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Hurdles on the road to leadership.

COMPANIES FAIL primarily because managers fail. Why? Not because they can't distinguish between cost and financial accounting or because they don't understand the macroeconomic theory of aggregate demand and price adjustment. They simply can't manage and they certainly can't lead.

The main factors vital to the success of an organization are quality products, astute timing, capital, human resources, and effective leadership. If the last component is lacking, the first four are automatically eradicated. Sound decisions cannot be made about a product's features or about the timing of its introduction to market, financial resources cannot be secured, and well-trained personnel cannot be hired and retained. Harold Geneen, the entrepreneur who built ITT from a small company into a thriving conglomerate, said it best: "The quality of leadership is the single most important ingredient in the recipe of success."

Five hurdles commonly impede the ability of managers to become competent leaders. How many of the following hurdles have you blundered over?

1. Do you refuse to accept personal accountability for your failures? To become leaders, managers must possess the self-confidence to admit their mistakes and realize that errors won't ruin them; errors are learning experiences that only serve to make us more human. The late President Harry Truman was famous for the sign on his desk that read "The buck stops here." Leaders don't automatically blame others or circumstances beyond their control. If, for example, they don't like their percentage of profits, they don't blame inflation; they take a close look at their money-making abilities and take steps for improvement. People fail in direct proportion to their willingness to make excuses for their failures.

2. Do you neglect to develop your staff? How many times have you left the laboratory only to call less than an hour later to check on things? While it's flattering to be needed, one of the last things a true leader strives for is indispensability. Your lab should be able to function successfully in your absence whether you're on vacation, home ill, at a seminar, or, yes, even out to lunch. Effective leaders realize that they can draw the best out of their people by showing them how to be productive and trusting them to make sound decisions.

3. Do you manage your workers as if they were clones? Managers who lead all employees down the same path are doomed. As overseers of our laboratories, we need to discern what motivates each employee by being conscious of personal needs, ambitions, fears, and limitations. Leaders treat their staff as if they already are what they ought to be and help them become all that they are capable of being.

4. Are you a buddy to your employees rather than their boss? Sure, it can be lonely at the top. Still, we must fight the urge to be pals with employees after hours or we will never be able to lead them during work hours. Being too chummy with your people will only cause them to become confused and resentful every time you turn from an equal back into a superior. Also, avoid the temptation to become parent, priest, or psychiatrist to your staff members. Leaders are responsible to people, not for them.

5. Do you fail to work within the system? Failure to understand the corporate culture of your business and the way in which decisions are made only spells disaster. Renegade managers who manipulate the system, rather than work within it, may still end up leading people, but out the door instead of up the ladder.

* Prospering from slipups. We've all tripped over at least a few of the above hurdles, but it's never too late to set the hurdles upright and try again. As long as we can admit to our failures and work hard to rectify them, they can be used as tools for professional growth and help us to be successful.

The author is laboratory director, Humana Hospital Northside, St. Petersburg, Fla., and adjunct professor, University of South Florida, Tampa.
COPYRIGHT 1993 Nelson Publishing
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1993 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Publication:Medical Laboratory Observer
Date:Jun 1, 1993
Words:666
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