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The 24 Elements of a Strong Leadership Pipeline

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The 24 Elements of a Strong Leadership Pipeline

Below is the compilation of 24 elements required for a strong leadership:

  1. Caring about people: By this I mean that they care about people more than other things and are willing to make trade-offs against other important things (e.g. immediate profits, completing a project on time, their own advancement) in favor of people.

2. Organizational skill: You have to be personally organized. Comfortable with chaos. Being organized and knowing when to impose organization are two different things. Often you will need to tolerate or deliberately maintain a certain amount of chaos in order to maximize the effectiveness of your team.

3. Comfortable with not having control: A manager has less control over his/her surroundings, not more: they may have more absolute influence, but the ratio of that to the sphere of things they must now be concerned with is proportionally much lesser (than for a typically non-manager in the same organization). Steady mental equanimity when confronted with a situation where they have little or no control is essential.

4.  Being Empathetic: The ability to read minds is critical. You cannot effectively resolve people issues unless you actively apply your empathy to read minds and determine the subtext of what people really need/want. Most of the time people won't say what they really mean, and a manager who tries to address only the words they literally hear won't get anywhere.

5.  Intelligence: Fairly high intelligence is necessary. There is a part in The Brothers Karamazov where they talk about how you can have a little bit of empathy if you're dumb, but to truly understand the human condition (en-masse and for individuals) you have to be pretty intelligent, or there's just a bunch of stuff that you simply won't get.

6.  Excellent communication: written and verbal. Keep practicing; you can never be good enough at this.


7.  Creativity:  As a manager, you will be faced with trade-offs. The real challenge is not picking which side to trade off - the real path to exceptional success is being creative enough to come up with a solution that allows your team to simultaneously achieve multiple aims without sacrifice. You need to be creative enough to break through perceived limitations in order to find new and novel solutions.

8. High technical skill: By "technical" I mean "doing the job of the people you're managing, back when you used to do it" - if you're managing engineers, you should have been a great engineer; if you're managing writers, you should have been a great writer.

9.  Personal Responsibility: "You lead today by building teams, encouraging accurate conversations and placing others first. It's not about you."

10.  Understand Breadth, Depth, and Context: "One of the most important things is context. It's how your company fits in with the world and how you respond to it."

11. Company alignment and personal time management: "Set the example by spending your time around the things that are really important: setting priorities, measuring outcomes, and rewarding them."

12. Leaders learn constantly and learn how to teach: "A leader's primary roles are to teach, manage and coach. People who work with you don't have to agree with you, but they have to feel you're willing to share what you've learned."

13. Stay true to your own style: "Leadership is an intense journey into yourself. You can use your own style to get anything done. It's about being self-aware. Every morning, I spent a minute thinking to myself 'I could have done three things better yesterday.' "

14.  Setting Boundaries: Manage by setting boundaries with freedom in the middle."The boundaries are commitment, accuracy, trust, and teamwork. Within those guidelines, there's plenty of freedom. But no one can cross those four boundaries."

15.  Stay disciplined and detailed. "Good leaders are never afraid to intervene personally on things that are important. Michael Dell can tell you how many computers were shipped from Singapore yesterday."

16.  Leave a few things unsaid. "I may know an answer, but I'll often let the team find its own way. Sometimes, being an active listener is much more effective than ending a meeting with me defining actions."

17.  Like people: "Today, it's employment at will. Nobody's here who doesn't want to be here. So it's critical to understand people, to always be fair, and to want the best in them. And when it doesn't work, they need to know it's not personal."

18.  You're not always smarter, you just have more information: You constantly amaze yourself in discussions with the team because you're able to think of gotchas or propose solutions that no-one else in the room came up with. On a few of those occasions you're simply the smartest guy in the room - kudos! In the overwhelming majority of those occasions, you're simply the guy in the room with the most information because you're more plugged into more things across the wider org.

19. Being savvy: Entropy is inevitable in any organization ; plans change and leadership changes. You need to buffer your team from short-lived shifts to give your team runway to achieve results. Conversely, you need to help your team pivot quickly if a shift is here to stay. You need to be savvy enough to differentiate the short-lived change ("your leadership is trying an idea on for size") versus a real shift in direction. Be plugged in, understand the dynamics in your leadership team, internalize the metrics they really care about and have a strong back-channel network.

20.  Being fierce: Your team needs to know that you have their back and you'll go to bat for them. You need to protect them from short-term shifts, scope-creep or in some cases, churn created by your own leadership team. Be tenacious. Don't be afraid to put your career on the line to do the right thing for your team. When you get overruled, and you will on occasion, have an adult conversation with your team about changing direction.


21.  Define the destination, not the map: Set clear, measurable goals for the team and individuals. Define constraints clearly (timelines, resources, budget) but as far as possible, don't be prescriptive about how to get there. Allow your team as much creative freedom as you can afford. If your leadership team doesn't give you the freedom to allow your teams to be creative - be fierce

22.  Focus on the results, not the process: When your team delivers results, high-five them on the outcome. If you think they could have done things differently to achieve better results or done it quicker, save that conversation for a later date.

23.  Not every conversation is a coaching opportunity: Given that you're exposed to so much more and likely have more experience than most people on your team, it's tempting to use any interaction to suggest minor changes or provide feedback. It's exhausting to be on the receiving end so even if it's really hard, hold that thought, make a note to yourself and bring it up in the course of a more structured conversation.

24.  Simplify Constantly: "Every leader needs to clearly explain the top three outcomes the organization is working on. If you can't, then you're not leading well."

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