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Lessons from the Great American Leaders & How They Apply Now

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Three Reasons Why Leaders Fail

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It is unrealistic to expect that all forms of leadership are successful—because they are not. The nature of leadership is such that leaders are going to take risks and fail. An effective leader learns from failure and moves forward. However, there are failures in leadership not associated with risk taking that can undermine and paralyze an organization.

With any leadership failure, one must strive to distill the reasons and causes behind it. Such failures prevent leaders and their organizations from moving forward because the subsequent barriers and voids stifle a company’s ability to seek new opportunities. Consequently, the company will not be able to take advantage of situations that increase its competitiveness, productivity and market strength.

Everyone in the organization feels the effects of failure. Often these failures can be attributed to leaders who either are improperly trained or misapply leadership principles. In either case, they often fail by backsliding into old habits.

It is important for leaders to understand that their knowledge, expertise and leadership skills will be continually challenged in a volatile and complex work environment. Overwhelmed by time and work requirements, they can easily create a situation that causes leadership failure and leaves a void for their employees.

Leadership failure is generally the result of succumbing to the three shortcomings that are discussed in this section. Highly effective leaders learn to analyze the factors behind these shortcomings that hinder their ability to lead consistently, creatively and responsibly.

Barriers, unforeseen situations and negative influences are guaranteed to surface at one time or another to test one’s ability to lead effectively. These moments of adversity can disclose areas of ineffectiveness or challenge successes that have been achieved. Leaders need to take preventative action to make sure they do not succumb to these shortcomings.

Self-Imposed Barriers

Many leaders unintentionally create personal barriers that erode their ability to maintain leadership principles, methods and motivation. Leaders who discover themselves doing any of the following should take immediate action to stop.

  • “Backseat leadership” is exhibited through indecisiveness, fence sitting and avoiding responsibility.
  • Professional and personal goals are not formalized or articulated.
  • Leaders lack a positive approach to serious issues, or fail to present suggested solutions for a defined problem.
  • They don’t understand their own strengths and weaknesses, refuse to ask others for their input, and lack a personal improvement plan.
  • Different ethical standards are applied to their personal and professional lives.
  • They don’t share ideas, time, encouragement, respect, compliments and feedback with others.
  • Employees’ weaknesses are focused on and criticized when, instead, the leader should build on and reinforce the individual’s strengths and abilities.
  • They fail to work on personal development, or don’t take it seriously enough to make a difference.

Insufficient Understanding of Leadership

  • Leadership is always responsible. It is not simply a position, job title or a manager overseeing employees. It is both a science and an art that is constantly operating. It requires motivating, monitoring, talking and training through active hands-on involvement. It removes barriers to effectiveness. In sum, leadership is responsible for everything the organization does or fails to do.
  • Leadership means understanding that the factual basis of the organization continues to change. In other words, the thinking that made an organization’s success possible yesterday is the same thinking that can result in its failure tomorrow.
  • Technology will never be able to replace leadership. The question leaders answer is, “What is the organization going to depend on when technology undermines it?” It is dangerous to believe computers and technicians can replace leaders.
  • Leadership is about looking below the surface, since the greatest dangers and the biggest opportunities reside there, hidden unless searched out. Leadership also means seeing employees as an untapped resource that can collectively identify some of the best ideas and solutions to an organization’s problems. Leaders in this role look to workers for ideas, identification of problems and possible solutions.
  • Leadership requires looking beyond the horizon. It means acknowledging that success can blind an organization. Leadership skills encourage leaders to watch for changing trends, needs, potential devastating occurrences, and possible problems that can hinder an organization’s progress.

Inflexible Goals

Goal setting is a powerful tool—but only a tool; leaders should not make more of it than what it is. Leaders are masters of their goals: their goals serve them. Leaders often fail when goals are not adjusted to reflect their current knowledge about what is best for themselves or the organization.

Setting specific goals builds commitment to achieving results. However, maintaining an inflexible commitment to a goal is dangerous. The time invested or the costs associated with a specific goal can impair the leader’s ability to objectively assess the value of one goal over another.

