Effective Planning Makes Great Leaders
After more than three decades of working closely with many hundreds of leaders, I have observed that perhaps the single biggest obstacle to many of them, from a technical as opposed to attitudinal standpoint, is their ability and willingness to devote sufficient time, attention, and importance to the entire planning process. I refer to planning as a process because it is not a one step, one time, I have a plan, event. Rather, planning requires a number of variables including the proper attitude, knowledge, competent advisers, contingencies (also known as the what ifs), and a real commitment to the process of planning to lead.
1. Why must one plan to lead? Many people ascend to positions of leadership without any compelling vision or goals for the organization. They often state that they will rely on others (the catch phrase is usually, “I don’t like to micromanage because I believe in my officers and staff.”), and seem to believe that they simply can achieve results by stepping aside and delegating duties and responsibilities. While delegating should be encouraged, a true leader realizes that he must be careful in who he bestows responsibility, and that the individual is prepared and willing to commit fully to get the duty performed (or job done). Unfortunately, I have observed many individuals who consider themselves leader have their tenure face peril because they did not have a plan to oversee and get regular progress reports, etc.
2. Great leaders have positive, can do attitudes. They fully commit to do the best possible job they can, and take the process of careful planning seriously. However, these individuals must realize that at some point, planning must lead to the achievement of a vision and/ or goals, and that plans must become action plans, and action plans must become viable and essential actions, bringing about some sort of change, modification, or tweaking, if called for.
3. Leaders must understand the need for contingency or backup planning. Every plan should examine, in detail, the inevitable what- ifs, and in doing so, have backup plans prepared for nearly every eventuality. Great leaders always plan for inevitable contingencies and circumstances.
4. Before there can be effective planning, a leader must be willing to undergo specified, and in- depth leadership training. All too many times I have witnessed individuals who take these programs one day, and almost immediately continue the same-old, same-old behavior anyway. Training must bring about true learning. That training and learning should then be used in situations where an individual has partial responsibility, with oversight. Only after all of this is satisfactorily and successfully done, does a potential leader have the opportunity to become a true and effective one, because he now possesses both the needed knowledge and expertise.
Organizations must stress planning and learning. This planning should include leadership training, event planning, and continuous strategic planning, including evaluation and reevaluation of the mission statement. With thoroughly planning, organizations develop forward- thinking, true leaders.