Forward Thinking: One-on-One Leadership


Keith E. Robinson, Ed.D.


    The future and reputation of any organization, regardless of its field or mission, rests primarily on the shoulders of its knowledgeable leaders and the strategic decisions they make. Leaders' personality strengths, understanding of purpose, and ability to articulate expectations of success are the core means by which organizations of all types and sizes will identify, cultivate, and guide future leaders.

    Growth, development, mentoring, and retaining the best and brightest high potential [ready now], and high performing [ready later] employees are vital factors in leadership. As never before, leadership requires a complete and steady use of progressive talents, enriched skills, and know how from every employee in the organization.

    As internal stakeholders, shareholders and the general public continue to scrutinize organizational leadership practices, it becomes crucial that leaders continue sharpening their people, interaction, and policy skills. Senior leadership must ensure themselves and employees that they are ready and fully capable of developing leaders in the 21st century and beyond. The fundamental job of a leader is to develop other leaders. What must be done differently than what has been done before?

    “One-on-one leadership” is a must. But, before we get started, let it be understood that there is nothing complicated about this leadership technique. Perhaps what contemporary thinking management experts, thought leaders and the highly venerated former Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) Admiral Boorda meant about the attractiveness of this leadership style was that it was a marvelous new evolutionary concept that does nothing, but help improve employees, organizations, missions, and operations. Conventional styles of leadership required similar skills but left no room for improvement. We need to consider applying more of the one-on-one contemporary thinking leadership mind set. The concept appears to be a sure way for us to continue contributing to the success of future leadership development.

    The objective of one-on-one leadership is to assist organizations in becoming more creative, situational, and strategically involved, re-examining current leadership styles and practices, making changes where needed most, and exploring new ways of leading. The challenges of one-on-one leadership are:

•    making things happen by paying attention to employees and getting
•    knowing employees (not just of them)
•    care taking, truth telling and ensuring fair treatment (no matter what the
•    recognizing others' resourcefulness (focusing on the good)
•    setting and reaching strategic goals
•    discovering and understanding others' needs
•    fulfilling professional aspirations
•    being thoroughly aware of their contributions, talents, aspirations, and fears
•    developing rock solid work related partnerships
•    helping employees tap untapped potential
•    providing authentic leadership
•    demonstrating “more wag and less bark”

     The father of modern day management, Dr. Peter F. Drucker reminds organizational leaders that they should know the people, the work, and the business of the organization. He has encouraged contemporary leadership practices to demonstrate ”more wag and less bark.” In order to honestly meet this challenge, leaders must be willing to venture away from their comfort zones and begin deliberately thinking outside of their conventional boxes.

     Former Stanford University Professor Jim Collins acknowledged that when you combine a culture of discipline with an ethic of entrepreneurship, you get the magical alchemy of great results. Once this is done, the organization will experience the payoffs—such as a more loyal, dedicated and engaged knowledge workers, improved work performance, improved interactions and minimized work barriers. As a result, many of the conventional barriers that once existed eventually go away as interactions between management and employees gradually change course for the better. Total Quality Management expert Dr. W. Edward Deming affirmed some time ago in his revered 14 points of total quality management about the important need to break down barriers between staff areas. 
    Senior leadership in all types and sizes of organizations, I challenge you to pause, reflect and begin embracing this new leadership concept. The bottom line is that the familiar conventional path of the past—as convenient and traditional as is may be—will not necessarily lead us to the future of being employers of choice, great places to work, or being able to transform ourselves from satisfactory to exceptional.

    Management expert and futurist Dr. Joel Barker has validated that past achievements do not guarantee future success. However, a positive dose of proactive one-on-one-leadership will ensure achievement. Organizational leaders, you have a huge stake in the continued success of your organization, so be encouraged and think of one-on-one-leadership as one of your organization's forward ideas. This simple yet powerful idea may become a remarkable 21st century version of leadership excellence… guiding tomorrow’s leaders into the future.




© 2011 Keith E. Robinson, Ed.D. All rights reserved. ( )