As goals are pursued, leaders also need to continually seek new opportunities. They can accomplish both simultaneously by doing the following:

  • Think strategically each and every day.
  • Actively seek out daily opportunities.
  • Realize a leader’s job is to identify new opportunities and quickly take advantage of them.
  • Have employees think in terms of, “What if…?” or, “How could…?” or, “Why couldn’t we…?” and other mind-expanding questions.
  • Talk with others outside the organization to discover their views on future directions.
  • Seek information from people that have a different perspective. Leaders often gravitate toward people who are similar to them, who don’t challenge them sufficiently to make a difference.
  • Remember that goal setting does reign supreme when achieving organizational success. However, to prevent leadership failure, never let goals obstruct the identification of new opportunities that may be more valuable.

Related:

Your Personal Attitudes Shape Your Environment

When the Process of Change Spins Out of Control

The Value of Personal Experience and Expertise

If you are seeking proven expertise and best practices on dealing with the challenges of leadership to train or educate your employees to solve problems and improve their performance in this area, refer to Dealing with the Challenges of Leadership: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series. Click here to learn more.

Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Finalist – 2011 Foreword Reviews‘ Book of the Year)
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web| Blog | Catalog |800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2014 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

“Leaders Should Set a Clear and Decisive Tone at the Top”

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Admiral Hyman Rickover, USN

Admiral Hyman Rickover, USN

The wealth, power and influence of the great leaders is widely known. How they achieved it is another issue unto itself. They were people of achievement, capability and resilience. They had their personal convictions continually tested as they faced countless and enormous difficulties and challenges. Yet, it was their character, ethics, morals and values that utterly defined them as great leaders. In the quest for wealth, fame and power, many individuals will tend to sacrifice these qualities on the altar of achievement.

Admiral Hyman Rickover in a 1977 speech stated, “There is abundant evidence around us to conclude that morals and ethics are becoming less prevalent in people’s lives. The standards of conduct, which lay deeply buried in accepted though for centuries no long are absolute. Many people seem unable to differentiate between physical relief and moral satisfaction; they confuse material success in life with virtue.” What distinguished the great leaders from typical ones was their refusal to sell themselves out, or to compromise their integrity for the sake of money, power or prestige.

Rickover was prophetic. Since his remarks, this country has seen corporate scandal after scandal occur, including a stable of well-known companies, such as Drexel Burnham, Enron, Arthur Anderson, WorldCom, Tyco International, Countrywide, AIG, and Lehman Brothers, just to list a few. The actions of a handful of wealthy and influential leaders  threw the country into a financial panic, as well as a lengthy and deep recession. It resulted in costing millions of individuals and families their homes, savings and retirements. It destroyed trust and credibility within our society. This was further exasperated when many of the companies and leaders who were directly responsible for such pain and misery became isolated from the consequences of their actions and behaviors through government bailouts, generous “golden parachutes,” and performance bonuses.

Sharon Allen, Chairman of Deloitte LLP wrote in the introduction to The Deloitte LLP 2010 Ethics & Workplace Survey, “Regardless of the economic environment, business leaders should be mindful of the significant impact that trust in the workplace… By establishing a values-based culture, organizations can cultivate the trust necessary to reduce turnover and mitigate unethical behavior…. Ultimately, an organization’s most senior leaders should set a clear and decisive tone at the top.”

“Ethics and moral judgment are not new concepts for leadership. They have been identified as critical characteristics of leadership over the last century. An organization’s leaders help define the culture, values, standards, and moral character of the organization having ramifications both inside and external to the organization. Ethical leaders have been found to display pride yet reject selfish and conceited behavior… Ethical leaders are not normally high-profile charismatic leaders but are quiet leaders moving ‘patiently, carefully, and incrementally…’”

The great leaders are defined by who they are as individuals. They have all been shaped by their character, morals, values, integrity and ethics. These are the values that define them as being truly great and valuable, whether or not they actually achieved publically recognized pinnacles of success.

  1. Admiral Rickover H.C., Thoughts on Man’s Purpose in Life (speech presented at the San Diego Rotary Club, 1977)
  2. The Deloitte LLP 2010 Ethics & Workplace Survey (Deloitte LLP, August, 2010)
  3. Scharff M.M., WorldCom: A Failure of Moral and Ethical Values (Journal of Applied Management and Entrepreneurship, July 2005)

Excerpt: Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It. (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI 2011)

Read a free Chapter

Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Finalist – 2011 Foreword Reviews‘ Book of the Year)
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web| Blog | Catalog |800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2014 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

Q & A: Where Have All the Leaders Gone?

