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  • Secrets of Good Leadership

    Floral Finance®

    Leadership skills don't automatically surface when a person gets a title. In fact, just the opposite is often true.

    People who get a little authority sometimes fall into the mistaken belief that being pushy is the only way to get things done. That's not leadership. It's a formula for personal failure — not to mention an unhappy and unmotivated workforce.

    The Shackleton Expedition

    Some years ago, members of the Shackleton Expedition to Antarctica were stranded. They worked together for two years to survive. Amazingly, not a single member of the group was lost.

    Author Denis Perkins studied the expedition to find out how and why it succeeded — in particular, how the leaders of the expedition held the team together and kept them on course through trying times. In this study, he learned some principles of leadership that work well in all environments, even when good leadership is not a matter of life and death. His conclusions are in the box below.

    Other generally accepted leadership principles? Read on.

    Integrity and High Morals

    Most authorities on leadership agree that one prerequisite for leadership is integrity and ethical behavior. Anything less will ultimately make the organization less effective and its members (or employees) unhappy and distrustful.


    Good leaders articulate and pass along a vision of where the organization is going. This might be a concise summary of goals and objectives. It might include an elaborate outline of what success will look like. Whatever the vision, it must be communicated clearly.

    Lead by Example

    The leader must continually demonstrate that she will work as hard as or harder than anyone else to achieve the group's goal. That kind of involvement will earn the respect of the other members of the group.

    No prima donnas here. Everyone is a part of the team.

    Trust and Empowerment

    Finally, the leader can't do it all. Employees must be trusted and empowered to do their jobs well. That includes giving them the freedom to use their judgment to either fail or succeed in daily decisions.

    People want to believe and prove that they are fully capable of completing their assigned tasks. Effective leaders don't undermine them by micromanaging.

    Be Patient

    It takes time to study and learn about leadership. And then even more time to practice and master leadership skills. That's why good leaders tend to have a few gray hairs.

    In your family business, make the effort to train your leaders, especially as the time for handing the shop over to the next generation draws near.

    Leadership Lessons of the Shackleton Expedition

    • Never lose sight of the ultimate goal, but focus your energy on short-term objectives.
    • Set a personal example with visible, memorable symbols and behaviors.
    • Instill optimism and confidence, but stay grounded in reality.
    • Take care of yourself. Maintain your stamina and let go of guilt.
    • Reinforce the team message constantly: "We are one. We live or die together."
    • Minimize status differences and insist on courtesy and mutual respect.
    • Master conflict. Deal with anger in small doses. Engage dissidents and avoid needless power struggles.
    • Find something to celebrate and laugh about.
    • Be willing to take the big risk.
    • Never give up. There's always another move.

    Source: Leading at the Edge: Leadership Lessons from the Extraordinary Saga of Shackleton's Antarctic Expedition. Denis T. Perkins (American Management Association)


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