a Good Leader
October 14, 2005
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What makes a good leader? You need to know -- not
only so you can become a good leader yourself -- but so you can work for
good leaders. When you are just starting out in your high-tech career,
finding someone who can give you the benefit of their experience should
be one major factor in your job decisions. Working for a bad leader might
be instructive, as well, but the experience is sure to be much more painful.
I believe the most important skill of any leader is the ability to communicate.
All other traits flow from this. Regardless of whether a leader is communicating
the overall vision of the company, the agenda for a regular weekly meeting
or the menu at the company cafeteria, it should be clear, and more importantly,
concise. No one likes to be confused and a leader that communicates badly
creates confusion. Even more, confusion directly effects productivity
in drastic ways. How can a leader expect you to carry forth on their vision
if they have given you no clear idea what the vision is?
So, when you are interviewing for your next job, pay close attention not
only to what the person says, but how they say it. Is their description
of the company, job and departmental goals clear? Are there measurable
criteria of what denotes good job performance? Is their presentation about
job requirements and other issues laid out in an organized fashion? If
not, this might be the first sign of a bad leader.
A good leader should also be capable of communicating the concerns and
accomplishments of their staff up the chain of command. If they can’t
communicate with you there is no reason to believe they will miraculously
be able to communicate with their executives. If they can’t communicate
well, it puts everyone on their staff at a disadvantage.
Every one in their place
Next, a good leader should have a knack for putting the right person in
the right job. Too many times I see people hired for one position only
to be shunted off to do work for which they have neither aptitude or desire.
Sure, perhaps the work gets done, but job quality and the person both
suffer. A good leader needs to “lead” their staff into higher
levels of productivity, not attempt to “push” the proverbial
square peg into a round hole. Hiring is an art form and one that good
leaders need to master.
Sure, we all sometimes experience moments of tedium and difficulties in
our jobs, but that should not be standard operating procedure. If your
management can’t find a place for you, or help you to find the right
place, it is probably time to take more drastic action.
Finally, a good leader, and more importantly, a great leader, needs to
take responsibility for their decisions and actions. Any leader who allows
the consequences of their failures to “roll down” the organization
chart will soon find themselves out of a job. Leaders should celebrate
their successes and admit their mistakes with the same aplomb. Mistakes
are part of work and life. A good leader should be concerned with learning
from such mistakes, rather than blaming other managers, or even worse,
their own staff. If a staffer has failed, it is due, in a large part,
to a failure of their management. Leader and staff are in the fight together
and the burden is carried by all. A leader should accept praise for the
good work of their staff, but they also need to accept the responsibility
when something goes wrong.
Accepting responsibility shows staffers that the leader is willing to
commit to the goals of the company and to them. This goes a long way towards
developing a staff that is willing to work harder and better for the leader.
Both leader and staff accept responsibility for each other and each is
enhanced in an ever-growing cycle.
Whether you are looking to work with a good leader, or perhaps searching
for ways to become a better leader yourself, you should concentrate on
these three areas. Developing good communication skills, hiring the right
people for the right job and taking responsibility for your decisions
will put you on the right track for a great high-tech career.