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Posts Tagged ‘Leadership Traits’

Leadership Traits: Organization

Organization is the last of the 15 Leadership Traits, but is by no means the least.  Being organized is conducive to whatever it is you’re doing, it ebb and flow.

You have to develop your own style of organization in order to operate.  I’ve known people who could whip a document out of a jumble of paperwork that’d been sitting on their desk for six months without even thinking about it.  Most of us, including myself, need pigeon holes with labels.

Basically, you need to manage the who, what, when, where, why, and how of your time, space, and matter.

Time

Work time from a calendar.  Know what you need to be doing, and where you need to be, with what, when.  It’s best for your calendar to have adequate space for annual, monthly, weekly, daily, and hourly notations … in some lifestyles, it wouldn’t hurt to have space right down to the minute.  This can be cumbersome to carry around.  I carry with me a small pocket calendar, and a piece of paper for taking notes, then transfer what I need to into the more comprehensive system I have at home.

Take 30 minutes a day to organize your time.  Take 10 minutes at the start of the day to review what you need to accomplish.  Take 20 minutes at the end of the day to transfer notes, and set up the next day.  Take this time to write a synopsis of your day in a personal log, or diary; this technique is beneficial on many different levels, but for the purposes here, it gives you a broader future reference of what you’ve done.

Space

A cluttered space indicates a cluttered mind, and is difficult to negotiate during a fire drill.  Managing your space is directly related to managing matter, keep things put away.  Utilize vertical space to keep things off the floor.  Arrange things with ease of access, and flow of traffic in mind.  Filing cabinets, shelving, and drawers or tried and true space management systems.  If you have too much stuff to have a place for everything, either get rid of what you use least, or box it up and put it in storage.  It’s hard to chop an onion when your kitchen counter is cluttered with 2 crock pots, a popcorn maker, an espresso machine, a mixer, a juicer, and spare parts and tools used from an old vacuum cleaner you were working on last year.

Matter

Rule of thumb … if you pick something up, particularly a piece of paper, either throw it away, or put it away and stick a label on the space.  Don’t get back to it later, or your kitchen counter will be cluttered with 2 crock pots, a popcorn maker, an espresso machine, a mixer and a juicer, and some tools and spare parts from a household maintenance project from the previous year.

Till next time, remember, you are fantastic.

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Leadership Trait: Knowledge

I wont say Knowledge is unimportant as a Leadership Trait.  I will say Knowledge is over rated as a Leadership Trait.  If you’re hired in as a consultant, then Knowledge is crucial to your job, because a leader is eventually going to call you for consultation.  In a leadership position, interpersonal skills are more impotent.

In a leadership position, your knowledge base needs to be more general.  You need to know intimately the who, when, where, why, and how of your mission.  It’s good to know exactly how to construct a widget, but if you don’t know exactly how you can always ask someone.

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Thomas Edison

Thomas Edison, one of the most prolific and effective inventors in history, lacked a formal education … except for three months worth.   The story goes that Edison became embroiled in a law suit over his own competency, despite his achievements.  To prove a point, the attorney for the opposition put Edison on the stand, and asked him to describe how he would go about determining the volume inside one of his new fangled light bulbs.

“Well,” Edison said, “I’d probably make a hole in the top, fill it with water, then measure how much water it held.”

That wasn’t good enough for the lawyer.  That lawyer hounded Edison to give him the mathematical equation appropriate for determining the volume of light bulbs.  The conduct of questioning frustrated Edison … which was the lawyers objective.  The response Edison gave the lawyer is historic:

If I had to know the formula, I’d hire someone to tell me.

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Harry Truman

Folk lore tells us that there is an expletive lurking around in there somewhere, though I doubt  Edison would hazard himself with contempt of court.

Harry Truman was Franklin Roosevelts Vice President for political, rather than practical reasons.  There seemed to be some doubt as to his abilities when he took over the Oval Office.  His reply to nay sayers was this:

It’s like magic.  If I don’t know the answer to a question, I push this little button on my desk, and suddenly there appears some expert who can give it to me.

What I’d like to leave you with from this module is this rule of thumb, either know the answer or know where to find the answer quickly.

Till next time, develop those interpersonal skills, because you are fantastic.

Leadership Trait: Endurance

Lead by example!  I’m sure we’ve all heard this adage before.  ‘Lead by example!’ isn’t a leadership trait, by the way; it’s a technique.  Leadership by example leads to exemplary leadership, and needs to be a subset of any leadership style you chose to use.

