Snake Pit Leadership

Snake Pit Leadership
Karen Radcliff
Vice President/Chief Strategy Officer
Hamilton County Tourism, Inc.
Class of 2004

When I think back on my high school or college career, I don’t see a natural course toward leadership. No…ahem…I spent a bit of time at theatre parties, a bit more time “finding myself,” and a bit of time doing what other people told me to do. There may have been a snake pit adventure or two thrown in there too, but I’ll address that later.

I was never a class officer. I wasn’t part of a sorority or club. I didn’t have a plan most of the time. But I was always curious, and I always cared about others.

Now, when I find myself leading others, I really have just one main objective. To maximize the success of others. And doing that takes many forms. It could be a detailed plan people can easily execute. It could be teaching an employee a new skill. It could be building someone’s confidence. It could be celebrating milestones.

Finding the key that revs people’s engines is what drives me as a leader and hopefully benefits others along the way.

So forgive me as I give you yet another list, but as a watcher of market trends, I know the power of bullets and sound bites. Thus, here are 10 quick principles that guide me as a leader.

• Take Responsibility—I believe there is an overall crisis of abdicating responsibility. It’s too easy to blame others. We should create a culture where failure means learning rather than faulting.
• Be Interested—Listen, know others’ jobs, understand their frustrations, offer helpful advice, be accessible. I like to walk through the office in the morning and chat with people. I find out all kinds of things.
• Teach—I’ve been told that I lead by teaching. It must have been my stint as an 8th grade teacher. I don’t adhere to grades any longer, but I’ve never given up the red pen or the Sharpie.
• Encourage Independence—There are myriad ways to reach a goal. I love when people own their own path.
• Set Goals and Reward—I like realistic goals—adopted by all and celebrated when accomplished.
• Work Hard. Play Hard—This needs no explanation and sets an example for others.
• Be Firm and Stretch—I don’t like to ask anyone to do something I would not do myself, but that doesn’t mean I don’t ask people to stretch outside their comfort zones. They are usually glad they did.
• Squash the Grumpies—We don’t want bad feelings to fester. We face them directly, honestly and with compassion. Then we shoo them away.
• Embrace Emoticons—Be happy, have fun and share that uplifting and encouraging spirit with others. No one wants to follow Eeyore.
• Know Your Lieutenants—Your best 20% will make the entire team look good. Reward them well, because they deserve it.

Oh, and that snake pit reference? That’s the Play Hard part that needs no explanation, or maybe only over a beer. Plus, I thought it was a catchy title that might grab your attention. Hope it did.

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