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The 5 Actions of a True Leader

November 2, 2011

November, 2011

How many times have you read a story or been asked about the required characteristics of the ideal manager?  There are countless papers written & silly group discussion surveys on ‘LinkedIn’ and other venues that dig into this elementary question. “What are 3 words you would use to describe your perfect leader?”  I won’t digress into the fine point differences between what a leader versus a manager roles & expectations are.

I need to disqualify a few of the ‘expected’ unoriginal answers…  I expect my boss, my manager, my leader, even my senator or my president, to be…” Trustworthy, Ethical, Honest, Hardworking, Fearless”. Come on, Please!  These characteristics are buzzwords that demonstrate the ‘blind faith’ we are putting forth. We all know the type of person we are willing to invest our faith in.  The ‘Traits’ above however are all End Products, the results of Actions. The problem is we take short cuts & don’t verify the actions.

When you look at a resume in preparation of hiring a person or read a business plan prior to making an investment… the self- promotion of the individual and the leadership team is expected.   A big part of our problem today is the fluff.  The fact of the matter is the best person rarely gets the job.  The best ideas & products often struggle to become realities.  Why??  People get caught up in the fluff!  Human Resource, (Talent Acquisition) Managers let SEO’s slice & dice their candidate pools.  Investors use whatever shortcuts they can to eliminate the chaff from the wheat, to get the ‘best 2-3% that they are willing to give any time at all to.  How much wheat gets wasted?  Our nation, our voters don’t even know half the issues, yet vote a party line for the best looking candidate, or say we just need a change.  Far too many people across every industry, job, class, and even clubs… buy into the fluff.  Not many folks make time to know the issues, get to know the person, or the leadership team, before making so many important decisions!

So what can we do about it!  I don’t like to present a problem unless I can offer a solution.  There are plenty of folks that like to bring us problems aren’t there?   I love it when sitting in front of a potential Investor or President of a company, and they ask a ‘what if’ question.  It is a good challenge to be able to think on my feet, but don’t dare turn the question around.  Most times people haven’t thought that far ahead. They want answers, don’t bother me with details.  I beg to differ! “The devil isn’t in the detail, the profits are!” Make time to be able to make an informed decision. The cost of employee turnover or risk of investing in a great product with a schmuck management team can both be devastating.

What do I want in my leaders?  Demonstrated Actions! Very simple actions that go a long way.

1)      Say Thank you – Common courtesy goes a long way… from recognizing a waitress, or valet, to appreciating a worker for a job well done. Kudos & recognition can sometimes have a bigger impact than mere money.  I expect gratitude to be the norm from my leader. Gratitude to not only other people but their God as well.

2)    Be the wisest, not the smartest – Egos all too often accompany entrepreneurs, high powered managers & people in charge.  Some folks don’t like to be told they are wrong & therefore surround themselves with ‘Yes-people’.  The wise person realizes they don’t ‘know it all’ & strive to surround themselves with experts & other talented people. The ability to admit they are human after all, need advice and seek counsel, maybe even prayer!  All this can help humanize leaders to better relate with their people.

3)    Trust others –   Everyone expects their leader or manager to be ‘trustworthy’. Can I trust my boss!?  We reap what we sow… I expect my leader to extend their hand in good faith & trust his/her team.  Delegate duties, mentor others, give folks a chance to succeed & even fall down.  The amount of loyalty a manager garners when trusting others is immeasurable. The tendency of a leader to demonstrate faith in others & their God is powerful.

4)    Create Win-Win – In business, competition is all about ‘survival of the fittest’, but some managers want all the credit. They sometimes forget where they came from & who helped them achieve success.  A great leader can be a hunter /killer, highly competitive and hates to lose, but can still find a way to make sure not only they win, but their team, customers, vendors & investors all walk away winners! Greed is a powerful drug. Most drugs taken to an extreme will destroy a person & alienate them from others.  Winning is also drug-like, but is much more contagious!  It is vitally important that leaders share their wealth, not merely from a monetary perspective but giving credit, kudos, & additional opportunity.  All this enhances the leader’s following and continued success!

5)    Think Out of the Box – This is the absolute hardest thing to do for many, many people.  We like consistency. If something works, don’t change. “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!”  The ability for a manager, boss, entrepreneur, or leader to adapt & change in this economy is critical!  How many businesses fail in a down economy?  The wise know that if everyone is selling, it’s a great time to buy!  The herd mentality can be a killer.  Think about Cloud computing? SAAS?  Outsourcing H/R or Finance? Changing long time vendors?  These are hard decisions to make & change from what some folks have long been used to.  Risk taking can be simple or difficult.  Are they fearless?  Leaders cannot accomplish this last action without implementing the 4 other actions defined above!

