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Tom's Toolbox: Business Success = Provide Vision and Leadership

The importance of owners and managers providing vision and leadership to a  corporate team is our topic this month. The theme is part of a series featuring  eight key management strategies that will lead a company to grow, profit and succeed.  This is the fourth topic covered.

To date, we’ve created a supportive and  productive corporate work environment, carefully recruited over time a team of  talented employees and empowered them to excel at what they do. But what is it  we want them to do? The missing ingredient is strategy, leadership and a plan.  The challenge is having a well-thought-out vision of how to please customers,  promote products and services, grow profit and become a top firm in your industry.

Leadership  is a complex process by which a person influences others to accomplish a mission,  task, or objective and directs the organization in a way that makes it more cohesive  and coherent.

Leadership can be provided by owners, top management, executive  management teams or by a consortium of a company’s top performers. Too many companies  view their mission and destiny inconsistently. As the years go by –some good, some  bad — they fail to emerge as industry leaders, too often stopping and starting or  chasing their tails in circles rather than moving forward.

It benefits a  company and its teams of talented employees if their leadership has a strong vision  of where the company is headed, communicates that well to the employees and leads  an energized effort to achieve well-understood goals and strategies to get there.

The  most effective plans include input from the employees as (presumably) each year’s  plan is formed or revised. The consensus on corporate direction should be communicated  back to the employees along with the role they may play directly in making it  happen. The final polish on the apple is that periodically, quarterly at my firms,  progress on achieving the plan should be monitored and adjustments should be made  accordingly.

At times the single most important upper management function  is sharing the vision, goals and strategies of the company. At the same time,  this function is also the most difficult to do well. A person carries out this  process by applying their leadership attributes — belief, values, ethics, character,  knowledge and skills. Although your position as a manager, supervisor, lead, etc.  gives you the authority to accomplish certain tasks and objectives in the organization,  this power does not make you a leader. It simply makes you the boss. Leadership  makes people want to achieve high goals and objectives, while, on the other hand,  bosses tell people to accomplish a task or objective.

Good leaders are  made, not born. If you have the desire and willpower, you can become an effective  leader. Good leaders develop through a never-ending process of self-study, education,  training and experience. The best leaders are continually working and studying  to improve their leadership skills.

Next Month: Pursuing Excellence

Tom’s  Tool Box is a monthly column written by Tom Bentley, the owner and chief executive  officer of The Bentley Company, Milwaukee.

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