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The Importance of CEO Leadership Development

Del: 17/10/2006

Whilst there are those people who have a natural talent to inspire and motivate others to achieve their goals, the best leaders can be made as well as born. There are two primary leadership roles that CEOs need to focus on to build and maintain a thriving and successful organization.

The first job is to establish Vision and Direction. Leadership is about going somewhere. In effective organizations, everyone has a compelling vision and a clear sense of where the enterprise is going and this vision has to come from the top. This kind of visionary leadership incorporates four key elements:

Purpose – be totally clear about what business you are in
Vision – what is your picture of the future
Values – what will guide the journey into the future
Goals – what should your people focus on

The second aspect of leadership fundamental to cultivating organisational success is Implementation. This involves turning the traditional hierarchical pyramid on its head and empowering people throughout your organization, allowing them to act as if they owned the vision and direction. A CEO needs to move to the bottom of the pyramid and act as cheerleaders, supporting and encouraging everyone to live according to the vision and accomplish the goals.

This radical leadership strategy may be called “Servant Leadership.”

Too many leaders embrace the first aspect of their leadership responsibilities and forget the second. Instead of becoming successful “Servant Leaders”, they become the opposite, “self-serving leaders”, ultimately setting themselves and their organizations up for failure.

As a customer you can often spot an organization headed by a self-serving leader. Whilst it may have a great mission, vision and values, it can’t deliver the kind of great customer service that will keep it in business because leaders don’t empower the people at the front line to put that great mission statement into action.

Wayne Dyer, the personal growth teacher once said there are two kinds of people: ducks and eagles. Ducks act like victims and go “quack, quack, quack!” Eagles take the initiative and soar above the crowd. In the customer service arena, ducks, working under self-serving leaders say: “I can’t do that. It’s not company policy, I don’t make the rules. You’ll have to talk to head office. Quack, quack!” Eagle behaviour on the other hand comes when servant leaders rule the roost and for customers it makes for a beautiful experience.

Any CEO can become a better leader simply by constantly reminding people where they are going and praising them when they start getting there. Organisations need to make their people feel good about themselves if they are to be rewarded by loyalty, trust and ultimately profit. If companies treat their people well, their people treat their customers well. And if they treat their customers well, the bottom line looks good.

Effective senior leadership can help companies take advantage of good market conditions and also to weather downturns. What is important is to “catch people doing the right things”. Rather than telling people what to do and then returning only to criticize when someone makes a mistake, great leaders are always accentuating the positive. If people make a mistake, rather than slamming them, they redirect them back to where they need to be. Chances are, it was they who didn’t express the vision and the values correctly in the first place.

To work on becoming a Servant Leader think try the following:

- Get up 45 minutes earlier. Take time to get in touch with who you are and what kind of person you want to be, because then you’ll have a better chance of living it that day.
- Have the courage to let people bring their brains to work and give them the power to deliver your vision and your values. Catch them doing things right and praise them.

Remember, profit is the applause for you get for taking care of your people, taking care of your customers and doing a great job.


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