Build your leadership skills with these free web resources

Jan. 26, 2006
Executive Editor Russ Kratowicz says it's possible to put the crowd behind you and offers these web resources to help you get out and strut your stuff.

It’s been said that you’ve got to lead, follow or get out of the way. If those are truly the only options available in the workaday world, the best choice, by far, is to lead. Leaders of good ability can get out in front of the multitude fearlessly, confident that they won’t get ambushed from behind and that the crew will be motivated to do what needs to be done when the time for action approaches.

Leadership is much more than merely holding a title and slot on the organizational chart. It’s a skill, one that might be developed if its seeds happen to fall on receptive ground. Given appropriate nourishment, solid leadership at every level in the maintenance hierarchy can give rise to powerful competitive advantages. That’s my reason for inviting you to come along on another dive into the morass we call the Web in search of practical, zero-cost, noncommercial, registration-free Web resources that will help ensure the longevity of the American manufacturing industry. Remember, we search the Web so you don't have to.

Leader attributes
Visualsoft UK Ltd. is a British technology development and online marketing company and, based on the firm’s site content, much of what it does revolves around training people in the effective use of high-tech software. The company seeks to engender a sense of community and serve as a reference resource for programmers struggling with specific questions about the proper way to perform their digital acrobatics. It does this by offering a large number of online tutorials, many of which appear to be summaries of the content of the training courses the company also markets.

The tutorial titled “What is leadership?” argues that leaders are neither born nor made. Rather, the truth is posited to lie somewhere between these extremes. It goes on to distinguish between the characteristics of a leader and a manager and mentions the three personal attitudes that a leader ought to have. It details only one of them, having the right personal attitude. Presumably, you could learn about the remaining two by signing up for a class. Nevertheless, this limited pearl of wisdom resides at [no hyphens]. You’ll need to scroll down a bit to get past the topside advertising. Then, if you have any interest in picking up tips about operating your computer and its software more efficiently, you might want to follow the links to the rest of the free tutorials.

Out in front
The Association for Computing Machinery, an international scientific and educational organization founded in 1947 and dedicated to advancing the arts, sciences and applications of information technology, claims 80,000 industrial, academic and government members in more than 100 countries. The organization’s tag line is “the first society in computing.” With a pedigree like that, you’d expect them to demonstrate a finely honed show of leadership, and the ACM doesn’t disappoint. Although most of the leadership material on its site is related to leadership in the local chapters of the ACM, a single one-page brief, found at [no hyphens], provides a list of what it means to be a good leader and the traits that a good leader ought to be exhibiting. Then, it discusses motivational communication, offering a list of phrases that a good leader would be likely to use and those that should be avoided. You’ll also find a sample format for effective meetings. At the end is a somewhat confusing section with tips for dealing with difficult team members. The left column shows examples of behaviors that difficult people exhibit and the right column has a list of appropriate responses a leader would use, but there’s no intention to imply a one-to-one correlation between the behaviors and responses. I guess you get to pick and choose as appropriate.

Power in the stacks
If knowledge is power, having a well-stocked library at your disposal is a great advantage when it’s time to begin your reign in the leadership world. Combine that bookish edge with the advantage of free access to a Web-based library, and you’ve got yourself quite a bit of portable power just waiting to be unleashed. The best part is that you don’t even need a library card if you read this column every month. To prove the point, we roamed the stacks at the Free Management Library, the brainchild of Carter McNamara, MBA, PhD, a business consultant and cofounder of Authenticity Consulting, LLC, in Minneapolis. McNamara’s library has three volumes of richly-linked material that relates to leadership.
The first, “Overview of Leadership in Organizations,” found at [no hyphens], addresses the differences between managing and leading, discusses how leaders lead, then offers some general tips for leaders-to-be.

The second offering, “Leadership Development Planning,” at [no hyphens], is where you’ll find information about customizing your own learning program, suggested reading to gain a foundation in the topic and much more. Finally, there’s the “Free Micro-eMBA,” at [no hyphens]. The top part of the page offers background and a rationale for learning, but the meat of the content is near the bottom. Look for the 10 learning modules covering MBA material that a leader ought to have in the personal arsenal. If you’re serious about gaining leadership skills, you might find yourself spending a lot of time here.

Shooting straight
Qube, a consultancy based in Henley on Thames, England, offers additional leadership advice. To access the goods, point your browser at [hyphens either side of training] and look for the several sets of links on the left side of the screen. Focus on the topics listed under “Advice.” The results that will appear won’t constitute a particularly heavy read. That’s the beauty of it all. You’ll be impressed that Qube can give you hundreds of good ideas, each presented as a bullet point. If you were to absorb each of these pearls of wisdom into your daily routine, I have no doubt that your compatriots would begin to view you as a true leader among leaders. But, be warned that the links listed under “Directories” don’t seem to be active. When I tried to explore them, clicking only returned a frustrating error message.

Leadership portal
It’s a fortunate happenstance to stumble on a single Web resource that aggregates relevant, related content through a series of tentacle-like links to hundreds of other sites that house the material in question. Finding one of these portals is like tripping over a mother lode that enriches, if not our pocketbooks, our ability to excel at maintenance leadership. Recently, I stubbed my toe on such a site, this one operated by Michael J. Freeman. His Leadership Knowledge Base is a Web site he developed to help us learn how to become leaders who can catalyze a team to achieve outstanding results. Sounds like maintenance management in Utopia, doesn’t it? Well, you’ll never know until you try your hand at implementing some of the far-ranging advice he tracked down and collected at [no hyphens]. You’ll find the entry points at the left of the screen. Click freely and enlighten yourself.

More web resources

From a trade organization

The proper British way

Hundreds of bullet points

Knowledge is power

The portal

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