Want to be a leader? Here's how

In the CSRA, the immediate future has the high potential of being banner years.


With a dynamic mayor, a re-energized Augusta Commission, a creative downtown development manager, and a commitment of many corporations, non-profits and churches to enhance the economic, social, cultural and spiritual aspects of our grand old town, our future appears bright.

However, little will be accomplished without strong, creative leaders at all levels who are willing to work cooperatively and know how to get things done. With that in mind, the following is the first of a series of articles on leadership. Hopefully these articles will provide a useful insight or two for those who will move us toward a brighter future.

The following is a list of short phrases, each of which highlights a specific idea or concept.

Readers should feel free to use any of these ideas as they tackle the tough leadership challenges ahead.

1. KNOW YOURSELF. Each of us are five different people We are who we are, who we think we are, who are bosses think we are, who our peers think we are and who our subordinates think we are. The best leaders improve their behavior by objective self-examination.

2. DON'T POSTPONE JOY. If there is something to celebrate do it now.

Don't wait until next week, next month or next year to both privately and publicly congratulate those who have just accomplished something important. Hand-written thank you notes work especially well.

3. USE YOUR WIT TO AMUSE NOT ABUSE. Laughing at others is hurtful. On the other hand, laughing at yourself is healing for you and for others.

Humor used well is wonderful for you and those around you. He who laughs, lasts.

4. Polish your Negotiation Skills. People often ask me, "What is Colin Powell's greatest talent?" I explain how he brings together people, often who are very angry with each other. By using humor, the spirit of cooperation and compromise, he finds workable solutions which everyone can support.

5. BEWARE OF CLEVER, MANIPULATIVE SUBORDINATES . This was the major leadership failure at CNN during the nerve gas debacle in 1998. Sadly, the top leaders at Turner Broadcasting not only got snookered by some clever subordinates, but it also took much too long before these subordinates were held accountable for their unethical behavior in the production of CNN's "Valley of Death" special. It took more than a year for CNN to dump Rick Kaplan and Peter Arnett.

6. DON'T NEGLECT THE INTANGIBLES. Too many leaders focus their attention on what they can measure---sales numbers, quarterly reports, cash flow, stock price, etc. These leaders often neglect such vital intangibles as motivation, morale and esprit de corps.

7. PRACTICE FORGIVENESS. Be willing to forgive those who make honest mistakes. Also, be sure to forgive yourself after you acknowledge that you have made an error. Self-flagellation is not a good quality for a leader.

8. SCAN THE ENVIRONMENT WIDELY. Too many bosses are unwilling to look outside their own organization for fresh ideas. For instance, I have learned in the twenty-two years since I retired from the military that there is much that corporations can learn from the military and vice versa.

9. DON'T SPEND TOO MUCH TIME WITH THE MALCONTENTS. It only encourages them. Spend most of your time with those who are making a serious effort to get the job done.

10. ATTEND A FIRST-RATE LEADERSHIP CONFERENCE. In mid October each year, at Black Mountain North Carolina, there is a marvelous three-day conference that I highly recommend. The Blue Ridge Leadership Conference is very inexpensive and has a number of outstanding speakers (including a Medal of Honor recipient) and workshop leaders. It is packed full of fresh insights and is spiritually uplifting. I just checked and there are still openings for this year. I suggest you contact Hope Stockton at 1-334-844-2878 for details.

(Maj Gen. Perry Smith, USAF retired, is the author of six books including "Rules and Tools for Leaders," and "Assignment Pentagon." He will be conducting free leadership workshops for the next three Sundays at St. Paul's Church, 6th and Reynolds Street downtown, at 10 a.m. Each workshop will last 45 minutes and, immediately afterward, he will give a short tour of St. Paul's new upper rooms. The dates are Oct. 5, 12 and 19. All are welcome. There is no charge.)