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The 11 Commandments of Leadership

Okay, "commandments" is a little strong, given that they are so often ignored. Still, truly effective leaders tend to adhere consistently to these eleven commandments. However, these are not answers to a test; they are a way of thinking and feeling about the leadership role. They are listed here with short descriptions; the order denotes no particular significance.

1. Get comfortable being uncomfortable. Being in charge requires a certain set of skills and experience — but it also takes courage. You don't need to like being uncomfort-able, but you must accept that it is part of the job if you truly care about results. You don't have to wear a scowl and you can be a caring human being, but sometimes the pursuit of high performance requires you to confront situations or people in ways you would prefer to avoid.

2. Work is not about you… It's about what must be done. Employees are not there merely for you, or to do your bidding (and if they are, that is a burden you should be wary of and a dependency unhealthy for the employer). You represent what must be done, objectively. When the work becomes personal, you may be too subjective. Take the time to regain objectivity before reengaging.

3. Results matter — always. Every meeting, every project, every assignment. Everything you do should demonstrate the clear focus on achieving results. It must be clear not only in what you say, but also in how you act.

4. Management is 90% thinking and 10% doing. Most people are promoted through specialist or functional work where this proportion is closer to the opposite. But managing others — getting significant results through other people — requires thinking. Follow this difficult advice often: "Don't just do something; sit there!" (And think.)

5. There are no random acts of management. That is, everything you do as a manager is perceived as planned and having a purpose. Consider that who you have lunch with, if it involves subordinates, may be perceived as having unintended motives. Thus, make your actions less random.

6. People will make important what you pay attention to. While this may seem obvious, without thinking it is very easy to distract or misdirect people by paying attention to unimportant things. First, figure out what is important, and then pay attention to those things... all the time.

7. Make BIG jobs. Big jobs grow people. Empowerment has become a trite term, used effusively by many. Some of these empowerers like to "hold people accountable" without delegating authority; they merely empower others to take the fall for bad results. Other empowerers prefer anarchy, letting workers do what feels right, without providing necessary direction. Making big jobs is about creating specific expectations for significant outcomes (not tasks). And good managers make these outcomes big and important.

8. You can only respond to behavior. As human beings we often try to intuit the motives and attitudes of others. We may even be right at times, but as managers we can only respond to that which we actually observe. Effective leadership requires that you deal directly with specific behaviors or results that are relevant to the situation.

Although leadership involves influencing how people think about the work, you can only respond to behavior... what they actually say or do. You cannot know how they feel, or what goes on inside their mind. Trying to respond to perceived motives or assumptions is always arguable and is likely misplace the focus away from the work and results.

9. You don't have to respond to everything. Your time is best spent dealing with things that are important. You will observe many behaviors, including some you don't like: grousing, complaining, whining, etc. Your job is to identify and respond to behaviors that are barriers to achieving results — and NOT responding to behaviors that have no impact. Responding to insignificant things wastes your time, and encourages people to focus on irrelevancies instead of results.

10. Think before you act or speak. This is based on all the other commandments. Make critical thinking a habit — your behavior should be a product of your thinking, not the other way around. Avoid just reacting... always take the short time to think first.

11. Reflect and learn. People become effective leaders and managers through practice — reflecting on the results of their efforts, and refining those efforts as they learn.

Next time we will share examples of managers who apply these guidelines in achieving real results.


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