By Armando Zagalo de Lima
Editor’s Note: Armando Zagalo de Lima recently won the prestigious Best International Leader Award from Portugal’s Leadership Business Consulting, so we asked him to share his thoughts on best practices of effective leaders.
I have yet to discover a simple recipe for transforming people into great leaders. But I have observed the best practices of many effective leaders, and I’m pleased to share them here. I should point out: These concepts are much easier to express than to execute.
Understand people. I agree with Joe Wilson, former Xerox president and chairman of the board, who wrote, “The head of a business works with people, and all other phases of his task pale in significance compared to this need to know human beings.”
I maintain your success is defined by your capacity to adapt to the specific individual and the circumstance in order to win her or his heart and mind. I always focus on understanding the person I have in front of me: motivations, concerns, expectations and objectives. And obviously, if you are talking with a group, you need to adapt to the specifics of the group’s culture to communicate most effectively.
Set the right goals. Xerox is a world-class organization, so we have high expectations.The magic in setting goals is finding the right balance. Goals must be aggressive enough to motivate the organization to its best performance, but realistic enough for people to believe they are achievable and not quit out of frustration. As a teenager, Great Britain’s Sally Gunnel set a goal of being an Olympic champion, trained hard for years, and at age 26 won a gold medal in the 400-meter high hurdles. Without the wanting, you never achieve anything.
Communicate clearly. My leadership style is based on the power of communication, building trust and nurturing followership. It comes from the principle that you cannot win alone, and you can only succeed with the contributions of the entire team. Consequently, it is quite fundamental to communicate clearly where the organization is, the vision of where you want to go and why, and the contribution you expect from each player. It is essential that people are very clear about what they gain when the shared vision and objectives are achieved. Once this is accomplished, leadership is about communicating progress, adjusting plans if necessary, rewarding and recognizing the key contributors, and celebrating every single victory until the vision is successfully realized
Learn from your successes and mistakes. What you bring to each role is the experience that comes from the accumulation of your successes and failures as you learn from both. In my case, these experiences occurred in a multitude of geographies, cultures, businesses and roles, which helped my development as a leader. Speaking generally, these experiences have led me to a more collaborative approach to leadership. In many—but not all—cases, the chances of achieving your objectives increase substantially when the team helps construct the solution.
Set a good example. The leader’s greatest tool is the power of example. In my career, I’ve aligned my personal values with my professional values—honesty, transparency, loyalty, fairness and hard work—and that helps set the right tone. The leader also sets the pace. If you want your followers to run, you can’t be walking. You need to run even faster than them.
Becoming a good leader is a lot like developing a good Xerox solution in that both seek the elegant simplicity that is at the core of a complex situation. These best practices can help you get there.
Armando Zagalo de Lima is president, Xerox Technology Business.