By Gregory C. Scott
Partner, InVista Associates, Inc.
Scott Leadership Group
AABLI alumnus, Class #4
7 Leadership Skills for Excellence
During a career that has been equally interesting and fulfilling, I’ve been privileged to serve both on boards and as chief executive officer of nonprofit organizations. This means I’ve been able to view organizations from two different perspectives, engaging in numerous conversations and mastermind sessions about what makes an organization or business excellent.
Discovering the right answers is not a straightforward process, I have learned, but something that can and should be the goal of every leader who wants to make a difference.
Whether you are an executive, an entrepreneur, the owner of an established company or a member of a board of directors, you should consider the following seven ideas. They can help you take your business to another level of excellence.
- Know your numbers. There is no getting around the critical role strong leadership plays in keeping organizations competent enough to maintain a high impact on their communities. Most leaders think they know precisely what it takes to lead. Sadly, most truly lack a sophisticated understanding of their organizations’ economic stability. This means they are not making decisions grounded in fiscal realities. When a leader has a good grasp of the financials, he or she demonstrates mastery of the strategic connection between mission and money: no money, no mission.
- Hire slowly; fire quickly. When you are mission oriented, it’s easy to be lulled into hiring passionate, mission-focused staff members, then too often forgiving them if their performances decline. You might be in a rush to fill a vacant spot or add a new position, but it takes more time and stress to train the wrong person and fix his or her mess than it does to hire the right person in the first place. Sometimes we think we have hired the right person–we all make mistakes–but we hang on to Mr. X or Ms. Y even after red flags begin to wave. A bad hire becomes a cancer on your organization and a time-consuming challenge for you, the leader. Ultimately, your credibility can come into question.
- Inspire and lead by example. Your staff is vital to your success and your highest valued commodity. Your employees can make you the reputable firm or organization you are striving to become, so you must inspire them, motivate them and help them grow. Provide opportunities for promotion and continuing education. Whether you send them to conferences and seminars or offer internal learning development opportunities, it’s important for your team members to strengthen their skills and gain knowledge. When you invest in your people, you invest in your future. No matter how charismatic you are as a leader or how sophisticated your board of directors, it is your team that makes the greatest impact.
- Be strategic and entrepreneurial. Are you spending time thinking about what your company or organization can become? What’s your competitive edge in the marketplace? A high level of inspiration and strategic thinking can take your company to the finish line; are you in that space? In his book, “Good to Great,” Jim Collins urges you to “Put your best people on the biggest opportunities, and the most major problems.” It is often easier to sit in the office submerged in paperwork, but the most entrepreneurial leaders are spending prime hours in front of stakeholders, staff, and community leaders, moving their missions forward. Expect your team to tackle the challenges of the day, but allow it the time to create the atmosphere for big picture thinking. How are you spending your time?
- Operate with integrity. As a leader, it is not uncommon eventually to face challenges to your integrity and/or that of your company or organization. It is important that you consistently operate with a set of guiding principles that can never be compromised. Don’t allow talented staff, high-level donors, money, greed or ego to get in the way when it comes to your integrity. Be accountable, and hold everyone else responsible for ethics and high standards. The basis for every decision you make as a company, your standards may cost you revenue or funding opportunities, but they will never cost you your reputation–or precious sleep at night.
- Focus on results. If you say it, measure it. Although you must track activities that lead to results, your bottom line must be results oriented. In the process, you must ensure that the right activities are being performed to maximize the desired positive results. In fundraising or sales, for example, it takes an average of eight “touches” to break into a new donor or client. This is not an exact science, but with each encounter you gain traction that will lead to a potential new revenue source. Tracking your progress allows you to evaluate what’s working and what’s not.
- Make excellence a priority and add value. A spirit of excellence is not only a powerful mantra for you as a leader but also for the organization as a whole. The way you and your team dress, the way the phones are answered, the way clients are handled, organization-wide respect for punctuality, every task must be done at the highest level to give your customers and stakeholders the all-important “WOW” effect. The magic is in the details.
This blog is not written by aabli.org or The African American Board Leadership Institute. The author is solely responsible for the content.