Smith: On effective leadership

Mike Smith
Mike Smith, host of “Open Mike with Mike Smith” on WDEV. Photo courtesy WDEV
Editor’s note: Mike Smith is a regular columnist for VTDigger. He hosts the radio program “Open Mike with Mike Smith” on WDEV 550 AM and 96.1, 96.5, 98.3 and 101.9 FM and is a political analyst for WCAX-TV and WVMT radio. He was the secretary of administration and secretary of human services under former Gov. Jim Douglas.

Several years ago, I compiled a list of leadership qualities from own my experiences as a former Navy SEAL, town manager, state administrator and regional executive for a telephone company. I expanded the list as I talked with groups about how best to lead organizations.

Much to my surprise, a friend told me recently that this list was posted on a popular social media website where thousands of people read it and hundreds indicated they liked the advice.

I thought I would share my list with VTDigger readers and solicit your opinions.

Below you’ll find a list of leadership qualities and approaches I’ve found to be effective.

1. Don’t avoid issues. It’s critical for organizations to tackle problems head-on. Otherwise, issues grow in complexity and consequence, and become more difficult to resolve. You undermine your credibility in an organization if superiors or subordinates witness your inability to confront difficult situations.

2. Build trust. Here’s how: Be honest, even when the news isn’t good. Treat people with respect. Set realistic expectations and then meet them. And be loyal to those you work for, and to those who work for you.

3. Encourage innovation.Change is always uncomfortable, but it’s healthy.Recognize that when you encourage innovation you also increase the risk of failure, so it’s imperative that you support those that fail in the pursuit of your request to innovate and change.

4. Work hard. Rarely does success occur without hard work.

5. Be persistent. Not every day is going to be successful.

6. Be flexible. Not everything goes as planned.

7. Try to avoid making assumptions. Instead, use available facts or seek input to make decisions. Assuming you know all the answers is confidence misplaced.

8. Communicate and listen effectively. Explain to people the direction in which you are headed and the reasons why. Listen carefully to what people have to say. Sometimes you can listen and fail to understand what is being said.

9. If you find yourself in a crisis, slow down and think through the alternatives. Don’t panic and never lose your ability to think through an issue. The more serious the situation, the calmer you should be.

10. Don’t be complacent. Life is too short.

11. Take control of your situation. Don’t rely on others, or fate, to dictate the outcome of your circumstances.

12. Be humble. If you have been fortunate, help those who are struggling.

VTDigger readers please let me know if you agree or disagree with these recommendations.

What attributes do you want to see in a leader?

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Mike Smith

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