Building You – The Leader (Be Yourself, Know Yourself, Grow Yourself)
By Joan Resnick
Today – People are thrust into roles of leadership quickly, often without warning or proper training. This sudden role change may be as a part of a promotion in a fast track organization, where the newly minted leader must hit the ground running, or as the results of a layoff in an organization looking to survive. Either way, the new leader is thrust into a role they were not prepared for.
This article is to provide a requirements guide for executives, managers, or the new leader themselves. It is by no means a comprehensive list, but it is a start towards covering the primary areas of expertise, knowledge, and understanding required to lead successfully. The areas we are going to review in this article are the leaders Personal Attributes. Personal Attributes are a blend of knowledge, expertise, and competencies required to maintain a level of leadership that people will follow.
The following “guides” will help you develop individual as well as team standards. The essential personal attributes are as follows.
• Presenting a Positive Image,
- If this is a sudden leadership role, be upfront with people. The words “This is new for me” will help explain any hesitancy you may display at first, but not to the point of allowing people to doubt your ability.
- Behave in a professional manner, at all times.
- Do not confuse leading with always initiating action or making decisions. Develop a process for making decisions so people know what kind of decisions you will make on your own, in consultation or via collaboration. In general, the more complex and impactful a decision will be, the better it is to involve other people in the process.
- Leadership styles are just as strong in the role of observer, supporter and challenger as they are when initiating action. Be flexible.
- Be open-minded and responsive to the needs of others;
- Work towards personal and career development goals;
• Be part of the leadership team that helps create and communicate the corporate vision.
- Remember, you are part of a team of leaders, not the sole leader in the company. The answers do not solely rest on your shoulders.
- Garner support at all levels.
- Leadership is not a matter of “pulling” or “pushing” people to get something accomplished. Leaders “guide” others to contribute to the strategic goals.
- Give visible personal support to the strategic direction
• Personal Ethics
- Adopt a balanced, open-minded approach to the ethical concerns of others.
- Support colleagues; demonstrating fairness and integrity at all times;
- Support Corporate Goals and Objectives;
- Consider the ethical issues and the implications of your personal decisions as they balance against that of the organizations activity;
- Raise ethical issues before proposing or agreeing to decisions; Opening discuss the implications – either pro or con to decisions – before they become mandated. Make sure you exam both sides of all issues.
- Resist pressures from within the organization (or its partners or various divisions) to achieve objectives by unethical means.
• Think strategically.
- Learn how the different functions, physical divisions, and layers of your organization should work together:
- Look for and adopt a level of understanding for the complexities of the external environment. Develop a plan for how your organization can best respond to the changes;
- Do your own SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) test on the organization. For those areas that are below the margin, determine a way to strengthen them. For those that are above the mark, calculate a way to take advantage of them.
- Examine the Strategic objectives of the organization. Determine how they are influenced by all the current and forecast influences that will impact on the organization;
- Examine the operational objectives. Are they in line with and support the strategic objectives of the organization;
- Examine the behavior of current and potential competitors. Are they in line with your organization? If not, why? Do you need to be inline with them?
• Personal & Corporate Communication
- Be responsive to messages.
- Look for signals from the internal and external resources.
- Make effective use of communication channels from and to all levels within the organization;
- Encourage the exchange of information within the organization, and amongst suppliers, customers and partners;
- Listen to others, including those with opposing views,
- Select personal communication styles that are appropriate to the different situations and audiences.
- Use information effectively – establish reputable resources
- Establishing multiple channels and networks that generate a constant flow of information, from within and outside the organization.
- Analyze information received objectively.
- Constantly gather and use the information gathered effectively, dismissing any unproven information or information speculative in nature.
- Do not assume anything; know.
• Make Qualified Decisions,
- Establish a flexible approach to the analysis of the information you receive, learn to recognize when more information won’t improve the quality of a decision and be prepared to adapt – or manage the drift;
- Bring out personal experience; knowledge and adapt solutions for current and potential problems;
- Consider alternate solutions; Research on decision-making shows that leaders often overlook “what could go wrong” once they’ve set a path forward and thereby find it difficult to adjust afterwards. Remember, there are no final solutions, only steps in the journey of continual improvement.
- Be sure that the decision you select is feasible, achievable, and affordable, be prepared to adjust as you learn from feedback;
- Consider the impact of the decision on ALL stakeholders, at all levels, before approving implementation.
- Once a decision is made, work with it. Do not second-guess yourself, but do practice learning from feedback after a decision is reached, by monitoring success factors.
• Develop Effective Teams
- Appreciate the contribution of others at all levels in the organization;
- Ensure that individuals and teams are kept informed of plans, developments and issues that will affect them;
- Ensure that individual and team development schemes are given appropriate priority;
- Provide personal support for the implementation and maintenance of individuals and teams at all levels.
• Behave with Authority – not Superiority
- Taking personal responsibility for decisions and actions you make;
- Get involved in activities and events;
- Deal confidently and professionally when challenged. Manage your anger.
- Learn to say no. Do not get shackled by unreasonable demands.
- Protecting individuals and teams from unfair or discriminatory actions;
- o Remain professional all times.
• Concentrate on Results
- Nurture a company and personal culture that demands high standards and high levels of performance;
- Stay focused on objectives and planned outcomes,
- Do not procrastinate. Address issues and solve problems when they arise;
- Plan and schedule personal work, making the best use of available resources;
- Delegate authority appropriately; giving personal attention to the critical issues and events, but not to the point of micro-management.
• Manage yourself
- Examine closely and constantly your personal performance and progress;
- Ask for feedback on personal performance;
- Acknowledge that there is always room to learn and grow.
- Change personal behavior in the light of feedback received;
- Develop a practice of finding time for reflection and growing self-awareness.
In summary: these essential attributes are many, and sometimes difficult to maintain consistently, unless you are aware of them. The leaders of all organizations, regardless of size of the organization, should be role models for others. These are learned characteristics, which through continuous development, can be enhanced.
Joan Resnick is a Professional Trainer, Coach, Facilitator, and Mediator, and the owner of The Real Life Training Group.
Joan has trained scores of government agency leaders through Real Life Training Group, her Ashland-based company. Clients have included leaders from the Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. Forest Service, the Rogue Valley Council of Governments and other organizations.
Joan developed the Leadership Growth Series of courses to teach leadership for individuals in government and corporate environments’. She can be reached for consultation at Joan@RealLifeTrainingGroup.com or by calling 1-888-488-7921
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