The 5 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership

Leaders, new and old, sometimes lose sight of the most fundamental tenets of leadership. Here’s a reminder…

I frequently tell executives that leadership – its concepts, theory, and core applications – haven’t changed in a millennium. Some our demographics may have changed, forcing us to use alternative applications of those concepts, but the basic concepts and theory remain.

So, why don’t we “just do it?” Sometimes we aren’t motivated; sometimes the “time” just doesn’t seem right. Maybe we simply forgot some of the basics… hence this article.

I use the following rules as a guide for newly promoted managers/leaders, as well as a constant reminder for every level of leadership – some good things to not forget.

So, here goes…

Law #1. Never delay or abrogate a decision that must be made. Make it and move on. You may have to immediately make another decision; this doesn’t mean your first one was wrong, merely that your second one had the benefit of additional knowledge.

When in the military, I worked for General Lawrence Boese, who would frequently tell me, “If 25% of your decisions aren’t wrong, you just aren’t making enough decisions.” And his favorite, “Shirt (that’s another article), there aren’t many “wrong” decisions; it’s just sometimes we have to make another decision right after the first one.”

Some truth to that…

Law #2. If you want something specific done, say so specifically, using clear, plain language. Employees, generally, have some difficulty doing their basic jobs; adding “mind-reading” to their description is just plain unfair.

No hints, implications, or innuendos. Say what you want, and use English! Directness counts.

Law #3. If you always answer employee’s every question, you’ll forever be answering employees’ every question. Questions are teaching moments — don’t rob employees of the opportunity.

Sounds trite, and I don’t mean it to. If an employee is asking because they’re an unteachable moron, get rid of the employee. If they are a decent employee asking because they do not know, then teach them; they’ll know next time, and you’ll both be better for it.

Law #4. Make your expectations clear, then back up a bit and give employees room to do their job. That doesn’t mean “never look back;” to inspect what you expect isn’t micro-management, it’s just good-management.

Employees – even top performers – need clear expectations. In fact, especially top performers. Give ‘em a target, provide resources and guidance, remove obstacles when necessary, then let them do their job. Check back later, since you still have management accountability.

Law #5. Employees need their managers to be leaders; they don’t need a shoulder, a buddy, a sympatico, or a commiserator.

If you want a friend, buy a dog.

We struggle with this. Everyone wants to be liked, and it always seems difficult to decline a beer after work, or something similar. I’m not advocating a monk-like existence, disallowing any personal contact with your folks; merely reminding you that they would like to have a friend, but they need a leader if they are to be successful.

You do want them to be successful, don’t you?

These laws are fairly intuitive, and certainly not rocket science… or brain surgery… or rocket surgery. They are simple management and leadership axioms that have passed the test of time.

Print these out, laminate, and put in your top desk drawer… and don’t forget them; your employees will not.

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