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Monday, August 02, 2004

Learning from leaders

Leadership is definitely one of my pet topics these days. I’m fascinated by how it works, what makes it effective and how it empowers others. Part of my job as editor of Profiles in Diversity Journal is to interview leaders about how they do their job, what teams of people they bring together and how they empower the rank and file of an organization.

I’ve always looked at my job as a great center for learning. I get to pick the brains of some amazing people to pull together a story. With each interview I learn more about leading, about what it takes to be successful in business and how to balance what you’re called to do with the rest of your life.

Here’s what I picked up after spending time in New York with 39-year-old Cuban American, Ana Mollinedo, VP of Diversity, Communications and Community Affairs for Starwood Hotels:

• Each leader brings not only skills and experience to a job, but also a complete network of people with whom they’ve partnered in the past. Being able to leverage that network for your business can lead to previously unimaginable opportunity.

• The first job of every leader is to assess who is on the team, who wants to remain on the team, where the strengths and weaknesses of the team lie and how to bring new team members together.

• Good leaders delegate, but I would go one step further and say that good leaders empower. Empowering others to make positive changes—both large and small—is critical to an organization’s growth.

• Mentoring is the obligation of every good leader. Did someone take time to help you in your career? If so, you owe it to yourself and to others to give back. Developing future leaders is critical in any organization. It may be simply some positive coaching, recognizing raw talent or making an introduction on someone’s behalf.

• Most leaders can trace their influences back to a family member who gave them permission to be. Many times it’s a parent or teacher (often both). Regardless, they were told early on that imagination, drive, integrity, balance, willingness to learn and work ethic all matter.

• Recognizing your own faults and limitations and having your team members understand that it’s okay to point them out to you is important. Sometimes leaders can be impatient or focused to the point of missing certain things. Leadership is a two-way street and team members should feel empowered to constructively address those weaknesses when they affect them in a negative way.

• 90 percent of good leadership is execution. It’s very easy to have a vision in your mind and heart for how you would like things to appear. It’s turning that vision into reality that remains the muscle—the heavy lifting—of leadership.

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