I served on the U.S. senior management team of a global manufacturer for 12 years. I continue to advise and counsel Florida companies in their business operations, as I recently celebrated my 37th year as a licensed attorney in Florida. Effective leadership skills are so important to me that I graduated from Leadership Palm Beach County, Florida in 2003; completed a senior management/leadership program for attorneys at Boston University in 2013; and graduated from Leadership Delray Beach, Florida in 2019 and Rotary Leadership Institute in 2021. Cambridge Dictionary defines a “leader” as a “person in control of a group.” An effective leader leads by using his/her skills, gained by personal and professional experiences, to inspire, influence and direct a group to reach a certain place, goal or objective. Based on my extensive experience in leadership roles, it is my strong belief that effective leadership is determinative on whether that organization will be successful in meeting its objectives and sustainable to have a far reaching and meaningful impact, or short-lived due to disinterest and discontent resulting in high employee or membership turnover. This applies to every organization, whether an employee based business organization or a voluntary service membership based organization.
During my professional journey, I have worked for many types of leaders who have taught me how to lead and most importantly, how not to act in a leadership role. Some threatened, were abusive, and placed his/her employees in a hostile work environment. It was that meanness and total disrespect for the dignity of each employee that led me to author my first code of ethics when I was given the authority to act. A code of ethics, by its own words, requires every level of personnel within that organization, whether c-suite, senior management or entry level, to comply with its terms. When an organization applies the same rules of professional conduct to everyone, each individual knows what he/she must do to remain in good standing, meaning there should not be discretionary or arbitrary decision making by anyone in power of that organization, which should foster a totally transparent and conducive work environment. When different rules apply to different employees or members is how discontent develops forcing those being unfairly treated to accept or eliminate the double standard, or start anew somewhere else. The most effective leaders, who I was privileged to work side by side, all possessed the highest level of ethics. They led by example and truly believed in the principles of their ethical code. It was paramount to them that the corporate culture integrated those ethical ideals.
Effective leaders develop a strategic plan to go from point A to point B before any business action is taken. This allows the leader and his/her team to spend considerable time thinking and analyzing all potential options before selecting one that will produce the best outcome. A strategic plan removes much uncertainty and eliminates guess work. A well written and conceived strategic plan defines the roles of each member of the project team to obtain the necessary result. An effective leader wants his/her team to know exactly how to execute the strategic plan, so there are no unnecessary delays or confusion. Effective leaders also know that events beyond their control may cause the best written and conceived strategic plan to be modified from time to time. Effective leaders are adaptable to changing circumstances in everything they do.
Results matter in every organization. How effective the leadership of an organization executes its strategic plan, and its decision making on other operational issues, will determine whether that organization has met its business objectives or fell short. We judge our leaders on their success rate. Proven leaders have a track record of success. Finishing what they start on time and at cost truly matters to them. Effective leaders are solution driven and results oriented, who learn what went well and most importantly, where there can be improvement by in-depth analysis based on fact and not fiction. Effective leaders know there is no short-cut to excellence. When negative outcomes result, it often leads to a “turnstile” effect in organizational leadership which severely impacts the morale within that organization. People want to be part of a winning team and will leave a “sinking” organization.
Effective leaders are effective communicators. They possess strong oral and written communication skills to convey the project objectives downstream for every personnel level on the team to clearly understand. This enables all levels of that organization to be closely aligned, with one common goal: to successfully execute the strategic plan. Effective leaders have compassion for others and are happy when their teammates succeed in all aspects of life. I have learned over time that you win or lose as a team- the common saying there is no “i” in “team” has much meaning to me, largely based on playing organized sports when I was a youngster. Effective leaders are team builders, not team breakers. They do not finger point or embarrass any teammate publicly. Instead they provide constructive feedback to improve their performance. There is no better feeling knowing each member of the team has contributed to the project’s success.
Effective leaders are decision makers. Indecisiveness is not part of their DNA. My personal experiences have taught me that effective leadership is developed over time from that individual’s life experiences and by studying history, so the same mistakes are not repeated.
Effective leaders are innovative. They do not believe in status quo. They carefully examine each aspect of their organization and determine what should be renewed, eliminated or replaced. Effective leaders periodically survey their employees or members to gauge their likes and dislikes to ensure their employees or members are fully committed to the services and programming offered by that organization. New program initiatives keep employees or members engaged and their level of engagement should be carefully watched by the leaders of every organization.
Each person should develop his/her own leadership style. There are certain characteristics or skills that effective leaders possess, as I have noted in this article. Yet, each person is unique, based on his/her upbringing, family, faith, education, profession, or place where he/she has lived. Diversity makes us a much stronger society when we embrace our differences.
Michael Robert Flam