ookstores are filled with hundreds of volumes onleadership and management, many promisingthe “secret” to being an effective leader. But thereare no secrets to good leadership, other thancommon sense and hard work. Do you remember thatfirst Town Hall meeting when I arrived at State over ayear ago? We talked about the qualities and demands of leadership. I laid out some of the principles that areimportant to any organization if it is to succeed in its mis-sion and maintain the highest morale among its ranks.Let me recap and add a little more.
Dare to be the skunk at the picnic.
Every organizationshould tolerate rebels who tell the emperor he has noclothes. This is not a license to be mean or rude. But makethe tough decisions, confront people who need it, rewardthose who perform best. Speak your mind. Work towardconsensus building but don’t hide from reality.
The day people stop bringing you their problems isthe day you have stopped leading them.
Open yourdoor and encourage folks to come in with their ideas andopinions. Let them argue with you. The people in thefield, in the trenches, are closest to the problem and thatis where the real wisdom lies.
It is people who get things done.
Plans don’t accom-plish work. Organizational charts don’t either. People do.That’s why every individual is important. Set yourself thegoal of creating an environment where the best, the bright-est, the most creative are attracted, retained and unleashed.
Challenge people to reinvent their jobs.
Even largeorganizations can wither when leaders won’t challengethe old, comfortable ways of doing things. Effective lead-ers create a climate where people’s worth is measured bytheir willingness to learn new skills and seek new respon-sibilities, thus constantly reinventing their jobs.
Perpetual optimism is a multiplier.
Do not pollute theatmosphere with pessimism. The ripple effect of a leader’senthusiasm and optimism is incredible. The Marines callthis a gung ho attitude: we can change things, we canachieve the impossible, we are the best. The Marines areright. Avoid whining and blaming. Embrace optimism.
In any crisis, occasionally stop and step away fromthe confusion and shouting.
Ask yourself two simplequestions: What am I doing that I shouldn’t be doing?
What’s the True Secret of Good Leadership?
There Is None
and, What am I not doing that I ought to be doing to influ-ence the situation in our favor? Work actively to shape thecrisis and create success.
Come up for air.
Demand excellence from people butalso insist that they have lives outside the office. You don’thave to prove to anybody that you can work 16 hours aday if you can get it done in eight. Surround yourself withpeople who take their work seriously, but not themselves.Of all the little lessons above, the one about people asthe ingredient that makes the recipe work stands out.People are the most important part of any organization.That is why leadership is an art; management a science. Atthe end of the day, leadership is getting people to use theirfull talents to support your shared objective. That requiresall that we’ve said above, to be sure; but above all itrequires caring deeply about the people you are leading—about their training, quality of life, their todays and theirtomorrows. Without that caring, it’s all dull science—anddoomed to fail sooner or later.During the past year we’ve explored ways to bring thisphilosophy of leadership to the State Department in amore structured way. Part of that effort is what we’redoing at the Foreign Service Institute. FSI’s revisedLeadership and Management Training Continuum, itsTraining Continuum for Foreign Service Generalists (see
for December 2001, page 34) and therecently released (online) Training Continuum for CivilService Employees provide guidance on the training andeducation in leadership that is essential throughout anindividual’s career.Akey element of this approach is the integration of leadership training at all stages of an employee’s profes-sional life, rather than waiting until the employeeassumes a senior position. Much of this training and edu-cation will be mandatory. Moreover, an employee’s lead-ership skills will be weighed when he or she is being con-sidered for an assignment or promotion. Merely attendinga leadership course or class will be insufficient.The tenets of good leadership must be made part of our daily routine, integrated into everything we do. It isessential that superb leadership become a hallmark of the Department of State. Our shared challenge is tomake it so.