Article published in the Philadelphia Business Journal on January 7, 2024.
As we enter 2024, we should all be guided by what I identify as “fundamental principles” of effective leadership. Many are excerpted from my book, “Be Different! The Key to Business and Career Success.” Others are inspired by my own experiences and by observing other leaders. This is an update of a column I wrote on this subject in January 2023.
Unfortunately, many leaders in business, nonprofits and politics miss the mark. They are not effective leaders. To guide the next generation of leaders, these fundamental principles need to be taught to all undergraduate students, regardless of their major. Many of them will assume leadership positions during their careers. This is what they need to know.
- Be a leader that people want to follow.
- Hold yourself accountable to the same standards as those who you lead.
- Avoid conflicts of interest. It puts into question your integrity and the trust people have in you.
- Lead in a way that makes everyone on your team feel like they matter.
- Exhibit the right tone at the top and nurture the right organizational culture.
- Lead with emotional intelligence and personally connect with your employees.
- Create an environment where employees are encouraged to achieve beyond their own expectations.
- Earn the trust of those within your organization.
- Never shoot the messenger and always face the brutal facts of reality.
- Value the opinion of your experts and listen to the lone wolf. However, know when to ignore advice from professionals and proceed based on your own good critical judgment.
- Set realistic financial goals, with the objective of blowing through those goals to the greatest degree possible.
- Listen to your direct reports and debate them on issues. When you permit pushback, you improve the decision-making process in your company.
- Carefully consider the unintended consequences of your decisions.
- Embrace the timeless philosophy of continuous improvement. It’s a source of competitive advantage.
- “Good is the enemy of Great.” Regardless of how great you think your company is, there is always room for improvement.
- Never act like an imperial leader. It disconnects you from your employees.
- Help your people boost their self-confidence. Encourage them to believe in themselves.
- Hire people with common sense and good critical judgment who will know, on rare occasion, to violate policy when it’s in the best interests of the company to do so.
- Push your employees outside of their comfort zones. There is no better way for them to develop and grow professionally.
- Encourage your employees to develop a sense of ownership in what they do.
- Don’t micromanage. Empower your direct reports. Set expectations, jointly establish goals and cut them loose to do their thing.
- Encourage your employees to break paradigms. It will lead to new ways of doing things and is a source of competitive advantage.
- Don’t tolerate a tyrant. Part company with them.
- Understand your markets and get ahead of market trends.
- Work to become the preferred provider by delivering a great customer/client experience.
- Understand your competition and their strategies. Don’t underestimate them.
- Recognize that only the paranoid survive.
- Always use “we,” instead of “I.” Not much can be accomplished without a great team surrounding you.
- Communicate to your employees the role of their business unit. For example: generate cash flow from mature businesses so the company can deploy that cash in its growth businesses.
- Learn how to sell your ideas to your boss, your direct reports, your peers and the wider organization.
- When making a presentation, place yourself in the position of your audience to determine the best way to deliver your message to get your point across.
- Identify what the audience needs to learn from your communication to them. Don’t bury it deep in a written report. Tell them what they need to know in an executive summary.
- Learn how to effectively network with others. It might help you excel in your current position and win your next job.
- Always project a proactive attitude. Be a person who sees possibilities and abundance, and not one who only sees scarcity and limitations.
- Your credibility, honesty, ethics and integrity determine your reputation, your most cherished professional possession.
- When making difficult ethical choices, remember the passage in the West Point Cadet Prayer, “Make us choose the harder right than the easier wrong.”
- Effective leadership is not all about achieving results. It’s also about inspiring your people to be the best versions of themselves.
- Lead like you would like to be led. Treat people like you would like to be treated. Practice the human side of leadership.
These fundamental principles will help you achieve success regardless of your profession.
Stan Silverman is founder and CEO of Silverman Leadership and author of “Be Different! The Key to Business and Career Success.” He is also a speaker, advisor and widely read nationally syndicated columnist on leadership. He can be reached at Stan@SilvermanLeadership.com.