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Lessons from the Great American Leaders & How They Apply Now

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Have You Earned Permission to Lead?

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The fundamental essence of leadership is legitimacy, whose substance is based upon authority and validity. While authority is conferred, validity is earned through the development of credibility, trust and a balance of emotional standing and connections, with all key constituencies.

Legitimacy is a cornerstone of effective leadership. All of the great leaders have it. However, legitimacy is seldom discussed, if even mentioned in most leadership books. This leads to confusion as to what defines legitimacy. Its definition needs to be clarified and placed within the proper context.

Legitimacy is derived from two separate sources that give leaders permission to lead. The first source is authority or the power granted to leaders by either election, or appointment to an office. In the business setting, this is conferred by the stockholders through the board of directors.

The second source is validity. Validity is not conferred, nor is it automatically achieved once a leader is appointed to a position. It is earned and is a contributing factor to the authority granted to a leader, typically over the span of his or her career. This defines a leader as genuine and authentic in the eyes of all key constituencies.

Both sources of legitimacy compliment each other, but validity provides an enduring, yet fragile acquiescence of all the constituencies that gives a leader the tacit permission to lead. It is built upon three critical factors: trust, credibility and emotional balance. These are the hallmarks of great leaders. Without the presence of these critical factors, the leader’s validity collapses. Once a leader loses his or her validity, the authority to lead is effectively undermined.

“Leadership is a privilege. Those who receive the mantle must also know they can expect an accounting of their stewardships. It is not uncommon for people to forego higher salaries to join an organization with strong, ethical leadership. Most individuals desire leadership they can admire and respect. They want to be in sync with that brand of leader, and will often parallel their own lives after that person…” [1]

[1] Huntsman,Jon M. Winners Never Cheat Even in Difficult Times (Wharton School Publishing, Upper Saddle River, NJ, 2009) p 73

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 © 2013 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

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Personal Credibility is Anchored in Character and Integrity

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William Hewlett and David Packard - Founders of Hewlett-Packard

William Hewlett and David Packard – Founders of Hewlett-Packard

Personal credibility is based upon a leader’s character and integrity and the actions and behaviors that stem from them. Far from perfect, many of the influential American leaders I surveyed possessed character flaws and displayed at times, questionable ethical behaviors. Yet their personal credibility remained intact.

So it is safe to ascertain that perfection is not humanly expected and attainable as a leader, but self-awareness of one’s strengths and weaknesses is essential. It reflects both maturity and authenticity, which only then serves to enhance a leader’s personal credibility.

An observance of the absence of self-awareness resulted in a strong emergence of arrogance and hubris that diminished and ultimately destroyed credibility on all levels.

Obviously unless problematic or weak leaders make concerted efforts to change their character and integrity, they are remain unalterable. However leaders do have control over the actions, behaviors and decisions that influence and shape their personal credibility.

This once again involves self-awareness as well as comprehensive critical thinking abilities to examine the consequences of both their long and short-term actions. All leaders have choices, but the right choices demand a leader’s willingness and acquiescence.

Leaders must also be cognizant of their levels of personal credibility on all of their key constituencies. In the current environment where short-term profitability is emphasized, many leaders damage their credibility by only focusing on their shareholder expectations at the expense of their other constituencies.

My research demonstrates this can be fatal. The leaders listed Worst CEOs of All Time by Portfolio Magazine commonly practiced it. As evidenced within the Legitimacy Principles, this imbalance ultimately leads to a loss of validity.

The Legitimacy Principles enumerate the linkages of leaders’ legitimacy, credibility, trust and a balance of emotional standing and bonds with all key constituencies. The synergetic relationship between these key factors of success is the foundation of effective leadership and provides insight into a new definition of it.

The fundamental essence of leadership is legitimacy, whose substance is based upon authority and validity. While authority is conferred, validity is earned through the development of credibility, trust and a balance of emotional standing and connections with all key constituencies.

The presence of the Legitimacy Principles endow leaders with the authority to lead, manage, execute, empower, effectively communicate, sell their vision, generate a passion for success, and overcome adversity. Their absence results in ultimate failure as an effective leader.

What can we learn from these leader’s examples and apply to our lives? In summary, the following recommendations are suggested:

  1. Develop an awareness of your personal strengths and weaknesses including a frank assessment of your character and personal levels of integrity.
  2. Determine how these affect your personal credibility.
  3. Identify what actions, decisions and behaviors you can change.
  4. Develop a habit of assessing the impact and consequences of your actions on your personal credibility.
  5. Change what you can, and manage and control what you can’t.
  6. Remember this is an evolutionary process and not a singular event. History shows that individuals evolved into becoming great leaders over the span of their entire careers. For many it was a struggle.

It is important to remember that no leader is an island onto oneself, who functions in isolation. Nor is the individual the first one to encounter problems associated with building his or her credibility. Universally, the leaders surveyed all struggled with this issue at one point or another in their careers.

Related:

Legitimacy: The Sole Basis of Leadership

An Accurate Predictor of Leadership Performance

Five Ways to Establish Trust and Credibility

Eight Actions Determine If You Can Be Trusted

Adapted From: 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 © 2013 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

An Accurate Predictor of Leadership Performance

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The Legitimacy Principles enumerate the linkages of leaders’ legitimacy, credibility, trust and a balance of emotional standing and bonds with all key constituencies. The synergetic relationship between these key factors of success is the foundation of effective leadership and provides insight into a new definition of it.

