17 Rules of Leadership

Lessons for Leaders

Leadership is the second hardest job behind parenting. I’ve worked as a leader for television stations, hospitals, and outpatient/residential drug treatment centers. Whether it’s heads in front of a TV or heads in beds, the pressure is on leaders to produce results in a business environment that moves at the speed of social media.  I’ve taken my experience and the teachings of John Maxwell and Patrick Lencioni and combined them with what I learned in earning a certificate in leadership from the University of Houston- Downtown to produce the 17 Rules of Leadership for 2017.

Rule Number One:  There is no one!  There is no single book, certification, diploma or workshop that will give you all you need to know about leadership. This is an evolving target that shifts almost monthly calling on you to constantly be a student of leadership.

Rule Number Two: The rule of position. You don’t need a title or a credential to be a leader. People need to be led and a good leader knows you lead from where you are. 

Rule Number Three: The rule of charisma. Is charisma a must for a leader? While it helps, charisma is not a key component. Some leaders lack charisma – Bill Gates, for example. Sometimes the charismatic leader can suck the air out of a room with bombastic diatribes while failing to ask direct reports a key question: “What do you think?”

Rule Number Four: The rule of change. Expect challenges to change but don’t characterize it as resistance. Change prompts fear in many direct reports. 

  • How will this influence my work hours? 
  • Will I have to move to a new office? 
  • Am I up to the task? 

Place a value on their feedback and explain why change is necessary. Help suck the air out of the trepidation balloon.  

Rule Number Five:  The rule of conversations. Understand how and when to have difficult conversations and when to overcome your anxiety. And remember: the conversation is the relationship.

Rule Number Six: The rule of 60/90. As a new leader or a leader promoted from inside, people will follow you because of your position or education. That comes to an end at about 60 to 90 days. In this time period you must show that you have the knowledge to get things done. Don’t rely on your title.  

Rule Number Seven: The rule of problem solving. You are in a leadership position to find solutions. Complaining because there are problems is equivalent to a dentist complaining because he has to work on teeth. The day direct reports stop bringing you their problems is the day they have lost confidence in you and have concluded you do not care.

Rule Number Eight: The Rule of Value. Do you know your team’s value? Have you said, “Thank You,” as part of an effort to show them that you value their work and want to invest in their growth? 

Rule Number Nine:  Rule of Fit.  Don’t hire the best candidate; hire the best candidate that fits your team. You can teach skills but you can’t teach personality. 

Rule Number 10:  Managers who compare direct reports to themselves and who often say, “I could have done that better and faster,” soon get frustrated. A leader must remember that he is not leading himself. If every direct report performed well, you wouldn’t need managers. 

Rule Number 11: Never have a corrective conversation with an employee when you are angry. Your body language may say more than what you are actually saying.

Rule Number 12: The rule of hiring slow. Use a combination of one-on-one and panel interviewing, ask behavioral questions and probe for understanding of the team concept. Hiring the wrong candidate wastes time and money, so take your time!

Rule Number 13: The Pottery Barn rule. Former Secretary of Defense Colin Powel once said, “You break it, you own it,” when discussing military incursions into the Middle East. The same can be said about hiring an employee who isn’t working out. You hired him/her, it’s not working, you fix it.

Rule Number 14: Leaders suffer. The higher you go, the more sacrifices you must make. Try to stay focused and optimistic while you drive change. 

Rule Number 15: The rule of 15 minutes. Meet with each direct report for at least 15 minutes two times a month. Building the relationship will help improve communication and performance while reducing progressive discipline and turnover. 

Rule Number 16: Learn to work with different generations. The workplace is almost evenly divided in thirds by Millennials, Gen Xers and Baby Boomers. Learn their motivations and what each group needs to succeed. 

Rule Number 17: Build, not break trust. Trust is built with ethical behavior, pulling back the curtain (releasing relevant information), not taking giving credit and acts of deception.

Leaders who follow “servant leadership” tenants and use power and influence to power high-performance teams will always have followers. Leaders who wield intimidation, dishonesty and deception rarely have followers, and a leader without followers is just a man taking a walk.