Human Resources: Leadership: Now More Than Ever

In my article for the July issue of QP, I reported on the increasing level of stress in the workplace due to the economic turmoil. I provided some guidelines to help cope with that stress, but there is one more element that is critical to minimizing stress before it arises. That critical element is leadership. Now more than ever, managers need to maximize their leadership skills to instill confidence, maintain high morale, and promote continued growth and productivity.

Today we need the vision, the motivational skills, and interpersonal skills that will help the entire staff deal with the current crisis and the pressure to succeed. The issue for owners and managers is whether they have a leadership culture and the leadership skills needed to make that happen.

Leadership Evaluation

You can determine if you have a leadership culture by seeing how you respond to the following questions:

  • Are your supervisors aligned on strategy and executing it clearly?
  • Do your supervisors have a clear understanding of the leadership behaviors required of them to drive organizational success?
  • Does your company provide training opportunities to develop those leadership behaviors?
  • Are your supervisors evaluated on their leadership performance and guided on performance improvement?
  • Does your company or organization support collaboration and sharing of knowledge?

If you can answer yes to the above questions, then your company or organization is on track to exercise effective leadership and cope with the ongoing turmoil.

Achievement of corporate excellence depends on creating a great culture. The culture is dependent on the company or organizational environment for people and operations. The people environment is enhanced by focusing on the heart; ensuring open communication, creating partnerships, driving learning, and emancipating action. The operational environment is built through a defined structure, validated systems of processes and procedures, positive attitudes, and effective performance assessment and improvement.

For years I have maintained that your competitive advantage requires a competent, stable, and well led workforce. Well led is the critical component. The Harvard Business Review stated it this way, “Companies that manage people right will outperform companies that don’t by 30 to 40%.”

Leaders can be identified by their actions:

  • They make things happen. They hardwire a winning culture. They create a vision and clear company or department goals and they flow those down to individual goals. They reinforce that culture in hiring, in internal communications and meetings, and in performance evaluations. They ensure that everyone is in tune and committed to that culture.
  • They give credit to others. They recognize the contributions of all members of the company and establish reward and recognition programs. They don’t allow their egos to get in the way of the recognition.
  • They look for solutions. They don’t just pass out blame; they work together to resolve issues and create an error free workplace.
  • They take initiative. They look for ways to improve everything and lead the entire company or organization to explore new opportunities. They bring an entrepreneurial spirit to the company.
  • They improve weaknesses. They recognize their fallibility and they admit the need to improve. They also recognize the weaknesses in their team members and they provide mentoring, coaching, and training to make things better.
  • They take risks. They know that success depends on their entrepreneurial spirit and so they look for new ways to get things done, but they also recognize that not every idea will be a winner. They make conscious decisions to pursue these ideas, even if there is risk of failure.
  • They forgive. They do not blame. They do not hold grudges. They recognize that mistakes can happen, but their focus is on providing guidance to correct those mistakes without embarrassing individuals and taking punitive actions.
  • They let go when they must. Delegation and empowerment is a key ingredient for success. The team members need the opportunity to spread their wings for personal growth and satisfaction. The ability of the team to make real time decisions will also increase productivity and company pride.
  • And they recognize the good. They applaud success. Communications and meetings emphasize the positive and make public individual contributions and successes.

So how do you predict leadership ability or improve the leadership skills of your managers and supervisors? I recommend two assessments to determine if your current staff or candidates for potential hire have the innate ability to lead as well as manage. First, conduct a personality profile assessment to compare the candidate’s characteristics to proven leadership benchmarks. Second, test for emotional intelligence to see if the candidate has the empathy and common sense to adapt to the environment. The right combination of personality and emotional intelligence is essential to provide a solid basis for developing a true leader. That is the critical step to building that well led team and the competitive advantage it will bring.

Debra Thompson is president of TG & Associates. Her latest book, coauthored with Bill Greif, “No More Rotten Eggs—A Dozen Steps to a Grade AA Team,” has been selected by McGraw-Hill for publication in January 2010, but you can get your copy now. Contact Debra or Bill at for information on the testing tools that will help you find the real leadership for your winning team so that you can grow in the face of the tough economy.