As business coaches Guy and I have spent countless of hours helping our clients transform themselves into Presidents. We teach them how to stay above the fray, how to lead their business to greater heights and better financial results. Along the way, we both have noticed the incredible difference between the attention white collar professionals and contractors pay to the issue of leadership.
Guy and I have been around hundreds of white collar executives and professionals over the years. They love to think about and talk about leadership. It's an obsession.
Contractors are a different breed. Contractors rarely aspire to be thought of as leaders. Contractors are more concerned with making money.
Alas, while white collar professionals waste way too much time and energy thinking about leadership, contractors spend far too little time and energy thinking about it. Understanding leadership and acting on that understanding will give you a competitive advantage.
Managers Maintain. Leaders Improve.
Managers keep the business running as it always has. Leaders make the business run better. Managers allow the economy to control their fate. Leaders adjust to, overcome and if possible, take advantage of economic swings.
Most likely, your competition is being run by managers. They aren't likely to improve their ability to conduct business.
If you learn to lead, you will improve the way you conduct business. Slowly but surely your business will blow by theirs. You will own a cost advantage, a brand advantage, and a staffing advantage. You will create advantages that are very difficult to copy. That's the foundation for long-term success and wealth creation. Opportunity is knocking on your door. Let it in.
Let's begin by asking the question that may be going through your mind "What the heck is leadership anyway?" We'll start by pointing out a handful of common leadership myths:
- Leaders must be charismatic and inspirational.
- You are either born to lead or you're not.
- A business can never have enough leaders.
- If some leadership is good, more is better.
These commonly held beliefs are totally, completely wrong. How do we know? We read and listened to dozens of experts and compared their ideas to the successful presidents we've met. Most of the experts are spewing junk. A few, such as Peter Drucker, appeared to be dead on.
Peter Drucker has been addressing leadership since the mid-60s. Here is what Mr. Drucker wrote in his 1992 book Managing For The Future.
"The foundation of effective leadership is thinking through the organization's mission, defining it, and establishing it, clearly and visibly. The leader sets the goals, sets the priorities, and sets and maintains the standards. He makes compromises, of course, indeed, effective leaders are painfully aware that they are not in control of the universe.) Only misleaders - the Stalins, Hitlers, Maos - suffer from that delusion. But before accepting a compromise, the effective leader has thought through what is right and desirable. The leader's first task is to be the trumpet that sounds a clear sound.
"What distinguishes the leader from the misleader are his goals. Whether the compromise he makes with the constraints of reality - which may involve political, economic, financial, or interpersonal problems - are compatible with his mission and goals or lead away from them determines whether he is an effective leader. And whether he holds fast to a few basic standards (exemplifying them in his own conduct), or whether "standards" for him are what he can get away with, determines whether the leader has followers or only hypocritical time-servers.
"The second requirement is that the leader sees leadership as responsibility rather than as rank and privilege. Effective leaders are rarely "permissive." But when things go wrong - and they always do - they do not blame others.