Last but certainly not least, real leaders are “execution animals,” driven by achievement. The true leader autographs his work with excellence and is constantly seeking opportunities to raise the bar of quality for the entire organization. By contrast, mediocrity is a malaise—one that we can choose to accept or reject. Sadly, far too many people are willing to settle for it rather than insisting on aiming high and working fiercely towards excellence.
There are lots of excuses for failure—but not one good reason! Especially when you consider that good quality and lousy quality generally take exactly the same amount of time.
Excellence in execution is not something the leader can delegate to others in its entirety and then walk away. You can’t simply mandate high standards and then rely on others to achieve them. If you aspire to leadership, you must be personally dedicated to excellence and take the lead in achieving it.
This is one reason why a period of hands-on apprenticeship in the lower ranks of an organization is a useful, even essential background for the leader. You need to spend some time personally mastering the skills that are crucial to success in your industry. If you work in manufacturing, put in some days on the assembly line; if you help to run a service business, devote time to working face-to-face with customers and learning about their needs and problems; if you are involved in health care, spend afternoons with patients and their families so you can understand what it takes to reassure and comfort them. If you haven’t personally tried to meet the highest standards in your field, it will be hard for you to judge the performance of your colleagues, or to inspire them to give their best efforts in pursuit of excellence. Personal knowledge and hands-on experience provide credibility and credentials.
Of course, delegation is an important skill. No one person can do everything, so the leader must learn how to delegate effectively. He must give his colleagues not just a set of tasks to perform, but also owners hip of the results – that is, a sense of personal responsibility for what happens. (I’ve found that, if you get the ownership of a problem right, you usually get the resolution right.) The leader must also give people enough freedom to develop their own solutions to knotty problems. This is the only way to nurture creativity, independent judgment, and responsibility among those who may be leading the entire organization someday.
In the book, I have shared a story from my own experience to further emphasize the importance of this attribute throughout my lifetime journey.I look forward to receiving your comments.
Hussein A. Al-Banawi
Author, The Unknown Leader