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Leadership Attributes: How Do You Stack Up?

by Rand Golletz

Note From Rand

By the time you read this, the regular season in baseball is over, and we’re into the playoffs. As I write this, however, there are still two games left in the regular season. My beloved Baltimore Orioles are likely going to get a wild-card slot. A month ago, I was convinced they were dead … oh me of little faith. A couple of years ago, I wrote about their manager, Buck Showalter. He gets more from a team than almost any manager I’ve ever seen.

Two sports legends made the headlines at the end of September. Arnold Palmer died. I didn’t know him, but a couple of my friends did. I’ve heard many stories about how this man – the man who made golf a sport followed by the masses – treated everyone, no matter their place in society, with more than dignity and respect. He treated everyone as a friend and was a great example. I know many executives who, for whatever reason, deal with people solely based on what those people can DO for them.

The other was Vin Scully. Vin was the voice of the Dodgers for 67 YEARS. He is a testament to the importance of loving one’s job. His broadcasts were uniformly brilliant, and for that he has been cited as the most important broadcaster in the history of baseball. In Vin’s first year of broadcasting Dodger games (when they were the Brooklyn Dodgers), Jackie Robinson was in his fourth year with the team and across town in the Bronx, Joe DiMaggio roamed center field for the Yankees.

This month’s column discusses the attributes of effective managerial leaders. Several years ago, I crafted this framework for a Fortune 500 CEO. While in total it documents the “perfect” leader, the attributes are all those worthy of your aspiration. I welcome your comments about their importance, or as to whether you agree with their inclusion.

I’ll see you in November. As always: Get real, get tough, and get going! Go Os!

Leadership Attributes: How Do You Stack Up?

One of the most popular ongoing debates of the last twenty years concerns the distinctions between management and leadership, and the relative importance of each to organizational success. John Kotter of the Harvard Business School once cited “alignment” as the most critical difference. Effective leaders, he said, engage the hearts as well as the minds of followers to produce productive organizational change. Warren Bennis, perhaps the most quoted and revered expert on the subject, promoted a similar notion. Jim Kouzas and Barry Posner, whose book The Leadership Challenge remains the most frequently referenced work on the subject, outlined the five best practices and ten commitments of effective leaders. In Marcus Buckingham’s book, The One Thing You Need to Know, he says that the one thing great managers know about managing is this: “Discover what is unique about each person and capitalize on it.”

As the promotion of leadership became more pervasive, the importance of management (planning, organizing, staffing and controlling) took a back seat, and its sex appeal diminished. Little wonder, considering that grand visions and emotional engagement are much more stimulating than planning, organizing, staffing and controlling.

Here’s what I know for certain: Effective leadership and management are both required to set appropriate direction and achieve planned results. One is expansive; one is reductive. One is about doing the right things; one is about doing things right. One sets the course; the other steers the ship. Some people are more effective leaders; others are more effective managers. Take either away, and any organization is doomed.

I believe that managerial and leadership success requires seven key attributes. While no one achieves perfection in all of these areas, most effective managerial leaders understand their own strengths and limitations explicitly and make sure that the latter do not accrue to their own or their organization’s detriment. I crafted the following framework for a Fortune 500 CEO. I believe that it captures the critical elements of managerial leadership. See if you agree.

Strong Business Orientation and Understanding

Exhibits outstanding acumen and judgment. Thinking of the needs of stakeholders comes as second nature. Achieves results. Never uses excuses. Has a clear understanding of the anatomy and competitive dynamics of the business. Focuses on most critical areas. Balances short and long-term priorities across constituencies. Understands the principles of value creation.

Assumes Accountability, Initiative and Leadership

Has a strong desire to lead. Assumes initiative, even in the absence of formal authority. Keeps apprised of the important operating level details of the organization without impairing empowerment. Is assertive without being overwhelming. Builds a competitive team focused on creating value, not on creating bureaucracy. Merit rather than politically driven. Raises expectations of performance continuously. Delivers on commitments. Objective. Identifies and prevents potential problems. Can accept and learn from personal defeats. Cuts losses.

Energizes Teams

Aligns teams to achieve organizational and team goals, not protect personal interests and/or prerogatives. Facilitates conflict resolution and genuine communication. Cultivates commitment, loyalty and trust; doesn’t expect fealty; understands the difference. Really listens. Provides feedback that is constructive and in real time. Coaches and counsels in a productive manner. Helps people discover and achieve their potential.

Transforms Organization

Has a clear vision and the courage to change, not only run the organization. Has a raging impatience with the status quo. Creates urgency and consensus around change initiatives while recognizing that giving people a say doesn’t necessarily mean giving them a vote. Willing to experiment and challenge her/his own thinking. Asks penetrating questions that reframe perspectives and undermine preconceptions. Is flexible and yet riveted on mission and goals.

Employs Sound Judgment and Action Regarding People

Selects and profiles people objectively. Very adept at recruiting and developing. Personally secure; relishes hiring and promoting high achievers. Promotes based upon merit; “leapfrogs” people where appropriate. Is a tough minded (but not hard-headed) performance evaluator.

Has Superior Curiosity and Thinking Capacity

Thinks multi-dimensionally. Learns about global issues related to own industry/organization as well as the world overall. Perceives the patterns of external change and integrates them into her/his own thinking. Is intellectually curious and open-minded.

Employs Emotional Intelligence

Self-confident but self-deprecating. Has a realistic assessment of her/himself. Controls or redirects disruptive/destructive impulses. Has the capacity to suspend judgment, to think before acting. Understands the impact that her/his moods, emotions and actions have on others. Understands the distinctive emotional make-up of others and is skilled in treating people considering their reactions. Builds rapport.

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