Doubt, while annoying and irritating, can be a leader’s best friend.
When a leader hesitates, pausing to consider the assumptions as well as the options, she is doing what the organization needs.
How a leader responds to the second-guessing is a measure of his ability to withstand pressure. Knowing in your heart that you made the best call you could make at the time forms a foundation for going forward.
The leader has only her gut to trust. And when she can look into the mirror and say she made the best decision possible at the time then that is all you can ask.
This HR adage has been around sometime and while certainly valid, it does not address the entire picture when applied to an executive on the rise. Certainly the individual must have smarts, a combination of old-fashioned “book-learnin’” and business acumen. Additionally, the executive must possess the ability to maintain an emotional equilibrium with self and with others.
Truly successful executives must possess more. According to my colleague, Kevin Butler, former chief human resource officer at Delphi, these executives combine two elements in their leadership. They are socially aware; they understand people’s needs, wants and differences. They socially manage; they know how to leverage differences as well as likenesses in order to bring people together for common cause.
Awareness plus management is crucial. It’s one thing to be able to understand people, but, as Kevin points out, you also need to be able to get aligned toward common goals. This requires true leadership.
Understanding people goes beyond knowing their work or even their personal history. It requires the ability to observe dispassionately so that you know how they work best and why. From a management perspective, you put such people into positions where they can excel. Such talents, coupled with skills, makes them a good fit for some jobs but not others. Too often, talented people are put into positions for which they are not suited, and they flounder.