Leadership Principles – Volume 2

In this week’s post, we discuss the next three of George Marshall‘s Nine Leadership Principles, including:

  • Speaking Your Mind: The Principle of Candor
  • Choosing and Rewarding the Right People: The Principle of Fairness
  • Supporting the Troops: The Principle of Caring

These three principles relate to how leaders communicate with their organization, establish a culture that rewards straight talk and candor, have the right people in place, and finally, take care of those people.

Let’s look at each of these principles and how they may apply to your organization.

Speaking Your Mind: The Principle of Candor
In many organizations, speaking up, straight talk, and candor are frowned upon, even at the highest levels.  While much lip service may be paid to these attributes, the organizations either penalize those individuals that speak up by labeling them as “troublemakers”, or, in the case of bad news, “shoot the messenger”.  These organizations also tend to obscure the information behind “corporate-speak” to avoid having to deal directly with contentious issues, “breathe their own exhaust”, and make decisions that may not be in the best interests of the organization because the culture does not allow debate or dissent.

Effective leaders that apply straight talk and candor, in all of their communications and relationships, create a culture of trust that promotes open discussion and debate, and in fact, rewards it.  As a result, not only are these leaders trusted and credible, their organizations openly share information, are aligned in the same direction, make good, well thought out, decisions, and execute on those decisions.

Choosing and Rewarding the Right People: The Principle of Fairness
There are actually two parts to this principle, which should be considered one of the primary tasks of a leader.  In his book “Good to Great“, Jim Collins calls this “Getting the Right People on the Bus”.

The first is identifying, and recruiting/promoting, the best person for each position and/or assignment based on the requirements of the organization, cultural fit (as applicable), and individual attributes. The element of fairness comes into play when the person is considered and selected on the basis on proven performance and attributes, and not necessarily because they were the “next in line”.

The second part of this principle is that once the right people are place, the leader and organization must actively support their efforts, and reward them with loyalty.

Effective leaders make these decisions, not on popularity, favoritism, or seniority, but on the basis of integrity, performance, judgement, and the ability to speak their mind for the good of the organization.  Having the right people in place improves delegation, organizational decision-making, information flow, and the overall performance of the organization.

Supporting the Troops: The Principle of Caring
Now that you have established an open culture, and have the right people in place, the final principle is to take care of them.

Morale is another key task of a leader, and one that cannot be delegated.  People want to know that their leader,and organization, has their best interests at heart, respects them as individuals and employees, values their efforts, and actively demonstrates that support and concern.  In many instances, it will be the little things that count, and work to demonstrate that support and value.

Effective leaders demand top performance, get out and talk with their people, tell them the truth, listen to their suggestions and concerns, and take action where possible.  Organizations that have good morale, and show respect for their employees will be more successful.

Utilization of these principles requires leaders that have a strong set of personal values, moral courage, and are secure enough to listen to and accept dissent for the overall good of the organization.  Those leaders can apply these principles to establish a high performance culture that speaks candidly, rewards performance, and values and supports each individual leading to the long-term success of the organization.

“Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others.” — Jack Welch

“A real leader faces the music, even when he doesn’t like the tune.” – Anonymous

Leaders who make it a practice to draw out the thoughts and ideas of their subordinates, and who are receptive even to bad news, will be properly informed.  Communicate downward to subordinates with at least the same care and attention as you communicate upward to superiors.” — L. B. Belker

Leadership Principles – Volume 1

This is the first installment of our series on the Nine Leadership Principles followed by George Marshall.  In this post, we’ll focus on three of these principles including:

  • Doing the Right Thing: The Principle of Integrity
  • Mastering the Situation: The Principle of Action
  • Serving the Greater Good: The Principle of Selflessness

Leaders that want to use these principles (and the other six) to guide their actions, and those of their organization, must have self confidence, strong core values, moral courage, and backbone.  If any of these attributes are lacking, these principles will not be effective, leading to uncertainty, confusion, and a lack of trust and credibility throughout the organization, and its outside relationships.

Before deciding to use these principles, however, there are several questions that leaders should ask themselves:

  • Do I have the attributes required to effectively use these principles?
  • What is the message that I want to send to my organization?
  • What is the culture that I want my organization to have?

Let’s look at the first three principles:

Doing the Right Thing: The Principle of Integrity
This is, in my opinion, the most important of the nine principles, both for the leader and his organization.  Without integrity, and the ability to define and do the right thing in any situation, a leader cannot build trust and credibility in his leadership.