The fundamental essence of leadership is legitimacy, whose substance is based upon authority and validity. While authority is conferred, validity is earned through the development of credibility, trust and a balance of emotional standing and connections with all key constituencies.

The presence of the Legitimacy Principles endow leaders with the authority to lead, manage, execute, empower, effectively communicate, sell their vision, generate a passion for success, and overcome adversity. Their absence results in ultimate failure as an effective leader.

– The Legitimacy Principles

The use and application of the Legitimacy Principles are an influential standard of leadership performance. A close examination of the key components comprising the Principles reveals that it incorporates virtually every aspect of effective leadership and management required to be successful in leading a corporation, especially in the dynamic environment of the 21st Century.

Whether utilized by individuals who desire to evaluate their own performance, or companies who wish to evaluate the progress and effectiveness of their individual leaders, the Principles will reveal gaps in performance and weaknesses that need to be addressed.

Boards of directors and investors can apply it to assess the performance of senior management to determine if their strategies are effective in achieving specific goals and objectives. Most strategies manifest the worldview of the leaders who create them.

This is evidenced in case after case, where the great leaders who met the criteria of the Legitimacy Principles generated impressive performance and financial results, such as Herb Kelleher (Southwest Airlines), Kemmons Wilson (Holiday Inn), Arthur Blank (Home Depot), and Andrew Carnegie (Carnegie Steel), just to cite a few.

It was not unusual to see corporate performance diminish after these individuals left their companies and were replaced by those who did not completely meet the criteria of the Legitimacy Principles.

Jim Collins documented his research on exceptional company performance in Good to Great (Harper Business, New York, NY, 2001). Included in my research are also some leaders of the companies he evaluated. In his subsequent book, How the Mighty Fall (Harper Collins, New York, NY 2009) he attempted to explain why some of the original companies he studied no longer excelled.

In each case the key leadership changed, a factor Collins alludes to, but does not conclusively link to reductions in performance. In correlating my research with his I discovered that those placed in new leadership positions no longer appeared to meet the criteria of the Legitimacy Principles.

Consequently their company’s performance faltered. Collins bases his research upon the analysis of financial data, while mine focuses upon specific leadership dimensions. The fact that in selected examples we both arrive at the same conclusions validates the findings of my research even though we approached the problem from two distinct perspectives.

If the Legitimacy Principles disclose a leadership imbalance in senior management, most certainly it will be reflected in their thinking and plans. It will be a reliable predictor for future performance.

Once the concepts behind the Legitimacy Principles are understood, these can be easily applied to evaluate leaders in all walks of life, including politicians seeking election.

It may require changing the constituencies where emotional bonds are formed to suit the position of the leader. Obviously, politicians have a different set of constituencies than would a corporate leader. With that said, all of the criteria still remains applicable. Its utilization will reveal the focus and impetus of the leader being analyzed.

For the individual who doesn’t think the practices of past leaders don’t have any relevance today, the identification of the Legitimacy Principles and their successful application by great leaders spanning 235 years substantiates their validity.

Circumstances may have changed, but the great leaders of years past faced similar problems and obstacles as leaders do today. They needed to deal with rapid change and globalization, albeit in a slower form, but the challenges they faced were no less formidable, and they prevailed. What we can learn from them can definitely help overcome our current leadership crisis.

For more information on this topic and to read a free chapter, refer to Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It by Timothy F. Bednarz (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI 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

Have You Earned Permission to Lead?

with 4 comments

The fundamental essence of leadership is legitimacy, whose substance is based upon authority and validity. While authority is conferred, validity is earned through the development of credibility, trust and a balance of emotional standing and connections, with all key constituencies.

Legitimacy is a cornerstone of effective leadership. All of the great leaders have it. However, legitimacy is seldom discussed, if even mentioned in most leadership books. This leads to confusion as to what defines legitimacy. Its definition needs to be clarified and placed within the proper context.

Legitimacy is derived from two separate sources that give leaders permission to lead. The first source is authority or the power granted to leaders by either election, or appointment to an office. In the business setting, this is conferred by the stockholders through the board of directors.

The second source is validity. Validity is not conferred, nor is it automatically achieved once a leader is appointed to a position. It is earned and is a contributing factor to the authority granted to a leader, typically over the span of his or her career. This defines a leader as genuine and authentic in the eyes of all key constituencies.

Both sources of legitimacy compliment each other, but validity provides an enduring, yet fragile acquiescence of all the constituencies that gives a leader the tacit permission to lead. It is built upon three critical factors: trust, credibility and emotional balance. These are the hallmarks of great leaders. Without the presence of these critical factors, the leader’s validity collapses. Once a leader loses his or her validity, the authority to lead is effectively undermined.

“Leadership is a privilege. Those who receive the mantle must also know they can expect an accounting of their stewardships. It is not uncommon for people to forego higher salaries to join an organization with strong, ethical leadership. Most individuals desire leadership they can admire and respect. They want to be in sync with that brand of leader, and will often parallel their own lives after that person…” [1]

[1] Huntsman,Jon M. Winners Never Cheat Even in Difficult Times (Wharton School Publishing, Upper Saddle River, NJ, 2009) p 73

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

If you would like to learn more about the great American leaders established legitimacy and credibility with their key constituencies, 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 © 2011 Timothy F. Bednarz All Rights Reserved

Written by Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D.

May 19, 2011 at 11:07 am

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