I sat down to consider what to write about this week and began reflecting on recent conversations with leaders about problems they are having. Each leader has issues unique to their situation, as well as other issues common to all leaders. The common issues spurred me to develop a list of “leadership tips” and I soon realized that such a list could get very, very long. So, I have chosen just five tips to share. I won’t claim these are the most important tips, but I am confident these simple tips will help all leaders in the most difficult of circumstances.
Assume the Best
Let’s be honest, in any given day, several times you say to yourself, “What were they thinking when they ________?” Various possibilities including foolishness, forgetfulness, and poor judgment go through your mind, but rarely do you say to yourself, “Well, I’m sure there was, what seemed at the time, a good reason for that.”
Assume the best. Start out by assuming there was indeed a very good reason. You still need to investigate: “Can you tell me what factors contributed to the decision to do this?” But start by assuming the best and you’ll reduce defensiveness and get more clarity.
Work Face-to-face As Often As Possible
Email is a wonderful thing! Centralized document storage and collaborative work tools are wonderful things! But, the resulting and dramatic reduction in live conversation and face-to-face contact is a horrible thing! The rules about when to use email and when not are pretty simple. If you are sharing and establishing facts, use email. Setting appointments; sending reports; answering a fact-based question—these are all good times to use email.
If you are dealing with anything that requires dialogue, interpretation of information, or might uncover difficult emotions use the telephone, do a video conference, or meet face-to-face. By doing so, you will accomplish more, get better information, and develop trust.
Develop Absolute Clarity Regarding Values
This particular tip cannot be overstated. The vast majority of leadership problems are related to two issues: lack of clarity regarding values and lack of clarity regarding vision. Having clarity regarding values helps everyone in the organization know what is important at any given time and regarding any given decision. This doesn’t mean everyone will agree with the decisions, but at least they understand the “why” behind decisions.
Clarity over values also enables leaders to delegate more. If you’re confident that others understand, and preferably buy into, the values, then you are able to hand them more authority. This gives more people more leadership responsibility and enhances the overall culture in a number of ways.
Develop Absolute Clarity Regarding Vision
Lack of clarity regarding vision is the second factor leading to most leadership problems. We’ve all been on work groups and teams in which the “leader” did not effectively establish the direction and purpose of the group. It’s a horribly frustrating and demotivating situation. Very little gets done. What gets done is done slowly. The work is poor quality, and everyone longs for the moment that the group adjourns.
Imagine the effect of an entire organization not having clarity regarding vision. These are the companies, ministries, agencies, and firms that are dying and will be irrelevant in a few months or years.
Every person in the organization must have a clear picture in their mind of where the organization is going and what their role is in that journey. With this information, each person is better able to, using their clear understanding of the values, make a meaningful contribution. With each person working toward that vision, and operationalizing the values as they go, there is a synergistic effect among all these efforts.
Work to Appreciate the Inherent Value of Each Person
Early in my life God gave me a heart to appreciate the inherent value of each person. He used a confluence of events and situations to deliver this message to me: I had been a new believer and was learning about my own inherent value in His eyes; I was somewhat of an outsider and not connected to any one group at school; I had many friends among a rather broad array of “groups” at school. I had very smart friends. I had friends who were athletes. I had friends who were alcoholics and drug addicts. I had friends who were IT geeks. I had friends who were musicians and the artsy type. I had other friends who didn’t fit in anywhere (a bit like me).
God helped me see that each person had value in His eyes and that I should treat them likewise. God loved each of these people so much that he sacrificed his own son as payment for their sin. For each of those people that believe this truth, they will live in eternity with their heavenly father (John 3:16, paraphrased).
As a leader, your responsibility is to appreciate, encourage, and develop the inherent value of each person. This starts with the important step of loving each person. However, it’s not a love that comes from within. It is a love that comes from the Lord.
After writing and reviewing these tips, I realize how much I would like to see your own leadership tips. Please share your thoughts, experience and wisdom.
Dr. Scott Yorkovich is a leadership coach and consultant. He works with individuals, small and medium organizations, and ministries. Contact him at ScottYorkovich[at]LeadStrategic.com with your questions.