Mouth for Sale: Make It Work

Strategies for modern leaders.

On the subject of leadership, Dr. Sheila Murray Bethel, founder of the Bethel Leadership Institute in Walnut Creek, CA, says, "Leadership is common sense; it's not rocket science. People overcomplicate it. It's not easy, but there's a big difference between simple and easy."

Bethel's mission is to make the simple idea of leadership easier for her audiences by delving into the qualities and actions that comprise an effective, inspiring leader.

"Part of my message is that the best leaders in our new century are those who take the best qualities of the past and combine them with the realities of today," says Bethel.

She adds that leaders should be poised to spring into action as soon as the recession ends and use this time to build a strong, effective team throughout their organization.

"Use this as an opportunity to build a deep bench of leaders you can bring in as we get past this economic crisis. Before you know it we'll be popping out of this recession and you'll be ready to go," she says.

So how does a leader prepare himself and his team? Begin by learning the most effective ways to praise employees. "Always praise in public and criticize in private," Bethel advises. "People forget that if you criticize a person or team in public it demoralizes everyone. The best leaders understand the incredible power of praising people in public."

For behavioral models to emulate, Bethel cites Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz, Avon CEO Andrea Jung, Costco CEO Jim Sinegal, and PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi, all of whom she says are excellent examples of modern leaders.

In her talks with management teams or rising stars, Bethel delves into specific qualities that she believes make for an effective leader, including accountability, openness, and an awareness that leaders are constantly modeling for their teams, whether they realize it or not. But, of course, the cornerstone of good leadership is an ability to produce results.

"The first step to becoming a leader is to be very, very competent because without competence, vision remains a dream," advises Bethel. "If you have a deep set of skills—vision backed by competence can move mountains."

Originally published Nov. 1, 2009

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