Ethical, Trustworthy, Honest, Hardworking, Fearless!  These are just words!  Show me the simple repeatable Actions!  The Actions of the leader sets the norms & defines the culture & road to success of an organization.

Continued Blessings!

Chris O’Connor


President & ‘Your CFO’

4 Comments leave one →
  1. Bruce F. Blaisdell permalink
    December 20, 2011 4:41 PM

    Chris, I agree with your perspective, very helpful, thanks! Regarding people coming to you, as a leader, with their problems, there is a very useful image that a friend once described to me. No doubt some of the readers have heard this one before, but I think it bears repeating. When an employee comes into your office with a problem, visualize that s/he has a monkey on her/his back. In the ensuing conversation, the employee’s objective is to leave your office without the monkey on her/his back. Your objective is to make sure that when s/he leaves, the monkey is still on her/his back, not yours. By no means should this be interpreted as meaning that you don’t help the employee. On the contrary, you may give her/him the advice or information s/he needs to accomplish the task. But you don’t take it on yourself, you don’t say “You can’t figure it out? Then I’ll take care of it.” This makes your workload unmanageable, and doesn’t help the employee grow in her/his position.


  2. December 13, 2011 4:58 AM

    Quite right. We are all trying to be smart. How do I hire the best talent at lowest salary? How do we advertise for lowest cost? How do I maximise Revenue? How do I minimise cost? All of which is human nature. The question, perhaps a little idealistic, should be : What do I want? or What do I want from me? Do I want to become CEO of my company and sacrifice my health in the bargain? Do I want to become a millionaire and alienate all my colleagues and friends with my relentless desire? Having worked for over 20 years in large Corporations, I have found many interactions to be shallow. I have recently started a Blog poking fun at these situations.

  3. John Noone permalink
    November 23, 2011 3:17 PM

    Very good message and not enough emphasis is given to the thoughts described in business and in all aspects of American society. Are the philosophies in business and organizations and government and with most people working well? Answer: the nation is two to three steps away from a financial collapse. High unemployment; high taxes – virtually all the problems are self-inflicted. Strive to make the most intelligent decision at all times and think about the consequences if a course of action is taken.

    • Bruce F. Blaisdell permalink
      December 20, 2011 5:36 PM

      John, I’m sorry, but I’m afraid this is going to be my ‘rant’ of the week: it is simply not accurate to say that currently we pay high taxes. Contrary to what people who revere President Reagan think, the facts are that the tax levels were higher when Reagan raised them (and the size of the federal government increased), and nonetheless THE NATIONAL DEBT TRIPLED during his administration. President Clinton raised taxes, but significantly reduced the national debt, and the economy thrived (“A rising tide lifts all boats.”) Then during the two disastrous administrations of President George W. Bush, the country was deceived into the fake and enormously expensive “war” in Iraq, due to false information provided by the President and Vice President, that they knew to be false. (There was also an unnecessary and tragic loss of a huge number of lives, among U.S. and other allied forces, but an even greater loss of life among the Iraqi people, for no legally sustainable reason.) And then when Bush lowered taxes, what did we think was going to happen? Lower the revenue and spend recklessly = huge debt. And now people are blaming President Obama for the Great Recession and the enormous national debt, despite the fact that all of that was incurred during the preceding Bush administrations. The only significant addition to that which has occurred during the Obama administration was the Stimulus, which most economists believe prevented the country from sinking into the second Great Depression. The President has rightly resisted cuts to Medicare and Medicaid, which are safety nets for the elderly, poor, and disabled, and has suggested a small raise to the taxes paid by enormously wealthy U.S. citizens. The Republicans want the opposite! They want to allow the disgustingly wealthy to become even wealthier on the backs of poor, sick and elderly people.

      The real boondoggle, of course, is “defense” spending. That’s where ALL of the cuts needed to balance the budget should come from. When you add up all of the costs related to the military and to war (Dept. of Defense, War, Veteran’s Affairs, Nuclear Weapons Programs), it comprises 59% OF THE NATIONAL BUDGET! The U.S. spends more for these costs THAN THE REST OF THE WORLD COMBINED! Surely anyone can see this is unnecessary and absurd, and not really related to the “defense” of the country, but rather to larger profits among the military-industrial complex, about which Republican and War Hero President Eisenhower warned us in his last speech as President. The last two major acts of terrorism against the U.S. were the Oklahoma City bombing, and the Twin Towers. In the first one, the (homegrown) terrorist spent several hundred dollars on renting a truck and purchasing oil and fertilizer; and in the second one, the terrorists spent, what, less than $20? on plastic box cutters. All of the trillions we waste on “defense” didn’t stop those acts of terrorism, and meanwhile American children are going to bed hungry. What kind of country do we want to live in?

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