Smith: Leadership skills: Toolbox tips for team leaders

Smith: Leadership skills: Toolbox tips for team leaders

September 23rd, 2013 By Robin Smith in Opinion Columns

Robin Smith

Photo by Contributed Photo/Times Free Press.

Many of today's issues, whether in politics or business, revolve around leadership and the ability to inspire and affect change.

All one needs to do is turn the pages of today's newspaper to see examples of effective leaders and the failures of ineffective ones.

Ted Rogers, city manager of Collegedale, Tenn., has catalogued items that he uses in his leadership role in a book called, "The Leaders Toolbox - Applied Concepts of Leadership."

I believe a few of our politicians and other leaders might make the time to read this page-turner and make a few changes.

Rogers makes the point in the first pages that "leadership and management are not the same." Leadership is the ability to assemble and influence individuals rather than the methodical processes and procedures, he says.

This leadership "must be lived" with "teaching by example" to create a culture for your employees and co-workers to thrive. A leader must look into the mirror to examine his or her temperament, discipline, commitment and heart.

So, what's your team soaking up? The environment that you create will determine how your employees, your crew performs. Ted's right: "Culture is to the organization what blood is to the human body."

The compass in Roger's book speaks to the man or woman who steers the direction of the company, the team, the political group, or church.

As great leaders drive their teams toward a common goal, they must understand the difference between time and timing and the importance of both.

Time, Rogers writes, is "your most precious commodity" - it's irreplaceable. Effective leaders use time as a form of currency, respecting, investing, and spending it carefully. Too many are disrespectful of others time in habitual tardiness or misuse time through divisive, selfish pursuits. They assign no value to the use of others time and talents.

Timing is a matter of preparedness and vigilance.

A great leader will have his or her team equipped and active. We've all heard the quote, "Success always comes when preparation meets opportunity."

Timing is not luck. Great leaders are prepared and watching.

Ted Rogers writes of accountability, an unpopular topic: "You've heard before that managers do things right and leaders do the right thing; very true. But it's even more true that managers count and leaders are accountable."

It is a matter of "shouldering the blame and sharing the credit" but also in understanding that leaders will be measured and set the benchmark for the organization or team. The focus is then the example of individual performance and individual accountability, from the very top of an organization to the most distant organizational circle on the chart of employees.

Each chapter in the "Leaders Toolbox" transitions from each "tool" with the admonition, "Lead on..."

Leadership at all levels is just this: Men and women invest in others who share the desire to become great leaders and successful, who in turn, build the essence of a wonderful organization or company. Yet, so many are only looking for jobs or a personal gain and avoid accountability, doing the right things, and leading by example, regardless of their title or position.

Let's decide to "Lead on!"

Robin Smith served as chairwoman of the Tennessee Republican Party, 2007 to 2009. She is a partner at the SmithWaterhouse Strategies business development and strategic planning firm and serves on Tennessee's Economic Council on Women.