Six Sigma
Last Word


Last Word
Trudy Evans

Leading to Greatness

These 10 tips can help you become the kind of leader people want to follow.

A true leader is one who has earned a reputation as someone whom others want to follow. Many people consider themselves leaders. However, true leadership is not thinking you're a leader, but having others think you are.

 Being a leader counts for little if no one wants to follow you. You can hire staff, but the results are much different when individuals have the desire to work for you and seek you out.

 Years ago, I decided that I wanted to be a leader, so I began my research. I read books, listened to tapes and—most important—I observed. I watched the great leaders and the not-so-great ones. I copied what I liked and vowed never to do what I didn't.

    The following are just 10 of the many leadership principles I've developed over the years that you can use to build a reputation for yourself as a leader others want to follow.

1. Remember that everyone is watching. One of the most important things to keep in mind is that all leaders are role models. You're constantly setting examples, be they good or bad. And your employees will follow your lead and do as you do. Therefore, you must constantly remind yourself that you are a role model. Be cognizant of this truth and let it steer your actions.

2. Learn from bad examples. At some point in your career, you'll likely find yourself working for someone you believe isn't up to the job. Don't dismiss this experience as a total loss. This is an excellent opportunity to learn a great deal about what not to do.

3. Make the right decision. Decision making should be rather easy: Simply ask yourself, "What's the right thing to do?" The right thing is usually easy to recognize, though it may not be the decision you want to make. Nonetheless, doing the right thing almost never gets you into trouble.

4. Say what you are going to do, and then do it. If you tell someone that you will return a call, do it. If you tell one of your staff you will check into something, do it. Few actions will cost you others' respect faster than failing to keep your word.

5. When a tough decision has to be made, deliver the message yourself. When called upon to make a difficult decision—be it downsizing a department, terminating a poor performer, taking business away from a long-time vendor or relocating your organization—take it upon yourself to deliver the message. Don't hide behind the staff, letting someone else communicate the bad news. Handling it yourself will force you to contemplate your actions thoroughly and completely understand their implications.

6. Let them know where they stand. Too often, performance reviews catch employees off guard. To be a leader that people want to follow, you need to consistently let others know what they do well and what areas need improvement. A truly successful appraisal process will see employees receiving the outcome they anticipated because they were consistently advised of their strengths and weaknesses throughout the year.

7. Always ask for others' opinions. When faced with a tough decision, ask your staff for advice. By requesting their opinions on various matters, you show that you value their ideas. You may even hear a suggestion that hadn't crossed your mind. Remember, you're not obligated to do anything anyone suggests, but just asking will bring invaluable dividends.

8. Share your philosophy. When making decisions, take the time to explain to your staff how you reached those decisions. The more they know how you think, the better they will become at meeting your expectations. Tell prospective employees during the hiring process what working for you is going to be like. Tell them ahead of time what it will take for them to get ahead and what mistakes could cost them. Expressing your philosophy is the first step to getting your staff to repeat your message on their own.

9. Personalize it. Remember the little things, such as birthdays and anniversaries. You don't need to buy a gift, but handwritten notes go a long way. And saying something specific shows that you think your people are worth spending extra time on. Also, remember them during the holidays; give them all the same thing or personalize each gift. Listen throughout the year for things they like, collect or do for a hobby. Nothing builds camaraderie like showing your staff you have a personal interest in them.

10. Set high expectations. Set high expectations for yourself and others. Demand quality. Don't give in if you know the work could be better. By setting high personal standards, you also show that your hiring standards are high. This translates into a reputation that you only hire the best, which says a lot to the people who work for you: It means they must be great if you hired them. They develop a great sense of pride in working for someone who only expects the best.


About the author

 Trudy Evans is president of The Raven Group Inc., a human development company that provides customized training, organizational development and motivational presentations. Her business experience began 30 years ago working for a mid-size book distributor in St. Louis.

 In addition to running The Raven Group Inc., Evans is a professional speaker who delivers presentations on topics ranging from leadership and management principles to amazing customer service and visualizing techniques. E-mail her at tevans@qualitydigest.com .

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