If you want your children to be studious, let them catch you being studious.  If you want your employees to be efficient, let them catch you being efficient.  If you want your spouse to be loving and dedicated, let them catch you being loving and dedicated.  Your time may be better spent doing things other than constructing widgets with the crew out on the floor.  However, you need to be doing those other things in the same manner as you want your crew constructing widgets.

Exemplifying the Leadership Trait of Endurance is no different.  In fact, it’s probably the most conspicuous, the most spontaneous trait followed by subordinates.  If you want your people to show up early and leave late, then you show up early and leave late.  If you want your people to work hard all day, then you work hard all day.

Knowing that the boss is going an extra step, or two is a great moral booster.  Working under the impression that the boss is not even running all the way up to the line is a great moral breaker.

Till next time, be followable, because you are.

Leadership Trait: Respectfulness

I’ve had a difficult time getting this one worded out.  I was, more or less, compelled to write out an endless list of ‘dos’ and ‘don’ts’; ‘Don’t go around robbing banks!’, ‘Don’t chew with your mouth open!’, ‘Shut the door, people will think you were raised in a barn!’

The thing is, if you want to get the best out of your people, you have to have their respect.  You don’t get peoples respect by winning a position.  The old saying, ‘You may not respect me as a man, but you’d better respect my rank!’ is a cop out for a lazy leader.  Respect is earned, and respectfulness is a learned trait.

Many, many moons ago I was probably the youngest active police officer in the State of West Virginia.  The micro town of Cairo, out in the middle of the North Bend State Park wilderness, needed to double the size of its full time police force for the upcoming Fourth of July festivities in 1978.  The city counsel was desperately running out of time, as they were unable to get the position filled.  They chopped down candidate requirements to: 1) over the age of 18, 2)having a heartbeat, and 3)fit into the uniform shirt from the previous law enforcement officer had turned in after deciding to explore alternative employment opportunities … fitting into the shirt being the most critical criteria.

They called back the chubby little volunteer emergency services dispatcher from up North a ways, along the East side of the Ohio River, in a slightly larger town called Sistersville, who’d just graduated from High School … me.  I hustled down to Cairo, buttoned up the shirt, and received the quickest promotion from recruit to sergeant of which I’ve ever heard.   I lasted about a week.  After the Fourth of July festivities were all said, and done, I was politely informed that my services were no longer required, and wished good will and good luck in my future endeavors.

Two or three days into the job the Mayor called in a complaint to the Water Department … the Police Department shared a telephone with the Water Department; not office space, just the phone, and, the Water Department had priority over the use of the telephone.  Though we were given the privilege use the little table on which the phone sat to write, our office was a brief case kept locked in the trunk of the police cruiser.  So, the Water Department guy hands the Chief of Police … the entire other half of the police department … the telephone.  The mayor, on the other side of the line, was upset.  There were a bunch of High School age kids in a parking lot across the street from his house setting off fire crackers prematurely, according to an ordinance issued by his office and supported the city council … and he wanted names.

The old Chief of Police had just poured himself a cup of fresh coffee, so he really didn’t want to bother with the issue.  Lucky for him, there was young Cairo P.D. Sergeant Henthorn standing in front of him with a happy face on, suggesting that the Chief finish his coffee, and allow the Sergeant to take care of the situation.  Figuring that he had no alternative but to turn me lose on the tax paying public of Cairo eventually, and sooner rather than later, the Chief reluctantly granted me leave to take care of the situation myself.

In a flash, I was out the Water Department door, and jumped in the drivers seat of the big, old boat of an antiquated police curser with bad shocks.  I hustled down the hill with the little bubble gum machine on the roof  turned on, making a faint ‘zzzzk! zzzzk!’ noise as the little red light with the mirror behind it rotated.  I didn’t turn on the siren, however, because it only worked intermittently, and sounded silly.

A few minutes later, I cruse into the subject parking lot, and pull to a stop with the car still bouncing from going over the curb ramp.  I threw open the curser door, tossed out the stub of the stogie  on which I was smoking … for effect, you know … hopped out, grabbed my night – stick, shoved it under my utility belt (because they didn’t have one of those ring things to hold it), took my little note book, and pen from my breast pocket, loosened up my arms, took a big breath, and said, “OK!  Everybody!  Line up!  I need everybodys name.”

