Among the dozen books I consistently recommend, there’s one that I consider a must-read for anyone tasked with leading a company, a sales force or any kind of team. I’m talking about Marcus Buckingham’s “The One Thing You Need to Know.” I’m thinking a lot about leadership just now, as it’s the central topic for the fall Seller Forum. And as inspiration, Buckingham doesn’t disappoint.
The trick about “The One Thing” is that it’s actually three things. After playing a little intellectual cat-and-mouse, the author tells you “The One Thing” about “Great Managing, Great Leading and Sustained Individual Success.” I’ll focus here on what he tells us about leadership and what it can mean to you.
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On my first reading, the revelation was that leading and managing were two completely different functions. “Managers play chess” (in which every piece – every individual in your company – has different qualities) and “leaders play checkers” (in which every piece moves the same) is another way of saying “management is individual and leadership is universal.” When you are leading, you are speaking to and for the entire organization – you are saying what’s true for all of us, not just some of us.
Which leads me to “The One Thing” about effective leaders: they are clear.
Clarity, according to Buckingham, is the single quality that all effective leaders share. He tells us that it’s more important for a leader to be clear than it is for him or her to be right: if you’re clear enough about what you believe, those who follow you will help “make you right” in the end. The leader is the one who clearly communicates what the company or group believes, its values and its destination. But is there “One Thing” that it’s most important to be clear about? Yes. A leader clearly answers the question “Who do we serve?” Take a minute with this one: it only seems clear on the surface, and you may be surprised by how much ambiguity there is on this question in your own organization.
If you have a favorite book, quotation or TED Talk on leadership, I’d love for you to share it.
And if you are a digital media sales leader and would like to attend the Fall Seller Forum on Wednesday October 21st in New York, let us know right away. The event may be two months away, but more than a third of the available seats are already gone.