He initiates action. When there's work to be done, he states what it is and tells who is to accomplish it. When a decision must be made, he makes it. This is not to say that the good leader is an absolute autocrat. In fact, he had better not be, but he starts things going and points the direction, even if he leaves the details to others.
He gives orders. Not all action is initiated by means of orders. Much is accomplished through suggestions and questions. But when an occasion arises where orders are called for, the good leader gives them in a way that makes clear who is to do what and when. Furthermore, good leadership requires that the actions ordered are within the abilities of the people who are to carry them out.
He uses established channels. These include informal as well as formal ones.
For example, in one firm employees fell into two friendship groups based on age. Older employees, having interests in common, formed one group, and the younger employees formed another. When a new young man came to work, the manager, after a brief period of orientation, turned him over to a worker who was well liked by the younger group. This worker introduced him to the others of his set, showed him the ropes, and saw that his office was supplied with necessities. As a result, the newcomer felt welcome and a part of the group. His guide was flattered to have his leadership among his set and his skill at his job recognized. The manager, by using established informal channels, had introduced a new employee with a minimum of upset and a maximum of effectiveness.
He listens. Listening is important for three reasons:
First, no one knows the problems of a job as well as the man who is doing it.
Second, only by listening can the manager spot forthcoming trouble before it develops.
Third, group members want to feel that their leaders take an interest in their viewpoints.
Listening enables a leader to respond to the needs of the workers. Such responses are essential to good leadership because everyone is, at times, troubled. Everyone wants recognition. Sympathy, quiet praise, interest without intrusion—in short, all the things that make people like each other—pay dividends. The good leader is liked because he really is sympathetic and interested. This cannot be a matter of pretense, because people quickly see through a phony.
Just getting by? Find your self-motivation slipping? Here are some ways to pep up your performance.
Work a little harder. You've known the magic of days when pushing yourself just a little bit more than usual paid dividends out of all proportion to the extra time and effort invested. Edward Bok, a penniless boy who died a millionaire, summed up his experience: "Good luck is only hard work."
Cash in on idle time. Use those precious scraps of time you throw away waiting and traveling. Bone up on your industry, your company, your company's products, or world affairs. Catch up on the trade papers and journals that have been piling up unread. One little paragraph of news could make a world of difference to you.
Play your strengths. Rare among us is the mortal who doesn't have at least one strong point distinctive to himself. Are you detail-happy? Fine! Impress your boss with you're A-to-Z thoroughness. Are you a teacher at heart? Okay. Offer to speak at trade gatherings or civic organizations on your specialty. List your strong points, then figure out how to put these to the service of those about you. They'll reciprocate by helping you when you most need help.
Among the time-wasters that eat into a manager's workday is the subtle phenomenon known as "reverse delegation"—delegation upward from subordinates.
Employees seek answers and decisions from their bosses for a variety of reasons. They may lack confidence in their own judgment. They may fear making a mistake and incurring criticism. They may want to avoid risk at all costs. They may lack the requisite information, experience or resources to accomplish the job successfully. They may be plain lazy. Or they may have discovered that they can take advantage of the boss.
Reverse delegation happens to managers daily at every level and in every type of business. Chances are that few, if any, of its victims are consciously aware of why time seems to fly for them.
One manager who suddenly realized that all his people invariably left for home before he did analyzed his situation and came up with a simple solution. When subordinates solicit his decision on some matter now, his standard response—with due recognition of legitimate exceptions—is, "You have a problem, all right. What are you going to do about it?" Instead of an answer, he has transformed himself into a questioner.
"After all," he explains, "there are seven of them and only one of me. Why shouldn't they accept the responsibility of thinking problems through?"
He gets home earlier these days.
Some employees are negatively oriented. They have a genius for finding reasons why things can't be done...why ideas won't work...why anything new or different should be avoided.
While this kind of thinking is most pre-valent among older employees, no one is immune to it. Novice or old pro, executive or production line worker—each can sink imperceptibly into a morass of negativism.
Your job: shake up such employees by demanding positive alternatives from them. Something won't work? Assign them the job of discovering what will. At best, you will jolt them out of their mental straitjacket. At worst, you will help them develop a healthy respect for those who do make constructive suggestions.