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10 Top Leadership Principles
Bill Hybels, in his book, Axiom, has collected a treasure of leadership principles he calls leadership proverbs. Here are the top ten leadership principles that can help you become a better leader. As with all proverbs some of them may apply to your situation today and some tomorrow but it will help you to be familiar with them when you are in a leadership situation where you can call on them.
1. “The three C’s’ – Character, competency, and chemistry. When you, as a leader, are looking for team members to join your organization, you should follow the three C’s rule. First, look for and find people who have character. This is sometimes difficult to judge from one interview, so take some time to really get to know prospective team member’s character and values. Once you find people with great character, look at their competency. Can they do the tasks required? Be sure that you hire or recruit someone who can accomplish the tasks they need to do. Finally, ensure team dynamics by selecting someone who matches with the chemistry of your group. This is the most overlooked key to a good team and it is such a strong factor in good teamwork. If your new team member simply does not fit with the chemistry of your group, then you must look for someone else.
2. “First tested” – when you find someone new for a high leadership or staff position it is very important to test them in their new role. They might be a great person with all the knowledge but if you don’t test them you might be setting them up for failure with their new job. This ‘test’ is supposed to give both you and them an idea of whether or not they can complete the job successfully. If they don’t do very well, that might simply mean that they need a little training and guidance before you have them start working.
3. “DNA Carrier” – great leaders create and then pass on enthusiasm for their ideas and vision. A key role of a leader is to be the example for others to follow. So if you want people to share your values and enthusiasm, you must pass on your DNA, or core ideals. When a leader has a central focus and specific values, and then they share these with their team members and followers, it creates an entire organization that is dedicated to one objective and can achieve it that much faster.
4. “How are you doing…really?” – In our current American society it is easy to ask how someone is doing, and get the generic response of, “Fine, how are you?” You might spend an entire day with someone, asking that they be focused and turn out results, all the while not knowing they are going through some significant tragedy or event. How hard is it to build relationships with your team members by asking, ‘How are you doing, really?’ The results of developing a relationship can be wide ranging and extremely beneficial. It’s an amazing fact that when you start caring about people, they will start caring about you, what you want from them, and what they should be getting done for you.
5. “Know who’s Driving” – in any situation, any circumstance, or any event, there should always be one, and usually only one, person in charge. Hybels explains that when he starts a meeting, he always asks, “Who’s driving?” in order to assign one person the task of leading the meeting. That way, this person will keep the conversation on track, focus the group, and eliminate wasted time. This principle of ‘who’s driving’ can be applied generally so that there is always someone who is responsible for organizing and accomplishing the tasks or events at hand. Often, as a leader, you will be ‘driving’ and it might be good to clarify this occasionally. Other times, someone else will be put in charge and at that time they need to assert their leadership and position over everyone else, in order to carry out the mission.
6. “Deliver the bad news first” – many leaders will go into meetings and spend the whole time talking about the good points, and then at the very end they will blast their team members with some bad news. What happens when everyone leaves? They leave thinking about the bad news, feeling unsatisfied or guilty. Instead, always make it a point to give the bad news first. Give adequate time, address it clearly, and then move on. Then, when you share the best news last, people will leave feeling motivated and excited.
7. “Just say it” – often, people think that they must say things nicely, that they shouldn’t put things bluntly, or they will be judged for being rude or offensive. Instead they waste time by beating around the bush trying to avoid being impolite. Thus, you as a leader must allow people, and even force people, to speak their mind clearly so that everyone understands what they are trying to say. You also need to ensure that your team won’t judge each other, and that they can freely share their mind.
8. “Leaders call fouls” – with the last principle in mind, at times things do get out of hand. Someone says something that is a little offensive and someone else takes offense. As a leader, you must be able to step in and call ‘foul’ when things start to get out of hand. Recognize when a situation is becoming unproductive or even destructive and then stop it, and get things back on track.
9. “Give me an A, B, or C” – consider this situation; you are in charge of someone who has consistently been doing subpar work. After a month or so, you finally decide to call them into your office and fire them. Upon hearing your thoughts on their performance, the individual exclaims something like, “I had no idea what your expectations were, if you had told me how I was doing, I could have worked a little harder. I thought I was doing good work.” To avoid situations such as this it is important to give some sort of evaluation to let people know how they are doing. Maybe something as simple as giving them a letter grade. Whatever you do, be sure to take time to explain your thoughts, and share ways that they could improve if needed. Don’t simply give them a poor grade without and explanation.
10. “We got to do this together” – when you and your team face a tough task that eventually is accomplished, be sure that, in the same way that you shared the work to get the job done, you share the joy and praise for after the task is accomplished. This is one of the biggest things that could break down a team; only one person getting the glory from finishing tasks.
Now what can you do with these? Take them, use them, and start doing an even better job at leading. Maybe you don’t want to try using every one of these principles, maybe start with the top three that seem most important to you, and then once you are good at following them, select another three. However you want to do it, the key is to start taking steps towards leading more effectively and successfully.
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