I view myself as having been able to adapt many of the old-school leadership principles to the world that we live in today. So when I saw the article “These 4 Old-School Leadership Principles Still Ring True Today,” my first thought was that these would ring completely true. Turns out, they almost do!
John Boitnott, who wrote the article, lists four principles that he believes ring true today. Here they are along with my perspective on each.
1. Analytics keep people accountable.
My first reaction to the first leadership principle, just from the title, was – no.
Analytics (used as a verb): the analysis of data, typically large sets of business data, by the use of mathematics, statistics, and computer software.
Analysis of data does not keep people accountable nor will analytics drive improvement.
The rest of the discussion that John provides is pretty good. I especially like the quote from Peter Ducker – “What gets measured gets managed.” You can’t just hope things will get better, you have to measure them. You have to set a goal, determine what needs to be done to achieve the goal, execute and measure your progress along the way.
The biggest thing that has changed over time as it relates to data and analytics is the pure magnitude of the data that we have available. We are having to use new techniques to understand the data, and to pull out of it relevant information on which we can operate. This does introduce new and different challenges in clearly defining goals related to this data. But beyond that, the fundamental premise that Peter Ducker conveyed still holds!
Now back to the leadership principle. I think that I would have written it as “Measurable goals keep people accountable.”
2. Admit your own mistakes before others hold you accountable.
This leadership principle really bothers me. The goal in admitting your mistake should not be to avoid accountability!
The content of this section is pretty good. John again provides a great quote, this time from Dale Carnegie that says you should own up to your mistakes. I completely agree with this. Everyone makes mistakes. My opinion is very consistent with the rest of the section – if you are not making mistakes, you are not trying hard enough.
I also agree that you as a leader, have to be willing to admit when you fail. This will help you to create a culture of risk-taking that has never been more important. I love the quote from Justin Trudeau, prime minister of Canada – “The pace of change has never been this fast, and yet it will never be this slow again.”
The way I would rewrite this one is first to take out the bit about accountability. You need to be accountable for the execution and achievement of your goals. Making mistakes along the way is just a part of being aggressive. Those mistakes do not change the accountability that you have to achieve your goals. Be open and honest about the mistakes you make and adjust accordingly. When your team makes mistakes, do not make a big deal of them. Hold them accountable to their goals and expect that they will learn and adjust.
Here is the way I would rewrite this one “Admit your mistakes – create a culture of risk-taking.”
3. Hire people who are smarter than you.
I really like this leadership principle as it is!
The only thing that I would add to this section is about hiring to fill your gaps and/or weaknesses. We all have things that we are good at and things that we are not. As a leader, it is your responsibility to build a great team. Hiring people that are smarter than you is a key component of this. It will allow you to get more done, and to be more innovative. Hiring in skills that you do not have or are not your strength is another key component.
4. Leaders must also be learners.
I also really like this leadership principle.
I would like to add a very current and relevant quote from the Institute for the Future (IFTF).
“85 percent of the jobs that will exist in 2030 haven’t even been invented yet.”
Given that is the case, you can no longer train someone for a job. What you have to do instead is teach everyone to be a life learner. This learning can come on the job, through informal and formal training, and by taking risks and moving roles.
That means leaders need to be learners. But equally important, they need to create an environment where everyone in their organization become learners. They need to make the time available, look for new opportunities, push their teams to challenge themselves, bring in new college graduates, and constantly challenge themselves to provide a learning environment.
Wrapping it all up
Thanks to John Boitnott for writing this article. He is right, some advice is timeless. And given the speed at which things are changing, some of this advice is actually very timely.