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Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. - Author - Great! What Makes Leaders Great

Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. – Author – Great! What Makes Leaders Great

An Interview With the Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D., Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great

The editors of Majorium Business Press recently had the opportunity to interview Timothy Bednarz about his book: Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI 2012) to discuss his thoughts on the crisis of leadership being witnessed in America today.

Q: The research presented in Great! focuses upon 160 influential leaders, spanning 235 years. I would like to start our discussion by asking, do you believe leadership has changed over time?

Bednarz: The concept of what constitutes great leadership hasn’t changed over time. When I first started my research, I thought that genuinely great leadership was a thing of the past, but I was surprised to discover there are individuals today who can classified as great leaders.

There is no doubt that individuals are shaped by the times they lived in. However the great leaders rose to the pinnacles of success, while many of their contemporaries failed. What made the difference was the fact they developed the characteristics and leadership dimensions that allowed them to succeed.

Q: So you’re saying leadership hasn’t changed?

Bednarz: No, that’s not quite true. What has undoubtedly changed is the focus on short-term profitability and shareholder value, which often sacrifices a company’s long-term viability. This trend emerged in the mid 1980s after the success of Jack Welch at GE. Many CEOs jumped on the bandwagon and this trend changed the face of corporate leadership ever since. Consequently, this has severely eroded trust and credibility after years of scandals and downsizing that has affected literally millions of people.

Q: What impact has these two factors had on today’s leaders?

Bednarz: The Edelman Trust Barometer, which has evaluated global trust levels for the past 12 years, reported that the current levels of credibility of today’s CEOs has dropped to an all time low of 38%. This reflects a decrease of over 12% in the past twelve months.

Q: What are the implications of this drop in CEO’s credibility?

Bednarz: What is interesting about Edelman’s survey is that it emphasizes that without trust and credibility, a leaders lose their legitimacy to lead. Just because individuals are either appointed or elected to high positions of authority, doesn’t mean they have earned it. They may have the power and authority that comes with their position, but the legitimacy to lead must be granted by others, such as employees, voters, suppliers, communities, investors, and a host of potential constituencies, which leaders serve.

Q: How does this influence the concept of leadership?

Bednarz: Referring back to the idea of the earned right to lead, and from the decrease in credibility, many so-called leaders today have lost their focus on what is true leadership. To go back to your original question; has leadership changed? I firmly believe, great leadership is defined by the ability of an individual to earn the trust, respect and credibility of those that the leader serves. He or she has earned the legitimacy to lead. Every great leader I researched, over 235 years possessed trust, credibility and legitimacy, and 58% of the leaders I survey can be included in this category. All too many today solely focus on the financial performance of their companies and then wonder why they have lost their credibility.

Q: Is focusing on profits and financial performance wrong? After all this seems to be a theme in the current presidential campaign.

Bednarz: There is nothing wrong with being highly concerned about profits, and focusing on financial performance, but it needs to be balanced with the needs of all of one’s key constituencies. Great leaders today have proven this to be possible, without sacrificing financial performance. Jack Welch, whose example many corporate leaders follow, stated after he left GE that it is foolish to only focus on financial performance. It I only one factor to consider.

Q: Can you cite some examples of leaders today who have earned their legitimacy?

Bednarz: Certainly. Fred Smith of FedEx, Herb Kelleher of Southwest Airlines, Howard Schultz of Starbucks and Jeff Bezos of Amazon all come to mind, and there are certainly others.

Q: Based upon your responses and research, how would you define leadership?

Bednarz: That is an interesting question and one that I was seeking to answer, when I first started my research. There is a host of leadership books on the market, with many more written each year, yet, many are very similar, parroting the same information without providing the reader with any new insights or perspectives on the topic of leadership. I believe that to understand the topic of leadership, you need to first understand the leaders who have historically defined it and provided us with effective role models.

After years of study, I have concluded and condensed it into a brief statement; leadership is ultimately an act of faith in other people.

Q: That’s an interesting concept. Isn’t it the role of a leader to lead?

Bednarz: The operative word in your question is “lead.” The role of a leader is to inspire, motivate, influence and guide others. Think about it. In order to inspire, motivate, influence and guide other individuals, one must establish mutual bonds of loyalty, trust, respect and credibility.