Using this principle means using the attributes defined earlier, using integrity to identify the right course of action, and taking full responsibility for that action and outcome, regardless of the consequences.  By doing so, the leader holds himself to a high standard, and sets the expectations for his entire organization.

Mastering the Situation: The Principle of Action
Too many times, leaders and their organizations, put off decisions and action, hoping that the situation will get better, or just go away, with time.  They spend more time on planning, discussing, meeting, and gathering information vs. actually making the decision.  In general, most situations, unlike wine, don’t get better with age, and the consequences are usually far worse by waiting.

Effective leaders are willing to step up and take the right action required in a given situation, even if they don’t have all of the information they would like to have.  They take their best shot based on the information available, and act when necessary.  While mistakes can and will be made from time to time, it is far more important to act rather than sit and wait for something to happen. As the Nike commercial says – “Just Do It!”.

Serving the Greater Good: The Principle of Selflessness
In his book, Good to Great, Jim Collins defines a Level 5 leader as “one who channels their ego needs away form themselves and into the larger goal of building a great organization”.  These leaders direct their energy and ambition to the organization vs. promoting their self interest.

Leaders that use this principle base all of their actions and decision on what is right for the organization as a whole, not how it will affect them personally. They let their actions speak for themselves and look beyond the personal benefit to the long-term interest of the organization.

The leaders that utilize these principles consistently do the right thing, and take action for the good of the organization.  By doing so, they establish the standard and build a culture that follows these same principles over time, resulting in a committed and successful organization.

If you have any comments or questions, or would like more information, please call us at (727) 637-4666, or email me directly at Don@HuttlinAssociates.com.

“The supreme quality of leadership is integrity.” – Dwight Eisenhower

People buy into the leader before they buy into the vision.”  —  John Maxwell

“The art of leadership is saying no, not saying yes. It is very easy to say yes.” — Tony Blair

“A good plan violently executed now is better than a perfect plan executed next week.” –  George Patton

Clear Principles Equal Great Results!

Every week, there are a number of articles and posts on the subject of Leadership that provide thought provoking and useful advice that can be utilized in many organizations.  However, with all of this information available, how does one identify the best practices that can be applied to their own organization?

Truly effective leaders have a set of principles that they utilize to guide their actions and decision making in any situation.  As a result, these leaders generally deliver great, sustainable results, and their organizational cultures reflect those same principles.  In the end, Leadership is judged and “defined by results” (Peter Drucker) that are achieved by the organization.

In 1964, Jack Uldrich wrote a book titled George MarshallSoldier, Statesman, Peacemaker; Lessons in Leadership” that described a set of Nine Principles of Leadership that Marshall used to guide him and his organizations throughout his long and varied career.

The Nine Principles are as follows:

  • Doing the Right Thing: The Principle of Integrity
  • Mastering the Situation: The Principle of Action
  • Serving the Greater Good: The Principle of Selflessness
  • Speaking Your Mind: The Principle of Candor
  • Laying the Groundwork: The Principle of Preparation
  • Sharing Know ledge: The Principle of Learning and Teaching
  • Choosing and Rewarding the Right People: The Principle of Fairness
  • Focusing in the Big Picture: The Principle of Vision
  • Supporting the Troops: The Principle of Caring

Even though this book was written almost 50 years ago, these principles have stood the test of time, are just as valid today as when they were first written, and can be utilized by individual leaders to establish the culture of their organizations.  When you really think about it, every member of an organization can be considered a leader at some level, and can utilize these principles in their daily activities, as well

Also, note that many of these principles have appeared in other management and leadership texts.  While the principles may have a different name, or description, the essence of each one is generally consistent including integrity, action, candor, preparation, and having the right team, among others.  For example, in his book,Good to Great, Jim Collins talks about “Level 5 Leaders, Who then What, Confronting the Brutal Facts, and a Culture of Discipline”.  All can be directly related to Marshall’s principles above.

All organizations have leaders.  However, those organizations that produce sustainable results will have a leader that follows these principles personally, and makes them a part of the organizational culture.  The effective leader cannot pick and choose which principles he will use, it is an all or nothing proposition, and all must be present for success.

The leaders and organizations that choose to utilize and apply these principles will ultimately produce great results, and achieve success.

Over the coming weeks, we will be focusing on these principles in greater detail, with practical applications, and how each one can be applied to your organization to improve and drive overall success.

“Effective leadership is not about making speeches or being liked; leadership is defined by results not attributes.”  – Peter Drucker

“Leadership is the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it.” – Dwight D. Eisenhower