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A Blog by Art Dykstra


From My Pad to Yours is about leadership and other topics, and is written by Art Dykstra, the CEO of Trinity Services, Inc.

The Effective Organizational Leader: Self-Leadership

by Art Dykstra | Apr 12, 2017

Becoming effective organizational leaders requires much more than knowledge and charisma. In fact, the qualities that characterize strong leaders must show up in more than one facet of life. One essential quality is that they must know how to manage themselves. Let me talk about some important elements that distinguish those who are adept at self-management.

First, the best leaders have accepted themselves as they are. They know their strengths and weaknesses, and can also identify their bad habits. They work on those negative habits without beating themselves up for not being perfect. They also know what motivates them. That knowledge helps them grow and live with a clear sense of purpose.

Second, effective leaders have a high functioning personal radar system. They know what is going on around them. Since they don’t over-evaluate their effectiveness and importance, they can assess the behaviors and feelings of the people with whom they work with more accuracy. As a result, they notice when something is wrong — and right.

Max Bazerman (The Power of Noticing: What the Best Leaders See) describes the personal radar system as vigilance rather than paranoia. A good leader avoids obsessing over issues and simply takes sufficient time to ask the important questions. Therefore, he/she notices subtle changes that indicate that the organization may be straying in some fashion. That awareness enables him/her to avert major and minor disasters.

Third, effective leaders manage their personal lives. That’s not to say that they live in a problem-free sphere. They don’t. People with leadership skills face their problems head on and work to resolve them in such a way that additional avoidable problems don’t surface. Furthermore, they refrain from “wallowing in their misery,” use their energy to address the issues that arise and then move on. Consequently, they are able to follow the same pattern when dealing with the inevitable problems that surface in an organization.

Fourth, effective leaders manage their emotions. Of course, no human is completely unflappable, though some people are calmer than others. Leaders acknowledge their feelings and do not allow them to control their interactions with other people or their view of conditions around them. The goal is to be positive, encouraging, productive and fun to be with. For instance, ask yourself this question: “Would you rather be around someone who expects the worst (i.e., 'The woods are on fire,' 'The sky is falling,' 'The “state” is here.') or around someone who can smile, laugh, listen with empathy and offer encouragement in the course of positive and negative events. Co-workers/employees respond best to leaders who are predictable.

Finally, effective leaders manage themselves in such a way that they achieve results. They remind themselves that their job is to produce results — good results. To accomplish this, they set monthly objectives and follow the identified priorities. They ask themselves continually, “Am I working on what I am supposed to be working on? Or is this something that others should be doing?”

Brian Tracy addressed these issues with his popular “ABCDE Method.” He suggests the following:

An “A” task is one that is so important that if left undone will incur significant consequences. Of course, it is highly likely that more than one such task exists, so label them “A-1,” “A-2,” “A-3,” and so on. The trick is to remember that “A-1” remains the most important.

A “B” task also incurs consequences if left undone, but they are not as damaging as the those suffered by leaving an “A” task undone. Never work on a “B” task when there is an “A” task left to do.

A “C” task is one that would be nice to accomplish but has no real consequences if left undone. Reading a magazine or newspaper might keep you up on politics or sports, but it does not contribute to your work. Never do a “C” task when a “B” task is left undone. 

A “D” task is anything that you can delegate to someone else. One of the important leadership rules is that you should delegate anything that can be delegated. You have enough work that only you can do; you should not be spending your time on tasks that can be done by others. Ask yourself, “What can I and only I do that will make a major difference in the company?” If a task doesn’t fall into this category, give it to someone else. And the priority rule continues: Never work on a “D” task when there is a “C” task left undone.

An “E” task is something that needs to be eliminated. It shouldn’t even be on the table. It has no consequences and is of no use. Perhaps it was a task that was important in the past but is now obsolete. Or perhaps it should never have been done at all.  At any rate, now is the time to eliminate it.

The key to making this model work is to commit to avoid working on any low priority task while there is a higher priority task yet undone.

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