By Frank J. Rich
Few if any see themselves as anything but special, at least in some ways. The “positive affect” is born in the human spirit and encouraged by both physical and emotional attributes that increasingly are evidenced in multiple behavioral studies. The effect is not only evident in ourselves, but it is, not coincidentally, our desire for the significant others in our lives—parents, religious figures, partners (all kinds), and leaders. Our desire to see others as special is rooted in our sense of belonging, what Abraham Maslow identifies as the third “hierarchical” need in humans. So strong is it that we usually, and near automatically, put our trust in societal leaders hoping that their brand of “special” will deliver our hopes in real terms.
In the workplace none is positioned so uniquely as the CEO. He or she is keeper of the flame in most organizations, and not surprisingly the one on whom most depend for the decision-making that leads to both organizational achievement and individual fulfillment, despite the current flock of imposters in the news. The model of an effective CEO may rely on three key strengths for the leadership necessary to group effort. Under each is a long list of characteristic behaviors. Only some will appear on this printed page; the rest are online at www.townlink.com/news and views/ROI.
Strength of self-mastery, of action, and of relationship, as suggested by Laurie Jones, OD consultant, author, and speaker, are the pillars of successful leaders. Under each is a list of the qualities that empower leadership and results. See if you can identify your leader (and yourself) among them. While you’re at it see if you can identify the CEO Laurie had in mind.
Strength of Self-Mastery
1. He knew the power in the “I am” model. That is, he knew that we must “be” the person we wish to become or accept mediocre results. To register commitment requires that we openly express our achievement goals. We do not solve problems we don’t have; thus the first of the 12-step process used in so many “help” programs is the declaration “I am.” Whether the abuser, abused, or achiever on any front, we are seldom as good on paper as when openly accountable to others.
2. He stuck to his mission. When we have our mission firmly in hand it’s difficult to be distracted and submit to opportunism, where everything that looks good is an opportunity. Many are unaware of their mission, their purpose; and consequently confuse real opportunity with titillations.
3. He believed in himself. Confidence may be the greatest asset of a leader. It is founded in the belief that ordinary beings can and do achieve great things, and not in the view that the greatness is in the leader. We cannot be of two minds and expect purposeful achievement.
4. He took ownership. Everything we have has been given to us; even original thought has its cousins. If the CEO is truly the “servant of the house” then s/he is shepherd of the peoples’ assets. Leaders feel the full measure of the inheritance that is theirs; and the responsibility that attends it. The achievements and the failures are meant for the same purpose—to humbly serve.
Strength of Action
1. He saw all things as living. When we see opportunity in all things and people the possibilities for them are limitless. No artifice, we must first believe before we see.
2. He took action. The shear force of action taken by leaders has more than the effect of their words or deeds; it takes on life through others, multiplying its affects as they go. Good leaders play their hands several cards ahead.
3. He had a plan. “Fail to plan, plan to fail” as the saying goes. Good ideas have the brilliance of gold, but like gold lose their luster (value) when not put to work. When we get comfortable with the sound of thought, the clamor of productivity gets louder.
4. He formed a team. The inaudible sound of leadership whispers: “follow me.” We cannot change the world alone.
5. He called out the elephant. Good leaders confront issues, and they know when to do it. CEOs have to be good at calling out the question that is hanging in the air.
6. He saw things differently. When we see beyond “what is” to “what could be” and “what should be” (to make a difference in the marketplace) the potential for achievement rises dramatically. Are the iPhone and iPod just a phone and music player, or a way in which to make the use of such tools exciting and fun?
Strength of Relationships
1. He gave others a vision greater than themselves. We all hope for a better reality; leaders who offer it have a great gift to give, and usually lots of followers. Our significance is magnified by a clearer image of it. The best leaders are visionaries.
2. He said “Yes” to all things. When we embrace others, their initiatives on some level, we say “Yes” to them and to the things important to them. No CEO says yes to all decisions, but the good ones always say yes to people and their sincere efforts at achievement.
3. He empowered women. The imbalance between men and women in business remains, but it’s changing. Better than 50 percent of startups are lead by women, it’s nearly the same in medical schools, maybe because patients prefer them. Good leaders don’t turn away energetic and talented people, regardless of gender.
4. He was transparent. When we hide things from another we are saying one of two things: we’re better than they, or we don’t trust them. If we appear distant from others, closeted, it is harder for people to identify with us. Leaders practice full disclosure, and delight in relating their experiences to others.
5. He was the servant of the house. It’s what separates great leaders from all others. Good managers ask only two questions (ultimately) of their reports: “How’re you doing with the ‘thing’ we agreed you would do;” and, “What can I do to help?”
6. He viewed others as his greatest accomplishment. So many CEOs leave their organizations in poor shape, not in market terms but in the collective ability of their staff to carry on. Few would choose this legacy (viewing others as the greatest accomplishment) because too few fail to see their people as their greatest accomplishment.
Frank Rich is founder and CEO of Encore Príst International, an organizational development company that helps individuals
and organizations reach their full potential through the practice of effective business fundamentals. You may reach him at
firstname.lastname@example.org, or by phone at 866/858-4EPI.