Most business executives talk about the importance of collaborating with others. When it comes to execution, however, their behavior often violates this espoused belief. Why? Because "getting things done" becomes a higher priority than "getting people on board."

Fearing being perceived as indecisive, some execs make lots of decisions themselves that others in their organizations are better qualified to make. They put people in jobs but fail to set and convey specific, measurable expectations of what the job requires. Then they don’t regularly review employee performances against their expectations (often unstated) and move to implement corrective actions. On top of that, they don’t validate people when they perform in positive ways. What happens as a result? People fail in their jobs. Who gets blamed? Everyone but “the man in the mirror.”

Several characteristics distinguish "tough-minded" leadership from "hard-headed" management practices. Consider these:

  • Tough-minded execs pursue action that achieves planned results; hard-headed managers aim to solidify their authority and personal power.
  • Tough-minded execs select people for jobs based on past performance and position-relevant strengths; hard-headed ones hire people whose views and perspectives match their own.
  • Tough-minded managers select strong people and integrate those strengths to create interdependent success; hard-headed managers select weak people, aim to develop their weaknesses, and end up cultivating their dependency.
  • Tough-minded managers show a committed candor in their interactions; hard-headed managers verbally espouse a commitment to candor, but “shoot the messenger” when they don’t like the news.
  • Along the same lines, tough-minded execs encourage a constant flow of people, from all organizational levels, in and out of their offices; hard-headed ones believe that an “open-door policy” means leaving their doors open and waiting for people to come in.
  • Tough-minded execs nurture commitment; hard-headed ones mandate obedience.
  • Tough-minded execs recognize that giving people a say doesn’t necessarily mean giving them a vote; hard-headed ones don’t acknowledge the difference. (They don’t even bother to think about it.)
  • Tough-minded execs understand that their primary lever of superior organizational performance is people, both customers and associates, so they spend the highest proportion of their time with people; hard-headed ones view any time spent with people as a costly distraction.
  • Tough-minded execs use personal interactions as coaching opportunities; hard-headed ones use them to demonstrate personal bravado.
  • Tough-minded execs understand that time is their most precious resource and learn to manage it well; hard-headed ones allow time to manage them.
  • Tough-minded execs know how to sustain individual and organizational performance; hard-headed ones may “get it” for a short time, but rarely “get it” consistently over time.
  • Tough-minded managers know their job is to get people to want to do what needs to be done; hard-headed managers are satisfied merely getting people to do what needs to be done with no encouragement required.

Review these characteristics again with candor and then look in the mirror. Which ones characterize you?

Copyright 2010 Rand Golletz. All rights reserved.

Author's Bio: 

Rand Golletz is the managing partner of Rand Golletz Performance Systems, a leadership development, executive coaching and consulting firm that works with senior corporate leaders and business owners on a wide range of issues, including interpersonal effectiveness, brand-building, sales management, strategy creation and implementation. For more information and to sign up for Rand's free newsletter, The Real Deal, visit