leadership | May 23, 2013

Leadership Under Pressure: Lewis MacKenzie On Effective Management

As leadership speaker and retired Major General Lewis MacKenzie says, anyone can lead a team when times are easy. Unfortunately, as he tells the crowd at the Compliance Week 2013 annual conference, the business leaders of today are generally faced with extremely difficult situations every day. The only way for an organization to succeed in volatile economic times is to have a unified and motivated workforce, he explains, and the key to achieving that is to empower leaders to take responsibility for themselves and their employees. It's crucial that strong leaders encourage open communication and cooperation between all ranks of the organization.

While decisions made by the high level staff in an organization should be respected, all ranks in the company should feel comfortable challenging those assumptions, MacKenzie says in his speech. "The leader has to establish the atmosphere where people will...disagree without being disagreeable...[and] without thinking their career is destroyed," he said. Promoting a culture of communication within your organization allows for new solutions to be uncovered and prevents the expansion of ego in the upper ranks. Once a leader begins to think they are more important than their staff, they become disconnected and isolated with the people they lead. When that happens, your employees stop sharing their insight with you. And, as MacKenzie says, this is damaging because "it's no good listening if no one is talking to you."

How do you promote a culture of open communication within your organization? "If you know only one thing about the people you work with, know what their passions are—from gardening to free-fall parachuting, you need know what it is," MacKenzie advises. "That's the window you need to break through to find out what they really think about their organization." Keeping a pulse on what's going internally in the organization is crucial. Finally, "you establish relationships your entire life and there is no reason to change how you do things when you are put in a position of authority," he concludes. Just because you are above someone in a heirarchy, does not mean you are above them as a person. By treating your staff with the respect they deserve, you will in turn earn their respect.

In his talks, MacKenzie draws from years of military service to uncover the key attributes of an effective leader—whether its on the battlefield or in the boardroom. He distills nearly four decades of experience into ten practical and enduring lessons when on stage, and customizes his material to include personal anecdotes and off-the-cuff humor. Always practical and accessible, MacKenzie's masterful talks can help any individual become a better leader, and make your more efficient and productive.