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Plays Well With Others – Eight Behaviors of Excellent Leaders

Last week,  I talked about one of the worst type of management scenarios to work under – the micromanager.  Now, let’s take that conversation from the “Dark Side” into the light to talk about great leaders.

To say that Dr. William Cohen knows a few things about leadership is approximately the same as saying that Moby Dick was a fish.  Not only was Cohen a former Air Force major general, university president, and business leader, but he has many degrees (including a PhD) and even holds several engineering patents.  One of the many books authored by Dr. Cohen is the 1998 Best Business Book of the Year, The Stuff of Heroes, also considered by many to be one of the ten best leadership books of all times.

If you’ve ever had a desire to lead, I recommend reading this book.  But even if you never read it, Dr. Cohen’s lessons are intriguing.  Even a quick list, like I’m presenting here, offers a lot of practical advice.  This summary can’t do Dr. Cohen’s material justice, but here are the main behaviors of extraordinary leaders, as revealed by his research:

  1.      Maintain absolute integrity.
  2.      Know your stuff.
  3.      Declare your expectations.
  4.      Show uncommon commitment.
  5.      Expect positive results.
  6.      Take care of your people.
  7.      Put duty before self.
  8.      Get out in front.

A common cliché these days is that someone is “a born leader”.  The better adage is that leaders are made, not born.  Consider the eight behaviors above.  Which of those behaviors require innate ability and are not something that can be learned?  None of them!  In fact, closer inspection of the eight behaviors of excellent leaders shows pretty clearly, at least in my mind, that each behavior results from a conscious decision on the part of the leader to behave in a certain way. 

In effect, great leaders are constantly mindful that they are scrutinized by the teams which they lead, are committed to those teams and the results they deliver.  Whereas poor leaders spend lots of time thinking about what their teams can do for them, great leaders think about what they can do to make their teams produce better results.

We could spend more than one article on each of these eight behaviors.  (And we actually can, if popular demand takes us in that direction).  So take a few moments and think about both the great and the terrible leaders in your experience.  Compare their behavior to Dr. Cohen’s checklist.  How do they come out?  I’ll bet that they are probably doing a good job of exhibiting the eight behaviors of excellent leaders.  Now that you’ve thought about it – share your thoughts!  Send me your emails with examples of excellent leadership in action or, sometimes even better, share your stories of leadership train crashes!

If you don’t have the opportunity to lays hands on Dr. Cohen’s book, at least look up his web site and read more there.  I’d start with his recommendations for 30 Vital Actions for Leaders at http://www.stuffofheroes.com/30_vital_leadership_actions.htm and then explore from there.

And as always, your comments and thoughts are appreciated. 

- Kevin

Comments

Posted by Steve Jones on 29 November 2010

Excellent advice. I think to some extent the "born leader" comes from the innate tendency to exhibit or believe in those principles. Not that they cannot be learned, but it can be hard in crisis to automatically display them if that is not something you feel naturally.

Posted by Kevin Kline on 30 November 2010

I agree completely, Steve.  Born leaders can most often trace their "innate" abilities to an epiphany or realization at some point in their early years about qualities like this.  In my own case (not that I'm a great leader or anything), I remember watching an extremely charismatic preacher at a mega-church revving up the audience.  And then, a light bulb went off in my head that said "Charisma and delivery like this can be LEARNED!"  I started working on it from that point on (at about 13 or 14 yrs old).

Many of us, don't have a conscious experience like that.  But we do have some sort of experience that makes us want to emulate those behaviors that naturally make us better leaders. =^)

Thanks for the input!

-Kev

Posted by Pradeep Chaurasia -408312 on 2 December 2010

I agree too with Steve's views. Leadership quality developed in one by experiencing critical situation and their tendency to overcome from those. These tendencies become rules (quality) later on.

Everyone cannot have such experiences and tendency themselves. It’s good, if we go through with good quality of GREAT LEADER and make difference in our life.

Thanks,

-Pradeep Chaurasia

Posted by mprice on 3 December 2010

It's a good list - but Moby Dick was a) fictional and b) a mammal !!

Posted by SQLServerCentral on 3 December 2010

Moby Dick was a whale, not a fish, Doh!

Posted by mark.cusano on 3 December 2010

Just my opinion...

As a "born-leader," one is brought into this world in the right environment.  Moreover, all of these characteristics can be absorbed through life experiences, great parenting, and being surrounded by the right environment, just like Kevin experienced in church.  

