Thursday, July 19, 2007

Be Positive

This is the 2nd in a series addressing the key elements of a leadership philosophy. I call them the “7 BEs of a Leader.” Let me know what you think.

I must admit to being a quick judge of people’s leadership capacity. No doubt this comes from four years in the California desert, training Army leaders for combat. One of the first things I look for is whether they have the energy and the passion that good leaders exude. I look for those who have a positive vision, who can communicate it in such a way that inspires the team, while creating rabid followers through a contagious enthusiasm for the mission. I look for those who are positive. And to be honest, I have yet to find a good leader who is anything less.

Charles Schwab once remarked, “I consider my ability to arouse enthusiasm among men the greatest asset I possess. The way to develop the best that is in a man is by appreciation and encouragement.” Sure sounds like the kind of leader we would all like to be – and likely all wish we had.

The world is full of cynics. We cannot continue to add to their rosters. Effective leaders must be the head cheerleader for their team. They must highlight successes at every turn, finding the good in every person and in every event. Rather than further beating down your subordinates after a project setback, why don’t we identify what went well, and should be sustained, in addition to what did not and must be improved. Organizational and personal growth and development can still be a positive outcome from a project failure.

To be positive is not to be phony. Leaders must choose daily whether to be defined by the negative or the positive. “Butt chewing” does not have to flow down-hill! The silly politics, bureaucracy, and mismanagement of your higher headquarters do not have to be passed on to your subordinates. Amplify success. Look for occasions to brag about team victories and the contributions of each team member. Show appreciation and pass on encouragement at every opportunity.

Leaders have a positive vision for the future of the organization and the type of culture that is required to get there. The bright future that we envision is a positive message that must be told and retold with high frequency – and high energy. Positive leaders champion activities, milestones, and individual actions that enable that future. I know this is the type of leader that I would want to lead me into battle. Be positive.

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