Thursday, January 24, 2013

Two Words on Leadership

Next in the series on Leadership. Two words.

What two words can I use to talk about the foundation of leadership, the traits of leaders, and the path to start you on your way to leading?


Lots of folks waffle before they act. Hem and haw while thinking through all the angles. Oftentimes, a little debate can help in decision making. Just don't let it cripple you. Don't take days to decide something that should take an hour. Avoid going into a week-long black hole while your staff is wondering what the outcome will be. Leaders act swiftly.

Leaders make the best decision they can, with the best information they can gather, as swiftly as possible. Maybe they don't know 100% that something will work, but they have a strong sense of intuition (and experience) that guides them.

Colin Powell has a great presentation on Leadership that is favorite of mine.

He uses a P = 40-70 rule. P = Probability of success and the numbers indicate the amount of information you have. So if you have less than 40% of the information, not a good idea to act. If you have more than 70%, you've most likely waited too long. Between 40-70%: Go with your gut.

Obviously in Colin Powell's former position (and the military in general) waiting to act means life or death. Procrastination with the goal of getting more information and lowering your risk of making a mistake actually increases your risk by taking a lot of time.

I used to have a manager that would take FOR.EVER. to make a decision, finally decide something, then two days later bring the issue up again, debating the answer that was already made. It was maddening.

When you do this, your staff gets confused. As their leader, you should evoke a sense of confidence and certainty on behalf of the entire team. You may be faking that confidence sometimes, but your gut tends to be fairly accurate.  And, yes, you can always change your mind. This is not about sticking to your guns at all cost. It is about trusting your gut and using momentum in your favor.

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