Those kids looked at me, frozen in the act of whatever they were doing before I suddenly dropped in from outer space, or where ever it was from where I came.  I can’t even describe the look on their faces … surprise, maybe, I don’t know.  Then, all of a sudden, and in unison, they giggled, and then they laughed, and then they all just walked away, leaving me standing there, confused, holding my pen to the surface of my little notebook with my nightstick awkwardly tucked under my utility belt.  I got in trouble for allowing those kids to just walk away from the scene without getting one name written down in my little note book, and I was new in town, so I didn’t know what names to write down because they didn’t tell me what their names were.

I can look back on this incident 30 some odd years ex post facto, and laugh.  However, this was one of the most humiliating, embarrassing moments I’ve ever experienced while it was happening.

In hind site, I accomplished the primary objective of my mission … get the kids to stop setting off fire crackers in the parking lot.  However, if I had already developed the trait of respectfulness, I would not have a story to tell at this time, but I would have been much more effective.  I may have even been able to get a couple of names to make the Mayor happy.

Respect is something you have to earn.  You can’t just throw on a shirt with Sergeant stripes sewn on the sleeves, and expect people to respond accordingly.  You have to earn your stripes.  What it takes to earn your stripes is also dependent upon the expectations of the group in front of you, not just the group above you.  A good rule of thumb is to endear yourself as far down the rank structure as you can reach.

As a Battalion Commander during WWII, Chesty Puller personally delivered Thanksgiving Dinner to Marines of his unit in foxholes under fire (probably the origin of the term ‘Puller Luck’, the act of walking around in a combat zone and not getting shot, or at least not getting shot very bad).  To this day, Marines would follow Chesty Puller into Hell, and he’s been dead for 50 years.

You don’t even have to hazard yourself so dramatically.  Recently, I was working in a warehouse.  We’d just gotten a new General Manager for the site.  Moral was low in general due to several factors.  On this particular day, moral was very low, and we were running behind.  Without saying a word, the new General Manager got on a fork lift, and started loading trucks.  Magically, the crew started working more faster, more better, more eager, and got caught – up rather quickly.  From then on, if a crewman has the chance to say ‘Good Morning!’ to the General Manager, they generally mean it, and if they happen to disagree with a decision he has made, they generally don’t refer to him as a turd.

Till next time, develop rapport with your people, earn their respect, because you are spectacular, and deserve it.

Leadership Traits: Accessibility

I heard a cute story once.  Here it is:

Early one Monday morning at 06:50 AM, Mrs. Versengetorex’ son, Poindexter, was still in bed.  Her son had to be at school no later than 07:30 AM, or he’d be late.  He’d just started this school three months before, and she wanted him to maintain a good reputation with the students, and faculty of the new school.

“Dexter!” Mrs. V. said sternly knocking on her sons closed bedroom door.

“What?” came a sad, muffled, mournful moan from the other side of the door.

“Get up!” Mrs. V. said, “It’s six fifty.  You’re going to be late for school if you don’t hurry.”

“I’m not going to school today.” came the loathsome declaration from the other side of the door.

“And why not?”

“I’m sick.”

“You’re not sick.”  Mrs. Versengetorex knew better, she’d been going this round with her son for many years.  “Get out of bed, and get ready for school.  You’re going to be  late!”

“No!”

“Do it now, Mr. Versengetorex!” 

Now, all you guys out there know, when Mom calls you Mister, or calls you by your first, middle, and last name, capitulation is just about the only option you have remaining.  However, there is one calling card left at this stage of negotiations which may turn the tables.  The Whining Assertation of Position Maneuver, which should only be deployed as a last ditch effort.

“Come on, mom!” Poindexter asserted, “None of the teachers like me, and all the kids at school make fun of me.  I just don’t want to deal with it today.”

“Too bad!” mother retorted, “That’s the way it is when you’re the Principle.  Get up and get to school.”

Poindexter had moved back to his home town to take the position of Principle at one of the schools, and was staying with his mother till he got settled.

I think the original intent of the story was to act as a kid of morality story for grade school children.  You know, even the Principal doesn’t want to get up and go to school sometimes.  

For the purposes of this blog, this story gives us a point from which to think.  What happens when the principle doesn’t show up.  Who coordinates things at school?  Someone surely takes the big seat, or at least tries to take the big seat.  Do they know all the ins and outs of running a school.  If they do, how long will it be before they get tired of filling the big seat without actually owning it?

If we’re in a leadership position, we need to show up.  Principle, general manager, supervisor, shop steward, parent, spouse, friend, we need to be there for our people.  We need to be available, we need to be accessible.

