Articles & Publications

By Michael Mink |
Published: November 12, 2013

adaptYou don't arrive as a top leader and stay there by osmosis. The best constantly evolve and work to become better. Tips:

Raise the bar. Set high expectations for your people, says Julie Straw, lead author of  "The Work of Leaders." Followers want bosses who do this. According to Straw, based on her research of 3,574 responders, 86% of leaders who set high expectations were rated as good. For those who set low expectations, just 12% were rated highly.

"Setting high expectations doesn't make you unlikable; the opposite is true," she told IBD. "For high-expectation leaders, 91% of people said, 'I enjoy working with him/her.' For low-expectation leaders, this number drops to 42%."

Share your plan. Talk and listen to people at all levels of your firm. Explain your reasons for doing things. "People are more likely to buy in if they understand where you're going, and they're more likely to contribute if you listen to their ideas, feedback and questions," Straw said.

She has the numbers to back up her claims: 87% of top-rated leaders created a strong vision for their group. Among midrated leaders, this number dropped to 32%; for low-rated leaders, 10%. "You can be an average leader without vision, but you will never be great," she said. "Vision is one of the clearest differentiators between the novice leader and the experienced."

Share it. Create openings for collective success, suggests Judith Glaser, author of  "Conversational Intelligence." Then reward everyone when it happens. "During the Chrysler turnaround (of the early 1980s), Lee Iacocca asked for 'an equality of sacrifice,' ranging from the executive suite to the assembly line," she said. "When the company became profitable, every employee received a generous bonus."

Talk from the heart. Take it from the 40th president, said Glaser: "Ronald Reagan never engaged in abstractions."

Educate. Be a mentor or set up a mentoring program. Straw and her co-authors asked people what experiences had the most value in shaping leadership development. High on the list was having a mentor.

Inspire. Leading is about relationships, Straw said: "It's worth asking yourself: How often do you deliver five positive messages to every negative?" Fail in this, and employees might leave; worse, "they quit and stay."

Follow the golden rule. Leaders who respect others' feelings — plus cut slack for another's imperfections and demonstrate patience — are the ones who thrive, Glaser says. The result is trust.



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