To achieve great results, every lumber and building material dealer must make leadership excellence its prerequisite—not its goal. You must make leadership excellence a habit—not an event. You must make leadership excellence a commitment—not a program. To create this culture, you must educate and hold your management team accountable to living the “Six Pillars of Leadership Excellence.”

Pillar #1: Listen. Excellent leaders seek to attach meaning to their environment. Through a blending of both external listening (customers, stakeholders, employees, community) and internal listening (personal knowledge, experience, intuition), leaders listen intently to every possible source of information, insight, and wisdom.

Pillar #2: Envision. Excellent leaders create in their minds a clear and compelling picture of what the organization must become in the future. They passionately embrace the purpose of their company and strive to build the kind of culture that propels them toward achieving great results.

Pillar #3: Adapt. Excellent leaders must be willing and able to adjust to circumstances as necessary to reach the purpose. Whether it is incremental or transformational, leaders know how to effectively manage teams through both positive and negative changes.

Pillar #4: Develop. Organizational improvement is impossible without people who continuously improve. Excellent leaders enthusiastically drive the long-term education of their staffs to go beyond today's skills training to prepare them now for the challenges of tomorrow.

Pillar #5: Emancipate. Excellent leaders give their people the freedom to succeed. They are more concerned with results than control, with outcomes more than credit.

Pillar #6: Recognize. Excellent leaders acknowledge the worth of others while constantly looking to satisfy the human needs of their colleagues and staff (pride, contribution, accomplishment, respect). They step beyond short-term rewards to inspire the long-term commitment of their teams.

If you haven't already noticed, the first letters of the Pillars spell the word LEADER—Listen, Envision, Adapt, Develop, Emancipate, and Recognize. Now you can continue your journey toward improving your management skills by memorizing this simple yet powerful acronym.

Once you understand that excellence is a prerequisite, a habit, and a commitment (not just a goal, an event, or a program) you will become an excellent leader. Then you must integrate the Six Pillars for Leadership Excellence into your daily routine. Begin today, for the ultimate success of your organization depends on your personal commitment to distinctive management that brings out the best in your employees and yourself. —Dr. Jim Harris is president of The Jim Harris Group, Inc., a Pensacola, Fla.–based organization that advises business leaders in leadership, organizational, and management excellence. 850.476.6633.