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At Work: Best Leaders' Heads Aren't in the Clouds

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Wed Jul 24 2013

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At Work: Best Leaders' Heads Aren't in the Clouds-15857163e69d72dc0bad6b692dbe7bb202eac659003ca3d50e8daebcc4f77345

(From USA Today)--Most of us view leaders like this: Standing high and mighty on a mountaintop thinking about strategies and ways to inspire people with their noble vision for the business.

We view managers as doing the grunt work to make sure all that vision stuff gets carried out.

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But thinking like that is dead wrong. So say authors of the book, Execution: The Discipline of Getting Things Done.

No doubt, it's a pleasant way to view leadership, say authors Larry Bossidy, Honeywell's former chief executive, and Ram Charan.

"Who wouldn't want to have all the fun and glory while keeping their hands clean? Conversely, who wants to tell people at a cocktail party, 'My goal is to be a manager,' " they say.

This view of leadership is not only a fallacy, it also creates immense damage.

A company can't execute if its leader's heart and soul aren't immersed in the business. Leading "is more than thinking big or schmoozing with investors and lawmakers," Bossidy and Charan say.

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Yes, that's part of the job, but "the leader has to be engaged personally and deeply in the business." In other words, a leader must be involved in the execution of ideas.

Execution "requires a comprehensive understanding of a business, its people and its environment. The leader is the only person in a position to achieve that understanding," they say. "And only the leaders can make execution happen through his or her deep personal involvement in the substance and even the details of execution."

Regardless of an organization's size, a leader has to be in charge of running three core processes:

  • Picking other leaders

  • Setting strategic direction

  • And conducting operations

As much as I dislike sports analogies, the authors illustrate this point: "How good would a sports team be if a coach spent all his time in his office making deals for new players while delegating actual coaching to an assistant?"

They point out that an effective coach constantly observes players individually, on the field and in the locker room. It's the only way to know each player and that person's capabilities and for players to benefit from a coach's wisdom and feedback.

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