Prague Twin

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Leadership

I am a horrible procrastinator. The upside of this is that I perform quite well under pressure. As an example, I've had well over a month to write a measly 4 page paper on Jon Krakauer's book, Into Thin Air, a gripping tale of the 1996 Everest disaster. I tore through the book within 2 days of receiving it and put off writing the paper until the final day. It is now 1am on the due date, and I've just finished. I even wasted all weekend thinking I would write the paper during that time (I did think about it a lot, which made tonight's task easier). So now I'm all wound up and I have to go to work tomorrow morning. Uhg!

Anyway, the point here is that I have a question for you. I rarely ask questions, so I hope you will all indulge me here. The assignment was to identify effective and ineffective leaders in the book. So without doing the background reading, I'd love to get your thoughts on this.

What characterizes an effective leader?

I will probably be quite busy for a while, so blogging will be sporadic in the meantime.

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13 Comments:

  • What says effective leader to me is the person who:
    Leads the charge from the front.
    Gives credit where credit is due.
    Asks for input from others and uses it to make thoughtful decisions.
    Does their homework on subjects of importance.
    That's my two cents.

    By Anonymous rockync, at 2:22 AM  

  • What says effective leader to me is the person who:
    Leads the charge from the front.
    Gives credit where credit is due.
    Asks for input from others and uses it to make thoughtful decisions.
    Does their homework on subjects of importance.
    That's my two cents.

    By Anonymous rockync, at 2:22 AM  

  • Sorry, that printed twice for some reason.

    By Anonymous rockync, at 2:23 AM  

  • To me, an effective leader assembles a team of effective people. The leader then lets the people pretty much do their own thing in getting results, subject to the leader's guidance. No micromanagement needed. People are smart and if you point them in the right direction that is often enough. Having faith that the job will be done right is also good.

    A can-do attitude, optimism, and enthusiam is important too, as well as a sense of mission. A leader who appreciates and likes those who he or she leads probably gets more done.

    Patience, a sense of humor, and perspective help a lot. An honest leader, who demands that he or she is surrounded by honest, law-abiding people helps solve a lot of problems.

    Effective leaders are fair, and encourage those who they lead to have a life away from work or the task at hand.

    By Blogger Publia, at 7:43 AM  

  • "What characterizes an effective leader?" Honesty would have to top my list. (2)An effective leader would put the interests of others before their own. (3) They would have to be willing/able to listen to others and use the information they get from them to make decisions that will benefit everyone involved. I think being able to say you was right, I was mistaken would fit in there too. (4) They would be firm but fair. I'm thinking Sun Tzu mentions that in his book The Art Of War, in my opinion a must read for an effective leader.

    God Bless America, God Save The Republic.

    By Blogger David Schantz, at 8:15 PM  

  • Effective leader does not necessarily mean good leader. Hitler was enormously effective and so was Gandhi. I agree with the other comments and will add charisma. This quality is very important in modern politics and is necessary for persuasion. Given that populations seem to require very little in the way of proven integrity and track record from a candidate before casting a vote, charisma has become critical for successful campaigns.

    By Anonymous expatbrian, at 1:14 AM  

  • expatbrian made a good point, in that, effective and good aren't necessarily the same. Everyone has made good points too, describing someone they would like to be lead by. In my opinion, a good & effective leader leads by example, recognizes the strengths and weaknesses of "the team", and delegates accordingly. Listens to advice, from the team, as well as other leaders. And acts in the best interest of the goal and the team at the same time. "Brings the team along", and helps each member of the team grow in responsibility. Intregrity and honesty are a must. Realizes he/she is part of the team, not just the leader, that the buck stops with him/her. Admits when/if they are wrong. Encourages the team, to bring out everyone's best. One who knows how to foster a spirit of cooperation within the team, so people work together to reach the goal - no back biting/stabbing is allowed.

    By Anonymous diane, at 5:29 AM  

  • What makes an Effective Leader?

    That depends on the situation.

    A Marine Corps Drill Instructor faces a much different task than a department head at Microsoft.

    Politicians lead in ways that would land business chiefs in jail.

    Business bigwigs lead in ways that would guarantee failure for politicians.

    Leadership Qualities! Honesty? You've got to be kidding. Show me one honest leader! One. Every leader lies whenever it advances the prospect of success. The lies may be clever or vague. But the success of group endeavors is impossible without lies.

    Give Credit Where It's Due? Please. Stealing thunder is a perquisite of leadership.

    Can anyone name a soldier who fought for General MacArthur? For Patton? For Westmoreland? For General Wesley Clark? No. Can anyone name a Microsoft employee aside from the top dogs? No.

    Does anyone except Steve Jobs work at Apple? Who knows?

