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Lessons in Leadership

27 May, 2003 By: Ronelle Ingram imageSource

Lessons in Leadership

Leadership is one of
those great words that encourages you to stand a little taller, hold your head
higher and straighten your shoulders. No matter what position you hold in your
company, community or family, leadership is a lofty ambition.

Leadership is
especially important for service managers. With most of the employees they
manage working at least part of the time outside of the office, service managers
must take the lead with techs and customers on a daily basis. During a 60-month
lease, dozens of interactions with service department employees will occur and,
as is so often the case, service managers will field dozens of customer
perceived problems. The successful handling of these problems is the end result
of effective leadership.

Tactical Maneuvers

During the past few months, the news media has provided a non-stop barrage of
information about the political, social, logistical and military operations in
Iraq. In many cases, the problems that plague the military are similar to those
that are faced each day by the service department. Sometimes I feel like the
service department is a battlefield. The need for effective leadership,
training, logistic controls and management skills are necessary whether you are
on the outskirts of Baghdad or on Main Street, USA.

I have enormous
respect all the men and women who help manage and support our armed forces
overseas. No matter how you feel about America's involvement in the Middle East,
you must respect the people that provide the leadership and logistical support.
The stakes are high on the battlefield; a wrong decision or lack of leadership
can result in human death and destruction. In business, lack of ethical
leadership and management skills can lead to the death of a company. Enron,
Andersen and World Com are perfect examples of a lack of effective leadership.
As a thirty-year veteran of fighting the daily battles of managing a service
department, I have often used basic military leadership training as a guide to
successful office management.

Several years ago, I
had the privilege of being part of an audience listening to (then newly retired)
General Colin Powell speak. This man had charisma and while listening to General
Powell speak, I began to understand why this man was a multi-star general.
Regardless of your political persuasion, now Secretary of State Colin Powell is
a man of substance. The speech showed humility and pride, humor and
steadfastness. His talk addressed leadership and General Powell was, and
continues to be, the personification of a leader. After listening to this
leader, I would follow him into battle, or anywhere else he would choose to lead
me. Here are a few lessons of leadership that Colin Powell shared with his

1: Being responsible sometimes means getting people upset. Trying to get
everyone to like you is a sign of mediocrity.

2: The day a soldier stops bringing you his problems, is the day you stop being
their leader. Do not treat those who ask for help as weak. Show concern for the
challenges faced by others.

3: Don't be buffaloed by experts and the elite. Experts often possess more data
than judgment.

4: Don't be afraid to challenge the pros, even in their own backyard. Leadership
never emerges from blind obedience.

5: Never neglect details. Good leaders delegate and empower others liberally

6: You don't know what you can get away with until you try. Be prudent, not
reckless. It is easier to ask for forgiveness than permission.

7: Keep looking below surface appearances. Even if it isn't broken, go find a
better product that will work more effectively.

8: Organizations, plans and theories don't accomplish anything. People make
things happen. Only by attracting and keeping the best people can you accomplish
great deeds.

9: Organizational charts and fancy titles count for next to nothing. Titles mean
little in terms of real power. The capacity to influence and inspire is more
powerful than any written title.

10: Never let your ego get so close to your position that when your position
goes, your ego goes with it. Real leaders understand all jobs are continually
becoming obsolete. A person's long term worth is in their willingness to
continually learn new skills and grab new responsibilities.

11: Fit no stereotypes. Don't chase the newest management fads. Flitting from
fad to fad creates team confusion, reduces the leader's credibility and drains
organizational coffers.

12: Perpetual optimism is a force multiplier. The ripple effect of a leader's
enthusiasm is awesome. Equally negative is the impact of cynicism and pessimism.

13: Look for intelligence, judgment, a capacity to anticipate and the ability to
see around corners when hiring. Seek out those with loyalty, integrity, high
energy, balanced ego and the desire to get things done.

14: Great leaders are usually great simplifiers. They can cut through arguments,
debate, doubt and offer a solution everybody can understand. Make your visions
lean and compelling, not cluttered and buzzword laden.

15: Use the formula P@ 40 to 70 ratio. P equals probability of success. The
other number indicates the percentage of information acquired. Once the
information is in the 40 to 70 range, go with your gut.

16: The commander in the field is always right and the rear echelon is wrong,
unless proven otherwise. Shift the power and financial responsibility to the
folks who bring in the beans.

17: Have fun in your command. Don't always run at a breakneck pace. Take leave
when you earn it. Spend time with your families. Surround yourself with those
who take their work seriously, but not themselves. It is best to work hard and
play hard.

18: Command is lonely. Leadership is the ability and willingness to make the
tough, unambiguous choice that directly impacts the fate of the organization.

I keep this list of
Leadership Lessons at work in the bottom draw of my desk. When I question my own
decisions or need reassurance, I turn to General Powell's Lessons of Leadership.
At some point in my service management career, each of these simply stated
lessons has enabled me to identify the essence of a problem, reason through the
alternatives and make a prudent and just decision.

- - -

Ingram is a speaker, writer, management consultant and Director of Technical
Service for FKM Copier Products in Irvine, CA. Ronelle can be contacted at
ronellei@msn.com or 800.854.3337.

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