To be a successful administrator, basic operational savvy is necessary. But to be a successful leader, you must also master human savvy. For example, Joe worked his way up through the financial ranks and had mastered three of the major skills of internal operational savvy:
- Setting high performance standards.
- Project management.
- Financial soundness.
Joe’s teams met their goals within budget and deadlines.
But Joe was always passed over for promotions to leadership. Why? Basic operational savvy isn’t enough to make leaders even partially successful.
To read the rest of this article from the Memphis Business Journal, see: Leaders who ignore the human element will fail http://www.bizjournals.com/memphis/stories/2007/10/01/smallb4.html
When I explained to Joe that he was missing the human savvy I’ll describe below, he said he couldn’t change. He had strength of character and responded successfully to the ups and downs, and the challenges of business. But he said he was an introvert. He could achieve high performance in operational areas but it wasn’t his personality to excel in people areas.
Joe’s response is nonsense. He doesn’t need to become an extrovert or develop the personality of an archetypal used-car salesman. But if he wants to advance his career, he does need to master his innate human savvy—the universal human attributes for empathy and sympathy, for knowing what makes people tick, and for transmitting and enhancing passion and dedication.
Joe’s progress was halting when he was simply memorizing lists of how-to’s. But his learning took off when he modeled himself after the subject of one of the best leadership books, “Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln,” by Doris Kearns Goodwin.
Joe saw himself as having a personality similar to Lincoln: a melancholy introvert who could come out of his shell to make human contact. Lincoln’s human savvy was a crucial component of his success. Joe resolved, “If Lincoln could do it, so can I.” Joe drove himself to use Lincoln as his guide and to learn what Lincoln learned.
One of the important personal skills Joe learned was critical listening. Instead of listening only to the dictionary definitions of words, he trained himself to hear “the message behind the message.”
That essential information taught him what concerns other people have and what they really want. Joe used what he learned in order to connect with his team on an emotional level, so he could help them dedicate to their mission.
Lincoln said that the most important task of a leader, once he has finally decided on a course of action, is to educate people so they are inspired to proceed on that course. Lincoln used insightful comparisons and memorable stories to transfuse people with his vision, dedication and perseverance. Joe realized that appropriate stories have an emotional impact greater than the effects of logical arguments.
Like Lincoln did, Joe can now tell memorable stories of his team’s effort and progress. His staff is now enthused to achieve team and personal goals in the face of challenges that demand their best.
Joe also sets high behavioral standards and holds his staff accountable for behavior that reflects good attitudes. He’s stopped bullies and even had some success getting difficult messages across to abusive, toxic staff. His best workers are happier now that he’s weeded out the slackers and bad apples.
Now his superiors say:
- “Joe seems to guess what the next steps are, even when I haven’t said them.”
- “He’s a good confidant. I can count on him to rally the rest of my leadership team and to see that his people are on top of what’s truly essential.”
- “He’s a go-getter. He’s stopped bullying, manipulation, negativity and meeting sabotage in his new department. He can inspire people to overcome change and adversity, as well as to keep innovating when times are good.”
Many people teach basic operational savvy as if it’s all that’s necessary for leadership success. But good administrators aren’t necessarily good leaders. Basic operational savvy is necessary, but it’s not enough. Leadership success is more all or none. You can succeed only if you master human savvy.