Becoming a Great Leader

Michael R. Wood is a Business Process Improvement & IT Strategist Independent Consultant. He is creator of the business process-improvement methodology called HELIX and founder of The Natural Intelligence Group, a strategy, process improvement and technology consulting company. He is also a CPA, has served as an Adjunct Professor in Pepperdine's Management MBA program, an Associate Professor at California Lutheran University, and on the boards of numerous professional organizations. Mr. Wood is a sought after presenter of HELIX workshops and seminars in both the U.S. and Europe.

Much has been written about leadership—the qualities, aptitude and behaviors. In my experience, the true test of a person’s leadership ability shines through during times of crisis. When the monies are flowing in, the harmony of the organization is in sync and the owners are smiling, it is fairly easy to lead.

However, when the economy turns down, competitors are dominating market share and employees are disgruntled, it takes more than an administrative caretaker to lead the organization to solid ground. So what differentiates a great leader (GL) from those who are basically administrative caretakers (AC) of an organization? Consider this situation of an organization experiencing a material downturn in sales:

  • Great leader: Looks strategically at the organization to determine the root cause of the downturn (economy, industry, organization) and how long it might last. Based on the cause, the GL assesses the organization’s ability to weather the downturn and ways for it to emerge stronger than before. GL looks to cost controls, reductions in force, etc. as a last resort—understanding that such actions can prove counterproductive in the long run. If cost controls are needed, they are done with surgical precision so as not to impact the organization’s ability to provide value to customers, to grow or stay competitive.
  • Administrative caretaker…

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"Don't compromise yourself. You are all you've got."

- Janis Joplin