I interviewed Tim Donovan who discussed Four Things A Leader Must Do.
It’s great to speak with you again, Tim. Today I’m looking forward to hearing your views on the four things a leader must do. My first question is: Why is leadership so important today? What is the current situation?
I think it’s more important than ever because we have less leaders and less people with leadership experience, so, therefore, it’s really important that they understand it, as well as most people think if they have an M.B.A., they’re a leader if they’re a manager and that’s not true.
What is leadership?
Leadership, as I learned a long time ago, is the art of influencing people in such a manner as to accomplish a mission. There’s a lot more involved to it than just being a manager because you need to really understand what makes people tick and how to get them to do the things you’d like them to do in such a manner that you can get the mission done.
Can you talk about what it means to be a leader and what the four keys are?
Being a leader and the four keys to that are: knowing your people—and we’ll talk about each one of these in a minute—make timely decisions, communicate the strategic intent, and keep your focus on the mission. These four basic keys will allow you to be very successful as a leader if you can follow them, and they’re not necessarily easy to follow.
What do you mean by “know your own men”?
I should say “people” more than “men.” What that means is that you know the capabilities of what your people can do for you; therefore, you can match them up to the job. If you’ve got a guy who’s a crack whiz at PowerPoint and he’s not a very good writer of a document, then you probably don’t want to put him on a Word document; you could probably use him to do some PowerPoint stuff. That’s what I mean by “know your people.” Know what they can do, what their skills are, and especially know what their aspirations are. You can try to mirror those and then you’ll have a happier employee, and they’ll be more willing to follow your lead.
What do you mean by “making timely decisions”? Don’t most leaders do this?
Making timely decisions—a lot of people will say most leaders do it; the reality is, they don’t. I know a lot of people who will wait it out, hoping it goes away, and you really can’t do that. You need to make a decision when it needs to be made, and you need to make it right away whether it’s popular or unpopular. That’s one of the things I’ve noticed in Corporate America: a lot of people don’t want to make those timely decisions; therefore, they’ll stall on it and wait and see if it goes away.
Can you talk about communicating strategic intent?
In the communicate strategic intent key, it means that everybody in your group should understand what you’re trying to accomplish. Why are we doing what we’re doing? A lot of times people will say, “Do it because I said so. I’m the leader.” In a lot of cases, that’s not good enough for people, especially in today’s world. People want to have some say in what they actually accomplish; therefore, without understanding the strategic intent of it, they tend to drag their feet or maybe not even do what you’d like them to do.
My last question is: Why do you have to keep your focus on the mission?
Because I think that’s where we fall short a lot of times, especially in Corporate America. People will do a lot of these things, but they forget the reason they’re there for. It’s like the old pogo thing; sometimes you forget your job is to drain the swamp, not to do some of the other things. You need to keep your mind and your people focused on what it is you want to accomplish. If they understand that, they’re going to do a better job of getting out there and getting the job done. That’s why we say keep your eye on the prize or focus your strategic intent on the mission, just to understand what it is that we want to have happen, and make sure that people don’t forget that. If your job is just to, as they say, to drain the swamp or put up a building, why are we putting up a Taj Mahal?
Thanks, Tim, for sharing today the four things a leader must do.
No problem. In summary, keep in mind that you need to know your people, know their strengths and weakness, and be genuinely concerned about each person. People will sense if you’re not really interested in them, and that happens in Corporate America a lot of times. People go out there—especially CEOs—and they want to be successful for the company because they make the money, but they forget it’s the people who get them there.
The second point is: Make timely decisions. You want to make sure that you make the decisions that you need to make when you need to make them. Don’t put them off. A lot of times—especially the unpopular ones—people wait and hope it goes away.
And communicate strategic intent is just what it says. What are we trying to really accomplish? What is the end game? And the last one is: Keep your eye on the mission. What do we want to have happen if we’re successful? Those are the four keys.
Thank you, Tim, for sharing.
About Tim Donovan
CEO & Leadership Guru at First-Rate Leadership, International, Inc.