What is Leadership?
We intuitively know how to be good leaders, but something gets lost in translation.
Having graduated from the University of Alabama and having one daughter who recently graduated and another still attending, it comes as no surprise to those who know me that I am a huge Alabama football fan. I have studied Nick Saban and his leadership philosophy. If you look at any successful organization, whether it is a business or sports team, leadership is the key driver that makes any organization successful.
Key Steps to Effective Leadership
I try to incorporate many of Coach Saban’s leadership principals into a business setting. In a recent article in Forbes.com, Monte Burke outlined Coach Saban’s leadership lessons. I find these lessons to be right on point with how I like to manage my sales team:
- Surround yourself with talent
- Create a process
- Manage the message
- Keep it simple
- Make investments in the future
If you look at this approach, it sounds pretty simple, but of course the hard part is the execution. This in my view is the difference between most of us and history’s greatest leaders. We all seem to know intuitively how to be good leaders but something always seems to get lost in the translation.
So How Do You Improve Your Execution?
First, have 100% belief in yourself and the self-confidence to know the course of action you are taking is the correct one. This can be best summed up in one word: decisiveness. Lee Iacocca said “If I had to sum up in one word what makes a good manager, I’d say decisiveness. You can use the fanciest computers to gather the numbers, but in the end you have to set a timetable and act.”
Second, have the ability to delegate and let people do their jobs. Theodore Roosevelt once said, “The best executive is the one who has sense enough to pick good men to do what he wants done, and self-restraint enough to keep from meddling with them while they do it.”
Third, execution requires taking ownership. As Harry Truman famously said, “The buck stops here.” Good leaders take ownership and blame when things go wrong. In my view, it takes real courage to take ownership. It’s always easier to blame others, especially when your boss is looking at you and wanting answers.
I remember as a small child going into a five and dime and stealing a small toy. My mother needless to say was furious. I’ll never forget how I felt when she made me take the toy back and admit to the manager what I had done. To this day, I think about that episode and thank my mother for the lesson that taught me about taking ownership.
Fourth, execution requires learning from your mistakes. Thomas Edison said, “Results? Why, man, I have gotten a lot of results. I know 50,000 things that won’t work.” You have to have the drive and focus to stay the course.
Good Leaders Lead Others to Succeed
The writings of Lao-Tzu pretty much sums things up: “A leader is best when people barely know that he exists, not so good when people obey and acclaim him, worst when they despise him. Fail to honor people, they fail to honor you; but of a good leader who talks little, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say, “We did this ourselves.”