Monday Mornings with Madison


Where do we find leadership in these challenging times? We know that good leaders are vital to the health of companies as well as to countries, and so we look for people who can provide direction with vision, courage and common sense. We call these men and women natural leaders and we worry about how rare they are. And yet in reality, we each are leaders since we all are at least responsible for the direction of our own lives. Many of us are also responsible for at least a few other people, whether it’s on the job, in the community or at home. How then can we learn to do a better job of leading?

Many of us are already pretty good managers, but managerial ability is not the same as leadership. A good manager is skilled at figuring out how people can best work together. A great leader can get people to actually do it. The challenge in becoming a good leader is that most of us never get training in the job. So let’s look at a few ways to sharpen leadership skills, especially as they relate to your work.

Keep your focus on what’s important. Good leaders see the big picture. In most cases there are not more than a couple of factors that matter in any given situation. Figure out what these are and keep your focus on improving them every day. Make sure that everyone else also knows what those factors are and what their part is in addressing them.

Show, don’t just tell. If you have to ask for sacrifices, make sure that you lead the way. If, for example, you need your employees to cut overhead expenses, show them that you are applying the same requirements to the leadership team, including yourself. Poor leaders feel they should be exempt from any unpleasant requirements. Why? Because they’re the boss, their time is more valuable, their needs are more important. Of course, they can get away with this, at least for a while, but in doing so they kill the spirit of their group. If, on the other hand, you demonstrate your willingness to apply any sacrifices to yourself, your people will be happy to follow and will come up with creative ways to save even more. Difficult measures become a shared team effort, rather than a source of resentment.

Spread good news. Collect success stories of people and companies that are doing great despite the economy, and share them with your employees on a bulletin board or by email. There are so many ways to get discouraged today but a good leader knows the importance of encouraging a positive, optimistic atmosphere. And shift your own mind away from bad news as quickly as you can. Dwelling on the negative makes it become your reality. The easiest way to put aside negative news is either to take action in minimizing the effect it has on your company, or to focus on a new project that holds promise.

Find the good even in the bad. If you do have to share bad news like layoffs or budget cuts, make sure to start and finish the conversation with positive points. This way you are buffering the hardships and focusing attention on solutions and opportunities. Share those with genuine enthusiasm.

Spend time with your top people. Those who are in positions of responsibility are looking to you for support when things get tough. Under pressure from all sides, they need to see that you understand the difficulties they are facing. No matter how much stress you may be experiencing yourself, take the time to listen to their concerns. You’ll get a better sense of the actual problems that exist and you’ll usually discover that your top people are able to solve those problems on their own.Write down the lessons you learn. Believe it or not, things will get better and when they do, you will tend to forget the important lessons that this downturn has revealed. Taking notes will also help you uncover the exciting new opportunities that exist even in tough times.

“The leaders who work most effectively, it seems to me, never say “I.” And that’s not because they have trained themselves not to say “I.” They don’t think “I.” They think “we”; they think “team.” They understand their job is to make the team function. They accept responsibility and don’t sidestep it, but “we” gets the credit. This is what creates trust and what enables them to get the task done.” Peter Drucker

© 2009 – 2011, Written by Keren Peters-Atkinson, CMO, Madison Commercial Real Estate Services. All rights reserved.

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