Everything we do in our industry is measured. From designing lumber racks to on-time deliveries and back orders, LBM suppliers live or die by how well we measure our performance. Yet perhaps the most important criterion for success is one we seldom measure: our ability as leaders.
As I challenged you in last month's issue, building a culture of leadership excellence is a fundamental prerequisite for thriving within these incredibly challenging times. So what specifically are the core competencies for leadership excellence? Based on my forthcoming book entitled Leadership Excellence, here is a summary of the six essential skills for great leadership.
Excellent leaders are great listeners. When asked by an interviewer what would be the most important leadership skill of the 21st century, Peter Drucker, the father of modern management thinking, replied, “Listening.” Excellent leaders listen intently to every possible source of information, insight, and wisdom, be it from customers, stakeholders, or, perhaps most important, their own employees.
Excellent leaders create a clear and compelling picture of what their organization must become in the future. They envision the next step and strive to build the kind of culture that propels them toward achieving their vision. For example, an LBM supplier I advised on recasting his company mission opted to focus his team on “Complete Customer Care” supported by very specific value-driven behaviors and measurements to ensure success.
Excellent leaders adapt to change. They adjust their thinking and their business to new marketplace realities. This one area may be the death of many LBM suppliers. In my consulting and industry speaking, I talk with many managers who tenaciously cling to outdated business models and yesterday's realities. These owners are either unwilling (attitude-based) or unable (skill-based) to change—sometimes both! As President John F. Kennedy once said, “Change is the law of life; those who look only to the past or present are sure to miss the future.”
Excellent leaders are dedicated to developing and growing their skills and the skills of their employees. They understand that organizational improvement is impossible with unimproved people. These progressive leaders know that only through a fully competent and committed workforce will their companies thrive into the future.
Excellent leaders truly empower their employees. They give their teams the power to control their own destinies and the protection they need to excel, and then they simply get out of the way! Great leaders are more concerned with results than control, with outcomes more than credit. They systematically emancipate the action of their people to achieve great results.
Excellent leaders recognize and reward outstanding efforts and performance. They value their people and do not take them for granted. Employees are considered an asset to grow—not a cost to control. Further, excellent leaders consistently blend short-term motivation techniques (prizes, bonuses, gifts) with meeting the long-term commitment needs of their people (pride, respect, contribution, sense of belonging).
Take a quick inventory of your personal leadership and that of your top managers. Do you individually and as a team:
Actively listen and seek out both the knowledge and wisdom of your customers, suppliers, and employees?
Have a clear and powerful vision of where you are going and what your company must become in the future?
Embrace change and are both willing and able to adapt?
Consistently grow your personal leadership skills and the overall skills of your employees?
Empower and emancipate the action of employees?
Recognize and reward great efforts and performance?
How do you measure up? How does your management team measure up? Are you where you need to be? Are they? Your future success—even survival—will be directly measured by how well you imbed these six leadership competencies into your company culture. —Dr. Jim Harris is an adviser to building supply companies in business, leadership, and people development. 877.638.7733. www.drjimharris.com.