By Rick Draker
Pressure to perform, to generate revenue, to create success, and to keep the organization healthy and moving forward in today’s competitive and still recovering economy is the plight of most leaders.
Setting the right example, doing more with less, motivating staff, ensuring necessary resources to do the job, maintaining trust with employees and clients, managing ever-constant change, keeping on track with goals and objectives, and much more are integral to the leader’s job.
So, what does it take, what skills are necessary for a leader to survive and be successful in today’s business environment, or tomorrow’s?
The Art of Good Leadership
Interesting in the answer to that question is this: looking back over the past 2,500 years, skills practiced by figures who made their mark on the world are remarkably similar! From Cyrus the Great (600-529 BC) to Attila (AD 406–453) to Genghis Khan (AD 1162-1227) to President Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865) to President Harry S Truman (1884-1972) to General Norman Schwarzkopf, Jr. (1934-2012), to former Secretary of State Colin Powell (1937- ), leadership skills have not changed much. Differences are discernible only in words used to describe the skill, the principle or its application.
So, what are these skills, these arts of leadership, of which we have to be reminded, seemingly more so in this time and place in our history? The leadership skills listed below are representative, not exhaustive.
- If you are put in command, take command; make decisions that are yours to make; take responsibility.
- Lead from the front.
- Have a clear vision, and clear goals and objectives; pursue that vision with determination; never lose sight of the desired result.
- Surround yourself with capable people equal to or more capable than you; respect advisors whether you agree or not.
- Set high standards of performance; hold people accountable; be intolerant of non-producers.
- Prepare well for an event or action.
- Be a good communicator. Provide well thought-out ideas and directions and be persuasive.
- Practice self-confidence and self-reliance.
- Know yourself well. Emotion plays little or no role in decisions. Control anger and frustration.
- Never stop learning from mistakes, from successful actions, from the experience and achievements of others.
- Share credit; reward success and good performance.
Leadership Common Denominators
So, which of our seven world leaders possessed these skills or have had these skills attributed to them.
The answer is: all of them! There are differences in how or under what circumstances these skills were practiced, but, still, there is a commonality.
Here we are with 2,500 years of examples, and still an interminable need or want to re-invent, to restate these and other leadership skills in different words or in different circumstances. The volumes published on leadership and management in the past 50 years attest to this: Drucker (1954), Kouzes and Posner (1987), Peters (1988), Kotter (1990), Bennis (2003), and, Burns (2010), and many more.
Perhaps the complexity of the business/political world we now inhabit is the driver of the myriad instructional volumes on leadership. This world is ever-changing, more competitive and ever-more Gordian with its labyrinthine challenges. This complex environment demands perhaps not only a re-statement of centuries-old proven leadership skills, but a further development and explanation of these skills, and how best to apply them.
This article started with the question: “…what does it take, what skills are necessary for a leader to survive and be successful in today’s business environment, or tomorrow’s?” If history is any teacher, possessing the skills exhibited by notable world leaders is part of the answer. But, more is demanded by the relentless and rapid changes of our world.
Paramount is the need for greater levels of individual and team competencies and skills; the need for strategic collaborations (Jericho Principle); the acknowledgement of the need to succeed in a marketplace that is no longer just regional; and, the realization that “muddling” through is not a valid approach in most cases. Not least, is the need for an individual with those leadership skills forged in the crucible of time who can reconcile, coordinate and direct the spear points of those skills to a successful and profitable conclusion.
Rick Draker, chief operating officer of Draker Cody Inc., has more than 30 years of experience in operations management, organizational structure and project management.