I’d like to share ten reasons most people aren’t leaders. This list comes from Mike Myatt, a US based expert on leadership who advises many of the top Fortune 500 CEOs. It gives you ten succinct signs to know whether or not you’re a leader.
I find this list very helpful and concise. It reminds me of one of the greatest business leaders I ever knew, Akio Morita, who co-founded Sony. He wrote a paper entitled Personal Magnetism: Some Thoughts on Management,
which again I will quote directly:
“Business management has an essential difference distinguishing it from other professions. Anyone can tell an artist, or a scientist or an acrobat lacks professional skills or makes mistakes. In business, however, nobody may notice your mistakes, which is, in a sense, very dangerous.
I would like to share with you some of my thoughts on management. First, if you work alone, that is not management. The substance of management is organising as many people as possible to accomplish larger tasks by effectively drawing the best from each one of them.
To do this, you require personal magnetism. It is important for you to attract your people, that is, to be attractive enough to magnetise other people so that they willingly listen to and work for you. To put it more bluntly, if you are lacking in this magnetism, you are not going to be qualified for top management in business, no matter how clever you may be.
What, then, is this “personal magnetism”? First, you need to be a neaka
person, a person who responds to things in a positive way. A negative-minded nekura
person is not qualified for management.
Charisma is another requirement. In this respect, you need to have a philosophy which other people will follow of their own volition. This sets charisma apart from dictatorship. In other words, a good manager does not force other people to follow his or her philosophy against their will.
Another requirement for top management is honesty about your own mistakes. Everybody makes mistakes. It is better to admit them than to hide them or blame someone else for them. Those who have the courage to admit their mistakes are more likely to appear attractive in the eyes of others.
Yet another requirement for top management is magnanimity. It is quite natural for people to have different views and different ways of doing things. This very diversity is what makes a company tick. There would be no point in staffing a company with people who all share the same opinions. You should consider, as a top manager, how to absorb differing views and to maintain your people’s eagerness to follow you, despite differences of opinion.
There is one more thing that must be borne in mind. Top managers tend to forget what their people expect of them once they climb to the top of the corporate ladder. Your subordinates are very concerned about being recognised for their work. You must always remember this. Otherwise, you may end up losing some of your most competent staff.
Trust your people. This is a most important rule. Too often, top managers are overly concerned about whether or not they themselves are trusted. But if you want to be trusted, you have to trust your people first. If you trust them, they will trust you in return.
Trusting your subordinates means being magnanimous enough not to give overly detailed instructions. Relations with subordinates may become soured if you are overly eager to exert leadership and give exhaustive instructions.
On the other hand, I am always saying, “Don’t trust anybody!” at the company. While it may sound as if I am contradicting myself, my point is that it is very important to follow up and check whenever you give instructions or ask other people to do something for you. You have to get your subordinates in the habit of always reporting back to you. See to it that the “Plan-Do-Check” cycle is carefully followed.
Fortunately you are blessed with a very competent staff. Just trust their capabilities. Make clear what you expect them to do. After that, leave the matter to their discretion and avoid giving too many instructions. And watch them do their job. That is, in fact, essential to forging ties of mutual trust with your people and to becoming a top manager full of “personal magnetism”.
Last but not least, I must emphasise that our company is standing at a very critical point in the midst of the dramatic changes now unfolding. I sincerely hope that you, as the top managers of each section, fully appreciate this point, and that you will manage in the true sense of the word to lead your many people to achieve further progress.”
Morita-san certainly had the charisma of which he wrote. That document was published in October 1989 when I had been with the company just over a year running its Consumer Products Company in the UK. I certainly found these words inspiring and they helped me to set my course for what turned out to be a highly successful journey. I am not sure to which dramatic changes Morita-san was referring. They might have been the Betamax disaster although that was largely over by the date of publication. Or it might have been that’s when Sony acquired Columbia pictures which in the short term proved to be a catastrophic move though over time Sony has learnt, with severe financial pain, how to manage the extraordinarily unpredictable motion picture business. Their solution has been to make it predictable and churn out the same picture again and again which the young, who make up the core audience, have to see because of peer pressure. Think of Spiderman, Spiderman 2, Spiderman 3… You get the picture.
Sport is not like business because it is unpredictable. But sport is about results and the question of leadership is always critical. The lessons of Messrs Myatt and Morita apply very clearly.
Last night the England men’s football team thrashed the Czech Republic 5-0 in the first match of the qualifying stages for the European 2020 Finals. In the 2016 competition England qualified, they usually do, but then had a dismal finals losing to diminutive Iceland in the knockout stages. The manager was duly fired and a strange appointment made to replace him. Sam Allardyce was an undistinguished English manager who had managed a number of lesser Premiership clubs but had limited international experience either as a player or manager. A scandal then ensued involving allegations of corruption and he was duly fired. The FA replaced him with Gareth Southgate on an interim basis only. Southgate had a distinguished career as a player winning 57 caps for England and playing in three international finals tournaments. As a manager he had limited success with Middlesbrough but managed the England Under 21 team from 2013 to 2016 so had a very good understanding of the talent coming through. He was made fulltime manager two years ago and became only the third England manager to reach a World Cup semi-final in the 2018 competition.
How? By applying the lessons of leadership in this blog. He has taken away the fear that England players had in putting on the shirt with the famous Three Lions logo. He has used sports psychologists to work with the young players and get them to talk about their problems openly. He has given debuts to 24 players. In last night’s game he gave a debut to two 18 year olds, one of whom has never started for his club, Chelsea. But he looked like a natural.
We could also apply these tests of leadership to some of our political leaders who hog the headlines. But I won’t go there. I’ll just quote Tacitus who wrote of the Emperor Galba “Capax imperii nisi imperasset.” [i]