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Road to success

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1. Encourage employees to disagree with you. Companies get into trouble when everyone is afraid to speak truth to power. "If all you hear is how great you're doing, that should be a danger sign," says executive coach Ray Williams.

2. Don't micromanage. Empower the people below you, then leave them alone. "A good part of leadership is stepping back," says Bill Pasmore, senior vice president at the Center for Creative Leadership. "A good leader leads from front and back."

3. When people err, don't destroy them. But make sure they learn whatever lessons there are to be learned from their mistakes.

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4. Show compassion. "Develop strong interpersonal relationships at work, so employees have some meaning attached to the work they are doing," Williams says.

5. Vow to be constantly learning and curious. Pasmore advises taking risks and asking yourself, "What is it that I don't know that I should know? How do I learn it and test it out in situations that are not necessarily safe?"

6. Know yourself. "Just like you can't start a weight-loss program without getting on a scale, you must begin your journey by learning the truth about yourself," says executive coach Tasha Eurich. "We're often the worst evaluators of our behavior." Adds Pasmore, "One of the biggest problems I see is a real lack of self-awareness. Executives often aren't aware of who they are as people and the impact they have on others."

7. Be laser-focused. Stick to one goal at a time. "Leaders often choose too many development goals. Give yourself the greatest chance for victory by developing one thing at a time," Eurich says. "It is far better to make progress in one area than to make little or none in five."

8. Get rid of poor managers. "Of the 60 top executives at Continental, I probably replaced 40 who were not team players," says retired airline CEO Gordon Bethune. "Don't tolerate factionalism, backstabbing or prima donnas. Everyone wins, or no one wins."

9. Practice leadership skills daily. "The amount of deliberate practice you choose will be proportionate to your improvement," Eurich says. "It's like learning a violin concerto. You have to learn the concepts, then you practice every day to create beautiful music."

Rob Reuteman teaches business journalism at Colorado State University. he was a longtime editor and columnist at Rocky Mountain News.

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