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Leadership. Basic Principles.

by Adil Alekperov
(Kiev, Ukraine)

In this article, we will define leadership basic principles, which provide the grounds for business leaders to create and develop their companies. Any business starts with its objective and its business idea, which possesses potential for further development. Elon Musk, a person who gained tremendous results, understood from his own experience that “people work better when they know what the goal is and why”. Leadership also begins with goal determination. Without a goal there’s no leadership. The whole business success depends on the fact if the goal was chosen correctly enough. It is in the process of goal gaining that we become true leaders who, together with their employees, determine the optimal strategy, inspiring them to maximum commitment.

So, the first leadership principle is the existence of the goal, which mobilizes all organization resources and drives it forward. One doesn’t need much to determine a goal; one should watch and observe. For instance, it has been already a long time that we realized that people use mobile messengers more and more as they provide free calls, message interchanges and video conversations. Why not create a new company type that would provide its customers only with mobile Internet? There are probably some barriers like technical issues, cost value of services and others. But the one who is afraid of the present will never create the future. The epoch of wire telephones has nearly become a thing of the past; yet someone should initiate the decline of traditional mobile communications by proposing something more progressive and economical. In this way, by analyzing surrounding environment, new goals are born.
The second basic leadership principle can be defined with the help of Steve Jobs’ words who said:”Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower.” The innovative iPhone made the Apple Company a market leader in next to no time, having transformed our idea of smartphones. Jack Welch’s innovative management model, with bureaucracy cut and managers empowered with the freedom to act, based on corporate ethics, enabled General Electric to become a market leader. We have nearly forgotten about film cameras, CDs, cellular button phones and are currently expecting the new offers, which can arrive from the leaders who follow the second basic principle – the principle of innovativeness. One can endlessly modernize iPhone and its clones, but tomorrow, another Steve Jobs will come, ruin all investments made and introduce the world to a new innovative smartphone being absolutely unlike anything we have seen before.
Even if you are not a world-scope leader, look for new things and ideas you can propose to your company. Study the experience of the others, implement it, facilitate in your staff the development of unconventional thinking and the ability to risk wisely; and great results will not be long in coming. Be innovative and define innovative goals, this is the only way for leadership and progress.
Let’s proceed to the third leadership principle – PEOPLE. Yes, this word is purposefully capitalized, as they are the leader’s major responsibility. “Effective leadership is not about making speeches or being liked; leadership is defined by results not attributes.” These words belong to Jack Welch. We’ll illustrate them with the following example. Imagine that you – being a leader – must build a sales policy in your company, which is one of the most important strategic functions. With this purpose in mind, you are sure to invite an experienced manager – a sales director in this particular case - with whom you will discuss the sales policy strategy, and whom you delegate with powers required. Since this moment not a sales system, but the Sales Director is your main responsibility target. You will meet him or her from time to time, listen to brief reports, give recommendations, control his or her work, but not the work of the whole system. As the leader, you are responsible for the manager’s development too, demonstrating by your own example that the main work values for you are creativeness, constant desire to improve the company’s work and to reach your target goals. With great probability, following your example, the sales director will exercise your desirable model of behavior. If this doesn’t happen and he does not share your values and demonstrate high results, it is better to part with such an employee as soon as possible.
You must also be responsible for encouraging the best employees, not forgetting to point out their drawbacks at times and finding together with them the ways to eliminate these drawbacks. This is, in general terms, the responsibility concerning PEOPLE. Remember, that a degree of your goal achievement depends exclusively on your colleagues. I would like to refer to a valuable idea of Ralph Stogdill, a remarkable leadership researcher, who once said in one of his articles dedicated to leader’s traits that a leader can succeed only if he is among the likes of him. Hence, build your team with people who share your values and demonstrate their wish to reach and perform excellent results.
And now, it’s time to speak about the fourth basic leadership principle – the choice of a worthy successor, which according to Jack Welch, is one of the leader’s main tasks. A Successor is a person who would continue the leader’s line of business after his or her resignation, who would take all responsibility for the company’s afterlife. It should be noted that a mistake in the choice of the successor may be fatal for the company.Allow me to suggest some recommendations as concerns the given issue:

1. Define the criteria that a successor must meet (values, professionalism level, achievement, etc.).
2. Choose several people in the company whom you could trust with its management.
3. If there are no people of the kind, assign your human resources manager a corresponding task immediately.
4. Watch the achievements of future possible candidates for the successor position, set them difficult and ambitious but achievable tasks and analyze the results obtained.
5. Pay special attention to such a candidate's quality as 'innovativeness', to the fact how often candidates to succession suggest new ideas. This is the ticket to keeping the company's leading position.
6. Delegate them full authority for the time of your absence.
7. Trust the company with the best one among them.

I’d like to stress that the perfect option is when a future successor has moved up a good career ladder in your company beginning with an entry level position. Besides, the company should create an open competition policy, where everyone would enjoy equal possibilities and be always rewarded for the results achieved. This will enable the most talented and successful employees to demonstrate their skills to the best of their ability, and consequently will considerably facilitate your work in the search of a successor; it will also give the opportunity for the most worthy and effective employees to get the leading positions.
And finally, we have come to the last leadership principle, the principle of effectiveness. ”Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others.” This is the phrase of Peter Drucker. According to their achieved results, we recognize the leadership of Steve Jobs, Jack Welch, Elon Musk and other famous business leaders. Remember: the greater results you achieve, the greater leader you are. I would also emphasize that goal-achievement does not at all ensure good results that would contribute to the company’s further development. In other words, goal-achievement does not always lead to success.
To illustrate this, I would like to give an example from the history of Microsoft Company and its operational system Windows Vista. Evidently, while working on Vista the company defined the following goal: to make an operational system exceeding the previous one in its characteristics; and they managed it. But Vista consumed considerably more resources than Windows ХP, it was more expensive, and consequently was not accepted heartily by the users. The goal was achieved, however, the results turned out to be not so optimistic: disappointed consumers and, as a result, the lack of planned profit. The company had to intensify its efforts considerably to create the subsequent version of operational system, which could eliminate the shortcomings of the previous one. This example is demonstrative enough: at times goal-achievement does not mean success-achievement.To determine a goal it is absolutely necessary to forecast the anticipated results and the desired final output of your efforts. For instance, desired results may be formulated as meeting the customers’ quality needs by means of new products and services, which, in its turn, will enable the income growth and increasing of the brand awareness. It is worth paying attention to providing a company with resources needed to gain the planned results as well as to the present market conditions, employees’ skill level and the goal-achievement strategy. All of this will reduce the risks of producing negative results and create the basis for the company’s further development.
We have learned five basic leadership principles: goal, innovativeness, people, successor, effectiveness. Knowing them, we can start using them in our practice, like the great business leaders do.

P.S.This is an abridged version of the article. If you would like to have a full one, please contact me

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