Great Leaders Start with the Future

Discussion
Jun 17, 2005
George Anderson

By George Anderson


According to Marcus Buckingham, author of First, Break All The Rules: What the World’s Greatest Managers Do Differently and The One Thing You Need to Know, great leaders and managers are in rare supply in business today.


The best ones, Mr. Buckingham told a Wharton Leadership Conference, share the ability to identify an individual’s talents and then use those abilities to drive performance.


The best managers put their employees in positions where they can use their strengths to succeed, said Mr. Buckingham. Bad managers don’t. That’s why it’s important to focus and build on their strengths instead of trying to continually correct weaknesses.


There is also a big difference between a manager and a leader, according to
the author and management consultant.


“If you are a leader, you better be unflinchingly, unfailingly optimistic. No matter how bleak his or her mood, nothing can undermine a leader’s belief that things can get better, and must get better.”


Great leaders are able to take a “universal truth,” even the scary ones such as fear of change and of the future, and use them to rally followers.


“We all share a fear of the unknown,” said Mr. Buckingham. “The problem for the modern-day leader, of course, is that you traffic in the future.”


“The best way to turn anxiety into confidence is this: Be clear. Clarity is the antidote to anxiety. If you do nothing else as a leader, be clear.”


Management at companies including Best Buy, Tesco and Wal-Mart, said Mr. Buckingham, have built these businesses by being clear about where they were headed.


“When you want to lead, start with the future.” he said. “Get specific. And get vivid.”


Moderator’s Comment: What do you see as the difference
between a manager and a leader? Are there great leaders you’ve known in your
career or in history that have inspired you? What was it about them that made
them a great leader?


For many, myself included, Jesus of Nazareth is the most
inspiring leader in history. While I’m not sure I had previously thought about
it in these terms, he was a great talent evaluator. He clearly saw that Simon,
Andrew, James and John had less than promising careers as fishermen. ;0) The
rest, as they say, is history.

George Anderson – Moderator

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6 Comments on "Great Leaders Start with the Future"


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M. Jericho Banks PhD
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M. Jericho Banks PhD
15 years 8 months ago

Someone once said, “Leaders spot a parade and get in front of it.”

The topic here, however, is GREAT leaders. And the greatest of leaders stay the course in the face of overwhelming adversity. Achingly depressing adversity. Mind-numbing adversity of the kind that would send most of us to bed sucking our thumbs. The difference is courage.

Abe Lincoln is my personal hero. The “scope adjustment” he administered to the Constitution in his Gettysburg address was not only brilliant and prescient, but it was delivered in the face of stiff opposition, at a downtime in our history, and despite political, wartime, physical, personal, business, and family problems. He was made of stern stuff, and we are the beneficiaries.

Managers are technicians. Good managers are technicians with an innate feel for people. And GREAT managers exhibit an understanding, comprehension, and support of their businesses’ overall objectives. But that doesn’t mean they’re leaders, as they’re often thought of.

Michael Richmond, Ph.D.
Guest
Michael Richmond, Ph.D.
15 years 8 months ago
If you are not the lead dog, the scenery never changes! Most current leaders focus on incremental changes and tweaks and not game changing tactics that may be needed. They buy businesses because they can’t create organic growth. The real problem is the large organizational infrastructure and the climate that exists in most big companies. They all inhibit innovation and growth. The leaders (often the new rising stars) break the rules, find the bright innovative people, protect the deviants, look outside the four walls for new opportunities, support intelligent failure, recognize the importance of intellectual capital and so on. Unfortunately, most current CEOs are in the conforming stage, i.e. we need to create these financial systems, this performance management system and these rules, etc. At the same time the entrepreneurs are out there doing, rather than thinking, about the opportunity. This is a real classic and I have been there and done that – “we don’t pursue anything unless it is a $100MM idea.” So leaders have vision and foresight, they remove obstacles, they recognize… Read more »
Mark Storer
Guest
Mark Storer
15 years 8 months ago

The greatest attribute of a leader is wisdom — not to be confused with intelligence or foresight. Wisdom includes the synthesization of knowledge and experience with the intelligence to understand the perspective of one’s own perception.

Karen Kingsley
Guest
Karen Kingsley
15 years 8 months ago

Most “managers” became managers because they were good at the tasks involved, not because of any innate skill they possessed in managing or leading people. Those skills are not sufficiently valued, particularly at lower and mid-management levels, where eventually higher-level leaders are drawn from.

But I believe there’s a hybrid: great leaders manage people well. Different people want to be managed differently, so managing cannot be a “one size fits all” endeavor. Understanding and tapping into those differences is a difficult and critical skill to winning the hearts and minds of employees.

In my humble opinion, one of the greatest management books ever written is Phil Jackson’s (former coach of the Bulls; current coach of the Lakers) book called Sacred Hoops. In it, he talks about playing to people’s strengths and letting them work around their weaknesses. It is only when employees are able to do what they do best that they can respond to a real leader.

Charlie Moro
Guest
Charlie Moro
15 years 8 months ago

I have been lucky over the years to have worked for a number of people in my career that have made me a much better person. It is almost paternal or maternal in the way they have had an influence. I remember back when I started out in retail thinking, I knew everything and could be more effective by being louder (sounds like the rotten teenager). Over time, I found myself telling stories to managers, starting off that were told to me in a quiet empathic manner that is inclusive and sharing. Great leaders make better people…thanks John, Dave, Larry and Mark…. I appreciate it.

Dave Wendland
Guest
15 years 8 months ago

This is a very timely topic. Having just attended the Entrepreneur of the Year awards event last evening, for which the president of our company, Dawn Vogelsang, was a finalist, I must admit there are several key attributes that make for strong leadership: 1) communication – clear, consistent and open; 2) intelligence – not just book smarts, but an innate ability to understand; and 3) passion – this cannot be taught but must be felt. One of the intangibles is a strong belief system founded on guiding principles that are trustworthy, honest and true. Our company is blessed with strong leadership — as are many other leading organizations in their respective disciplines.

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