Q: Can loyalty, trust, respect and credibility be measured?

Bednarz: You must understand that everything a leader does or says is judged by others and contributes to their credibility and legitimacy or ultimately undermines it. We have an environment that relies on relative rather than absolute truths. Consequently, we often observe so-called leaders making incredulous statements, devoid of any sense of intellectual honesty, and credibility, treating their audience like a bunch of fools, incapable of seeing the truth.

People view many in corporate and governmental positions of power as self-serving, without regard for others and the consequences of their actions. It is little wonder why we have a crisis of leadership. It’s everyone for themselves without regard for those they are appointed to serve. Subsequently, we see a crisis in confidence in these individuals, as noted by Eldeman’s survey.

Q: How would the great leaders that you surveyed respond to this crisis of confidence?

Bednarz: The great leaders I researched developed strong emotional bonds of loyalty, trust, respect and credibility with their employees, investors, suppliers, communities and a host of other constituencies. They were able to balance the needs of each of these groups, without sacrificing the needs of others. They had faith in the people they served, and this is reflected in the wiliness of these constituencies to eagerly believe in them and to loyally follow where they led them.

Q: Beyond the obvious benefits of loyalty, how did the great leaders you researched profit from it?

Bednarz: The emotional bonds forged by the great leaders paid dividends over time. For instance, when George Westinghouse faced financial difficulties during the Financial Panic of 1907, his employees sacrificed for him. They made personal contributions for him to save Westinghouse Electric. In another instance, Fred Smith saw his employees volunteer their time to help handle an onslaught of packages received by FedEx during the UPS strike in 1997. Herb Kelleher at Southwest Airlines has driven these attitudes deep into the company’s culture.

Q: In the introduction to your book you stated, “We stand at a critical moment in history for great leadership. The door of opportunity is wide open for us to those who desire to rise above the fray. History shows that many individuals have assumed the mantle of leadership, often not without experiencing painful failures and stifling adversities. Their actions and examples provide clear pathways to follow. This book is designed to show you the way.” Why do you think today’s leaders should look to examples of great leadership in the past?

Bednarz: America, if not the world is crying out today for ethical and strong leadership, especially since the world appears to be spinning into chaos. History has repeatedly demonstrated that great leaders emerge from difficult times. Many of the leaders focused upon in my book Great! have emerged from similar circumstances, If leaders today follow their examples and diligently study how they did it, there are many lessons that can be transferred into action that are able to transform individuals into great leaders.

Q: If you could condense the message of your book into one or two short sentences for this audience, what would you they be?

Bednarz: Two words: Leadership matters. This is true, whether as a CEO of a Fortune 500 company, or as the president of the local PTA. Great leaders can emerge at any level of an organization, at any time, and in every field. Each has the ability to make a difference in the lives of the people they lead and serve.

Q: Thank you for your time today.

Bednarz: My pleasure.

Read a Free Chapter of Great! What Makes Leaders Great

Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Finalist – 2011 Foreword Reviews‘ Book of the Year)
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web| Blog | Catalog |800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2013 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

Eight Ways Others Evaluate Trust in Leaders

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As seen in numerous large-scale corporate scandals around the turn of the century, trust or a lack thereof has a dramatic impact on an organization. While an organization can be defined as trusting and empowering, it is the individuals within it who form the basis for these qualities.

The responsibility for fostering and nurturing trust does not lie with the bottom tiers of the organization, but the managers that lead it. Where there is no trust, there is no legitimacy to management.

The starting point is the personal commitment made by individual managers.

Trust and empowerment stem from the individual actions of the manager. However, once initiated, trust and empowerment create a synergy within the organization that has the ability to move it forward to unimaginable heights.

As soon as employees know they can trust the words and actions of their managers, they are motivated. All too often the words sound good, but the accompanying actions do not follow, fostering a sense of mistrust and fear within employees.

Once managers have established trust with their employees, a strong bond is formed that is difficult to break. Unless trust is broken and people feel betrayed, employees will be intensely loyal and cooperate to achieve mutual goals and objectives. This is the strongest principle of management and its essence.

Whether or not a manager is trusted is determined by his or her actions. Anyone can make statements and pronouncements; it is actions by which an individual is judged. Managers must hold to higher standards of personal behavior if they are to foster and nurture trust with their employees, who closely observe every word and action.

