Q. What qualities do you consider necessary to be a good leader (particularly over a sustained period of time)?
A. Most people think a great leader is someone who gives rousing speeches that fire up the troops. There's no question that the ability to inspire and motivate is important. A leader needs both vision and the ability to communicate it. But, to be successful in the long term, a leader must be frank with employees. Messages must be clear and unwavering or the leader loses credibility. If you tell your sales force, 'The most important goal is to make customers happy,' you can't go back the next day and say, 'Your quota just got doubled so go out and sell twice as much.' If you send that kind of mixed message, your staff will know that the talk about service is just that and that the real priority is achieving the higher quota. An effective leader also knows that a company's reward system must reinforce his message. He does not over-promise rewards or offer insincere praise. Staff also need to see that their peers are strong and to know that if someone isn't carrying their weight an adjustment will be made.