Try these helpful tips if you want to be a better leader

(Editor's note: The following is the second in a series of articles on leadership.)


These articles are primarily designed to assist leaders at all levels in the CSRA as they take the region to higher levels of competence, innovation, performance and integrity.

1. BE A BLAME ACCEPTOR. If something goes wrong within the organization which you lead, you must be willing to accept the blame even though you personally may be only a tiny part of the failure. Too many bosses try to blame others, especially their subordinates. This is one of the best ways to lose the respect of everyone -- subordinates, clients and bosses.

2. ENJOY YOUR WORK AND YOUR PEOPLE. Working for a boss who has a furrowed brow or an angry scowl is no fun, nor does it inspire people to do their very best. If you are obviously enjoying your work, most people will be captured by your enthusiasm and joy and will enjoy their work also.

3. FIND AN ANCHOR AND HOLD ON TO IT IN THE TOUGH TIMES. I have been blessed with a number of wonderful anchors. My wife of more than 49 years has lifted me up when I was down and gently eased me down when I was sky high. My two adult children have been very helpful, especially when I was dealing with issues of integrity. My close friends have helped so many times when I was in great need of advice, comfort, solace or support.

4. DON'T CONCENTRATE ON THE DETAILS. No amount of genius can overcome a preoccupation with detail. This was the fundamental mistake of the presidency of Jimmy Carter. A man of compassion and intellect failed because he was unable empower subordinates and to think and act strategically.

5. NEVER ROLL THE BALL OVER. Leaders should remind themselves often that when they play sports, the object is not to win but to compete with total integrity. Many people play fast and loose with the game of golf -- they cheat -- yet they somehow justify their conduct. Beware of someone who claims an 83 after shooting a 96.

6. ANTICIPATE IMPENDING CRISES. The best leaders have the ability to look around corners and anticipate problems and impending crises. When you see a crisis headed your way, take some quick actions to end the crisis and to minimize the damage.

7. AVOID USING "I DON'T TRUST YOU" PHRASES. Be very careful about using the following phrases: "I never want to be surprised", "Before you start anything, check with me first," "When I am on the road, I will call in every morning for an update" All of these phrases send strong messages to subordinates that you want to keep them on a close leash and, even worse, that you do not trust them.

8. DON'T SET UNREASONABLE DEADLINES. There is a wise expression used often in the Pentagon, "If you want it bad you will get it bad." Try to give your colleagues enough time to put together a solution to a problem that you and they can be proud of.

9. FIGHT THE TEMPTATION TO GET EVEN. If someone does something to you that is mean spirited, think of it as his or her problem -- not your problem. Trying to get even seldom works, lacks dignity and makes you look petty and mean spirited. You can't get ahead by getting even.

The ability to avoid this temptation is a mark of emotional maturity.

10. PICK A FEW POSITIVE ROLE MODELS. My positive role models have been General George Marshall, and Medal of Honor recipients Jack Jacobs and Jimmie Dyess. Whenever I face a big decision, I ask myself what would Marshall, Jacobs or Dyess have done in the same situation.

Incidentally, Jacobs has just published his autobiography, "If Not Now, When?" It is both powerful and hilarious. I heartily recommend it---it will make a nice Christmas present.

(Maj. Gen. Perry Smith, U.S. Air Force 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 two Sundays at St. Paul's Church, 6th and Reynolds Street downtown, at 10 a.m. The workshops will last 45 minutes and, immediately afterward, he will give a short tour of St. Paul's new upper rooms. The dates are Oct. 12 and 19. Everyone in attendance will receive a free copy of "Rules and Tools for Leaders." All are welcome, and there is no charge.)