The need to be accessible goes beyond either being present on the job site, or sitting by the phone.  We need to be available, and accessible in another way … we need to be approachable.  The manager who is not approachable is usually, and if not, should be replaced quickly.

Here’s a story that isn’t as cute as the one above.  When I was running restaurants, we hired a particular person to take over as general manager for one of the stores.  He scheduled himself from 09:00 AM, till 05:00 PM, Monday through Friday.  That was fine, except his store didn’t start getting busy till around 05:45 PM, and the greater half of his business came in between Friday Nights and close of business early Sunday mornings. 

Furthermore, he’d left instructions with his people that he was not to be bothered after he left work for the day … unless the store was burning down.  Sadly, when he was on site between 09:00 AM, and 05:00 PM, Monday through Friday, he maintained the same profile … he sat in his office, and didn’t want to be bothered.  In addition to demoralizing the crew, the crew lacked guidance, and continuity … the person at the helm didn’t have his hands on it.  The store went from a nice profit to a big loss quickly, and the manager was given the opportunity to explore alternative employment prospects.

You have to be accessible to your people.

Till next time, keep reading the good stuff, because it keeps you fantastic.

Leadership Traits: Equality

What is important to you as a leader?  Is it the end result you have in mind, or is it something else?  Is it your objective to get the campers fedded, washed, and bedded at the end of the day, or is it your objective to promote some fraternal ideal … outside of the Camp Counselors Union, of course.  Hey, pass out fliers during your lunch break.

Your focus as a leader should be to accomplish your mission with everyone still able to make it home at the end of the day.  Keep any other agenda you may have inside your shirt till you make it out to the beer joint after work.

We here in the United States have experienced unprecedented prosperity, opportunity, power, and influence.  This is due in no small part to the fact that we have examined our selves, and the ideals and morals expressed in our formative documents.  We have fought amongst ourselves, kicked, and screamed, and bit till we got where we’re at.  We have expanded the concept, the ideal, of a few nations banding together to form a federation with bonds so strong one really can’t tell they’re leaving one and entering another without the benefit of a rusty road sign.  We here in the United States are no longer just united states.  We are the United Races, we are the United Religions, we are the United Genders, we are the United Creeds, we are the United Sexual Orientations.

This is obviously a soap box thing for me.  I’ll quit while I’m ahead and get back on the track of Personal and Business Development.  It just doesn’t matter, race, color, creed, gender, sexual orientation, none of it.  It’s my experience that if you want to get the job done, you put the best person you have available in position and turn them loose.  It’s called putting aces in their places.  Any other placement technique is digressive, and digressive activities eat away at your bottom line.

Till next time, I really want you to take a close look at yourself, and I want you to come to the realization that you are a spectacular individual capable of spectacular things.

Leadership Traits: Bearing

Thusfar we’ve covered 8 of the 15 Leadership Traits.  We now have 7 left, which brings us to …

Bearing … the word implies the direction in which an object is moving.  You can tell the direction an object is moving by external indicators.  You can quickly tell the general direction a car or boat is moving by which way the nose is pointed.

A persons bearing is also expressed by external indicators … clothing, posture, gait, speech, hygiene, attitude.  Although we have been conditioned not to prejudge a book by it’s cover, the blurb on the back still tells what the book is about.  Much the same as the book, or the car and the boat, our external indicators are expressions of internal influences … our content.

Who are you, and for what do you stand?  These may not be as plain as the nose on your face, but will show in the words you chose to use, the cloths you wear, the people with whom you associate, your mannerisms.  Your ideals, and morals are discernable, as are your direction and motives.

The importance of Bearing as a Leadership Trait is that leaders need to be followable.  The forklift driver needs to know that the ideals, and morals of the supervisor are such that they can get through the work day safely, and productively.  The forklift driver isn’t going to come up and ask.

Subsequently, the supervisor needs to know that the ideals, and morals of the project manager are such that they can get through the day safely, and productively.  The supervisor isn’t going to come up and ask.

And then the project manager needs to know that the ideals, and morals of the site executive are such that they can get through the day safely, and productively.  The project manager isn’t going to come up and ask.

So the site executive needs to know that the ideals, and morals of the chief executive are such that they can get through the day safely, and productively.  The site executive isn’t going to come up and ask.

Till next time, set your ideals, and morals where you want them to be.  They show up on your sleeve where you can’t hide them for very long, and, remember, you are fantastic.