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The Mantras That Lead To The End Of The Rainbow

By Art van Bodegraven | 04/12/2017 | 10:03 AM

To read the endless flow of "leadership" blogs and articles, one would think that repeating the same tired truisms over and over (no matter how lame and self-evident) must surely must surely mark the path to a pot of gold, jealously guarded by ill-tempered leprechauns.  

Not so fast, 12 karat-breath.  Amex's small business Open Forum demonstrated the limited appeal of stale bread in 2016 with a feature on how to improve one's leadership IQ, a pathetic nod to EQ among the platitudes.  It opens with the admirable conclusion that no one is born a perfect leader.

Reality check.  No one is born a leader, anymore than one is born a master engraver.  Becoming an authentic leader is a process that, like getting to Carnegie Hall, takes practice, practice, practice.

Next hot tip: Hire team members you trust.  Well, duh!  Would you, untutored, hire people you couldn't trust?  Then: Have an eye for strengths and weaknesses.  Real tip - you'd better have more than an eye going for you, such as understanding brain wiring, what pushes people's buttons, and what styles and working preferences lead to observable behaviors and interactions.

Next big reveal: Delegate fairly.  What the heck does "fairly" mean?  It sounds nice, but how does the concept translate in day-to-day work?  The admonition that follows, provide improvement opportunities is quickly tagged as a recommendation to "push" the team and criticise its work.

Everyone knows the next one: Admit your mistakes.  What else would leaders do?  Paper over their failures and misjudgment, and jeopardize all hope of followers materializing?  The point of suggesting rewards for good work is murky on a good day.  What?  How?  When? Where?  Why?  Easy to say; tough to execute.

Finally: Be transparent.  OK, Mr. Cellophane, how would you define transparency and the circumstances of its emergence as a leadership attribute?  It's a little like "lead by example", lacking  the details that make sense of pablum.

A prayer for today: Please, Lord, spare us from the babbling of self-nominated experts.  We are overcome with mysteries and sleep-inducing rambling as it is.

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About Art van Bodegraven

Art van Bodegraven

Art van Bodegraven (1939 - 2017) was Managing Principal of the van Bodegraven Associates consultancy and Founding Principal of Discovery Executive Services, which develops and delivers supply chain educational programs. He was formerly Chair of the Supply Chain Group AG, Partner at The Progress Group LLC, Development Executive at CSCMP, Practice Leader with S4 Consulting, and a Managing Director in Coopers & Lybrand's consulting practice. Concentrating in supply chain management and logistics for over 20 years in his 50+ year business career, he has led ground-breaking strategic, operational, and educational projects for leading US and global clients. Art was principal co-author of DC Velocity's Basic Training monthly column for a decade, and was the principal co-author, with Ken Ackerman, of Fundamentals of Supply Chain Management, the definitive primer in the field. His popular blog, The Art of Art, has been a staple of DC Velocity's web site since its inception.



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