In today's fast moving, ever changing, and highly competitive world there is a vacuum of leadership. More than ever our government, businesses, religious organizations, and our educational institutions need leaders.
This crisis has arisen in part because of the end of the industrial age. With the coming of the information age that we are now living in, many of our institutions have been reinvented. Life is therefore uncertain for many people, which makes leadership much more risky.
With the coming of the information age the internet has connected the world together like never before. This new way of communication and doing business has brought change in a whirlwind fashion that has never been seen in history. Yet in the midst of all this change that has supposedly brought the world closer together, never have so many people felt so isolated from one another, disconnected from their roots, and unsure of their future.
This feeling of isolation for so many people has happened in large part because, as the world becomes more virtual, the skill of human relations is quickly becoming lost. Thus, never before has the skill of human relations been more valuable. In the near future, almost every person will have an e-mail address and every business will have a Web site. The only way you will be able to differentiate yourself and your business is by becoming exceptionally skilled at leading and persuading others.
In the industrial age of hierarchal organizations, big government, and traditional families the need for leadership was evident. We knew what the rules were and we needed the leaders to hold us to those rules. However, in the information age of internet based businesses, two career families, and the increasing irrelevance of government we no longer have a clear set of rules to follow. What's more, the command and control leaders that try to hold people to seemingly arbitrary rules, are no longer successful.
What's needed today are the type of leaders who can inspire and motivate others within this virtual world, while never loosing sight of the timeless leadership principles that never change.
An effective leader must be flexible and adaptable. A servant and not a slave to his or her partners. A distributor of power who is trustworthy, tough, and decisive.
The good news is, leadership is a skill that can be learned. While some leaders are born, everyone has the potential to become an effective leader. There is no one way to lead and there is no one personality type. Some leaders are quiet, and others are loud. Some are funny, and others are serious. And some leaders are tough, while others are gentle.
To become an effective leader you first have to ask yourself what personal characteristics you have that can be turned into qualities of leadership. Maybe you pride yourself on your persistence, on your finely honed logical mind, on your good imagination or creativity, or on your values. You have to work with what you have.
There are certain qualities that all true leaders have, and one of the most important is a vision of a better future. They try to make their vision, into the form of a dream, mission, or a goal. Leaders, because they rely heavily on other people are excellent at motivating other people. They never play off being a boss or being in an authoritative position, because they're excited about the future and they want to share that vision. They don't blame others for having a lack of vision, they blame themselves, not the people around them.
Leaders believe that each person is valuable, able, and responsible. Real leaders see leadership as a process for empowering people to see themselves is positive ways, as competent, productive, and important. They recognize the potential in others that mere mangers miss because the leaders are looking for it. They come into leadership roles knowing that empowerment is part of the political process that's overlooked and under-used.
Leaders make good politics fashionable. Put all of your efforts into finding out what people see, and work to change that. If you do, you'll have taken a giant step along the continuum toward positive politics. They view themselves favorably as valuable, contributing team members, not managers. The see a field of political equals, not subordinates to be dealt with.
Leaders expect to be role models, and they deliberately model the behaviors they want to adopt. What do others see? Do they see you behaving in ways you want them to copy? They know the Golden Rule is good business. Leaders treat people as they expect to be treated. They model the respect they expect in all personal and professional interactions with others.
Leaders recognize that each person has untapped skills that can be harnessed to achieve organizational goals, and at a profit. A leader must have the courage to look for hidden abilities, including those others managers have written off. Leaders do this by observing, monitoring, and most important, listening. They know they do not have to beat up on everyone to have it known that they are important. They greet people. They ask about families. They listen.
Leaders are aware that it's not only what's said but also how it's presented that empowers people to be successful. Leaders are aware that each action has a consequence. They know that encouraging people to make work-related choices promotes independence. Independence results in job ownership and a sense of responsibility for productive quality.
Leaders consistently behave in positive and trusting ways. They never compromise their personal value systems, yet they recognize cultural diversity and respect differences among people. They empower people across the board. This means they don't play favorites. Be fair, regardless of your personal feelings, and be seen and acknowledged as fair and even-handed.
Effective leaders do not start out their day with the question, "What do I want?" They start out by asking, "What needs to be done?" Then they ask, "What can and should I do to make a difference?"
They constantly ask, "What is the organization's mission and what are it's goals? What constitutes performance and results?" They tolerate diversity in people; they don't look for clones of themselves. It rarely occurs to them to ask, "Do I like or dislike this person?" But they are intolerant when it comes to a person's performance, standards, and values. And they are not afraid of strength in their associates. They relish in it.
In one way or another all effective leaders submit themselves to the "mirror test": They make sure the person they see in the morning is the kind of person they want to be, respect, and believe in. This keeps them from doing things that are popular rather then right, and it keeps them from doing mean, petty, or sleazy things as well.
What leadership comes down to is that true leaders always behave like a leader, whether they make the right decisions or whether they make the wrong decisions because of their own mistakes. Leadership, ultimately, is less a matter of what you do than who you are. What you do may vary from day to day, but who you are should remain steadfast and unchanging.
It's increasingly clear that drugs, gangs, illiteracy, poverty, crime, and the breakdown of the traditional family, put every aspect of society at risk. Leaders of the future realize, further, that government and social groups aren't going to solve these problems. It's not their fault; they need a broader network of helping hands. Everyone thus needs a sense of responsibility and stewardship for the community.
We also need to develop a similar sense of responsibility in young people. Begin by becoming a role model for your family. Are you serving the community in some way? Are you working to understand community problems to see how you can help solve them? Are you organizing service opportunities for the entire family?
Create a vision for a better society and help bring it to life!
Copyright? 2005 by Joe Love and JLM & Associates, Inc. All rights reserved worldwide.
Joe Love draws on his 25 years of experience helping both individuals and companies build their businesses, increase profits, and achieve total success. He is the founder and CEO of JLM & Associates, a consulting and training organization, specializing in personal and business development. Through his seminars and lectures, Joe Love addresses thousands of men and women each year, including the executives and staffs of many of America's largest corporations, on the subjects of leadership, self-esteem, goals, achievement, and success psychology.
Reach Joe at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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