Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Three Keys to Leadership + Courageous Leadership

Three Keys to Leadership
by Michael Diercks
Managing Partner, LMI
Leadership is often described as "the ability to influence others." I believe a leader, in order to influence others, needs to demonstrate three key beliefs to be effective in leading their organization, department, team, or even, their family.

The first key to leadership success is your belief in your team. People want someone to believe in them, give them chances to succeed, responsibilities to demonstrate their value and many more things - all seeking to answer this key question - "Do you believe in me?" As a leader, if you demonstrate this through your actions and words, you are on your way to being a great leader with influence.

The second key to leadership success is demonstrating that you can be believed! Not only do people want someone to believe in them, they want someone to believe in. Are you showing yourself to be trustworthy and reliable? Do you have a set of standards that you can be counted on to uphold? Do you
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demonstrate integrity (do your words and actions integrate)? Are you a person of your word? Essentially, your team wants to know - "Can we trust you?"

Finally, the third key to leadership success is your vision. Do you have a vision that everyone can "see?" Is your vision for your organization, department or team greater than the daily grind? People want to follow leaders who are going someplace. Do you realize you are communicating your vision every time you speak and act? You are either pointing to a clear, bright future where everyone shares in the success or you are presenting a vision that has little or no future - or worse - one without them in it! Fundamentally, your team wants to know the answer to these two questions - "Where are we going?" and "Do I want to go there?"
Whether you are a CEO, department manager, team leader, parent or T-ball coach, your success as a leader and your ability to influence others depend on these three foundational beliefs - belief in your team, their belief in you and your unified belief in the vision.

Ask yourself - Does my team believe?

Courageous Leadership
One of the most neglected and overlooked, but important, qualities of great leaders is being willing to do what is unpopular - courage.
One of the great civil leaders in US history suffered intense and, unfortunately, violent opposition. While he was alive, he may have been considered one of the most unpopular people ever to serve.
Who was this despised and now revered man? Abraham Lincoln - almost unanimously considered one of the top 5 U.S. presidents by scholars.

Lincoln’s viewpoints were radically different from most officials. He, therefore, faced constant opposition. When serving in congress, he stood up against President James K. Polk regarding the Mexican War, saying the war was unjust. This was very poorly received and almost went against the entire congress!
As you recall from your history lessons, Abe lost many elections for political offices before finally being elected president. His presidential election was by one of the lowest popular margins in history. He was regularly mocked and continually attacked by the press. Just before the 1864 election, a newspaper editor in La Crosse, Wis., suggested someone be Brutus and stab Lincoln! Lincoln was, naturally, unpopular with his opposition, the Democrats, but much of his time as president, he was unpopular with members of his own party. Even his cabinet often confronted him.
Yet, because he was willing to do what was unpopular, taking deliberate stands of conscience, enduring public abuse, scorn from friends, even loss of power and prestige, he became the man who "saved the Union" and freed the slaves.
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Consider where our nation (and you!) might be if he had only done what was popular?

This willingness to go against
the tide, to do what’s right and make tough calls is not only an important leadership trait for a president, but also for a CEO, entrepreneur, team leader, community or neighborhood leader, or the leader of a family.

We call someone a leader when he or she is willing to do what others are not, even when—and maybe most especially when—the right thing to do might not be what’s popular to do!

Ask yourself - Am I a courageous leader?