Tuesday, 3 September 2013

About turn

I expect you’ve all been deeply shocked by the gas attacks in Syria.  But if we were to take a poll I doubt we’d all agree about what we, as a country, should do in response.

Parliament’s defeat of the vote for military action has caused some repercussions.  Commentators seem fixated on the question of whether David Cameron/the conservative party/the country/the ‘special relationship’ has been damaged by this apparent back track.

All of which started me thinking about what makes for strong leadership and whether a change of mind is a sign of strength or weakness.

Running your own business or managing a company needs leadership AND management skills.  The two are quite different.  Good managers are not always good leaders and vice versa.  So what makes for strong leadership and how come it’s such a rare commodity?

Please don’t think I’m claiming to be a strong leader myself.  I am old enough and wise enough to know that leadership is not my forte!   However, I’ve worked with a few impressive leaders and have watched how they operate.  The best are visionaries.  They tend to be single minded when it comes to achieving objectives and although they are aware of challenges, they have a ‘terrier’ trait that keeps them hanging on.  So does that mean they never waver or have a change of heart?

In my experience, true leaders share some characteristic ‘dos’ and ‘don’ts’. 

They don’t
-  jump to conclusions
-  threaten or bully
-  sway between allegiances or causes
-  either over-simplify or over-complicate their message
-  get bogged down with irrelevancies

They do:
-  their homework
-  enlist champions, who believe in their cause and act as advocates
-  communicate their vision to everyone involved, and I mean everyone!
-  motivate their people and trust them to get on with the job
-  have their finger on the pulse.

And perhaps that last point is the most pertinent.  True leaders know what’s going on.  What may have been right six days/weeks/months ago may not be now.  Sometimes environment changes mean that objectives need to change too.  That’s what flexibility and responsiveness is all about.  Sticking to a goal that has been superseded or has become outdated is nothing more than dogma. 

Surely a strong leader is one with the strength of character to stand up and say “we need to do this differently” rather than plough on regardless of the fallout. 

Have you worked with someone who had leadership qualities?  Why not share your thoughts here about what made them so influential?


  1. Ruth’s analogy between the awful situation in Syria & leadership are very thought-provoking. What makes good leadership she asks? Well many books have been written on this subject by well-known international luminaries. Well, I have a very simple approach to some key aspects of leadership. These revolve around how your staff deal with problems. I have always found the following process works well. When a member of staff tell me there is a problem with a customer’s site, I ask them what are the options available to solve it. I have always encouraged them to analyse the situation sufficiently to enable them to come up with a choice of solutions.

    Then I would ask the simple question : “What would YOU do if I wasn’t here? When they tell me, if it seemed sound to me, I would simply say “Well go & do it then”. This is based upon the fact that no-one, not even the boss, should be indispensable & equally on the idea that all staff should be encouraged to own problems. In the event that their solution isn’t as successful as we all hoped, I would then personally contact the customer, reassure them I was aware of the situation, & that I had participated in / shared in the original decision. I then promised that everything was being done to remedy the situation as a matter of urgency.

    Naturally, it is vital that promises are delivered upon. As far as leadership is concerned, this process makes staff feel appreciated, valued for their expertise, & respected for their efforts, & most importantly, feel empowered to make decisions on their own. Naturally, concomitant upon that is the need for the boss to mentor staff where necessary & also monitor decisions through normal reporting & feedback processes.

    Comments & feedback welcome

    Tony Friedlander

    Friedlander Associates

    Business & IT Brokers & Advisors

  2. Thanks for your thoughts- very interesting!