Power Electronics

Every Industry Needs Good Leaders

SEVERAL YEARS AGO A SUCCESSFUL, one-time executive for a large industrial company gave me a list of the principles of leadership. In my career I have worked for dozens of “leaders”, some of whom followed the principles and others who violated them.

The executive pointed out that leadership is the ability to stimulate thought and action in many people toward common goals and objectives through feasible implementation plans. The following are some rules for and characteristics of leadership. Here are some of the principles he articulated to me:

  1. Be a good communicator. Start with as much understanding as possible of the objectives, frameworks, backgrounds, constraints (including time and knowledge of the subject and lingo), intuitions, and predispositions of all participants. Communication involves transmitting and receiving. Be a good listener. Use examples and anecdotes. Ask questions. Their answers “turn on hearing aids”.

  2. Never criticize or embarrass your people in public. Credit and compliment whenever possible both in private and public but criticize privately and objectively as necessary and advisable. Egos are important. Some of the best can be fragile.

  3. Be a good teacher. Set a good example. Use questions, tests and other communication skills to “turn on hearing aids.”

  4. Respond coolly to crises. Evaluate the information, risks, and constraints. Plan your actions to the extent that time permits. Instill a sense of urgency, but be sure you are organized and focused. Continually seek new input and identifiable results of actions.

  5. Evaluate risks and the factors affecting them (alternate scenarios). Determine the known unknowns and attempt to bind the unknown unknowns. Develop risk mitigation plans and identify risk mitigation events/conditions. Perform Risk/Benefit analyses: never bet more than you can afford to lose. Avoid all-or-nothing gambles unless nothing is the only alternative.

  6. Try to be a second- or third-order thinker, and promote this among your subordinates. A first-order thinker sees only one set of causes for each set of effects. A second-order thinker sees the first-order causes as related to a serial set of effects and their causes. A third-order thinker can relate the second set of causes to the effects of a serial third set of causes.

  7. Evaluate the validity of your information. Identify its source, the reliability of the sources, the uncertainties, plans for reducing uncertainties, and consequent alternate scenarios.

  8. Plan effectively over the short, medium, and long term. Iterate plans with objectives. Planning should recognize uncertainties and allow for contingencies.

  9. Avoid paralysis by analysis. Seek the point of diminishing returns.

  10. Conserve consecutive time of your good people doing what they have been assigned to do. Avoid interruptions, unnecessary memos or copies, unnecessary meetings, unnecessary attendance at meetings, unnecessary exercises and trips.

  11. Know how to pick leaders who can recognize priority problems. For college hires, look for extensive rather than intensive interests — but an extensive person with the ability to intensify as necessary is best of all.

  12. Be cognizant of the effects of ongoing momentum. This precludes rapid changes where people are trained and commitments are based upon existing methods, directives, systems, and organizations. Remember Newton's Second Law: Too rapid a change in momentum requires forces so large that the structure may break.

  13. Establish credibility and confidence. Your subordinates, peers, and superiors should know you will skillfully fight for what you think is right and protect them against external threats and attacks.

  14. Be unselfish. Pass on credit and accept more than your share of blame.

  15. Don't be afraid to say “I don't know” and “I was wrong.”

  16. Be decisive but not capricious.

  17. Try to put yourself in the position of your subordinates, your peers, your superiors, your customers, your suppliers, and all other externals with whom you deal.

  18. Be hard-nosed but not hard hearted. Be tolerant, but take on the unpleasant tasks when necessary.

  19. Organize to avoid chaos — use and promote program management techniques for all complex tasks.

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