For Ronia F. Kruse, the key to being a good leader is having a vision and convincing others to buy in to your vision.
That’s what Kruse tries to do at OpTech LLC, which posted 2007 revenue of $9.7 million and employs more than 80 people.
“I think that’s very important in leadership to be able to rally people around you and get them motivated toward achieving a certain goal,” says the co-founder, president and CEO of the technology consulting and business services company.
Smart Business spoke with Kruse about how to create a vision and how to get employees to buy in to it.
Q. How do you create a vision?
You really need to project what is going to happen five to 10 years from now to be able to build a vision around that. In our IT industry, our climate is changing so a rapidly. To be able to adapt to change and craft a vision of where you want to take your company and where you want to be five to 10 years from now is very important. I think a lot of leaders of companies are less inclined to change. To be a successful leader, you need to envision what is happening around you and to adapt to that change very quickly, and then rally up the people to support your cause.
Q. How do you project five to 10 years out?
For us it was, ‘What type of industries do we want to service? What are some of the industry leaders that are going to remain industry leaders?’ Because, certainly, what we have seen in this area, a lot of companies that have been able to grow substantially servicing automotive companies have failed because of what is happening in the automotive industry.
Back in 1999, (we) kind of saw the writing on the wall in terms of what was happening in the automotive industry and what was happening here in Michigan and changed, did a 180, and moved my company in a different direction to service industries that were more stable like the utility, the banking, the government, insurance [industries] that were less impacted by what we are seeing in the economy today.
As a result, we’ve been able to grow substantially in this down economy.
Q. How do you get employees to buy in to your vision?
You have to be viewed as a mentor of somebody that they really can rely on because really we employ quite a few people. If they have no confidence in your ability to move a company in a certain direction, if they have no confidence in your intellect, it’s going to be awfully hard to convince them to follow you and to buy in to your vision. Certainly, they need to respect you from an intellectual standpoint based on your track record, based on your intelligence and how you convey the message to them. You can have a person that is a great visionary, but they may be a poor communicator and cannot convey the vision to their team. As a result, they lose their team. To be able to communicate and to have the respect of your people, and for them to look up to you as a mentor is very important.
Q. How can you be a mentor?
People have different interpretations of leadership. Quite honestly, depending on what you are in, depending whether you work for a large company, a small company, military, I think leadership takes on different forms. You can have a very quiet leader that’s very effective. You have leaders that lead by example. You have leaders that gain respect and are able to lead because of their intelligence because they are successful and have been able to perform great things. You have many different interpretations of leadership.
You look at somebody like the president of the United States of America, like Lincoln, for example, who was a very quiet leader, but very effective in his leadership skills. Then, you have other people that are incredibly charismatic and people view them as very good leaders because they are very good communicators. But, I think, truly an effective leader has to be a combination of all of those qualities.
Q. How do you become a good communicator?
To be a really good communicator, you need to be able to get in to people’s feelings. You need to be able to move them, make them happy. You need to be able to get in to their core. That’s very important. Certainly, the communication, the way you speak is very important and how you project your voice is very important. To be very clear, very concise.
They say that you should probably stick to three items to discuss. They all say that because anything more than that they lose people’s attention. People have very short attention spans. So, whenever you are conveying an execution plan, it’s very important that you speak clearly, you are very concise, that your ideas are very clearly laid out that you stick with maybe three, no more than five, points to get the message across.
HOW TO REACH: OpTech LLC, (313) 962-9000 or www.optechus.com