Do you know your leadership skills?

This article on the Pied Piper was originally written by Darby Fazekas at the Devine Group earlier this year. I want to give her credit for an excellent article and share it in my blog on hiring assessments and competencies. Many business owners struggle to find a better way to hire. I share some tips in this blog you may want to include in your hiring process.

Do you remember the fable called, “The Pied Piper”? The image created, to some, is of Ian Anderson of “Jethro Tull.” It’s not, but they did have a song of the same name.

The theme of the Pied Piper is about leadership. It is not uncommon for a manager in an organization to expect his/her team to ‘follow’ them, merely because of their position in an organization. Unfortunately for these leaders (and often fortunately for their competitors), there are no magic pipes. The title of manager isn’t enough to demand a following.  Leading is about presence, perseverance, influence and the troop’s faith in their manager’s ability to overcome adversity.

The Pied Piper, according to German legend, was hired by the town’s people of Hamelin to rid themselves of a troublesome rat population. The piper, with the aid of his magic pipe, led the rats into a river (or off a cliff in other versions) where all but one drowned.  The story has an unhappy ending, though. The mayor refused to ‘pay the piper, ’ and the Piper left the town vowing revenge.  Years later while the adults were at church, the piper returned to Hamelin. Again, with the aid of his magic pipe, he led his following out of town. This time, however, he was not leading rats. He was taking the town’s children away—never to be seen again.

In the Pied Piper legend, the piper led the rats to their death, immediately losing his following. Though the piper achieved his goal, it was in a win-lose situation with the rats being the losers. In organizations, a manager who leads us to an unproductive destination will lose (the faith of) his/her following as well. Enough employees had felt the sting of betrayal when they were sacrificed so someone else could achieve their goals (win-lose). Now CEOs not only look for a manager who establishes and achieves challenging goals, but they also want to know from the manager what are THEIR goals. Lack of clarity in direction creates an insecure environment.

If you are leading a team or organization, ask yourself, or your manager, how strong you are in these six critical competencies:

  • Leading—An effective manager needs to periodically turn around and make sure she/he is being followed. Leadership is about presence and the troop’s faith in the leader’s ability to overcome adversity. After all, you are not a leader if no one is following you. You’re just out front.
  • Goal Setting—Leaders need to calibrate their compass frequently to check their directional heading. Check the goals of your business unit to remain consistent, rewarded, communicated and clear. What good is a strong leader with a poor sense of direction?
  • Accountability—Goals are useless unless there is accountability, and accountability shouldn’t be a pop-quiz. In sales, for instance, salespeople should be well aware of their quota and how often it is measured: weekly, monthly, quarterly.  Setting goals and allowing 80% of target to be acceptable is unproductive. Instead, set base goals and stretch goals. If a goal isn’t met, is there a known corrective action plan?
  • Supervising and Coaching —Supervising is an activity a manager engages in on a daily or weekly basis to ensure direct reports are on target to meet or exceed goals. Goal achievement should be structured; for example, weekly meetings—same day, same time, covering known issues. Supervising is to ‘inspect what you expect.’  As problems arise coaching sessions and meetings are scheduled. The supervising and coaching meetings should be conducted separately as each has different purposes.
  • Problem Solving—At times it seems management equals problem-solving and most managers have a directive approach. ‘Tell me the problem, and I will give you the solution.’ That can be effective in dealing with problems, but ineffective with a growing team and ultimately harmful in an organization. Collaborative problem solving requires more time and energy for a leader to execute, but this form of coaching is paramount for successful individual growth.

Unlike the Pied Piper, organizations don’t have the luxury of magic pipes or a disposable workforce. They rely on their managers to lead, manage, coach and supervise their most valuable asset—Human Capital.

Tell me about your company.

What is your hiring process?

Do you use assessment programs for all pre-hire candidates?  

How do you assess for skilled managers before you hire?

Do you have comments on this blog? Let me know your thoughts below.