The major attributes of Leadership (#10 of 11):

Willingness to assume full responsibility: Successfull leaders must be willing to assume responsibility for the mistakes and shortcomings of their followers. If they try to shift this responsibility, they will not remain leaders. If followers make mistakes and become incompetent, it is the leader who has failed.  (From: “Think and Grow Rich” by Napoleon Hill)

Truth be told … I started to blog about this attribute of leadership last weekend … but I could not finish due to demands on my time but, during the course of the last week, much has come into focus.

On the surface, this law of leadership seems a hard pill to swallow. How can one be truly responsible for the mistakes and shortcomings of one’s followers? They are, after all free agents with the right of choice and have factors and drivers in their lives which may divert their loyalty. Yet, I know in my heart that this principle is a truth that cannot be circumvented. A leader is responsible for the successes, and failures of the followers. In other words … the buck stops here.

How then, does one accept such responsibility in a world fraught with mediocrity, selfishness and carelessness?

A true leader shoulders the weight of the follower’ doubts, insecurities and shortcomings. He or she does so as an investment into the future of the team and the endeavor. By shouldering and carrying these shortcomings and simultaneously mentoring and empowering ones followers to rise to their highest potential, a leader sets the team up for future success and smooth sailing. A leader is NOT just concerned with today’s success, nor the short lived praise that comes from short lived success at the expense of the weak. A true leader is in it for the long-haul, and therefore will shoulder the failings of the team if doing so ensures long term success of the whole.

But what if there are those who refuse to respond and grow with the leader’s empowerment plan? Such people are a cancer that can rot the whole despite a leader’s best efforts. That is where the lessons of this week come into play.

A Leader, in order to empower his or her team and lead them to success, also has an ethical obligation to excise any cancer from the body of the team. Last month, we had to fire our architect and engage a replacement for our project in Park City, UT.  The terminated architect refused to follow direction and play as part of a team. They superimposed their own vision onto the project which lead to our initial budget estimates from our contractor coming in over $4.5 million over budget. They committed the cardinal sin of architecture: “Design something that will never be built because the market won’t support the costs.  A decision had to be made … for the sake of not just the Developer’s pocket-book, but for the hundreds families who would be put out of work because the project would be cancelled and the designers, builders, inspectors, materials vendors, etc. would not have the project to execute. Therefore, in behalf of the Owner and the families of our team, I fired the architect and hired a replacement.  After 5-weeks of re-design and re-tooling, our budget estimate came back from our contractor yesterday on-target. The team is on-track and the endeavor is saved, assuring jobs for hundreds of families.

Yes … A leader must accept full responsibility for the actions, successes and failures of the followers, but a true leader also has the moral and ethical obligation to protect the whole from the transgressions of a part. Empowered by this ethical obligation, it is easy, even joyful, for a leader to carry this weight.

The Major Attributes of Leadership (#9 of 11):

9. Mastery of Detail: Successful leadership calls for mastery of details of the Leader’s position.
(From: Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill)

We continue our examination of Napoleon Hill’s landmark work by discussing at length this essential facet of great leadership:

Like the first five characteristics of a great leader (see prior Blogs) this item inspires confidence and faith in one’s followers. Personality character details like #’s 6, 7 & 8 engender loyalty and love from one’s followers, but love lacking confidence can only create a limited momentum to one’s purpose. Without displaying a mastery of the details (a thorough understanding) of every aspect of the goal set forth by a great leader, we can never rightly expect our followers to follow blindly (i.e.: accepting that our direction will succeed with confidence even when they do not fully comprehend the entire plan themselves). Therefore, early in a leadership role, it behooves a great leader to display mastery over the execution of details. Explaining the why and how of plan elements and putting them into context for our followers and then demonstrating the exact result that we expect by performing the task ourselves as an example to be followed.

As an example:  At a resort project that I am developing for my client and his investors, my role is that of an administrator and business plan manager. However, I also seek to be a facilitator. An administrator may point to something and tell a group to go do it. A facilitator will also step in to fill missing roles and bridge gaps to ensure that the team members have the tools and resources they need to pull all of the pieces together efficiently. I have also sought to empathize with my team by showing them that I understand the intricacies of their individual jobs. Therefore, I have performed plumbing, carpentry, electrical, lock-smith, painting and labor work side by side with my team, as well as design, engineering, architectural, code compliance & municipal liaison and negotiations efforts. All, of course, to a limited degree and atop of the main reason for my being here, which is to manage the budget, cash-flow, schedule, product quality and delivery. However, by demonstrating to the team that I know each and every one of their jobs, my goal has been two-fold. One, to let them know that I understand each of their individual challenges, but two, to ensure they are aware they cannot fool me in any way. That I can see everything in its appropriate context and will hold each of them accountable for what I know they are capable of.  And, of course, I only do these things enough to establish the proper atmosphere of personal responsibility and high expectations, since painting or carpentry is obviously not the highest and best use of my time.

The point is that mastering the details of one’s leadership position lends truth to an expression I have used on many occasions: “People will live up to, or down to, your expectations of them.”  If you expect a lot from your followers in full knowledge of their capabilities, then that is what you will get. If you expect little from them, perhaps because you yourself do not have mastery over the details, then little is what you will get (and what you will deserve).