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Posted: April 23, 2014

Best of CoBiz: A great leader has a vision…

...and other rules for life and success

Laurence B. Valant

Editor's Note: This is an excerpt from business performance improvement expert Larry Valant's book, "Stop Breaking These Rules! 100 Hard-Hitting Truths for Business Integrity and Performance."

 A leader has a vision which can be quantified and communicated clearly.

The good news for those who are not natural leaders, but are in positions of leadership, is you can learn skills critical to successful leadership.
The most important of these skills can be summarized in one phrase: develop a clear, quantified vision of what you plan to achieve and communicate it unambiguously. This vision must define success in precise terms and provide the basis for your key managers to in turn define their own objectives or vision.

A natural leader instinctively creates a vision statement, the majority of us must be taught how to.

A great leader does not a manager make! (And, holding the title of manager does not a leader make!)

Failing to understand their distinct differences, most people confuse leadership with management.

Leadership is simply the ability to have people follow you. Someone with natural leadership abilities can lead us and we follow. Such leadership abilities cannot be taught.

Management is the ability to get things done through and with other people according to some set of predetermined goals, deliverables, and dates. While the qualities that make an exceptional manager can be God-given, most often management abilities are taught to us early on by our parents, and by life experience.

A natural born leader usually must learn to manage (taught by their parents or life experience) just as everyone else does. And contrary to popular conviction, some leaders never learn to be effective managers.

Natural leadership abilities and natural management skills are almost equally rare. However, finding the combination of these two qualities in one person is truly singular. Your organization will not be filled with natural leaders, in fact, you would be fortunate to have any.

Understanding the distinctions between leaders and managers has many far-reaching implications for an organization, most particularly in planning and staffing, training and development and certainly in succession planning.

Five percent of any group tends to excel.

In any group, those who fall in the three sigma plus portion of the distribution are the ones who will be key in getting things done. The remainder of the organization is necessary in carrying out the initiatives, but they are not the best qualified or the most likely to complete what is that group's major responsibility well and successfully.

Think of highly trained and highly compensated surgeons, there are a small number in each major category who excel, and then there are the rest, whom we would prefer operate on someone else.

Name any career field - teachers, managers, coaches, artists, actors - the same truth can be applied to each category- 5 percent of any group tends to excel.

Laurence B. Valant is President and CEO of Valant & Co., a Denver-based business performance improvement consultancy that has worked with almost 300 firms to increase their value by billions of dollars. He is co-author of the hot-selling new book, “Make Plan! With Effective Execution” and now, “Lead and Manage!” Valant can be reached at or at 303-589-3840. If you want more information or would like to order a copy of “Stop Breaking These Rules! 100 Hard-Hitting Truths for Business Integrity and Performance,” please visit

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