Managers are judged by the following criteria:

Promises and Commitments

Corporate managers are placed under an enormous amount of stress and will miss commitments, especially minor ones made in the heat of daily activities. However, they pay close attention to what they say, and do what they promise. If unable to keep their commitment, they immediately inform the other party and make alternative arrangements.

Employees take note of a manager who makes a personal commitment but fails to keep it due to political or internal pressures. If when confronted with this failure they make excuses rather than take responsibility, they will be perceived as hypocritical. Employees with little other alternative may accept the excuse, but will inwardly feel betrayed and no longer trust the manager. The foundation for management has been greatly undermined.

Mistakes

As part of the human condition, everybody makes mistakes and fails. When managers make mistakes, they often impact and affect their organization. Trust is established when managers openly acknowledge their mistakes to their employees and apologize for them.

Managers also allow their employees to experiment, make mistakes and fail without repercussions. They foster an atmosphere where employees can learn from their mistakes and move on. Managers understand that individuals can only grow when they are allowed to learn. The most effective learning experiences stem not from successes but failures and mistakes.

Loyalty

Managers give and demand loyalty from their employees. While they understand that loyalty is earned, they do not tolerate employees who are disloyal to their organization and each other.

The most open demonstration of a manager’s own lack of loyalty can be seen in his or her constant and open criticism of superiors and employees in their absence. While loyalty is not blind, managers must demonstrate, at all times, a deep sense of allegiance to the organization, superiors, associates and employees.

If a manager takes issue with the actions of others, they should openly but privately discuss it with the individual and not criticize them behind his or her back.

Information

Managers as leaders show faith in their employees when they share information with them. In many organizations, the control of information is the basis of personal power. Managers understand that employees must be informed if they are to do their job well and be empowered to make decisions affecting their work. Those who withhold information clearly demonstrate their mistrust of employees.

Involvement

Trust is established with employees when they are included and empowered to make decisions that affect them. Trust is undermined when employees are enabled to make decisions but the decisions are never acted upon and implemented.

Effective managers actively work with their employees and trust their decisions. They work with their employees in implementing their decisions and striving toward the accomplishment of mutual goals and objectives.

Recognition

Trust is fostered and nurtured when managers recognize the individual contributions of their employees and publicly recognize them for their efforts.

When new ideas and strategies work, managers who lead never accept the credit for the idea. They always acknowledge the efforts and contributions of their employees. To do otherwise betrays the trust of those employees.

Communications

Managers build trust within their organization by maintaining open communications with all employees, superiors and associates. They understand that trust is only established when they communicate regardless of the situation and circumstances, and whether or not the information is positive or negative.

Goals and objectives are effectively met when all involved have a complete picture of what is happening around them, including the barriers and obstacles to be overcome.

Respect Confidentiality

Managers understand trust is developed when they respect and honor confidential and sensitive information provided to them by superiors, associates and employees.

They also know they must trust their employees with the confidential and sensitive information they need to do their jobs and make quality decisions. Without this confidence, managers will not be able to create a trusting environment since they are evincing a basic suspicion of their employees.

Excerpt: Building and Nurturing Trust in the Workplace: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI 2011) $16.95 USD

Related:

You Are Judged by the Actions You Take

Emotional Bonds are a Reflection of a Leader’s Effectiveness

Six Ways to Enhance Your Personal Credibility

 Can You Be Trusted? The Answer May Surprise You

Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Finalist – 2011 Foreword Reviews‘ Book of the Year)
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web| Blog | Catalog |800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2013 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

The Roadmap to Effective Leadership

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Leadership effectiveness can be thought of as “an influencing relationship process among leaders and employee followers who work collaboratively to effect real and necessary changes.” These changes tend to reflect shared purposes, goals and efforts. It is a dynamic action process focused on mutual understandings and beliefs between leaders and employees.

As there are specific rules and principles that tend to guide leadership vision and actions for effectiveness, leaders need to consider certain questions that ultimately forge their roadmap for success.

The journey toward leadership effectiveness should always begin with a question such as: “What improvement is needed within the organization, and what specific steps do I need to bring it about?” Though senior management typically passes down mandates, timelines and expected goals, it is the individual leader’s responsibility to put them into a time lined and vision-directed framework in order to generate positive results.

