Certain management and leadership strategies are effective across the board in business, non-profit, community, volunteer and government organizations. Specific strategies exist for particular purposes, such as classroom management, IT management and non-profit leadership, but managers can tailor many of the principles to fit a variety of situations.
Create Leadership Teams
According to Rosabeth Moss Kanter of Harvard Business School, “Leaders often come in pairs, trios and quartets, operating as a unit in spirit even if one of them has final authority in law.” Leaders find the best people, train and prepare them carefully, put them in appropriate positions and hand them the game plan. At this point, success is up to the players on the field. When trust and loyalty exist on a leadership team, more innovations emerge, more projects launch and more work gets done.
Avoid Worker Burnout
When exhausted staff burn out from stress or overwork, the whole project suffers. Kathleen O’Connor, owner of the O'Connor Success System, suggests three strategies to avoid employee burnout. First, limit or abolish Friday meetings and allow employees to start their weekends free of work-related responsibilities. Second, avoid travel weekends and limit employees' nights away from home. Third, limit technological "tethers" to the job. Staff should not feel pressure to check voice mail, email or pagers, or respond to any but emergency communications.
Keep the Conversation Open
Leaders model loyalty to the team by welcoming discussion and respectful disagreement and by taking the feedback of their followers seriously. They show a willingness to take into account other opinions by allowing open conversation and by considering all appropriate viewpoints. Keeping the conversation open is not just a show of solidarity. Managers benefit from hearing perspectives and feedback, as well as being exposed to new information.
Effective managers, like good chess players, learn to anticipate problems and opportunities, make allowances for the unexpected and understand the implications of actions. Based on prior experience, the input of colleagues, factual variables and observations about responses and reactions of others, they try to think two or three moves ahead.
Leaders set up teams for success or failure by how effectively they have articulated goals, priorities, standards and expectations. Managers must hold themselves accountable for whether people are in a position to meet expectations and ensure that team members are never exposed to humiliation when they request clarification or express valid concerns.
In a rapidly changing economy, business leaders must balance top-down and bottom-up strategies to maximize their potential for growth. In top-down systems, top managers communicate guidelines, information, plans, objectives and expectations to lower-level teams that are expected to implement or achieve them. The weakness of this approach is that murky communication will admit the possibility of failure. The strength, if the top-down strategy is performed effectively, is clarity of vision and control of direction. In bottom-up systems, team members participate in every step of the management process, resulting in more rapid response to changing conditions and the incorporation of more information.
Lorena Cassady has written professionally since 1982. She was an instructor and mentor teacher for a Bachelor of Arts in management program and has administered a home-health agency. She has been published in "Traveler's Tales" and holds a Master of Arts in English and creative writing from San Francisco State University. Cassady is bilingual.