Successful Leadership: Making It a Reality

Norb Slowikowski

November 2005

Successful leaders understand that there are seven key values that affect worker productivity. respect/dignity, a job with meaning, a bigger picture focus, involvement in decision-making, fairness, a place to grow, and return on investment.

The leader delivers these values by doing the following:

- Providing positive feedback to people when they do well.
- Letting people know how important they are for achieving success on the job. The effective leader believes that people are his most important asset.
- Treating people fairly by measuring performance against standards.
- Asking people for their input before making a decision.
- Providing ongoing training and coaching.
- Providing some form of incentives for peak performance.

Many times, leadership is referred to as "people skills.” It is also an adaptive skill because the effective leader knows that situations change and differences develop between people. To get the most out of people, a leader needs to be flexible and know how to deal with different personality types.

Every great leader has to start with basics. The foundation for any person in charge begins with the Leadership Mind Set. If we start with the proper outlook before we embark on a project, success is already within our reach. With this in mind, let’s look at some guidelines that go into the Leadership Mind Set:

- I need my people more than they need me.
- People are our most important asset.
- Be open to change. If it’s not broke, break it!
- Build on people’s strengths. Don’t focus on weaknesses.
- Bring out the best in people. Satisfy their self-esteem.
- Know where you want to go (the goal) and decide what you have to do to get there (the Action Plan).
- Create a climate where people really want to do their best.
- Success is energy well-directed. Create a "Solution-Orientation.” The key is to focus as much energy as possible in the direction we want to move.

-Institute a framework for continuous improvement:
- Celebrate the small successes you achieve.
- Set specific objectives and inform your people of them.
- Point out the benefits for achieving the objectives.
- Encourage ideas. Let people participate in the solutions.

-Learn to ask effective questions. They create ownership.
- What do you need from me to succeed on this project?
- What have you done so far that you are pleased with?
- Which of your activities will be easy for you to finish?
- What do you need to overcome the difficult tasks?
- What ideas do you have that will earn us desired results?

-Create a "customer service” attitude with your people.
- Instilling a positive customer service attitude requires a positive employee ethic.
- The level of service an employee brings to a customer is a reflection of how well the company is meeting his needs.
- We can only serve the outside customer effectively to the extent that we serve each other.
- To the extent that your people feel supported encouraged, nurtured and served, they will serve their internal/external customers.

-Implement the following key leadership practices:
- Be aware of the needs of your people.
- Know that your behavior has an impact on your people.
- Develop a team mentality.
- Mobilize the discretionary effort of your people and empower them.
- Be proactive instead of reactive.
- Be a model of personal responsibility. Put people first.
- Have high expectations for results.
- Encourage feedback, admit mistakes and ask for help.

Remember: Real leadership comes from the inside out. This requires several difficult shifts in our thinking:
- Let go of your ego-driven need to have your own answers all the time.
- Let go of your need for strict control and trust your people.
- Drop your need to be right.
- Drop your protective barriers, learn to be open and vulnerable.

About the Author
Norb Slowikowski is president of Slowikowski & Associates, Inc., Darien, Ill.