Even outstanding leaders
struggle through career stretches during which they feel off
track. It can be hard to spot the specific problem when
youre in the middle of it. But successful leaders
develop techniques for recognizing their vulnerabilities and
making rapid adjustments.
Leaders should regularly
ask themselves questions that target seven areas, according
to Robert S. Kaplan, in a Harvard Business Review
Vision and Priorities, 2. Managing Time, 3. Feedback, 4.
Succession Planning, 5. Evaluation and Alignment, 6. Leading
Under Pressure, 7. Staying True to Yourself
Coming up with good
answers is far less important than taking the time to ask
yourself hard questions and honestly examine your strengths
Self-coachinghelps you develop
clarify your values and guidingprinciples and build
your reputation. Self-knowledgeprovides the
personal integrity to engage in productive and authentic
Vision and Priorities
leaders fail to ask themselves two important
How frequently do I
communicate a vision and the priorities for my business?
Would my employees, if asked, be able to articulate
the vision and priorities?
It is difficult to lead people if they lack a firm
grasp of where theyre heading and whats
expected of them. Unfortunately, many leaders neglect to
explain their vision in an easily understood
Employees want to know where a business is heading
and the areas on which they need to focus. Many managers
either unintentionally under-communicate or fail to
articulate specific priorities that would give meaning to
How often do I communicate a vision for my business?
Have I identified and communicated three to five key
priorities for achieving this vision?
If asked, could my employees articulate my vision and
How do you spend your
Your answer plays a major role in the execution of
your vision and priorities. Time is your most precious
Sadly, many leaders cannot accurately answer this
question. Its vital for them to track their time so
they can gain a realistic, honest assessment of how their
time is allocated. You may be surprised to find a
disconnect between your top priorities and how you
actually spend your time.
How am I spending my time? Does this match my key
How are my subordinates spending their time? Does
this match my business key priorities?
Many managers are
afraid that criticism will demoralize employees,
discussions will become confrontational, or frank
conversations will result in their not being liked. This
prompts many to postpone giving feedback until its
time for annual performance reviews.
This is a big mistake. People are more receptive to
learning about themselves when feedback is offered
throughout the year, as situations arise.
It is much more challenging to get honest feedback
from subordinates. You must cultivate a network of junior
professionals who are willing to be direct with you.
Equally important is what you do with the feedback. If
you act on what others tell you, you will improve your
own performance, boost trust and keep the feedback loop
Do I give people timely and direct feedback to act
Do I have five or six junior subordinates who will
tell me things I may not want to hearbut need to
When challenging and testing people, you must
frequently delegate more to them. This frees you to focus
on critical strategic matters facing the business.
Failure to actively plan for succession means you do not
delegate sufficiently and become a decision-making
Have I, at least in my own mind, picked one or more
Am I coaching them and giving them challenging
Am I delegating sufficiently?
Have I become a decision-making bottleneck?
Evaluation and Alignment
Your business is
constantly changing. So are your customers. Depending on
your industry, this may be rapidor extremely rapid.
If you dont change along with the business
environment, you may become seriously out of alignment.
What got you here today wont necessarily
you there tomorrow.
Have you checked to see if the design of your
organization still aligns with key success factors for
your business? Effective executives regularly seek advice
and fresh perspectives from people who are less
emotionally invested in their business.
Does the design of my company still align with key
If I had to design my business from scratch, how
would I create it? How would it differ from the current
Should I create a task force to answer these
questions and make recommendations?
Leading Under Pressure
A leaders actions
during stressful times have a profound impact on the
firms culture and employees behaviors.
Successful leaders must be aware of their personal stress
triggers and reactions.
Pressure is a normal part of doing business, but it
affects people differently. What may evoke anxiety for
one individual may not bother
someone else. As a
leader, you are watched closely. Emotions are
contagiouseven more so when they come from the
Which events create pressure for me?
How do I behave under pressure?
What signals do I send to subordinates?
Are these signals helpful, or do they undermine the
success of my business?
Staying True to Yourself
develop leadership styles that fit their business needs,
as well as their personal beliefs and personality. While
many leaders ask themselves about the former, few analyze
Companies require leaders who can express strongly
held views, rather than mimic the party line. Dont
tiptoe around significant issues or foster an atmosphere
that encourages employees to do so.
When you send agift
leadership tips to family, friends, employees,
customers and even the boss, you will be remembered
every day of the year.
receiving leadership coaching tips for a year, here is
what a few subscribers had to say:
"I have enjoyed
reading the tips. I find they provide insight in
dealing with both my personal issues, as well as, my
professional career. Many of them help when dealing
with employees. I think the tips will help anyone who
is interested in or already in a leadership position.
As leaders, we must hold ourselves to a higher
standard, than we hold our subordinates, in order to
set the example we want them to work
"I have enjoyed
the self coaching tips and have used them in my own
internal corporate mentoring. I have also passed them
on to others because they are succinct and
tips have helped me a lot. I have never missed one in
this one year. It does not take much time to read
them. It is short and informative. It has helped me to
understand myself and concentrate on my
"I am constantly
amazed at how God seems to know JUST WHAT I NEED, and
very often your message is JUST WHAT I NEED at the
time. Thank you so much for making a difference in my,
and others' lives."
"I want to thank
you for sending your wisdom to me for a year. It has
been valuable. You write like a friend and I always
look forward to it. I have used your thoughts to
clarify my thinking and to inspire me. The days when
things weren't going so well, your e-mail would lift
my spirits. I have passed your messages on to others
as many probably do. That way, your positive influence
the executive education debate still rages on whether
learned or innate,
there is no doubt that the subject is being taught.
In October 2003,
BusinessWeek reported that 134 companies from
20 nations spent $210 million to enroll 21,000
employees in executive leadership programs. Since
not an event, that's a significant investment in
classroom activities that may or may not produce
company leaders or even better managers.
Beginning in October
2005, the University of Michigan Executive Education
Program (rated third in open enrollment behind Harvard
and Pennsylvania's Wharton programs) is offering a
3-day "Becoming an Exceptional Coach" for $4,350.
Compare that classroom training with six-months
of weekly personal executive
for only $7,200 to create a positive leadership
mindset and a positive work environment.
A survey of 3,000
leaders and associates in 117 organizations reports
that 63% plan to increase spending on leadership
development programs that 75% of HR executives
surveyed don't give a high quality rating
The paradox of
spending more on what's not working is due to
leadership development being seen as a classroom
event. Yet, you don't fix people by sending them off
to training. Managers need ongoing coaching to get in
the habit of being good leaders.
The survey reported
that two-thirds of the respondents said leaders at
their company exhibited at least one potentially fatal
flaw or "derailer"--a personality attribute that
interferes with leadership effectiveness. Derailers
are more personality-oriented than skill-based and are
more difficult to change than teaching someone a new
For all the money
spent on them, we still don't know if leadership
Leadership development is self-development. Learning
how to not micromanage, not be overly concrete, not
fail to explicitly state expectations and other
unproductive interpersonal behavior only happens
through the increased self-awareness gained in a
personal coaching or mentoring
The crux of
leadership development that works is self-directed
intentionally developing or strengthening an aspect of
who you are or who you want to be, or
Leadership by Daniel
Goleman, Richard Boyatzis & Annie McKee (Harvard
Business School Press)
Sources:Leadership Paradox by Warren Bennis in October 1,
2004, CIO/Insight and Assessment of the state of
corporate leadership by Bridgeville, PA-based