    Much of leadership stems from the pre-conditioning of the those who are to be led.

    The Marine Corps has no place for independent thinkers. The Corps will discharge people who cannot follow commands. Thus, officers know their troopers will carry out their duties. In that setting, successful leadership stems from the uniformity of the subordinates and their conditioning.

    What motivates the subordinates? Allegiance to the group. And fear of failure.

    In that setting, a leader's job is well defined. The leader is the product of specific training, which is conducted separately from the training of subordinates. The separation between those trained to lead and those trained to follow enhances the success of both.

    In the nearly unstructured setting of an endangered group of moutain-climbers, an entirely different set of characteristics rule. Fear of the unknown takes over for some. Panic, in others.

    Does someone possess the strength of character and charisma to assume control of a group driven by fear of death?

    What does a self-appointed leader possess that will cause others to subordinate themselves? Confidence? Evidence of clear thinking in the midst of chaos? Physical intimidation? Ability to lie convincingly? Self-delusion?

    Probably all of it.

    A maxim many leaders understand is: Sometimes wrong. But never in doubt.

    By Anonymous no_slappz, at 4:05 PM  

  • It's ineffable. No one knows why Jackson inspired his men, who loved and trusted him, to greatness and McClellan didn't. Either you have it or you don't, I think.
    There are rules any manager would be wise to follow, but studiously following the rules doesn't make you a great leader.

    By Blogger Roger Fraley, at 4:36 PM  

  • roger fraley, you wrote:

    "Either you have it or you don't, I think."

    Fear of being cast out of the group drives people to follow the leader.

    You wrote:

    "There are rules any manager would be wise to follow, but studiously following the rules doesn't make you a great leader."

    Leaders of unions have led unions nearly to ruin. Many of those early union leaders are well known today.

    But in the union case, subordinates have seized power from capitalist leaders. In virtually every case, it's clear that union leaders have led union members in the wrong direction. Yet even today, union members blindly and mindlessly believe union leaders work for their betterment.

    Thus, lying works especially well in some cases. If wars were fought by generals who achieved the same long-term outcomes as union leaders, the US would have collapsed long ago.

    By Anonymous no_slappz, at 4:56 PM  

  • It's obvious that no_slappz has never had a nice boss, or a good leader directing him. I guess I've been blessed to have leaders who have listened to, and sometimes even used my suggestions, gave me credit where credit was due, had ethics and morals, and lead bt example, told me when I did a good job, and offered helpful suggestions when I didn't. etc... Maybe if n_s had had a better boss/leader he might not be so bitter.

    By Anonymous diane, at 5:46 AM  

  • diane writes:

    "It's obvious that no_slappz has never had a nice boss, or a good leader directing him."

    The obvious part is that your entire point of view is based on your own limited experience. That's called "anecdotal evidence" and offers no statistical validity.

    I've had great supervisors and lousy supervisors in my life. So what? I've worked in both small and large organizations. But my experience is irrelevant in the wider world.

    Like I said, bad behavior among leaders is the rule, not the exception. Almost every leader knows the value of fear among his subordinates. It is usually a good motivator. But many high-level organizations attract bold and truly self-confident employees who don't fear leaders who depend on intimidation to lead.

    Meanwhile, can you name a national political leader who isn't plagued by hypocrisy and ridiculed by millions?

    Consider all the contenders for both the Republican and Democratic nominations. Is there even one who is viewed with respect? Or free of obvious and profound defects? No.

    However, do their evident shortcomings mean they lack the capacity to lead the country politically? No.

    One of them will win the next presidential election. Will history praise that person? Or reduce that person to human rubble? Yet some deeply flawed person will get the job.

    Business leaders are easier to judge. There are quantifiable results following their decisions and directives.

    For all the criticisms of Home Depot's former CEO, Nardelli, he increased earnings about 160% over his tenure. He left the company earlier this year with a huge retirement package that his critics claimed he did not deserve.

    But Home Depot reported results recently. The company lost market share to Lowes. Meanwhile, Nardelli was named as the new CEO of Chrysler. It looks like he was an effective leader at Home Depot. Obviously the board of directors at Chrysler thought enough of him to offer him the top job.

    But he's known as a guy who cuts costs. That always means reducing the number of employees. Lay-offs always spread fear and always turn employees against top management. Nevertheless, this strategy often works. Thus, it makes little difference if employees dislike or like the boss. Or if he gives credit where it's due.

    Anyway, leadership requires the ability to meet the demands of the right people. The top people. Not pleasing the subordinates. However, if a leader can do please the top people and the subordinates, he will be popular.

    By Anonymous no_slappz, at 3:00 PM  

  • respect not fear - mutual respect.

    By Anonymous diane, at 7:02 AM  

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