Leading Thoughts is not about politics, but I don’t mind using happenings in politics to illustrate principles of leadership. So, let me reflect a bit upon something that happened at the recent GOP convention.
I’ve written a lot of political speeches in my life, so I was keenly interested in the stir created by Melania Trump’s speech on the GOP’s first night in Cleveland. I’m sure you heard that in her speech there were almost direct quotes from Michelle Obama’s speech in the last Democratic convention.
I’m not interested in rehashing all the controversy about Mrs. Trump’s speech, but suffice it to say that mistakes were made, a staffer admitted her culpability, and a woman who ought to have shone brightly was instead portrayed as both a lightweight and a plagiarist.
Now, the whole crisis arose for a single reason: no one had final authority over the speech. No one had full responsibility for the whole. Melania wanted to put the speech together herself. A staffer provided a clipping service of sorts. Melania assembled her thoughts and the quotes provided to her in a way that flowed together in her mind. A few advisors then looked it all over, but no one had total responsibility and final authority. So, direct quotes from Michelle Obama ended up in the speech.
This meant that the story of a woman born under communism who escaped tyranny through modeling before becoming an American citizen—and any decent speechwriter should have been able to make this narrative a hit at a GOP convention—was all lost due to the fact that no one had ultimate responsibility for scrutinizing and polishing what she planned to say.
The GOP took a hit because the speech of its first night headliner was no one’s ultimate responsibility. To put it in language I have borrowed from the military and used with my various staffs through the years, no one was “on point.” No one had final authority and final responsibility.
Making sure that someone is “on point” for every vital venture is one of the arts of leadership. Most leaders engage in “magical thinking.” This means they launch initiatives that they hope go well, but they don’t put a capable person on point and give them the power to get the job done. They don’t train. They don’t hold accountable. They don’t match gifts to task. They don’t create a culture in which everyone knows that someone must be on point for everything. Finally, they don’t reward for jobs well done.
Take a long look at the organization you lead. List out every major initiative. Who is on point for each one? Is he or she a good choice? Do they have the training? Are you checking in with them constantly? Do they have the resources they need? Do they have the authority to fulfill the responsibility you have given them?
Here’s the bottom line: You aren’t leading unless someone is on point for every important venture of your firm.