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Patricia McGinnis
Public Affairs leader

Patricia McGinnis

Former President and CEO of The Council for Excellence in Government, McGinnis teaches leadership at Georgetown University's Public Policy Institute and advises the White House on leadership programs for presidential appointees.

Setting the example

The beginning of a new year and new decade, especially following such challenging ones, is a great time for leaders to lean forward--to rethink, reach out, and reinvent the what, why and how their enterprises can reach higher levels of achievement with fewer resources.

Effective leaders, according to John Gardner (pioneering leader in the public and private sectors) focus on vision, values, crossing boundaries, thinking into the future, the challenge of constant renewal and inspiring people to get important things done despite the obstacles. Harry Truman got right to the point when he said, "A leader is someone who can get other people to do what they don't want to do and like it."

Keeping in mind these nuggets of wisdom from the past and the reality of the challenges ahead, I offer a five step plan for leaders to make the whole of enterprises greater (more productive, more rewarding, more compelling and more valuable) than the sum of their parts:

1. Communicate not to but with your team to clarify and share the challenges you face together and explore solutions, with special attention to front-line workers, who often have the best insights about operational efficiencies and how to leverage resources. If downsizing is necessary, don't send George Clooney up in the air to communicate your message. Instead, explain the problem and be open to alternatives that would, for example, reduce payroll by offering unpaid time off, or job sharing for good performers

2. Listen, not only to your employees but also to your customers, suppliers, partners, and overseers to find win-win approaches that can be positively and cooperatively pursued.

3. Encourage and invest in thinking out of the box. Innovation is all about creative ways to get important things done with less effort and greater benefit (from the printing press and the internet to post it notes and screw top bottles, etc., etc.)

4. Focus on the compelling value of your enterprise and set priorities accordingly. It may be not only possible, but exhilarating, for people in the enterprise to do fewer things better (aka more) with less, and achieve better results and greater impact.

5. Create and sustain a culture of disciplined teamwork where success (of the whole enterprise, specific groups and individuals) is clearly defined, resource limitations are understood and accountability for adding value is shared, with everyone contributing and holding each other accountable for progress and results.

Leaders set examples. The value and accountability of your actions should be clear to all who have a stake in the enterprise. Best wishes for a happy and productive new year and decade.

By Patricia McGinnis

 |  January 6, 2010; 5:42 AM ET
Category:  Economic crisis Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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