Some less fortunate - or born into "directionless, unstable or follower type environments" can still be considered born-leaders because at some point they are exposed to the right people that give them the desire to learn these qualities and characteristics.   ---Just an opinion...

Mark

Posted by mark.cusano on 3 December 2010

Just my opinion...

As a "born-leader," one is brought into this world in the right environment.  Moreover, all of these characteristics can be absorbed through life experiences, great parenting, and being surrounded by the right environment, just like Kevin experienced in church.  

Some less fortunate - or born into "directionless, unstable or follower type environments" can still be considered born-leaders because at some point they are exposed to the right people that give them the desire to learn these qualities and characteristics.   ---Just an opinion...

Mark

Posted by malathi.mahadevan on 3 December 2010

Kevin, great thoughts..similar to what Stephen Covey talks about in Principle Centered Leadership. Wanted to ask you something though perhaps partly echoing what person above said..lot of environments are directionless, unstable and controlling, am not saying one should compromise on any of these qualities but in those environments it helps to be diplomatic and feel one's way around,perhaps without losing sight of the thought that it is a good idea to find one's way out soon. In most places i have seen diplomacy ranks close to integrity in terms of what is needed to survive, would you agree? Thanks.

Posted by malathi.mahadevan on 3 December 2010

Kevin, great thoughts..similar to what Stephen Covey talks about in Principle Centered Leadership. Wanted to ask you something though perhaps partly echoing what person above said..lot of environments are directionless, unstable and controlling, am not saying one should compromise on any of these qualities but in those environments it helps to be diplomatic and feel one's way around,perhaps without losing sight of the thought that it is a good idea to find one's way out soon. In most places i have seen diplomacy ranks close to integrity in terms of what is needed to survive, would you agree? Thanks.

Posted by PaulHunter on 3 December 2010

Kevin,

My leadership examples come from the military and are from two different men occupying the same position at the same base.

I was stationed in Germany in the early 80's where we had regular base alerts in full chem-warfare gear.  The first base commander was frequently seen driving around base in the "command car" especially when simulated chemical attacks were happening (nobody likes wearing a gas mask).  Needless to say, our base execises were not taken seriously and we joked that his car was Switzerland.

He was replaced by another base commander who's approach was 180 degrees out from that.  When the sirens went off he would pull his car to the side of the road, don the gas mask and hop in a ditch right next to a lowly grunt (me).  It became well known that his behavior and was expected of all.  Our base earned a Presidential Unit Citation, esprit de corps was high and we were generally regarded as one of the better bases and a desired assignment.  He exhibited all of the traits you listed except #2 (but my bet is he was solid on that as well).  Great leaders can and do make a difference.

Posted by WolforthJ on 6 December 2010

I have minimal experience with great leaders. Most fail on behavior #1. When leading, I find #8 the most difficult. I don't seem to have the instinct for what the next big thing is.  If you pursue this topic, some thoughts on that would be appreciated. Is there more to it than "study, study, study?" How do you sort through hype and disinformation?

Posted by ubeauty on 8 December 2010

Great article Kevin and I have to agree with your epiphany moment as i had something similiar after I saw and read about Anthony Robbins. Although not a leader as such the positivity that he generates as helped a lot of powerful leaders throughout the world and he pretty much covers all eight points in your list.

Thanks for the heads up i'll definetly be having a read up on Dr Cohen

Posted by Kevin Kline on 29 December 2010

Lots of great comments, folks!  Keep 'em coming!

MPrice and SQLServerCentral, the Moby Dick inaccuracies were intentional. I was trying to point out that calling Moby Dick "a big fish" was grossly inaccurate.  Just as calling Dr Cohen a smart leader is grossly inaccurate.

Mark.Cusano and PaulHunter, your comments reminded me of how inspiring it can be to hang out with or serve under a good leader.  I think that's one of the reasons it's so good for us, as teens, to work in crappy hourly-wage jobs. So that we can see bad leadership in action too.

Wolforth, I think you're missing the point of #8.  I think Cohen means get out in front of your troops, like the old Civil War commanders did saber in hand before a charge, rather than "figure out what's the next big thing".  I can't tell you how many times I've been involved with an organization where the employees wouldn't recognize the boss if he stood right next to them.  That's the opposite of point #8.  The employees should see their leader in front of them quite frequently, telling them where they're headed and what the next charge will be.  Anyone with a BS in management can do the administrivia of operations, but only the top person can be "leader".  If they don't do it, then no one will.

UBeauty, I actually like Tony Robbins a lot.  I was bummed when his show got canceled.

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