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Magnificent Seven

Larry Bossidy, leadership guru, found seven core leadership traits. He learned the ‘magnificent seven’ from top CEOs of major corporations. As with most leadership qualities, the seven are straightforward, but tough to master. It takes discipline to do the right thing, even when you know exactly what to do. Here are the ‘magnificent seven’:

Know your people and your business. Great business leaders know all facets of their business. For example, consider Elon Musk. The richest man in the world grants few interviews. When he talks, he loves to dig into the details.  You get the feeling he could pick up a wrench and work alongside his technicians. That is because he cultivates a deep knowledge of his activities. The nitty-gritty is where it is at.

Insist on realism. These leaders benchmark their products and services against their toughest competition.  Top CEOs want to know how good their products are, and how they can be better.  They want constructive criticism from clients, employees, and others. Realism and truth are pivotal to success. Delusion is a waste of time.

Set clear goals. Clarity is the key! Goals should be Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Realistic and Time bound (i.e., subject to deadline). In short, goals should be SMART.

Follow through. Top leaders make follow through a daily ritual. This rigor filters down through their teams. Good habits are contagious. You need a scoreboard, showing what performance indicators measure success.  Next, you compare actual results to goals.

How does this work?

Ford Motor Company was going bankrupt. Then, Ford got a new CEO. Alan Mulally turned Ford around with a simple weekly meeting.  Attendance was mandatory—for everyone. Every week Ford’s top executives talked about their goals. The format was uncomplicated: Mullally loves a three-colored system. Green means a goal was on track. Yellow means the goal was behind schedule, but still achievable. Red means the goal was in trouble.

This said, the system of measurement is less important than discipline. Leaders adapt systems to their business models, focusing on criteria that matter most. Make follow-up your culture.

Reward doers. Give the biggest paychecks to top performers. Popularity is less important than performance. You need to motivate the best—not only because they deserve more, but to get everyone fired-up to do their best, too.  Merit is what counts.

Expand people’s capacities. Leaders put their people and themselves on a continuous path of improvement. Training and learning never stop. Leaders are learners; and they encourage teammates to learn, too. It is no accident that top CEOs are avid readers.

Know yourself. That means knowing your strengths and weaknesses. Maximize your strengths and make their weaknesses irrelevant. Hire people who have the talent you lack or learn new skills. In any case, be honest with yourself. No one is perfect.

Technology, charisma, and intelligence are important, too. For all that, they are less critical than ‘magnificent seven.’

Sure, these seven habits look obvious. No, they are not mysterious. They make common sense. Yet, as humorist and philosopher Will Rogers said: ‘Common sense ain’t common’.

You could focus on one core competency each day of the week. Then, make the ‘magnificent seven’ part of your personal action plan. Master these traits and watch your influence grow.

It is simple, but not easy.

Peter Labrie

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