5 Golden Rules of Leadership

  • 3 mins read

I’ve been reading The Leadership Code: 5 Rules to Lead By, (Harvard Business Press, 2011) Dave Ulrich, Norm Smallwood and Kate Sweetman. I like this book for many reasons, but especially because the authors do a good job of synthesizing leadership theories into a concise framework. Having a framework of the five major leadership functions makes it easier to tackle the job of getting better at leading people effectively.
All leaders have to function well as a strategist (shape the future), an executor (get things done), a talent manager (bring out the best in people), and as a human capitol developer (prepare for the next generation). As a foundation for these roles, an effective leader must excel at their own personal proficiency (they must invest in their own learning and development in order to lead others well). Here is a summary of the authors’ ideas, put in the form of five “golden” rules:
Rule 1: Shape the future. As a strategist, you must answer the question “Where are we going?” for the people you lead. You not only envision the future, but help create it. You need to figure out where the organization must go to succeed, while pragmatically testing ideas against current resources and capabilities. Work with others to figure out how to move from the present to the desired future.
How informed are you about future trends, both inside and outside your field? How much time and attention do you allocate to future planning? How will you inspire your people with vision, purpose, mission and strategies?
Rule 2: Make things happen. As executors, leaders focus on the question, “How can we ensure we’ll reach our goals?” You must translate strategy into action. You’ll need to transform plans for change into measurable results by assigning accountability, knowing which decisions to manage and which to delegate, and ensuring that teams work together effectively.
This means keeping promises to multiple stakeholders. It also means ensuring that systems are in place for others to perform with the support and resources they need. Discipline is required. How can you help your people create their own high-performance results? Do you know when to step in or, conversely, step back?
I’m saving Rules 3-5 for my next post, but I’d love to hear from you about these two rules. Are you a person who focuses on the future, or who tries to become more forward-thinking? How adept are you at getting things done? Both areas are certainly important to being an effective leader and both can be improved by working with an executive coach.

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