Today’s Leader, “Lead, Follow or Get Out of the Way”

By Greg A. Pestinger
With our last blog, we talked about the importance of creating a winning “mindset”, taking back control of our thoughts as a key first step in reaching our full potential. If you run an organization, lead a company or require others to get things done, equally important to your success is inspiring a winning mindset in others.

Leadership is exactly that, inspiring others to act, to “want to” vs. simply doing what they are told to do. To inspire action toward a common goal is the definition of Leadership. So, ask yourself; Am I a truly a leader in my organization? Do I help others realize their best life so that I can realize my own? Am I willing to make the hard decisions when required? Do I listen to understand the needs of others before acting? Do others follow me because of the example I set, my character or because of my rank or position in the organization?

So why is leadership so important to achieve success in today’s world? First off only 19% of applicants joining the workforce have adequate self-discipline to further their careers. Four in ten cannot work in a cooperative environment. On the other hand, managers who practice effective leadership skills placed in the top third in their fields, running departments that performed 15-20% better than their counterparts without adequate leadership skills. These shocking statistics combined with the today’s business landscape; fast pace of change, market forces, competitive models, customer expectations and generational priorities requires that companies that want to win will need to up their game in the leadership arena. The good news, leadership is a skill that can be learned and is a decision to implement it in your organization. In short, you have control over your decisions to be a leader.

While there are as many books on leadership as there are people reading them, two that I have found to be particularly helpful are “The Seven Secrets of Exceptional Leadership” by Brian Tracy and “The Leadership Challenge” by James Kouzes and Barry Posner. Both have stood the test of time and are as relevant today as they were when they were first released.

Brian Tracy’s work on strategic leadership studied leadership traits of successful people over time. What he found was that successful people share seven common leadership traits that defined their success:

  1. Clarity – Leaders are clear about who they are, they know their teams and their business.
  2. Competence – Leaders love what they do and strive to be the best in their field.
  3. Continuous Learning – Leaders never stop learning and they apply what they learn.
  4. Constraint Analysis – Leaders identify their barriers and take responsibility for removing them.
  5. Creativity – Leaders believe there is always a way, a solution, an opportunity.
  6. Concentration – Leaders focus single-mindedly on the most important things until completed.
  7. Courage – Leaders face their fears and realize success lies outside their comfort zone.

In “The Leadership Challenge”, now in its 6th edition and considered the “gold standard” for researched-based findings on Leadership, Kouzes and Posner’s work defines the actions or practices that great leaders “do” and through the corresponding definition of each, define “how” they do it:

  1. Model the Way – Finding your voice by clarifying your personal values. Setting the example by aligning actions with shared values.
  2. Inspire a Shared Vision – Envision the future by imagining exciting and ennobling possibilities. Enlisting others in a common vision by appealing to shared aspirations.
  3. Challenge the Process – Searching for opportunities by seeking innovative ways to change, grow and improve. Experimenting and taking risks by constantly generating small wins and learning from mistakes.
  4. Enable Others to Act – Fostering collaboration by promoting cooperative goals and building trust. Strengthening others by sharing power and discretion.
  5. Encourage the Heart – Recognizing contributions by showing appreciation for individual excellence. Celebrating the values and victories by creating a spirit of community.

I have found that combined, both resources, define great leaders. Great leaders are a combination of who they are and what they do. They have a clear understanding of “why” they do what they do and consciously work on being better leaders every day. Over my 30-year career leading teams, I have been fortunate to see great leaders inspire change and growth by applying these principles and achieving exceptional results from ordinary teams in the workplace. Leaders who over time, through trial and error, training and development, had become titans in their fields.

For me, the true test of bringing together exceptional young leaders and teaching them how to lead came this summer when I was invited as a facilitator for Sigma Phi Epsilon’s Ruck Leadership Institute. The program, one of many delivered by the organization’s foundation, is designed to utilize the 90% of time college men are out of the classroom to prepare them for a productive and successful life after graduation. The facilitators, all successful leaders in their own right and a passion for mentoring, were there to share their experiences and guide the scholars through the Leadership Challenge.

The scholars, top performing campus leaders, whether by design or coincidence, all exemplifying 7C leadership traits, soon to be armed with the lesson of the “Leadership Challenge”, in preparation to lead impactful and lasting change on college campuses across the country and prepare them for leadership roles upon graduation.

I have to tell you, there is nothing more powerful than watching new leaders grow and learn at an accelerated rate resulting in incredible plans of action to be taken back to their individual campuses. This generation will be entering the workforce soon and they expect to be developed as leaders. I am surer now than ever that if your organization prioritizes leadership development that this generation of new employees will be the strongest group ever to enter the workforce.

Now it’s your turn. Are you providing leadership development opportunities for your team? Do you inspire your team to become leaders in your organization? Are you making the hard decisions to retrain or replace “managers” with “leaders”? Are you creating the leaders of the future?

I would be happy to talk with you more about incorporating a “Leadership Mindset” in your organization. Let us know how we can help by email at gpestinger@focalpointcoaching.com or by setting up a time to talk at https://calendly.com/gpestinger

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