Creative Leadership

10 Important Tips For Leaders

Writer Fay Vincent shared 10 Tips for New Executives in the Wall Street Journal recently. While they were designed for new CEO’s taking over high profile positions, when I looked at the list I realized that these were powerful insights that every leader needs to consider. I’d encourage you to read the entire article, but for a brief synopsis, here’s the 10 tips:

1. The less you confide in others in the organization, the better it will go for you. What you intend as harmless chatter can do serious harm. Keep your speculations and worries to yourself.

2. Be sure to manage down.  Spend time with the lower-level employees in your company and try to be decent to all of them. A polite greeting to the elevator operator, a thanks to the mail delivery person and a kind word to the assistants will be appreciated. The making of reputations begins at the ground level. Similarly, keep the ugly aspects of your day to yourself. Do not shout.

3. Leadership is a full-time job and the duty clock is never off.  Every little sign is being read and your impatience, disappointment or insecurity will be magnified by those who pass along their readings of you. There is no time for casual and unplanned candor, and messages must be sent only when carefully thought out. Be especially careful about what you put in writing, especially emails—they never disappear.

4. Keep listening to and for advice.  Have lunch at least once a week in the office cafeteria, or make a point of dallying near the coffee station, and listen to what others are talking about. If someone wants to speak to you, there is every reason to listen. If criticism is offered, take time to respond with care even if you don’t agree with it.

5. The wisecrack you believe is witty often is not.  Your sense of humor is easily misread as patronizing and clumsy. If you still think that telling a joke or relating a humorous story is somehow important to making a point, run it past your spouse or a trusted friend first. Humor can be risky. Never joke about serious matters.

6. The important thing is to be sure that the important thing remains the important thing.  Explain your strategy frequently and then rephrase it and repeat it.

7. Never complain; never explain.  No one listens. Take the blame if something goes wrong. Do not blame mistakes on prior administrations, the weather, bad luck or your competitors. But don’t appear defensive. Look forward—unless your resignation has been requested.

8. Trust your professional advisers and accept their expertise.  Try not to second-guess the market. There is no such thing as perfect data about anything. Make decisions and move on.

9. Be careful about the use of the word “average”—one can drown in a river the average depth of which is six inches.  Taking comfort in what’s “average” offers a false sense of security. Assume that the worst might happen, because often it will.

10. It’s a cliché, but true: Never do or say anything that you would be unhappy to see written about on a newspaper front page.  In dealing with the media, avoid answering hypothetical questions, remember that the microphone is never really off, and never agree to speak “off the record.” The only worthwhile public response to a crisis is honesty.

This is the kind of list you should refer to again and again.  Any particular thing on the list stand out as something particularly important for you?

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  1. Agree that leadership is a full time job, and in many ways great leadership should be more on who you are by yourself than who you are with the crowd. The CEO’s mood on a board meeting is always a reflection of how he appreciated the breakfast his wife prepared for him. 🙂

  2. #6 is is most important (by definition!). I don’t like the way #2 is stated (“manage down”), but the point of treating everyone with respect and kindness can’t be overstated…

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