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Great Leadership Defined According to Jim Altfeld

September 6th, 2009 · 1 Comment · Uncategorized

Leadership is the ability to establish and manage a creative climate where continuous improvement, teamwork, accountability and a commitment to the customer are fostered and rewarded; where people are self-motivated toward the successful achievement of long term, constructive  goals in an environment of mutual respect that is compatible with their personal values.

The Break Down:


The know-how, knowledge, experience, capability and expertise to lead and manage a department.  The ability to grow and develop the department and the people.

Creative Climate

A free-thinking environment that encourages and rewards new thoughts, new ideas, or at least a re-arranging of the old, not just living with what exists.

Continuous Improvement

Never satisfied. Always looking to improve the company, each department, every system and process, and every employee. Extraordinary systems and processes operated by informed (communication), involved (cooperation) and inspired (collaboration) people produce extraordinary results.


A team is a small number of people with complementary skills who are committed to a common purpose, focused on a set of performance goals, and agree upon how they will work together to accomplish their purpose, while holding themselves and each other accountable. Understanding what individual team members value on the job can improve working relationships and organizational effectiveness.  Values drive team members’ behavior.  Values determine what motivates members and what demoralizes them, what affects their decision-making and what drives their responses to other members, management, the customer and their work.  For a team to function well, the members must individually function well and the performance of each person should act as a catalyst for the others.


Holding your people accountable and measuring their performance are essential.  However, before doing so, first clarify what they are being held accountable for and on what specific performance results you are measuring them.  People need to understand their roles, responsibilities and the results expected of them.  Doing that requires a great deal of communication and effort that in the long run, pays tremendous dividends.

Commitment to the Customer

1.  Only satisfied customers can provide job security.

2.  Without a top line, there is no bottom line.  Customers want real value.  They want to know that what they buy from us achieves the results they were expecting. They also want answers at that moment of truth when they have a question, problem, challenge or issue.  Our job in servicing the customer is to think of ourselves as servants, paying close attention to their needs

and exceeding their expectations.  The easiest way to turn service into a memorable encounter of the unpleasant kind is to provide poor service and treat the customer badly.  Which is why we must focus on the customer and place him or her at the very center of the company’s universe.


Not fearful of going forward. Not fearful of rising above the radar.

Successful Achievement

Key word here is successful.  Everyone has to be expected to actually accomplish what they set out to do.  Close, or almost is neither acceptable nor successful.  Which is why the goals are so important.  One project may have five goals within it.  Is it a failure if you get four of the five?  It is if the one you missed was the primary goal.


Thinking beyond today, tomorrow or next week.  Thinking strategically, not just tactically.  Having bi-focal thinking, by keeping an eye on today while thinking and planning for tomorrow.

Constructive Goals

Establishing focus and direction.  Holding people accountable based upon mutually established goals, objectives and milestones.  Determining specifically what it is that we want to achieve, by when, and in what order, then holding your people accountable for getting it done.  Determine what information is needed from your people and have them report their progress on an on- going, formalized basis. Determine what information your people need from you.  Establish formalized meetings with a genuine purpose, assignments, begin and end times and follow up.

Mutual Respect

Not necessarily liking one another, but working together knowing what contribution each and every other member of the team is making and can be counted upon to make.  Respect is gained through knowledge about one another.  Too many people have no idea what another person does or is doing.

Compatible with their Personal Values

There is management by objective, but there is also management by values. By combining the two, your people are never in doubt as to what to do and what not to do.  By establishing the objective s , they know on what they will be measured and rewarded.  By establishing company values and adhering to them in a consistent and uncompromising manner, there is no doubt as what is the right decision and what would be the wrong decision.  If an employe e ’s personal values are not in line with that of the company, then they eventually have to find another church to pray in.


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1 response so far ↓

  • 1 Gail Wilson-Giarratano // Sep 8, 2009 at 6:45 pm

    Hello Jim,
    Your article is right on point and this is how a leader would strive to lead. But, I am curious as to what is the big “why” for the leader? What drives us to want to this for ourself and our teams? Now, for those of us in the social sector we have mission and vision all tied up with the bow of social change. But I am just curious about what the big “why” is for leaders in government and the private sector, or do we all meet at or start from some shared place on the road or in the heart or in the mind?