Leadership continues to be a hot topic in the corporate world. Anyone wanting to brush their skills as a leader or learn to become a leader may take to the how-to world of books and suddenly find themselves overwhelmed by the more than 17,000 choices on the topic. These 17,000 different leadership books are a telltale sign that there is not any one clear answer on how to be a leader.
Studies, like James Kouzes & Barry Posner’s work, continue to show, however, that some key essentials factor into people’s willingness to follow a leader. For some 30 years Kouzes and Posner have found that people – across countries, cultures, ethnicity, organizational hierarchies and functions, ages and levels of education – rate the same four qualities of a leader as the most important year after year.
In sum, people will follow leaders who are:
It isn’t a surprise, really, that it matters whether our leaders demonstrate integrity. Unfortunately, the almost daily (bad) news about crooks who (mis)lead organizations for their own personal gain on the expense of others makes us suspicious of all leaders – especially in the fields of politics and financial services. If a leader’s trustworthiness is suspect, leadership has no foundation. Although some people in power positions can first come across as charming and can manipulate others to follow them for a while, the liars won’t last. Leaders build credibility by being transparent and real – even when they admit to their faults.
Every team, working group, company, organization and even nation needs leaders who can invite others to “dream the dream” with them, see the “bigger picture” and believe in the ultimate vision. The forward-looking leaders not only help people visualize the future state of affairs but they keep reminding everyone what is possible with their contributions and effort. People forget why they do what they do when the daily routine overwhelms them but when a leader holds the torch and has their eyes on the prize, they remember why and the “every day grind” begins to make sense.
If you want be trusted by your team you better keep your skills and knowledge current. Subject matter experts are often elevated to the status of a leader because people put their trust in their competence. Learning is a life long exercise – and it keeps egos in check. Being a learner can be a humbling experience; therefore, it is especially healthy for those who begin to think of themselves as very important persons.
Although not every leader is an extrovert (actually, there is some research that says that the best leaders are, in fact, more introverted than extroverted) they do need to be able to communicate in inspiring ways. Followers expect a certain level “personal dynamism” or “executive presence” in order to find the leader believable. Inspiring leaders are often story-tellers and transform their organizations by showing their own vulnerabilities and that they care, hear and see the people who they work with and who they serve.
In my coaching of executives, the work often starts with an assessment how well they score in these four qualities. The results are immediate because the minute they have self-awareness of all these four areas, we can start focusing on conscious changes in behavior. How will you demonstrate these qualities in your daily work as a leader?
Article Author: Kristiina Hiukka is a Seattle-based professional leadership consultant, coach and trainer. She works with CEO’s who are ready to invest in women leaders in their companies. She specializes in up and coming CFO’s, CEO’s, and Management Teams. She believes in creating positivity driven performance cultures. She grooms leaders and facilitates teams at small companies as well as global organizations such as Microsoft, Nokia, and the American Red Cross. She founded Women in Innovation, a community and summit that convenes women leaders with Big Ideas. A native of Finland, Kristiina serves as Honorary Vice Consul of Finland for the State of Washington. Kristiina speaks on a variety of leadership topics connected to her passions: Leadership, Innovation, Collaboration, Communication, and Gender Intelligence www.kristiinahiukka.com. To get tips on Leading Smart and becoming the most effective leader in life and business Click Here
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Quiet by Susan Cain
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