Top Ten Beliefs for Leaders to Live By

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It may seem that today's managers and leaders need a top-10 list that clearly lays out the priorities for success. Whether you are running a small department or a large firm, the leadership principles that guide your decisions are much the same. Below are ten principles to help guide you and your firm to success.

  1. Give Direction. Look into the future. Believe in the future of the firm. A leader's most important job is to lay out a road map to the future. If you can't provide that direction, you're a manager -- not a leader. Your vision must be real, substantive, and something people can and will believe in. Have the guts to make decisions while there's still risk in them.
  2. Honor Your Customers. The Internet and technology lets your customers sound off and tell you exactly what they like or don't like about your business. Listen to them. Get out into the markets you serve, and ask your customers for feedback. Make the necessary changes to improve service or else you may find yourself with fewer customers.
  3. Lead by Example. Don't be afraid to make difficult decisions if you need to. Make sure you have a management team that you trust and respect. Operate on this belief: Take care of your customers and the people who take care of your customers, and the growth and profit will take care of themselves.
  4. Technology is Your Friend. Technology can transform what your company sells, how it operates, and how it prepares for the future. Don't ignore it. Use technology to create new products, gather new distribution channels, and improve communication with your clients.
  5. Keep Your Plan Simple and Focused. Identify five to seven key areas that need improvement in your company or department, and keep at them until you get them right. Your list might include such things as cost containment, quality, or customer satisfaction. Set targets for each area, and hold your staff accountable for the overall results. Measure, monitor, and review the progress on a timely basis and reward the results.
  6. Create a Culture of Innovation and Cooperation. Innovation is about more than designing products. It's also about improving customer experiences, employee experiences, and services. That level of innovation thrives in an organization that's informal, flat, and free of red tape. Make your company a place where everybody wins or loses together.
  7. Recruit The Best of the Best. Your staff is your most important asset -- in good times and in bad. Hire determined people who are team-builders and good communicators, who can lead the organization without panicking when things get tough. Once you get them in the door, keep them on their toes and involve them in an incentive program that rewards performance. Create a culture that promotes risk-taking -- and that welcomes people who challenge the status quo.
  8. Treat Employees Like Customers. If you want to inspire your customers, you must first inspire your employees. Invest heavily in training and mentoring. Explain the organization's goals so that everyone has the information and motivation to contribute. Nurture and reward the top 20% of your staff who produce 80% of the results, and actively weed out the bottom 10% who give you 80% of the headaches. If you don't train and mentor your staff, you won't retain your top talent.
  9. Commit to Diversity. Get beyond your mission statement and make these values central to how you do business. Track your success rate, for instance, when it comes to attracting -- and retaining -- a diverse group of professionals.
  10. Prepare Future Leaders. Select your best people each year and put them together on specific projects for four or five months. Put them in small teams to attack real challenges, from compensation policy to customer satisfaction. Make them work on these projects in addition to their regular duties. Weed out the uncommitted staff and complainers early. Then watch the leadership grow.

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