The roadmap for effective leadership also includes developing higher levels of self-direction, vision, planning and goal achievement, which comes from inspiring others and building cohesiveness, as well as maintaining personal accountability.

In order to begin the path for leadership effectiveness it is important to ask another question: “What’s possible here, and how does the organization and its members stand to benefit?”

A leader’s roadmap to effectiveness consists of a series of factors that motivate people to follow. There are four basic qualities that help develop a focus on individual efforts that consistently will lead all involved workplace members beyond routine thinking and performance.

Leader effectiveness is not simply defined by actions made in response to obvious or crisis situations and circumstances. In reality, true effectiveness centers around the ability to move from a “mission impossible” to a “mission outcome” stance. To move consistently forward, leaders need to rely on specific procedures and actions encompassing multiple areas of skill and direction.

Elements of management and leader effectiveness often tend to overlap. However, leadership effectiveness is defined in a completely different context. Instead of focusing on basic management principles, practices and procedures as a roadmap for success, the four elements that leaders focus on are self-direction, goal achievement, flexibility and inspiring others to attain greatness. As an integral part of focusing on these factors, leaders recognize the importance of:

Gaining the Cooperation of Others

Establishing and cultivating a cooperative spirit is one of the primary means of increasing leadership effectiveness. Leaders use it to generate and maintain personal and employee enthusiasm for task and project facilitation. This spirit drives an organization and its people to higher levels of productivity and accomplishment.

Building and establishing a cooperative spirit takes concerted effort and begins with understanding basic human needs and desires. Effective leaders use needs and personal desires to nudge employees in the right direction, while constantly detailing and emphasizing just how motivation works to everyone’s benefit.

Making emotional connections is part of the process. This implies being able to evaluate performance and results by measuring them against one’s own expectations and goals. It also means acknowledging that as a leader, one needs followers. A truly effective leader builds a sense of workplace interdependence, which is able to gain and produce more in the long term than all combined individual efforts.

The basis for establishing a cooperative spirit lies in examining and analyzing how best to initiate and excel in tasks. Leaders need to be continually identifying their weakest areas, and, in order to improve upon them, need to set specific goals to turn them into strengths. Excelling in tasks and in implementing procedures and assignments helps leaders feel more in control over work-related situations and occurrences, which tends to increase their personal job enthusiasm and stamina.

Related: Interactive Leadership is the Practice of Leadership By Example

Leaders Gain Cooperation by Understanding Their Employees

Beyond workers with a job, effective leaders know their success is inextricably tied to their employees—who like them have concerns, hopes and aspirations. As such, they take the time to converse with and ask questions of their employees. They find out what motivates as well as hinders, frustrates or concerns them. This brings information, concerns, ideas and perspectives to the forefront in order to identify problems, opportunities, and the best actions to take in regard to them.

Related: Encourage Questions to Improve Open Communication

Effective Leadership is Predicated upon the Ability to Listen and Learn

Continuous learning and listening needs to become a top priority if leaders are to excel. Effective leaders never forget where they have been, and use their own as well as others’ experiences to dictate where they should go, and why. Learning from past errors in judgment prevents similar types of problems and negative consequences from occurring.

It is essential for leaders to have their ears and eyes on every person, process and situation, not in a controlling sense, but in order to listen for ideas, impending concerns, problems, successes and unhappiness. Effective leaders absorb everything and act on the knowledge they gain to prevent conflict or work slowdowns from occurring. They are watchful for opportunities to make people feel successful, competent and comfortable in the work environment.

Effective leaders further recognize they are not reactive, but proactive by nature, where good listening and learning habits set both a positive example in the workplace and the foundation for corrective action before problems can take root and sap productivity.

Effective Leaders Sacrifice Self to the Needs of Others

Acknowledging and taking the stance of self-sacrifice is what separates leaders from the rest of the pack. Good leaders set their egos aside. They are not afraid to get involved and help out in various projects or situations alongside the people under their direction. They are flexible, continually slowing down or speeding up as they assess their employee’s productivity and individual efforts.

Skilled leaders never set or rescind a rule that becomes disruptive to workplace harmony or to any individual employee. Placing employees’ needs first means keeping tasks clear, simple and obvious, which makes for a committed workforce. It means making sure employees know exactly what is expected of them and how to complete the tasks assigned. They also focus on ways to make their own assignments and projects simpler, more direct and clearly defined.

