Sound Advice for Leaders

Circumstances may change, but the basic tenets of leadership are timeless

February 2, 2016

Whether you’re a squad leader responsible for 10 soldiers, manager of 100 workers at a Red Lobster, CEO of 2000 employees in a mid-sized corporation, or the President of the United States, it’s lonely at the top. Yet basic tenets apply, and they serve as guidance that can make leadership easier (Image: PublicDomainPictures/Pixabay).

The basic principles and tenets of leadership are constant and their wisdom is timeless. Yet an ever- changing world dictates that we constantly reassess these fundamentals to find new applications and uses.

1. Set the example. Authority can be given, but respect must always be earned. You can’t ask for sacrifice if your subordinates are unwilling to sacrifice themselves. Demonstrate flexibility and preparedness to instill the importance of these attributes in those you manage. “Do as I say, not as I do” is usually a recipe for ruin.

2. Whenever possible, explain. Not all situations allow for or require explanation, but almost everyone responds better to direction when they
understand the reasoning behind the command.

3. Never display uncertainty. Once you’ve collected the facts and made a decision, don’t waffle. If well planned and executed, a less-than-optimal choice will most often result in a successful outcome.

4. Be prepared to change. When circumstances shift, be ready to change with them. Even the best decisions may have to be modified or even reversed when situations are altered. Good leaders recognize a shifting environment, and aren’t afraid that changing their position appropriately will be viewed as flip-flopping. Stubbornness is no better than indecisiveness.

5. Be objective. We all have our own biases and issues. Being a great leader means acknowledging your preconceptions and prejudices, and making sure you always do your best to put them aside.

6. Try to be fair--and accept that it’s not always possible. A leader’s job often requires that he ask others to sacrifice disproportionately, because it’s
his or her responsibility to put the best people in the position where they have the greatest opportunity to accomplish the mission. This may result in situations where some appear to be treated better than others. Yet, while fairness is a desired outcome, it should never be the underlying motivation of the leader. Good leaders do what must be done for all to succeed.

7. You can’t change what you don’t understand. To change a person’s behavior or an organization’s culture requires time and thought to comprehend existing circumstances. First impressions can be deceiving, and good leaders understand their obligation to have and understand all the facts available before making decisions and developing strategies. Bad decisions that result from inadequate fact-finding reflect a failure of leadership to fulfill one of its most important responsibilities.

Al Trellis is president of Home Builders Network in Baltimore, Md.

Al Trellis is President of Home Builders Network in Baltimore.