June 2010

Shannon Wells

Better Business | by Neil Ducoff


Discovering the Leader Within

What it takes to be a great leader is an all-consuming topic best compared to the search for the Holy Grail or the origin of the universe.

It has been the beneficiary of countless, artfully crafted definitions, dissected into styles ranging from wimp to dictator, and systematized into precise procedures.

We praise the likes of Lee Iacocca, Jack Welch, Michael Dell, Steve Jobs and Bill Gates. But in the end, there remains something elusive in the design of what makes a great leader.

We are all unique. True, we can be tested and slotted into behavior and thinking styles, but when it comes to how one will perform as a leader, there is a quality inside each of us that defies definition.

Consider some characteristics that a great leader possesses: integrity, vision, effective communication, compassion, the ability to make decisions, tenacity, discipline, financial literacy, and skill at creating and maintaining the culture of a business.

Yes, these indeed are all worthy characteristics, but is it realistic to think every leader will possess them all? If so, I’d be the first to place my order for one of these super leaders to run my company.

Leadership is a process of continuous improvement. I have my own style of leadership that I’m comfortable with, but at 56 years of age, I still am working to become a better leader. My style of leadership may not work for others, just as Jack Welch’s style wouldn’t work for me or fit my character.

Mark Gonzales found his leader within and built a dynamic, team-driven, fast-growing and highly profitable company. As owner of Mark Pardo Salons and Spas in Albuquerque, he has six locations, one school and 135 employees and generated more than $10 million in revenues in 2009. His plan calls for $25 million in revenue in five years.

He is one of the most unpretentious, yet effective leaders I have ever met. He is goal-oriented and totally empowers his leadership team to achieve those goals. He is fiscally accountable and adheres strictly to the company’s financial plan and critical numbers. He tenaciously supports his team.

He is a perpetual student of business and leadership, and creates opportunities for his staff to do the same. All this is packaged in a mellow, gentle man.

Mark Gonzales is a great leader because he has mastered what I call the “Big Eight Drivers” of leadership. He does not attempt to be something or someone he is not. That would lead him to personal frustration and ineffectual leadership. It’s like trying to wear a suit that doesn’t fit. It might be perfect for someone else, but it’s not right for you.

Leaders come in all shapes and sizes, from unpretentious, like Mark Gonzales, to intense or gregarious. In the end, leaders need to achieve results through others -- and this requires mastery of the Big Eight Drivers.

The BIG Eight Drivers:

The Big Eight are simply a collection of rules that, when combined, create a natural, powerful focus on achieving results. It doesn’t matter who you are as an individual or what your leadership style is, as long as you are disciplined to adhere to the Big Eight Drivers.

Leadership is all about accountability and execution. There is no tolerance for procrastination or excuses for not executing. Discover your leader within and how to use the Big Eight Drivers for maximum effect.

1. Create the right business culture. Great leaders create business cultures that define and support the desired thinking and behavior needed for success.

2. Maintain a sense of urgency. Urgency drives performance and growth. And it can fizzle in a heartbeat if you don’t pay attention.

3. Drive your critical numbers. Critical numbers, if moved in the right direction, can have a profound impact on company performance. Define yours.

4. Keep information flowing freely. Top down, bottom up -- everyone needs to know the score and what’s going on.

5. Promote true teamwork. You can’t be an effective leader if you don’t create and appreciate teamwork. Walk the talk every day. Celebrate examples of teamwork.

6. Inspire innovation. Get out of the box and stay out. Do what you do better, faster, cheaper than any other competitor. It’s leaders who either inspire or stifle innovation among their staffs.

7. Systematize everything. Systems create predictability. Procedures and structure produce results. If you don’t like the results, change or tweak the system.

8. Enforce non-negotiable accountability. Always deliver what was promised when it was promised.

Neil Ducoff is the founder and CEO of Strategies, a business training and coaching salon specializing in the salon and spa industry. Ducoff is the author of Fast Forward, and his new book, No-Compromise Leadership, is available at www.amazon.com. For a signed copy, go to www.strategies.com You can email Neil at neil@strategies.com.