No Bullsh!t Leadershipby Martin G. Moore
A no-holds-barred guide on how leaders can fine-tune their leadership skills and solidify respect within their organization. Consisting of seven proven leadership principles and numerous real-world examples, No Bullsh!t Leadership shows you how to create lasting success as a no-nonsense leader.
“Before you worry about efficiency and productivity, make sure you’re working only on those things that really matter.”
Whenever we talk about the attributes of a great leader, we often mention things like humility, integrity, transparency, and so on. However, these are aspirational attributes that make you a better person, not necessarily a better leader. To be an effective leader, you need to focus on one thing alone—creating value.
Organizations exist to create value for the shareholders. To create value as a leader, you must first understand the organization’s purpose and then develop strategies, tactics, and operational targets that align with that purpose. Once you’ve done this, you have to eliminate all business activities that don’t yield the highest value, even if they are already in place.
It’s not easy to identify these low-value activities. Once employees get comfortable doing certain tasks, they resist any attempt to eliminate them. After all, these low-value tasks provide predictability and job security to workers. The good news is that there are methods you can use to attack low-value work and replace them with higher-value activities.
Actions to take
“If you can’t handle conflict confidently and competently, it will prevent you from achieving anything near the results that are possible.”
There is a perception that happy employees make productive workers. While this may sound true, it’s often not the case. Unfortunately, a weak leader who falls for this misconception will do whatever it takes to keep employees happy. They will avoid difficult conversations just to keep people happy, even if workplace performance is declining.
The ability to handle conflict is a core leadership skill. You cannot be afraid of upsetting people just to avoid demotivating them. Your job is to utilize the available resources to create value, even if some people don’t like you. Leadership is not a popularity contest; as long as everyone respects your authority, nothing else matters.
Therefore, you need to cultivate your ability to have difficult conversations with your people. You have to develop a high level of trust with your team so that they accept negative feedback and make the required changes. If you can master the art of having good feedback conversations, you can build a high-performance team.
Actions to take
“Of all the leadership capabilities, resilience is the most accessible.”
We often assume that we cope well under pressure. We think that just because we can maintain a façade of calmness and rationality, others cannot see the panic we feel inside. However, to be an effective leader, you must go beyond mustering a poker face. You have to build real resilience by learning to control your mental, physical and emotional state during a crisis. To achieve this, you must first become brutally honest about your capacity for handling adversity.
A good leader must have a high level of self-awareness so that they know what aspects of their character to work on. You need to know whether you’re the kind of leader who explodes in anger, blames others, or freezes in fear when a crisis erupts.
You don’t have to go looking for adversity. It has a knack for finding you anywhere and at any time. Your job is to familiarize yourself with tools and techniques that can help you cope with it whenever it comes. Ultimately, your grace under pressure will not go unnoticed by your subordinates, peers, and leaders.
Actions to take
Work at the Right Level
“Doing the work your people are paid to do is not leading by example, and it’s not leading from the front.”
Leaders are often told never to ask their subordinates to do something they aren’t willing to do themselves. Unfortunately, this noble concept is often practiced wrongfully. Some leaders use it as an excuse to micromanage. They spend more time buried in the minutiae of other people’s work instead of providing high-level guidance.
Every level of an organization has a different responsibility. As a leader, you’re expected to set high standards, trust your people to do their job, and provide adequate feedback. Your exceptional technical skills may have earned you the promotion but that doesn’t mean you should dabble in someone else’s work just because you’re better at it. Constantly rescuing your team prevents them from learning from their mistakes and growing.
To become a professional leader, you have to transition from playing in the field to coaching all the different teams under you. You don’t have time to meddle in everyone’s affairs. You’re a talent manager now, so you need to empower your people—step back and allow them to do what they are paid to do.
Actions to take
Master the Art of Ambiguity
“Regaining control of the narrative when uncertainty is at its greatest is key to leading your people well.”
Whenever a business environment experiences a sudden shift, many leaders normally change their strategy as events unfold. Pivoting in the face of uncertainty is perceived as a sign of good management. However, anyone who plays catch-up to a crisis is not an effective leader. You need to be proactive in anticipating shifts so that you’re always setting the pace for your competitors.
Ambiguity and complexity increase as you ascend the corporate ladder. Therefore, you have to get comfortable dealing with an environment where things are gray rather than black and white. By mastering ambiguity, you can translate your strategy into a clear plan your subordinates can implement. If you don’t master ambiguity, you’ll fail to take decisive action when uncertainty arises, and you’ll lose the trust of your team.
Nobody knows what the future holds. Therefore, the best way to handle ambiguity is to make decisions that will lead to positive outcomes regardless of what the future holds. Focus on making moves that have long-term benefits even if the external environment shifts negatively.
Actions to take
Make Great Decisions
“The most successful organizations are able to out-compete their peers simply because they make better decisions faster.”
Society has been shifting toward greater tolerance of others’ cultural, religious, and lifestyle values. This has led to more balance and interconnectedness. However, in most workplaces, this shift has created the impression that everyone must have a say in decision-making. This is a destructive mindset because seeking consensus slows decision-making and creates a conformist culture.
Though it’s good to listen to different opinions, it’s the leader who bears all the accountability. Therefore, the leader is not obligated to implement other people’s ideas, especially if those people aren’t going to be held responsible for the outcome. A great decision doesn’t have to be unanimous, but it does need to be timely.
To make a timely decision, you have to focus on the data that matters the most and ignore everything else. When making a decision, multiple variables and voices are usually at play. Some of these are just noise, so you need to filter out the irrelevant information calmly and unemotionally. This will make your decision-making process better and more manageable.
Actions to take
Create an Accountability Culture
“Without empowerment, you put your accountable people in an impossible position.”
Today’s work environment incorporates autonomous teams and collaborative spaces specifically designed to unlock greater innovation and creativity. This approach is predicated on the idea that if management leaves people alone, they will perform at their best. However, the truth is that nothing ever gets done unless there’s a single leader to make things happen.
A strong, single leader is necessary because you need one person accountable for the group. Without single-point accountability, people will waste time arguing and making unnecessary compromises, thus creating confusion and inefficiency.
To build a strong accountability culture, you need to show your people the value of taking individual accountability for outcomes. Some employees avoid taking accountability because they fear being penalized if they fail. That’s why it’s critical to empower them first so that they feel more secure and in control of their environment.