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My family will tell you of a time, many years ago, when I spent an hour trying to choose between one pair of Nike trainers and another. An hour. I have no idea how they allowed me to go on that long but in the end I was very pleased with the ones that I chose. I suspect I would have been just as pleased had I chosen the other pair.

Since then I have got better (and faster) at making decisions, whether I am buying shoes or leading a team, which is good because making decisions is the fourth cornerstone of leadership. This is where the rubber hits the road (forgive the shoe-related pun), or as Clay Lowe says, “This is where leaders earn their money.”

We all know leaders need to make decisions but here are the challenges that Clay Lowe mentions:

Make decisions that are fair, based on evidence and not your own agenda. This is difficult because we are human. We will naturally make decisions that further our careers or that are based on what we thought was the best way forward. Sometimes, as in the case of ‘The Apprentice’, we make decisions that leave us with the option of blaming someone else if everything goes wrong. People need to know that we are making decisions that are for the good of the team or the organisation.

Weigh up the needs of the task, team and individuals. When these are in conflict, it will mean you need to make a tough decision to the benefit of one at the expense of the other. If the task is not urgent and an individual needs a holiday then allow them to have a day with their family. If on the other hand an individual isn’t pulling their weight then the needs of the team need to be made priority. And if you’ve been given a tight deadline by a major client then of course the completion of the task takes priority.

Be creative in your decisions. Clay doesn’t mean be an unpredictable decision-maker because that will make for a very confused and frustrated team. Outstanding leaders, like General Grant at Vicksburg make decisions that are creative (read:risky). They are not shy of doing it differently, which will challenge them and their team and lead them on to greater things.

This is a real challenge to great leadership, but having the other three cornerstones in place will allow you to make decisions that lead to great successes for you, your team, company or family.

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I’m not one to watch too many cooking programs although I’ve caught a few of Hell’s Kitchen and the like. It seems to me that all the wannabe chef’s ever do is 1. Look confused, 2.. look scared and 3. shout ‘YES CHEF’. Although you might not think of Gordon Ramsay as being the best example of humility, what Chef’s do well is have the humility to realise that they can’t do every single thing for every single meal that the 40 customers in the restaurant are waiting for. Hence they rely on others to help them achieve their vision using certain standards.

Clay Lowe suggests that the third cornerstone of leadership is that leaders have humility. This is actually a very liberating factor in leadership.

It means you don’t have to know all the answers. You and I know that we don’t know all the answers but sometimes we like to pretend we do because we think that people wont respect us if we say ‘I don’t know’. This is not true. Of course if you are always saying ‘I don’t know’ particularly when someone asks ‘What shall we do?’ then yes, your leadership is going to suffer.

Instead, the answer is to surround yourself with a good team. This is true even if they are better than you, or especially if they are better than you. Gordon Ramsay is unlikely to be the best person in his team to make pastry. That doesn’t trouble him. Rather he hires the best pastry chef knowing his quality combined with the quality of the rest of the team and the vision and standards of Ramsay will make amazing food.

Finally, muck in when necessary. Being a leader isn’t about sitting in a giant office with an amazing view of Manhattan. As we looked at in an earlier post, it is about leading by example. You wont often see Gordon Ramsay getting his hands dirty by chopping vegetables or washing dishes but he wont be shy to do so when he needs to. Of course, it’s often because he’s furious with someone who messed up (which is not a leadership style I am advocating!).

So there you go. Bet you never thought you would learn about humility from Gordon Ramsay. It may be a tenuous link but regardless of who the example is, having humility is definitely an important aspect of being a great leader. Humility is a very attractive quality, while arrogance… well how many arrogant people do you like?

And yes, I like to use alliterations where I can. By vitality I mean broadly ‘quality of life’. Don’t get so caught up with the vision that you forget to have fun and worse still, stop others from having fun and enjoying life. You might have a strong vision for your company, but don’t forget about your family. Don’t get so caught up in achieving best ever global sales that your team members feel you see them as tools to achieve a task, rather than people who add value.

In order to help prevent falling into vision vice, I would strongly suggest making sure you have written a vision down for your personal and family life as well.

As team leader your job isn’t just to get individuals to Accept that change is coming. You need to Help them to plan and prepare for that change.

People often have a vague (sometimes even a clear) idea of where they are headed. Change often throws them off course or even blocks a road they thought they were going to go down.

Your job in the Help stage is to remap with the individual. A mass e-mail on ‘change management’  is about as appropriate at this stage as a bicycle is to a drowning man.

Get people to talk about the map that they had planned out. Talk about what the future might look like. They might decide they want to go somewhere completely different. Talk about how they might get there and what tools they might need.

Make sure each individual has a clear plan of action.  This will make sure they feel confident, cared for and ready for the change ahead. And that’s where you want your team to be.

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