Four Obligations of Leadership

"Leadership is a two-way street, loyalty up and loyalty down. Respect for one's superiors; care for one's crew." — Grace Hopper, American computer scientist and United States Navy Rear Admiral

Here are four of the obligations from which an exceptional leader should never waiver.

Focus on the value your organization provides. Never lose track of the key purpose of your organization. Strategic decisions and day to day actions should both be guided by testing them against the question "how does this help advance the key purpose of my organization?" This is a relentless focus on value. The day to day actions are the value of the "now." The strategic decisions we make are the investments in future value for our most important customers.

Provide the facts and the context to those you serve in the management chain. If you serve managers above you, I can assure you that they are also under intense pressure. The pressure they put on you is a reflection of the pressure they are under. Your obligation here is difficult. It is to tell the facts as you see them and the context in which they fit. Even if this is a message they do not want to hear, it is your obligation to say it.

You have an obligation to lead the group of people that follow you to success. This obligation is to the overall group. Each person on your team must be there to help the overall group to be successful. You must be prepared to help each group member make the overall group success their personal top priority. You have an obligation to the group to remove or improve those that cause frequent destructive friction to the group.

Show your joy of the journey. Exceptional leadership by my definition is a rollicking fun adventure like a roller coaster in the dark! On the biggest, riskiest projects we often don't know what obstacle will be thrown at us next. The best leaders know that each obstacle is a fun opportunity to test our skills, to learn, and to shout with joy when we eventually overcome it.

Yours in the calm pursuit of excellence,