WHAT IS EFFECTIVE LEADERSHIP?

Don, thanks for coming. My background is in performance for an individual and in the last couple years going into certain companies, I’ve noticed there is a need, a big need, for organizational leadership and knowing you for the last couple years, I know you’re the expert in that field and as we look at the ups and downs, whether we talk politics or companies and such, I think leadership, that word is thrown around a lot. But how would you define effective leadership in this day and age?

Well, first of all, you’re absolutely correct. The word leadership is overused. Whenever there’s a problem or an issue, you turn on the television, somebody’s talking about poor leadership without ever really understanding what leadership is. Leadership quite simply is organizing people to achieve a common goal. It’s not rocket science. It’s not easy. But it’s simple. It’s simply getting people organized around a common set of values and an understood mission and getting them moving towards that common goal or that objective.

Rick S.: And so when we look at mission and values and such, who determines that? I mean, you’ve worked with some large cities, big companies and I think it used to be the leader was the one person, looked upon as one person making those decisions. Is that changed? Is that demonstrative of how you create the mission, how you create those values?

Don St. Clair: It’s absolutely changed. If you go back to the evolution of contemporary leadership thought, it emerged from the Second World War. And if you think about that time in the late 1940s, early 1950s in the United States, it came out of that war experience and it was very command and control oriented and it was very trait-oriented. People thought that leaders were born. Leaders were born with a certain set of traits that made them leaders and you were in charge and the leader set the tone and the boss set the tone and that’s how it went.

If you watch that evolution, particularly in the 21st century, but even the late 20th century, it’s not that way anymore. So when you ask mission and values, who sets that?

Well, the leader, the CEO or the president can huddle in their office and they can write the mission and values themselves and come out and put it on the wall and tell everybody, “This is what our mission and values are,” and that’s probably where it’s gonna end because if you want mission and values, there has to be buy-in and the best way you get buy-in is to have people engaged in the crafting and the creating of those missions and values. Now, one other thing about that, some organizations are still very CEO centric and the CEO or the president will have a greater role. Other organizations, particularly organizations that have been around for a long time, are more organic and they have a mission and values and a culture that has emerged on its own. So there are different realities in different places.

Rick S.:  Right. So a proper or effective leader is certainly helping create the mission, the values and you used the word culture, which I’ve seen you speak. We actually have presented together and I loved your idea of culture because I think I had a misunderstanding of really what a corporate culture is. I mean, the audience out there if you’re in your organization, what do you think a culture is? What is your definition of culture?

Don St. Clair: A culture is a way you do things, period. So we’re sitting right now in Burbank, California. Burbank’s been one of our clients and we would talk with them about the city of Burbank has been one of our clients and we would talk to them about the Burbank way and that’s the way you do things. So it’s everything from really, really small things, like punctuality. Are you at an organization where an 8:00 meeting starts at 8:00? That’s part of your culture. Service, are you in an organization where it’s okay to be rude to customers or are you in an organization where you would never consider being rude to customers? That’s part of your culture. Are you in an organization where spending money lavishly is part of what you do or are you in a culture where if you’re gonna have an office party, you go to Costco and get treats and snack there? So it’s just the way you do things and by the way, families have cultures to. Your family has a culture and my family has a culture, the way we do things.

Stay tuned next week for Part 2 of Don and I’s discussion, as we talk about cultures and values.

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