Related: Your Commitment to Others Defines You as a Leader

Success Springs from a Consistent and Positive Workplace Example

Accepting others as they are and embracing differences and unique qualities tends to generate mutual respect and open communication. Thus leaders work at building cohesiveness through cooperative efforts and hold employees and themselves accountable to achieving their goals and vision.

Positive examples can only be set when outward actions correspond with words and do not send a mixed message. Success is entirely dependent upon following through with promises and commitments without deviating from what was promised, even under stress and adversity. Therefore leaders remain inwardly and outwardly genuine, and use discretion in everything they plan, say and do.

Related: Seven Ways to Lead by Example

Excerpt: Becoming a Leader of Your Own Making: Pinpoint Management Skill Development Training Series (Majorium Business Press, 2011)

Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Finalist – 2011 Foreword Reviews‘ Book of the Year)
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web| Blog | Catalog |800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2012 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

Written by Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D.

November 28, 2012 at 1:18 pm

The Roadmap to Effective Leadership

with 5 comments

Leadership effectiveness can be thought of as “an influencing relationship process among leaders and employee followers who work collaboratively to effect real and necessary changes.” These changes tend to reflect shared purposes, goals and efforts. It is a dynamic action process focused on mutual understandings and beliefs between leaders and employees.

As there are specific rules and principles that tend to guide leadership vision and actions for effectiveness, leaders need to consider certain questions that ultimately forge their roadmap for success.

The journey toward leadership effectiveness should always begin with a question such as: “What improvement is needed within the organization, and what specific steps do I need to bring it about?” Though senior management typically passes down mandates, timelines and expected goals, it is the individual leader’s responsibility to put them into a time lined and vision-directed framework in order to generate positive results.

The roadmap for effective leadership also includes developing higher levels of self-direction, vision, planning and goal achievement, which comes from inspiring others and building cohesiveness, as well as maintaining personal accountability.

In order to begin the path for leadership effectiveness it is important to ask another question: “What’s possible here, and how does the organization and its members stand to benefit?”

A leader’s roadmap to effectiveness consists of a series of factors that motivate people to follow. There are four basic qualities that help develop a focus on individual efforts that consistently will lead all involved workplace members beyond routine thinking and performance.

Leader effectiveness is not simply defined by actions made in response to obvious or crisis situations and circumstances. In reality, true effectiveness centers around the ability to move from a “mission impossible” to a “mission outcome” stance. To move consistently forward, leaders need to rely on specific procedures and actions encompassing multiple areas of skill and direction.

Elements of management and leader effectiveness often tend to overlap. However, leadership effectiveness is defined in a completely different context. Instead of focusing on basic management principles, practices and procedures as a roadmap for success, the four elements that leaders focus on are self-direction, goal achievement, flexibility and inspiring others to attain greatness. As an integral part of focusing on these factors, leaders recognize the importance of:

Gaining the Cooperation of Others

Establishing and cultivating a cooperative spirit is one of the primary means of increasing leadership effectiveness. Leaders use it to generate and maintain personal and employee enthusiasm for task and project facilitation. This spirit drives an organization and its people to higher levels of productivity and accomplishment.

Building and establishing a cooperative spirit takes concerted effort and begins with understanding basic human needs and desires. Effective leaders use needs and personal desires to nudge employees in the right direction, while constantly detailing and emphasizing just how motivation works to everyone’s benefit.

Making emotional connections is part of the process. This implies being able to evaluate performance and results by measuring them against one’s own expectations and goals. It also means acknowledging that as a leader, one needs followers. A truly effective leader builds a sense of workplace interdependence, which is able to gain and produce more in the long term than all combined individual efforts.

The basis for establishing a cooperative spirit lies in examining and analyzing how best to initiate and excel in tasks. Leaders need to be continually identifying their weakest areas, and, in order to improve upon them, need to set specific goals to turn them into strengths. Excelling in tasks and in implementing procedures and assignments helps leaders feel more in control over work-related situations and occurrences, which tends to increase their personal job enthusiasm and stamina.

Leaders Gain Cooperation by Understanding Their Employees

Beyond workers with a job, effective leaders know their success is inextricably tied to their employees—who like them have concerns, hopes and aspirations. As such, they take the time to converse with and ask questions of their employees. They find out what motivates as well as hinders, frustrates or concerns them. This brings information, concerns, ideas and perspectives to the forefront in order to identify problems, opportunities, and the best actions to take in regard to them.

