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Twelve Lessons in Leadership: Lead with Simplicity

By Dr Paul E Adams |

Keep it simple stupid.

As the owner of your business, you must be the guiding light and the inspiration for your employees. If they punch the clock and count the hours, you may be running a galley slave ship with the crew wishing they were elsewhere. Certainly teamwork was lacking in the Greek and Roman vessels, as it was lacking in our pre-Civil War southern plantations. If you are a fan of early British novels, you know that teamwork was not characteristic of Charles Dickens industrial society. Are you a team leader or a selfish taskmaster?

As an entrepreneur and leader, you set the pace; you determine the path your business is undertaking. But to rev up enthusiasm and drive; you must make believers of your employees. You must strive for cooperation as everyone pulling the oars together wins the race with the least effort. Be wise, don't be fooled by the oft quoted, "Nice guys finish last." Such advice is misleading and if you believe it, count on a silent rebellion brewing employee discontent.

And how do you get the best from your workers? You make them team members--a vital part of your business. Everyone needs to feel part of some purpose in life. Think of it this way: if you feel left out, excluded and treated like an ancient galley slave you are not going to approach your work with dedication and pride. You will count the hours and be interested only in your wages - if this is your only reason for working then it is a sad situation for all.

The so-called natural leader has a way of attracting others and the ability to muster team spirit with little effort. What is the secret? Nothing so unusual, just a simple understanding of the obvious, all of us are interested in ourselves--and when someone comes along showing an interest in us we respond and we respond with eagerness. If you could get in the head of a disgruntled worker, you would find a lonely unappreciated sad individual, a person who has built a shell of protection to ward off the feelings of insecurity, isolation, and inferiority. Your interest in such a person will work wonders.

As the boss, you can command or demand your orders by carried out. However, are they done so with that extra mile or just enough to avoid registering at the unemployment office? As the owner of your business, you have authority, you can rule by edict or fear, but that is not leadership. Effective leadership is similar to respect, it cannot be forced; only earned though actions.

Before you became an entrepreneur, what did you like or dislike about your former bosses? Who would have been your ideal leader? Try reflecting a bit. Do you inspire? Do you have the respect of your employees? Are you perceived as someone who is fair, rational, and mature? And do you come across as a boss who is interested in the lives and welfare of those who spend most of their week working for the common good of your business? If you are unsure how your leadership skills are seen--start with a simple change: be friendly, show an interest in your employees, be honest in your dealings, and be firm, not whimsical.

If you feel your leadership skills are in question, practice these five simple principles and you will be amazed at how quickly you become a leader your employees will follow with enthusiasm:

  • Honesty: Anything less will not inspire loyalty or trust.
  • Competent: Use rational judgment not emotional reactions to foster respect.
  • Inspiring: Show enthusiasm in all you do and maintain a positive attitude.
  • Fair Minded: Anything less will foster suspicion and dishonesty.
  • Courageous: Have the courage of your convictions--Don't show fear of failure.

As with most things, a simple approach works. Leaders included. Don't complicate how you manage your employees with sophisticated concepts--they will not understand nor will you. If you feel that your leadership image needs some polish, don't try for a twenty-four hour makeover--you may not come across as creditable but off on some tangent that your employees may distrust. Slide into your new you slowly. You will find the opportunity to demonstrate your mastery of our five principles popping up every day. Your surprised employees will quickly fall behind their new leader.

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