What makes a good manager (leader) – Part 2

NOTE:  Continuing this series…

In the below, I am going to list some of the factors that I think are critical for great leaders but almost universally they revolve around one core concept: high E.Q. as it relates to “people management”…

  • Ability to consistently make good choices in the face of “incomplete information”
  • Ability to make “tough calls” especially when there is not consensus
  • Related to the above, ability to exit non-performing members of the team and/or bad “cultural fits”
  • Ability to hire & retain the best executive talent
  • Ability to inspire others that the choices you’re making as a manager are always coming from a place of what is best for the company as a whole & its long-term sustainability & value
  • Ability to anticipate problems & take care of them before they become bigger, or to see them coming from a mile away and take steps to avoid them altogether

Ultimately, in regard to building value for a company, I do not believe in “democratic leadership” in which you get your direct reports around a table, take a vote, and the highest vote wins.

This is a huge mistake – and I think it’s one that many people make when they first become CEO’s & senior managers (guilty as charged, I made this mistake).

When I started as a CEO, I was still too worried about “everyone getting along & being happy.”  And that leads to poor decision-making because you are not putting the company first & you are also not acknowledging a fundamental component of business…

You’re the CEO (or in a senior management position) BECAUSE you have vision – this means you have a skill that 99% of people DO NOT HAVE.  And giving equal “weight” to everyone’s opinion fails to acknowledge the stone-cold fact that not all opinions are created equally.

Therefore, I am a strong proponent of “democratic listening” to the opinions of the people who report to you.  This means you give the opportunity for everyone who you respect around you to inform you of her perspective, to voice it.

Don’t get me wrong – you should ask for peoples’ opinions, and you should hear them out & listen to them.  But “listen to them” is not synonymous with execute them.

Ultimately, it’s your job as a leader to make the call.  And making the call is inclusive of choosing which inputs to listen to or not listen to.

Let me clarify the above further because it’s a crucial concept…

If a report comes to you with the optimal strategy, it is still your decision to then execute based on that.  While you should always give credit to the good ideas/work of others, the sooner you get comfortable with the idea that even if someone else “thinks of it,” it’s still you’re making the call because you are allowing that idea/strategy to get executed.

Anyway, I think there are really 3 main courses of action and I define them below:

  • One of your direct reports actually has the optimal strategy, so it’s then your ability to recognize this is the optimal strategy & help everyone understand that this is what they should be executing on
  • Your direct reports have elements which make up the optimal strategy, so it’s your job to synthesize all of this information, and then output the strategy that combines all of these positive elements coming from different sources – and then that becomes the strategy you execute on
  • Your direct reports are “off” & are not able to either (i) come up with the optimal strategy ; (ii) there are vastly differing opinions on what that optimal strategy is (and they’re not optimal in your mind) – so it’s then your job as the CEO or a senior manager to come up with the optimal strategy – and then execute that

That 3rd bullet above is the most uncomfortable for many (it was for me) when you first find yourself in a senior position.  Basically, there will be times when you have to have the internal temerity to tell everyone that they are not approaching this optimally, and then put forth what you want them to do.

I do not believe in “flowery word choice” in which you say things like: “You all thought of really good ideas, but here’s what we have decided.”

I believe in being straightforward: “I listened to what everyone had to say & I’m not confident moving forward with any of the strategies that have been presented thus far. So here’s what I’ve decided we’re going to do...”

Then list what that strategy is. And make sure everyone knows that if they are not clear how it applies to their job, then the door is open to seek further clarity.

People respect those who are bold enough to execute on their vision in the name of creating long-term value.  That applies at both the macro level (press, shareholders, etc.) & the micro level (the day-to-day people you work with).

If you’re going to be a leader, then there is no more ultimate test than when you must disagree with the group.  And then get everyone onboard to execute an endeavor that while it may be uncomfortable & unpopular in the short-term, you are confident that over time, the results will allow those around you to see that you are one to have confidence in, because you indeed have vision.

And [vision] + [E.Q.] = CEO/senior manager material.



What makes a good manager (leader) – Part 2

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