than rational response, Buckingham says. It gives employees reason to believe they will win, which fuels their persistence, resilience, and creativity.
3. The organization's "core score" or measurement of success: Leaders should tell followers which measure they should focus on and provide a benchmark for success, he says. To limit complexity, it’s best to choose just one metric to highlight, he notes, and oftentimes improving that core score buoys several others.
4. Immediate actions to take: Talk and theory only go so far. At some point, leaders must act. Those actions provide clarity about what’s important to you, and encourage your people to follow suit. Be they systematic or symbolic actions, they establish new behaviors, emphasize select priorities and clearly show the better future you envision.
From barnesandnoble.comOf course, for a leader to provide clarity, they must clarify their own thoughts. Buckingham suggests taking plenty of time to ruminate on success. Additionally, he advises that you carefully select those employees that you hold up as examples of success, because who you celebrate and why reveals much about the future you are trying create. Finally, practice and refine your message to its simplest, most powerful form.
Interestingly, Buckingham believes leaders are in many ways born and not made, saying that unflinching optimism and powerful ego are the talents underpinning all great leadership.
“Properly defined, the opposite of a leader isn’t a follower,” Buckingham writes. “The opposite of a leader is a pessimist.” Talented leaders are able to clearly see the obstacles they face, he says, but still firmly believe they can overcome present challenges to create something better.
And in opposition to some leadership theories that exalt being humble and quietly powerful, he says having vision isn’t enough. You have to believe that you are the best person to see that vision out and that requires ego, Buckingham says. Great leaders must have the confidence that they are worthy trailblazers and can find the answers along the way.
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