Rumsfeld’s Rules of (Business) Leadership

164829386-rules for leadershipOK, first off, this is not a political post. Not in the least. I had simply heard about these rules for government, business and life that former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld had scripted and decided to take a look.

Which prompted me to share.

Not to mention the fact that HRE also just received a complimentary copy of his book, Rumsfeld’s Rules: Leadership Lessons in Business, Politics, War, and Life … more fodder for sharing (though I’ll let you go find it on if you’re prone to purchase).

Not sure I agree with absolutely every one of his rules, but there are enough in there under his “business” banner that seem to resonate with what we’ve been reading and writing about over the years to make it worth a scroll. Here are his top six for business leaders:

When you initiate new activities, find things you are currently doing that you can discontinue — whether reports, activities, etc. It works, but you must force yourself to do it. Always keep in mind your “teeth-to-tail ratio.”

Watch the growth of middle-level management. Don’t automatically fill vacant jobs. Leave some positions unfilled for six to eight months to see what happens. You will find you won’t need to fill some of them.

Reduce the layers of management. They put distance between the top of an organization and the customers.

Find ways to decentralize. Move decision-making authority down and out. Encourage a more entrepreneurial approach.

Prune — prune businesses, products, activities, people. Do it annually.

Know your customers!

In fact, if you go through all his tips, a.k.a. “rules,” for success, you can come away with some real gems to lead your HR organization simply by replacing the words “White House,” “government” and “secretary of defense” for “HR leadership” and “business leadership” in general.

Take his first five under “Serving in the White House” and tell me these aren’t great rules to operate by in a corporate setting (you’ll need to replace “president” with “CEO” and “administrations” with “CHRO positions”):

Don’t accept the post or stay unless you have an understanding with the president that you’re free to tell him what you think “with the bark off” and you have the courage to do it.

Visit with your predecessors from previous administrations. They know the ropes and can help you see around some corners. Try to make original mistakes, rather than needlessly repeating theirs.

Don’t begin to think you’re the president. You’re not. The Constitution [or, in your case, company bylaws] provides for only one.

In the execution of presidential decisions work to be true to his views, in fact and tone.

Know that the immediate staff and others in the administration [i.e., workforce] will assume that your manner, tone and tempo reflect the president’s.

I’m leaving a ton of good ones out.