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Increasing your value as a leader Executive Command

By Kevin Black This is my most recent article at ExpertBeacon. Recognizing that helping their organization achieve its goals is a means of improving personal success, leaders should have one fundamental question in mind, “How can I increase my value to the organization?” Volumes of literature exists to support thinking about this question. This article provides you five simple, time-tested Dos and Don’ts.

The DOs

Do gain self-awareness Identifying and understanding your strengths in leadership, communication, and planning is indispensable for the simple reason that you know what you are good at. More importantly, however, you become cognizant of what you are not comfortable with, or proficient in. This knowledge help you avoid unnecessary risk-taking. Do think and act strategically “Why” is the most important word you that you can pronounce in a leadership position. By identifying the purpose of a task, goal or objective, you are in a better position to link it to higher goals in the organization; likewise, you can rightfully dismiss them if no link exists. Overall, asking “why” is the means of ensuring the efficacious allocation of time and resources. Do project optimism, especially during difficult times Nothing can kill progress more than a defeatist attitude. An overt pessimism is contagious, and will ultimately act to rationalize setbacks or poor performance. You must project confidence no matter what. Peers and colleagues will recall your steadfastness, especially during challenges when they felt overwhelmed or panicked. Do constantly develop yourself and team Learn from other’s mistakes. Educate yourself in order to make life easier. Make every team activity a learning lesson. After a team assignment, sit everyone down and walk through the previous planning and implementation phases. Ask questions about decision-making. Enable the team to learn from their successes as well as their failures. Do know your value Anyone can push buttons, pull levers, or accomplish tasks; not everywhere, however, can consciously create value. Look for the 2nd or 3rd order of effects from your accomplishments. What did the organization gain in the long run from your previous assignment? Who else benefited from your success? This type of personal worth assessment will help boost your rational self-confidence as a leader. It is this type of positive expression that acts as a model for others in the organization to emulate.

The Don’ts

Do not get mired in the “weeds” of everyday activities Every time you lose sight of the bigger picture you reduce your return on investment to the organization. Differentiate between what is essential in your sphere of control and what is not. Delegate your non-essentials to leaders who should be responsible for them in the first place. Do not think success begins and ends with your own team Organizations are like a ships out to sea, each slowly progressing toward its ultimate destination. If challenges arise (and they always does) one person’s success coupled with others’ failures inevitably produce the same outcome: everyone goes down with the ship. Do your best to reach out and support your colleagues, especially across different functions. This type of cross-functional support will not only bolster your reputation but your business competency as well. Do not do everything yourself Consciously develop the discipline of “trust, but verify.” A very bad precedent is set once you give the impression that nothing can work effectively without you. There is no better way to kill personal initiative and to poison the culture than to treat employees like children. You’ll help to decrease your personal and your team’s effectiveness, all the while decreasing everyone’s probability of long-term success. Do not fear telling people the truth The most direct remark I ever heard was when a senior executive said to his new, underperforming director, “If this is your best how do I get my money back?” Too many young leaders today don’t seem to understand that organizations have limited means, i.e., their capital is finite. Hard truths sting a lot less than firings and unemployment. Do not forget who you work for You work for the shareholders, or the people who have invested their money, time and their life’s security into your organization. A loyalty to ensure the best decisions for the organization is far more important than any personal loyalty. Your credibility as a leader will manifest itself by producing value and not by protecting personalities or agendas. Summary By supporting the organization in achieving its goals, the leader simultaneously improves his own personal and professional worth. It is not an easy task given all the alternative techniques and methods available in modern leadership studies. The Dos and Don’ts provided above are simple, time-tested and true. Grasping them will help all other questions of nuance simply fall into place.

Summer Essay: “The Strategic Utility of Space and People”

By Kevin Black

I recently participated in an essay contest by Warcouncil.org.  The three best essays would be required reading in DS470: Military Strategy in the Defense & Strategic Studies Program at West Point.  Of the 21 questions available to answer I chose Question #7: “How do geography and demographics impact a nation’s grand and military strategic choices?”

Even though this is a military themed topic, the material is pertinent to business leaders.  The central take-away is the influence of peripheral forces on strategy development.  For example, the relationship between sellers and strategic partners will indirectly influence how strategy is interpreted and developed.   So, here is the essay.

 

The New Art of the Leader

 

By Kevin Black

I read The New Art of the Leader by William A. Cohen several years ago. Here are some notes I took down that I thought I would share. All are self-explanatory except No. 4.

Seven Facts to Know Before you Lead:
1. One person can make a difference between success and failure
2. Success comes from the help of others
3. You don’t need to be a manager to be a leader
4. The Combat Model is the most basic model
5. Essence of leadership: motivate people to perform their maximum potential to achieve goals as objectives
6. Leaders are not born
7. Good leadership doesn’t depend on good deals or pleasant working conditions

Supreme Command: Ben-Gurion & Common Sense

David Ben-Gurion, Prime Minister of Israel, ’48-’54

By Kevin Black

Our age of specialization has in some respects overshadowed the value of the generalist. This shouldn’t be a surprise considering the sophisticated,  technological age we live in. For instance, to be a “business strategist” today requires a qualifier, signifying an expertise in a particular field, such as marketing, sales, or IT. What about the general business strategist? Isn’t this the professional who integrates all of the input of the experts? And by what technical right can this person legitimately tell an expert what to do or what not to do? David Ben-Gurion, the prime minister of Israel, who is the fourth statesmen presented in Supreme Command: Soldiers, Statesman, and Leadership in Wartime, provides an interesting and helpful perspective.

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Supreme Command: Clemenceau & Supervision

Georges Clemenceau, Prime Minister of France, ’17-’20

 

By Kevin Black

Probably one of the greatest traps for strategic leaders is to enter the world of tactics and get stuck in there, “buried in the weeds” of everyday operations. No doubt tactics are important, but when the daily crisis dominates your everyday thinking and agenda you are not driving strategy and actualizing your ROI. A great example of a strategic leader who learned to fluctate between tactics and strategy was Georges Clemenceau, Prime Minister of France during the latter years of World War I. It was his supervision of his army that is a great lesson for any business leaders today.

Clemenceau is the second statesman in Supreme Command. The French wartime Prime Minister earned the nickname, “The Tiger”, for his force of character, unwavering focus and optimism, and for his willingness to fight for what he wanted. The Tiger had an enormous challenge as he came to power during a dire time during World War I, when victory was distant and world powers were almost bled white.

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Supreme Command: Lincoln & Delegation

By Kevin Black

I think it is fair to say that delegation as an effective business tool is a sacrosanct notion. And why should it not be? As a strategic leader you must delegate responsibilities, at least for the very fact that the amount of goals and objectives to be achieved, to include the multitude of derivative tasks and sub-tasks, is too much for one person to handle by themselves. In this respect alone delegation makes practical sense.

Abraham Lincoln, one of the four statesmen covered in Supreme Command: Soldiers, Statesman, and Leadership in Wartime is a great case study in the important role of delegation. But in Lincoln’s case, delegation of authority and responsibility had to be EARNED.

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