TOWNSEND'S THIRD DEGREE IN LEADERSHIP
(published in across the board)
(this is the introduction to the lecture; for part 2 click at the end)
By Robert Townsend
Robert Townsend is author of up the Organization and Further UP The Organization. He was senior vice president for investment and international banking operations at American Express, and later chairman and CEO of Avis.
Further Upmanship from the Master. The author, who advises executives to always carry their resignation in a back pocketit may come in handy pulled his old one out at a recent Conference Board gathering.
For the final part of your Ph.D., I'm going to tell you from my experience
the characteristics of a leader.
This is something that's very important and very difficult and misunderstood. They come in all shapes and sizes and colours and sexes; some are bright, some are dull, some are articulate, some can't speak a whole sentence, some are Type A's, some are lazy and laid-back. You cannot recognize them physically. Charisma is not generally associated. with a true leader, in my opinion. It is more associated with the opposite the corporate politician, who is what is the matter with our country. There are too many of this type in our corner offices.
Now here are the characteristics of a real leader and to help you identify them and
become one, if that is your desire They have their personal ambition under control they seem to get their kicks out of seeing their own people succeed and their own organization succeed. They are visible or available to their people, and they are good listeners. Listening is a very painful thing
because, depending on how much pain they're in, you may have to listen to your people say something four or five times until they get that
look in their eyes that says, "By golly, he really understands.'' When they get that look, you can say, "Fred, I understand what you're saying. Now get the hell back to work and do it my way."
Then they'll go back home and they cry like babies and tell their spouses, "At least the son of a bitch listened.
That takes the anger out, but it's very painful to the listener. That's why you need a new CEO every five or six years, because after five or six years he or she cant listen anymore.
A good leader is decisive. This is why you should not have lawyers or accountants or MBAs in a corner office. They want to get the last shred and scrap of information; they are happy with numbers and words, and they dont trust people. They need more information, and by the time they have collected all the information for the decision, the timing is off and they might as well forget the whole project.
At some point a good leader with inadequate data will say, Ready, fire, aim... and if it doesnt work well correct it, but at least the timing is right to start with what we have.
A good leader sees the best in his people, not the worst; he is not a scapegoat hunter. He sees winners, and he uses "the rule of 50 percent," which makes him high on promoting from within. The rule is that if you have anybody in your organization who looks like 50 percent of what you need for a job and who has the support of the people around her and wants the job, give this person the job and she'll grow the other 50 percent.
The corporate politician with no faith in his people hires a search firm, and they wind up bringing in an electric blue suit. He raises salaries all around, and a year later you're still teaching him the business. A good leader is simplistic,
not complex. He makes things seem simple. He's persistent. If he can't convince his people and he really thinks it ought to be done, he'll find a different way to come at them until either they convince him, or he them.
He's fair and has a sense of humor, and he has humility. If you ever become chief executive, remember You are still the same lovable, stupid lazy slob you were the day before you got the job, and don't try to rush out and buy a whole lot of three-piece suits to fool people.
You're not going to fool anybody. You got there on your program, so stay on your program. But just remember to work a lot harder, and work for your people.
About the time of my first meeting with the board at Avis, General Sarnoff did what all outside directors do They try to impress the other outside directors with how smart they are he said, "I would like a run of all the cars we have in Avis, by the location and model number" I thought of the weeks that that would take our accounting department to run down, and I said to him, ''General, if I don't need that statement to run the company, you sure as hell don't need it to be an outside director of the company''
Bless his heart the general turned purple; it was a joy for me to behold it.
But what I was doing was protecting my people, so they could get on with what the company was really trying to do. It was also in the first 100 days, the man who hired you cant fire you without looking stupid.
I suppose the best way to tell a leader is if you find a place where people are coming to work enthusiastically and they are excited to come to work and would rather work there than anywhere else, you can bet you have got a leader.
Well, theres your Ph.D in leadership.
Good luck and God bless.
(Do you want to go to the second part ? press here