Tips for Effective Leadership
by Wolf Rinke

Effective leaders have the guts to look at what others do …
and do something different.

Don’t Manage People

Is your organization striving to create better managers? Or are you striving to create better leaders? Are they one and the same? Before you answer these questions, consider this point: You manage things; you lead people.

Most people crave to be led ---- but don’t want to be managed. If on top of that they can be involved in a worthy cause, be part of a winning team, feel great about the person they report to, and feel great about themselves, they are literally in work heaven.

With the focus now in creating better leaders, the next question is: How? I believe that becoming a more effective leader depends on one’s ability to look at current situations from different angles ---- to apply a new mode of thinking, to challenge the norm, to look at what others are doing and do something different.

To illustrate my point, the following chart highlights the differences between management and Contrarian Leadership:

Managers vs. Contrarian Leaders

Rely on the “tried and true” --- vs. --- Experiment with Contrarian approaches

Maintain --- vs. --- Develop

Control --- vs. --- Trust

Direct --- vs. --- Inspire

Administer --- vs. --- Innovate

Strategy driven --- vs. --- Philosophy driven

Rely on position power --- vs. --- Empower

Structure/system focus --- vs. --- People focus

Cope with complexity --- vs. --- Embrace change

Focus on the bottom line --- vs. --- Focus on employee and customer satisfaction

Do things right --- vs. --- Do the right things right

As this list shows, the qualities that contrarian leaders embody enable them to instill within their organization an entrepreneurial, empowered culture that gives employees the license to act.

Be Selfish

While it may seem counter-intuitive --- to be an effective leader, you have to be selfish and work on #1 first. In other words, you’ve got to get your own head screwed on right first, before you can help anyone else be a great follower. And it is those followers who are responsible for 85 percent of your success.

What does being selfish mean?

Knowing yourself: Self-awareness is without a doubt the most important leadership attribute. Without it, the other skills won’t do you much good.

Taking ownership: Without ownership nothing will change. Taking responsibility for everything that is going on in your organization allows you to choose a more constructive emotional response. Managing yourself means that you’ve developed the ability to deal with the leaderships’ ups and downs—but especially the downs—in a constructive and positive manner, by “reframing” and by interrupting “triggers” that take you on a downward spiral.

Motivating yourself: Delaying gratification and reining in impulsiveness is what it takes to become an excellent leader.

Killing your ego: Ego has probably destroyed more organizations than any other human emotion. After all, ego, right along with greed and envy, is one of the most powerful destroyers of relationships.

Developing charisma: Social competence, people skills or charisma is the ability to communicate and negotiate effectively, decrease conflict, and form strong personal bonds with team members. In other words, it is the ability to make the previous habits come together like a world-class orchestra so that team members unconditionally accept and like you.

As William Penn said, “No man is fit to command another that cannot command himself.”

Don’t Be Tough

Managing people is tough business that requires a tough manager --- and a soft approach. I have found that the most effective “soft” managers apply the following five laws:

The Law of Liking maintains that people are more likely to like people who like them. People who are liked generate affection and good feeling. And people who feel good about themselves are more likely to comply with your wishes. Managers can master this law by sending out liking signals (i.e. smiling), becoming active listeners, and finding what they have in common with others and letting them know about it.

The Law of Reciprocity declares that whatever you give is what you’re going to get. It seems so simple, yet so powerful. If you want more of something --- may it be performance, trust, or even love --- you have to give it before you get it. Managers who want their team members to trust, respect and cooperate with them must model the behavior.

The Law of Commitment contends that people are more likely to do what they commit to, especially if the commitment is in writing. The second key to make this law work is to make the commitment public.

The Law of Expertise states that people are more likely to heed the advice of experts. People who are perceived as experts have a greater ability to persuade others. Managers should make their expertise more visible by sharing their prior experience and expertise with their team members and customers (but be sure to do this in a way that cannot be perceived as bragging).

The Law of Scarcity maintains that that people want more of what they can’t have. Study after study has demonstrated that that which is less available is perceived as more valuable. Managers can take advantage of this Law by letting their employees know that only the top five achievers will be selected to be on a certain team, or that only those who demonstrate a certain level of performance during the next six months will be selected for training.

Managers who use these five laws in tandem will quintuple their ability to persuade and influence people ---- and won’t find a need to be a tough manager ever again.

Don’t be Committed

While many executive may think that being committed is a positive attribute, it’s a handicap. Why? There are two reasons.

First, committed leaders often see themselves as an extension of the company. This “private empire” mentality causes the leader to behave as if he or she owns the company, carrying out personal ambitions and taking extraordinary risks. Since there is no boundary between themselves and the company they spend the company’s money as if it is their own, and never quite see what the problem is when they do so. (Think Dennis Kozlowski of Tyco).

The second, and perhaps more compelling, reason is that committed leaders dedicate virtually all of their time to the organization and expect everyone to do the same. A manager who believes that the company is her life and has virtually no interests outside of the company, will dismiss the notion of work/life balance and impose her life-style on her staff.

This is why instead of being “committed,” effective leaders balance their lives and conquer stress. They do this by:

Taking control. All of us feel stressed when we feel out of control. And how you feel is a perception --- as opposed to reality --- that you can control. In other words, you are not stressed until you tell yourself that you are stressed. To avoid feeling out of control, master your internal and external language. Use language that empowers you instead of stresses you. For example, instead of saying “I have to,” say “I want to.”

Changing the changeable. If something is bothering you, do something about it now! For example, if you are feeling overwhelmed, make a list of the things that are overwhelming you. Be very specific. Prioritize the list, then start working on priority number one and so on. The simple act of doing something will give you a sense of being in control.

Accepting the unchangeable. There are lots of things you can do nothing about, no matter how much you fret or worry about them. Accept these for what they are --- and just get on with it.

Simplifying their lives. Take a look at all the things you do and have. Ask yourself what is giving you pleasure and what is giving you pain. Then begin to get rid of those things that are taking away from the quality of your life.

Making time for joy. Each week, block out time on your calendar for the sole purpose of doing something that gives you joy and relaxes and calms you.


Dr. Wolf J. Rinke is a management consultant, executive coach and keynote speaker dedicated to helping organizations and individuals maximize their potential. In addition to his new book Don't Oil the Squeaky Wheel … and 19 Other Contrarian Ways to Improve Your Leadership Effectiveness (McGraw-Hill, May 2004), he is the author of several other best-selling books including Winning Management: 6 Fail-Safe Strategies for Building High-Performance Organizations. Rinke can be reached at 800-828-9653, WolfRinke@aol.com or www.WolfRinke.com .

Don't Oil the Squeaky Wheel:
And 19 Other Contrarian Ways to Improve Your Leadership Effectiveness
by Wolf J. Rinke
McGraw-Hill
May 2004

Media Contact: Cindy Kazan: 414.352.3535; cindy@communik-pr.com .

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Copyright 2005 by Wolf J. Rinke. All rights reserved.

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