The Leadership Shop

A Leadership Tidbit

“Management is efficiency in climbing the ladder of success; leadership determines whether the ladder is leaning against the right wall.” — Stephen R. Covey

This is a fun aphorism, especially since it doesn’t say anything useful. What’s more, it’s probably not even true. Still, it sure sounds pithy.

Suppose you are assigned the task of hiring a manager for an important project. The first applicant says, “I’m efficient in climbing the ladder of success.” You ask what that means and are told, “I have mastered being effective without wasting time or effort or expense. I’m efficient.”

You then ask for an explanation of the ladder of success and hear, “Well, it’s when you start at the bottom and climb up rung by rung. The higher you go, the more successful you are.” You ask what is being climbed up and are told, “Well, the ladder of success.”

You then scratch your head and ask, “Let me see if I have this right. You are terrific at wasting no time or effort or expense on your way to the top?” The applicant smiles and says, “You got that right; and I’m hoping you will let me use your project as my next rung.”

If you subscribe to Covey’s definition of management, you don’t need a second applicant. The first one is just what the doctor ordered, so to speak. That only leaves determining whether the ladder is leaning against the right wall. The applicant has determined that your project is his right wall. How do you think you will address that perception in the letter you send following the employment interview you just terminated?

Okay, perhaps that wasn’t Covey’s point. “Managers do things right. Leaders do the right things,” may be his point. This sounds like somewhat more conventional wisdom but isn’t very helpful either. It’s likely that being able to determine that your project is the right wall isn’t your idea of doing the right things. If you are also looking for a leader, finding someone who shares your vision for your project is a better choice than someone who thinks he has a better vision for your future. The leader you need is the one who can help you get from here to there, as you climb that ladder of success together.

The Gurus Say

e Pree, Max. Leadership Is an Art. New York: Currency, 2004.

One of the particular skills that leaders are required to exemplify in practice is the indispensable knack for building and nurturing relationships.

Authentic leaders see it as part of their calling to guide a group or organization in designing the kind of community they intend to become.

…the art of leadership: liberating people to do what is required of them in the most effective and humane way possible.

The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality. The last is to say thank you. In between the two, the leader must become a servant and a debtor. That sums up the progress of an artful leader.

The signs of outstanding leadership appear primarily among the followers. Are the followers reaching their potential? Are they learning? Serving? Do they achieve the required results? Do they change with grace? Manage conflict?

Leadership is much more an art, a belief, a condition of the heart, than a set of things to do.

A Success Tidbit

The Road To Success

“No man ever wetted clay and then left it,
as if there would be bricks by chance and fortune.” — Plutarch

One may assume that Plutarch intended this rhetorically, since
it definitely isn’t literally true. It’s hard to say about wetting clay
specifically; but starting a job and not finishing it is certainly not
uncommon. The fact of the case is that it’s business as usual for far too many
folks. They probably don’t think what they start will be finished by chance and
fortune; but they do figure that they won’t be the ones who have to complete
it. It’s likely justifiable to conclude that they see this as good fortune,
whether anyone else does or not.

Why do people do this? Why do they stop before the job is done?
The famous Anon. has been sitting on the answer, “The road to success is dotted
with many tempting parking places.” That’s it. They start with the best of
intentions but soon discover that intentions are to accomplishments as a hardy appetite
is to breakfast. However you like your omelet, someone still has to crack the
eggs and grease the skillet.

Newt Gingrich figured out the “why” of it. He said,
“Perseverance is the hard work you do after you get tired of doing the hard
work you already did.” On the road to success, people get as far as
“Perseverance” and then pull over and park. Perhaps they are too tired to
continue, too bored to stay focused, or maybe just too trifling to take their
responsibilities seriously. Whatever their excuse, they obdurately resist any
suggestion that they should buckle down and take care of business. As Henry
Ward Beecher expressed the principle, “The difference between perseverance and
obstinacy is that one comes from a strong will, and the other from a strong
won’t;” and some people just won’t.

Sure, sometimes you come up against can’t and won’t and can’t
wins. You don’t have the knowledge, skills, or resources it takes to do what
you want to do. At other times, though, won’t is clearly in the driver’s seat.
When you reach that fork in the road, Josh Billings has a little advice for
you, “Consider the postage stamp: its usefulness consists in the ability to
stick to one thing till it gets there.”

It’s a postage stamp moment. When
it’s time to do it, don’t hesitate getting around to it. Remember that you are
up to it, so get down to it, and jump into it; and if you think others are
blocking your way, Gen. Joseph (Vinegar Joe) Stilwell’s motto is worth adopting
as your own. “Illegitimis non carborundum." (Don’t let the bastards grind
you down.)