#351 from Innovative Leader Volume 7, Number 7 July 1998
Leadership: A Very Old Formula
Rose is Training Manager at Harris Semiconductor in Palm Bay,
Florida (email: firstname.lastname@example.org). Before that, he was a Production Manager for 25 years.
The company has been recognized as best-in-the-class in
self-directed work teams, and has been benchmarked by over 140
companies. He has
written 50 Ways to Teach
Your Learner (Jossey-Bass Pfeiffer, San Francisco, due
December 1998), from which this article is adapted, and Presenting
and Training with Magic (McGraw-Hill, New York, 1997).
learned from the past is that we seldom learn from the past ….
or do we?” That was
my first thought when I was asked to write an article on effective
leadership. I have
considered myself a leader since my youth on the rough streets of
New Jersey. At that
time, my definition of leadership meant that if I wanted someone
to do something for me, I just told them what I wanted them to do
and, if they didn’t--well, let’s say I was seldom refused.
did what they said. I
didn’t win every fight. Our
neighborhood also formed alliances and often within the alliance
was a hierarchy. These experiences were the basis of what I called
leadership. Some might refer to it as ‘survival of the
fittest’, ‘only the strong survive’, or something
equivalent. You, most
likely, will also be able to associate with this analogy.
During my early
work experiences, each of my bosses only reinforced the ‘power
paradigm’ that I had developed while growing up. I had followed
this basic philosophy in military school, and through my first 25
years of being a manager. I
did, however, have to modify the penalty for not following my
directions; I started calling it “management by
didn’t know exactly what
was going to happen to you, but I did know that if you didn’t
follow my directions, something bad would
This model served
me well for a good part of my life, and it wasn’t until the
culture started to change at Harris, and elsewhere around the
United States, that I became aware that it might not be the most
effective leadership style. Today, textbooks and authors often refer to this style as the
‘traditional leader.’ But
was it the most effective? It definitely can be effective, but it
only works in the short term. Was this the only paradigm available
for leaders to learn from?
century Russian field marshal, Count Suvorov, had never lost a
battle, even against numerically superior opponents. Suvorov
had a “secret weapon.” He
recognized that the enlisted soldier was the foundation
of his success. He
trained and encouraged his front line soldiers to be their best. He treated them with respect.
There were other leaders who also shared this “secret
weapon.” In fact,
even some of the great ancient Greek thinkers understood this to
be the best way to lead. So
why didn’t we learn from history?
To learn from the
past we must have ‘paradigm flexibility.’
We have to remain adaptable and not get ourselves locked
into having only one way to do something. The opposite of paradigm
flexibility is ‘paradigm paralysis’, where you have only one
fixed thought or context to operate from.
Simply said, a leader must be adaptable.
I believe history has proven that leadership is about being
trustworthy, which is paramount for earning the commitment and
respect of your followers.
will follow their leaders anywhere.
The above leaders learned the importance of their followers
being resourceful, and they recognized the need of providing
training in the areas that would help them make better decisions
and be more effective in action.
They also realized the need for their followers to maintain
an optimistic outlook, which required the leader to establish a
positive vision of the future, either for them, their family, or
their country. Finally,
through their actions, these leaders demonstrated consideration
for their followers by being committed to excellence.
Today you can’t
pick up a business magazine and not find at least one example of
these effective leadership behaviors.
But it seems that many--perhaps most--organizations still
haven’t embraced what it takes to have every leader become an
effective one. Here
are five behaviors that I call “ATROC,” summarizing what
I’ve learned from the past about effective leadership.
Effective Leadership Behaviors (ATROC)
Leaders must be adaptable to change.
Charles Darwin said, “It’s not the strongest of the
species, nor the most intelligent, that survive; it’s the one
most responsive to change.”
Your job as a leader is to allow change to occur and, in
some cases, be the catalyst.
The last thing you want is to be the keeper of the
tradition that creates the roadblock to progress.
Learn to challenge both the process and your current
thinking biases. Have
Leaders must earn the trust of their people by doing what
they say they’ll do and by being fair. They must create an environment that encourages each
employee. If their
followers can answer ‘yes’ to the following questions, the
leader is creating a safe environment :
Can I trust my
Does my leader
care about me?
Is my leader
committed to excellence?
foundation of trust encourages commitment among the followers that
will generate incredible loyalty towards the leader.
should provide the required training to assure that their
followers are prepared for their jobs and responsibilities.
Encourage collective intelligence and working with others.
Break down any perceived walls within your organization.
Build a knowledge base that’s available to your staff.
Optimistic: Leaders must
provide a positive vision of the future.
Develop a vision that guides your followers while allowing them
to make decisions supporting that vision.
Help your followers predict their future based on their own
actions. Model the
way with your positive attitude. Attitude is important for everyone and is critical to the
passing you in the hall says, “How do you feel today?” what
would you say to them? If
you didn’t answer, “Great!,” or “Couldn’t be better!,”
then you missed your chance to positively impact the emotions of
that person. As a
leader, you’re on stage every day.
You must be real and believe what you say, because
followers will quickly pick up on the ‘real you’ behind any
act! Set the example
with your actions. When
people ask me that question, I say, “Great, but I am getting
better!” Sometimes I’ll say, “If I were any better, I’d
think I were twins!” I’ve
seen the difference this simple approach has on people.
Your attitude is the control panel to your life.
Considerate: As the
leader, you must consider your task carefully, but you can no
longer think in terms of ‘the end justifies the means.’
You must consider the personal effect on your followers if
you are to build the commitment that’s required for long-term
don’t use their position to gain special perks.
What’s good enough for your followers should be good
enough for you. Leaders
should also look to celebrate the successes of their followers as
often as possible. Recognize,
reward, and praise them frequently.
Lead by example and by exhibiting your values.
leaders in the 21st century will be those who not only
learn from the past, but actually thrive on innovation and
paradigm flexibility. The
ATROC behaviors will be just as effective for our grandchildren as
they are for us today. The question to ask yourself is: Do I learn from the past??