The Real Work of Leaders

Leading begins when the performance of others becomes top priority.

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The real work of leaders:

  1. Create environments where people love coming to work. I just got off the phone with Jim Whitehurst, CEO of Red Hat, and author of, The Open Organization. I’m summarizing some of his comments in the three bullet points that follow.
    • Manage interaction and model the way. Organizations are people not organizational charts.
    • Great results are the result of great relationships. You don’t have to choose between the two.
    • Provide context. Help people see how they fit in. Purpose motivates.
  2. Describe shared vision in the short-term and long-term. Vision gives meaning to work. Meaningful work inspires energy, commitment, and fulfillment. It’s difficult to feel excitement over things that don’t matter.
    • Where are we going in the next three months? Vision is the picture. Goals are the steps.
    • Where are we going with the distant future in mind. How does short-term vision align with long-term? What matters now?
    • Spend more time on the next three months than the distant future. It’s within your control. The distant future is too distant to guide an immediate decision. You need a near future to make immediate decisions.
  3. Exemplify values.
  4. Share information. The need for secrets reflects inequities. (Apart from trade secrets and conforming to guidelines for publicly traded companies.)
  5. Energize positive emotion. (An often neglected leadership behavior.) “Just do your job,” doesn’t work with smart, talented people who are doing jobs that require brain power. 5 steps to positive environments:
    • Define “positive environment” with your team.
    • Describe negative behaviors to avoid.
    • Identify and reward behaviors that produce positive environments.
    • Evaluate progress every month.
    • Adapt and start again.
  6. Bring up issues others avoid.
  7. Develop talent.
    1. Affirm strengths.
    2. Offer training opportunities.
    3. Provide stretch assignments.
    4. Give feedback. (More than you think is necessary.)

What is the real work of leaders?

What work should leaders do less?