During my 30 years in business, I have witnessed a wide variety of leaders in action – both good and bad. The command and control types who closeted themselves in their ivory towers – ruling by fear and intimidation – were the worst to work with or for. They were also the most ineffective. They usually didn’t know what was really going on in their organizations. They didn’t learn and grow from their experiences. And their organizations inevitably suffered from low morale, poor productivity and high turnover.
By contrast, the more effective leaders I have worked with were collaborative and receptive to the ideas and views of others. They enjoyed talking to and listening to their employees, customers and other stakeholders. As such, they developed an acute understanding of their company’s capabilities and its market potential. They also learned from their successes as well as their failures. And they cultivated an atmosphere at work that stimulated creativity and engendered employee loyalty.
However, the best leaders – the ones I respected, admired and tried to emulate the most – were those who also had a strong sense of values and a clear vision for their organizations. These leaders not only talked about their ethical values, they lived by those values. They continually fostered a climate of trust – from what they said, to how they listened, to how they acted on what they learned. And through their vision, they established the atmosphere of commitment, teamwork, and energy that characterizes successful companies.
Most important in my experience, and as Jeffrey Gandz points out in his article, these leaders fulfilled their most essential leadership role: to get results. Since their senior teams and employees thrived on open communication and information sharing, they developed strategies that were innovative and focused, yet adaptive to changing conditions. Their people learned. As a result, performance improved. Core competencies were continually enhanced. And because these leaders and their people were committed to a common vision and strong values, they were as “tenacious in implementation” as they were brilliant in strategy and planning.
As I have seen time and time again, open communications, strong values and a clear vision are the essence of leadership – and the only way to secure the consistent results that define enduring business success.