Anyone can be a manager; what does it take to be a successful leader?

MATCHA: Taking Up Space, July 2012

MATCHA: Taking Up Space, July 2012 (Photo credit: Asian Art Museum)

By Charlene Smith

An organization that does not innovate is expensive to run, cumbersome to manage, has unhappy staff and dispirited managers.

The fear of innovation tells us something important about a corporate culture, it is led by fear, and fear is most often felt by those inadequately trained for their positions. They are so terrified of making a mistake that they bully their staff, hire poorly skilled staff instead of the best, and over time their departments manage to run effectively but not efficiently, they don’t collapse but nor do they show appreciable growth.  In the end these risk averse scared bullies in management suits create a culture that will see major mistakes and errors emerge as the talent pool of new recruits shows inferior skills. Staff  do everything by the book and not the brain.

Bullying managers need to face serious consequences. Innovation needs to be encouraged and prized, this can range from encouraging staff to come up with small cost-saving measures, to bigger initiatives.

British management trainer Richard Olivier says that, “The danger, once on a slippery slope, is that it is easier to go forward than to go back and reform.” Going forward takes you over the cliff, going back and reforming sees short-term delays but long-term reward. If your company or team is in trouble then retreat, regroup, and reform.

Indian Hindu guru and management consultant Swami Parthasarasy says there are 3 C’s for success: “consistency, concentration, and co-operative endeavor.”

I’ve found that failure is awful until we realize that within it lies the imperatives for change.

These are some strategies for success you may want to meditate on:

–       You are only as good as the people around you.

–       Do not be afraid of hiring people cleverer than you.

–       Experience counts.

–       Give people the ability to fail. In other words, delegate. If staff fail, allow them to remedy it, counsel them or get a more experienced staff member to assist, this is the only way they will learn.

–       Be accountable.

–       Do what everyone else says can’t be done.

–       Don’t employ yes-men or –women; they will agree with everything you say and won’t have the courage to alert you to dangers.

–       Pay attention.

–       Watch trends, know what is coming next.

–       Be respectful.

–       Optimism is contagious.

–       Risk, backed by research and instinct, is essential to progress.

–       Never drink alcohol when you have a meal with co-workers or a client.

–       When all around you are panicking, step back, isolate yourself from the noise, and take time to reflect. Don’t allow yourself to be rush and don’t leap over the cliff with the rest of the herd.

–       Act with compassion. Don’t trash those whose views don’t coincide with yours. Allow them to be, or consider carefully their position and whether there is a positive way you can work with them.

–       Small acts of daily consideration are what sustain relationships, communities, and nations, and keep leaders ethical.

© Committed to Me by Charlene Smith, Oshun, 2009.






About Charlene Smith

Charlene Smith is a multi-award winning journalist, broadcaster and documentary film maker. She is the author of 14 published books, including two on Nelson Mandela. Born in South Africa, she has also lived in Japan and Argentina and currently lives and works in Boston as a communications consultant.
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