“Where’s the action? Where’s the game?” is a line in the song “Oldest Established” from the immortal Broadway show — and my personal favorite — “Guys and Dolls.”
The show is about a craps game and a leader named Nathan Detroit. The movie version stars Frank Sinatra and Marlon Brando and won all kinds of awards.
The plot is about gambling, winning, attracting and making it happen no matter what. It’s just a great show and movie with great music and a happy ending.
The theme is one of looking to the leader to make things happen. And it’s the same in your business — just without the craps game and the songs. But not without gambling. All business is a gamble and all businesses look to their leaders to make it happen.
Here are the actions I have observed about leadership that are mandatory for leadership success. They’re internal actions that build trust, earn respect, and create a team of inspired people — inspired to be productive and do their best.
• Great leaders are value providers, not order givers. At the top of every employee’s list of job wants — besides more money — is to be appreciated and valued. When appreciation for a job well done is conveyed, positive environment thrives.
• Great leaders tell the truth. Truth creates trust, confidence and a reliance on the consistency of message. All other leadership characteristics and outcomes fade if there is a lack of truth. It’s the same in life.
• Great leaders are in control and earn respect. Quick to decide and not afraid to make or admit mistakes, great leaders are respected because they take action and respected because they are vulnerable.
• Great leaders focus on outcome to ensure completed tasks. Don’t focus on task or project completion. Rather, think what will happen after the project is completed. Outcome, not task. Outcome, not results.
• Great leaders are responsible by example and expect the same from their people. Everyone looks to and at leaders. They watch the leader’s every move. If the leader is slack, lacks work ethic or is slow to decide, they have given tacit permission to their team to be and do the same. The best leaders are first in, last out and work their ass off in the middle.
• Great leaders value and display tolerance and temperance first in themselves, then from others. I’m not a fan of leaders who rant. Lots of successful ones do rant, but there are rules to follow if you’re one of them.
Rule 1 — Praise in public.
Rule 2 — Reprimand in private.
Rule 2.5 — Record yourself doing both praise and reprimand. See how you sound to others by listening to yourself. You may not like it.
• Great leaders are excellent communicators who are listened to intently and are clearly understood. The one characteristic that gets more productivity and generates more achievement and positive outcome is clear communication. Leaders have a responsibility and a challenge to be excellent at it.
• Great leaders train with their people continuously. If training is to have a lasting value, it must have leadership support and participation. Leaders must train to be better leaders. Start by rating yourself 1-10 on the qualities I have listed here. Anything less than a 7 requires immediate attention.
• Great leaders are wide open to new ideas and innovation. “That’s the way we’ve always done it” is a recipe for failure. Leaders are readers, constantly searching for new ways to be better.
• Great leaders are tech-savvy. Leaders need to be tweeters, and need to lead the way by communicating value and ideas through social media. A leader’s example can create an avalanche of great service, goodwill, loyal customers, increased sales and better reputation — or not.
• Great leaders concentrate on and think best. It always takes extra effort to be or strive to be best; that’s why so many people fail. Failure occurs when people — leaders or not — fail to do their best and be their best daily.
• Great leaders remain committed. The best leaders never waver. They’re loyal, steadfast examples of what and who others aspire to be and be like. They’re not just mission driven; they’re also personal mission driven. They are respected and followed because of their commitment.
• Great leaders encourage. They build pride with a “you can do it” philosophy and communication style. They encourage their people to succeed, and do so with a helpful, positive attitude. A coach and a teacher, not a manager or a boss. Big difference, both in results and morale.
Did I just define your leader? Did I just define how you are inspired to be and do your best every day? I hope so, but I doubt it.
The challenge for you, whether you’re a leader or a team member, is to study these qualities, and talk about them openly. One of the tragedies of leadership is that the (overrated) 360-degree feedback process usually goes only 180 degrees.
Great leaders don’t just lead by example — they set the standard. What kind of standard are you setting?