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Monday, May 23, 2011

BILL WALSH: BE A LEADER -- 12 HABITS PLUS ONE


The following comes from Bill Walsh and his outstanding book, "The Score Takes Care of Itself."

A defining characteristic of a good leader is the conviction that he or she can make a positive difference – can prevail even when the odds are stacked against him or her. A successful leader is not easily swayed from this self-belief. But it happens.

In my view a truly effective leader must be certain things. Here are twelve habits I have identified over the years that will make you be a better leader:

1. Be yourself.
I am not Vince Lombardi; Vince Lombardi was not Bill Walsh. My style was my style, and it worked for me. Your style will work for you when you take advantage of your strengths and strive to overcome your weaknesses. You must be the best version of yourself that you can be; stay within your framework of your own personality and be authentic. If you’re faking it, you’ll be found out.

2. Be committed to excellence.
I developed by Standard of Performance over three decades in the business of football. It could just as accurately (although more awkwardly) been called “Bill’s Prerequisites for Doing Your Job at the Highest Level of Excellence Vis-à-vis Your Actions and Attitude on Our Team.” My commitment to this “product” – excellence – preceded my commitment to winning football games. At all times, in all ways, your focus must be focused on doing things at the highest possible level.

3. Be positive.
I spent far more time teaching what to do than what not to do; far more time teaching and encouraging individuals than criticizing them; more time building up than tearing down. There is a constructive place for censure and highlighting negative aspects of a situation, but too often it is done simply to vent and creates a barrier between you and others. Maintain an affirmative, constructive, positive environment.

4. Be prepared.
Good luck is a product of good planning. Work hard to get ready for expected situations – events you know will happen. Equally important, plan and prepare for the unexpected. “What happens when what’s supposed to happen doesn’t happen?” is the question that you must always be asking and solving. No leader can control the outcome of the contest or competition, but you can control how you prepare for it.

5. Be detail-oriented.
Organizational excellence evolves from the perfection of details relevant to performance and production. What are they for you? High performance is achieved small step by small step through painstaking dedication to pertinent details. (Caution: Do not make the mistake of burying yourself alive in those details.) Address all aspects of your team’s efforts to prepare mentally, physically, fundamentally, and strategically in as thorough a manner as humanly possible.

6. Be organized.
A symphony will sound like a mess without a musical socre that organizes each and every note so that the musicians know precisely what to play and when to play it. Great organization is the trademark of a great organization. You must think clearly with a disciplined mind, especially in regard to the most efficient and productive use of time and resources.

7. Be accountable.
Excuse making is contagious. Answerability starts with you. If you make excuses – which is first cousin to “alibiing” – so will those around you. Your organization will be soon be filled with finger-pointing individuals whose battle cry is, “It’s his fault, not mine!”

8. Be near-sighted and far-sighted.
Keep everything in perspective while simultaneously concentrating fully on the task at hand. All decisions should be made with an eye toward how they affect the organization’s performance – no how they affect you or your feelings. All efforts and plans should be considered not only in terms of short-run effect, but also in terms of how they impact the organization long term. This is very difficult.

9. Be fair.
The 49ers treated people right. I believe your value system is as important to success as our expertise. Ethically sound values engender respect from those you lead and give your team strength and resilience. Be clear in your own mind as to what you stand for. And then stand up for it.

10. Be firm.
I would not budge one inch on my core values, standards, and principles.

11. Be flexible.
I was agile in adapting to changing circumstances. Consistency is crucial, but you must be quick to adjust to new challenges that defy the old solutions.

12. Believe in yourself.
To a large degree, a leader must “sell” himself to the team. This is the most important unless you exhibit self-confidence. While I was rarely accused of cockiness, it was apparent to most observers that I had significant belief-self confidence-in what I was doing. Of course, belief derives from expertise.

13. Be a leader.
Whether you are a head coach, CEO, or sales manager, you must know where you’re going and how you intend to get there, keeping in mind that it may be necessary to modify your tactics as circumstances dictate. You must be able to inspire and motivate through teaching people how to execute their jobs at the highest level. You must care about people and help those people care about one another and the team’s goals. And you must never second-guess yourself on decisions you make with integrity, intelligence, and a team-first attitude.