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Dr. Shirley Says...

Leadership 2000

Some people believe leaders are born, some say they are “called,” others contend they are “made” by the times.  However leaders come into being, they are in demand in the new millennium.
Contemporary leadership theorists are returning to the trait theory of leadership. They are finding that certain demonstrable qualities are shared by leaders. Among those qualities are the following. Which ones do you associate with yourself?
•Communicates •Is self-confident
•Develops teams •Is ethical
•Shares knowledge •Envisions
•Motivates •Follows through
•Energizes •Welcomes change
•Researches •Organizes

These are all essential qualities followers expect in a leader. How these expectations are met, or not met, is what determines a leader's credibility factor. Credibility may well be one of the most difficult attributes for a leader to earn, and one of the easiest to lose.

According to Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner, authors of The Leadership Challenge, there are six strategies leaders can take to build and maintain their credibility. I will summarize these strategies for you to consider. I also encourage you to assess yourself in relationship to how you are currently leading those for whom you are accountable.

Strategy No. 1 - Clarify Your Values
It is important for leaders to communicate their values to those they lead because those values are the foundation on which everything else is built. Conveying who you are, your goals and what you stand for can have a significant impact upon your followers' performance and attitudes.

Strategy No. 2 - Identify What Your Followers Want
Followers are unanimous in naming responsiveness to their needs and concerns as a key factor they look for in a leader. Leaders who act only in their own self-interest, ignoring the needs of their followers, eventually lose the trust of those they lead.

Strategy No. 3 - Build Consensus
Followers want leaders who trust the experience and ideas of those they lead; they want leaders who seek and respect their input. While followers understand that it is the leader who must ultimately make the decision, they also know that credible leaders include and involve their followers in charting a course and setting standards. When a leader doesn't collaborate with his or her team, the message the team receives is that their ideas are not important or trustworthy. This is not a message that contributes to a leader's credibility.

Strategy No. 4 - Communicate Shared Values with Enthusiasm
Enthusiasm emerges as a crucial characteristic of leadership. Followers want and need leaders who can communicate shared values with ardor and conviction. They want leaders who have energy, who become involved, who express their genuine passion for what the organization is working to accomplish. Enthusiasm is contagious. Followers catch it from their leaders. As Barry Posner reminds us, "You can't light a fire with a wet match."

Strategy No. 5 - Stand Up for Your Beliefs
Followers don't follow leaders who lack confidence in their own decisions. While leaders must be open to alternatives and listen to feedback, they must also take a stand. Leaders who do not stand by their beliefs create stress, indecision and conflict in their team.

Strategy No. 6 - Lead by Example
Followers expect their leaders to do more than lead; they expect them to teach and develop leadership within their organization and to do this by setting an example. People believe action over words every time. To be credible, a leader must be a role model. Leaders cannot hold others responsible for shared values when they don't live by those values themselves.

A final word: Leadership is not about doing it yourself. It is about building relationships with others as representatives build relationships with clients. At the heart of those relationships is credibility. A leader's credibility and believability are what enables others in any organization to achieve excellence and experience success.

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