Effective Leadership is Predicated upon the Ability to Listen and Learn

Continuous learning and listening needs to become a top priority if leaders are to excel. Effective leaders never forget where they have been, and use their own as well as others’ experiences to dictate where they should go, and why. Learning from past errors in judgment prevents similar types of problems and negative consequences from occurring.

It is essential for leaders to have their ears and eyes on every person, process and situation, not in a controlling sense, but in order to listen for ideas, impending concerns, problems, successes and unhappiness. Effective leaders absorb everything and act on the knowledge they gain to prevent conflict or work slowdowns from occurring. They are watchful for opportunities to make people feel successful, competent and comfortable in the work environment.

Effective leaders further recognize they are not reactive, but proactive by nature, where good listening and learning habits set both a positive example in the workplace and the foundation for corrective action before problems can take root and sap productivity.

Effective Leaders Sacrifice Self to the Needs of Others

Acknowledging and taking the stance of self-sacrifice is what separates leaders from the rest of the pack. Good leaders set their egos aside. They are not afraid to get involved and help out in various projects or situations alongside the people under their direction. They are flexible, continually slowing down or speeding up as they assess their employee’s productivity and individual efforts.

Skilled leaders never set or rescind a rule that becomes disruptive to workplace harmony or to any individual employee. Placing employees’ needs first means keeping tasks clear, simple and obvious, which makes for a committed workforce. It means making sure employees know exactly what is expected of them and how to complete the tasks assigned. They also focus on ways to make their own assignments and projects simpler, more direct and clearly defined.

Success Springs from a Consistent and Positive Workplace Example

Accepting others as they are and embracing differences and unique qualities tends to generate mutual respect and open communication. Thus leaders work at building cohesiveness through cooperative efforts and hold employees and themselves accountable to achieving their goals and vision.

Positive examples can only be set when outward actions correspond with words and do not send a mixed message. Success is entirely dependent upon following through with promises and commitments without deviating from what was promised, even under stress and adversity. Therefore leaders remain inwardly and outwardly genuine, and use discretion in everything they plan, say and do.

Excerpt: Becoming a Leader of Your Own Making: Pinpoint Management Skill Development Training Series (Majorium Business Press, 2011) $ 16.95 USD

If you would like to learn more about professional leadership development, refer to Becoming a Leader of Your Own Making: Pinpoint Management Skill Development Training Series. This training skill-pack features eight key interrelated concepts, each with their own discussion points and training activity. It is ideal as an informal training tool for coaching or personal development. It can also be used as a handbook and guide for group training discussions. Click here to learn more.

Copyright © 2011 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

Written by Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D.

November 15, 2011 at 9:45 am

It’s the Little Things that Count

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Leaders are walking testimonies of their beliefs, values and philosophies. It’s not the broad pronouncements, but the little things that count… the platoon leader who allows his soldiers of the pick of the rations before picking his, usually the least desirable meal… the entrepreneur that bets the farm and sticks to it, when things get tough, rather than close the business… the manager who gets his hands dirty fixing a critical piece of equipment so the production line doesn’t shut down… the CEO who goes out with his or her sales people to keep in touch with the customer.

There are so many things that employees, stakeholders and constituents observe that deserve praise or develop distain. A leader’s actions are transparent. People notice if they are self-serving or servants. The best have a servant mentality that tends to be modeled throughout the organization culture.

The self-serving leader telegraphs another message: “Every man for himself.” Employees know that when the going get tough, the self-serving leader is out the door. How often do we see the actions of the self-serving leader displayed in Corporate America?

In the real world words have meaning and actions have consequences. Often it is what is not seen or is seen behind doors is what builds trust, loyalty and credibility. What a leader does when no one is looking defines his or her character. Just because its seemingly hidden, doesn’t mean no one is looking.

If you would like to learn more about the great American leader’s servant attitudes, through their own inspiring words and stories, refer to Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It. It illustrates how great leaders built great companies, and how you can apply the strategies, concepts and techniques that they pioneered to improve your own leadership skills. Click here to learn more.

Copyright © 2009 Timothy F. Bednarz All Rights Reserved

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