There is no one style, personality profile, or interaction approach for an effective leader. Leaders do come in “all shapes and sizes.” Few can deny the leadership skills of Golda Meir, Nelson Mandela, Mahatma Gandhi, Meg Whitman, Dr. Martin Luther King, Lee Iacocca, Oprah Winfrey, and Steve Jobs. And, few can deny that these leaders differ significantly.
One Size Does Not Fit All Leaders
The management guru, Peter Drucker, noted that some of the most effective chief executives he has worked with did not have “one ounce of charisma.” He cites the example of Harry Truman as an example of a non-charismatic individual who was still one of the most effective chief executives in US history. He also states that he worked with effective leaders who were very diverse in terms of their personalities, attitudes, values, strengths, and weaknesses. Some were introverted while others were extroverted. Some were easy going and others were controlling.
Abraham Lincoln’s Road to Leadership
History also supports Drucker’s view on the diversity of effective leaders. Abraham Lincoln is arguably one of our greatest Presidents. However, a look at his early life would not have predicted this greatness. He suffered various setbacks before becoming one of our greatest Presidents including:
• Failure of a business that left him deeply in debt;
• Limited attendance in school as a child due to his family being poor;
• An episode of severe depression;
• A refused marriage proposal.
Clearly, Lincoln’s tenacity and his ability to learn from his mistakes kept him on his road to greatness as a great leader. He did not let past failures dictate his future.
Common Leadership Practices
While leaders are diverse in their approach, we can identify common practices that they share. In his consulting work over the years, Drucker identified eight practices that the effective executives he worked with had in common. These eight practices are the following:
1. They asked, “What needs to be done?”
2. They asked, “What is right for the enterprise?”
3. They developed action plans.
4. They took responsibility for decisions.
5. They took responsibility for communicating.
6. They were focused on opportunities rather than problems.
7. They ran productive meetings.
8. They thought and said “we” rather than “I.”
The Lesson for Today’s Business Leaders
Effective leaders make these eight practices a normal part of their operational practices. It becomes a part of their management DNA. It is ingrained in their communications, their decision making practices, and their interactions with others. They also look at organizational mistakes differently. While mistakes have consequences, effective leaders also know that mistakes are opportunities for learning and innovation. The ability of these leaders to apply these eight practices to organizational mistakes allows them to make “lemonade out of lemons.”
Now that we know the recipe, we too can become more effective leaders of our enterprises! Get more information about how to be an effective executive, by purchasing my book Why Smart People Fail at Management at Gettothepointbooks.com.
Robert Tanner is President of Business Consulting Solutions LLC, the author of Why Smart People Fail at Management, and an Adjunct Professor of Management. He provides training and development, managerial and organizational assessments, and management coaching services. With over 20 years of management experience, Robert is a seasoned business practitioner. His clients include Fortune 100 firms, start-up firms, and public agencies. He is a frequent seminar trainer on management and leadership topics and was featured in Smart Business Magazine. Robert is professionally certified to administer a variety of behavioral and psychological type assessments including Myers Briggs Type Indicator™ (MBTI®), Thomas-Kilman Conflict Mode Instrument, Interaction Styles®, Temperament Theory®, and Fundamental Interpersonal Relations Orientation-Behavior™ (FIRO-B®).
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