“We must be silent before we can listen. We must listen before we can learn. We must learn before we can prepare. We must prepare before we can serve. We must serve before we can lead.” ~ by William Arthur Ward
Starting and building a better America is all about leadership – a “flash of brilliance”, honing the idea, building an involved team and followers and developing strategic plans based on vision and experience. What have I missed on –Oh Yeah, creating an environment for growth and clearing a path over and through all negative objectors and real obstacles. Yet the image of leadership in government and business is at an all-time low, according to national leadership experts, considering the political debacles, record business bankruptcies, and executive fraud cases. For example read what James M. Kouzes and Barry Z. Posner in their book on Leadership view credibility as the foundation of future leaders. They say “Leaders we admire do not place themselves at the center; they place others there. They do not seek the attention of people; they give it to others. They do not focus on satisfying their own aims and desires; they look for ways to respond to the needs and interests of their constituents. They are not self-centered; they concentrate on the constituent. . . Leaders serve a purpose and the people who have made it possible for them to lead . . . . In serving a purpose, leaders strengthen credibility by demonstrating that they are not in it for themselves; instead, they have the interests of the institution, department, or team and its constituents at heart. Being a servant may not be what many leaders had in mind when they choose to take responsibility for the vision and direction of their organization or team, but serving others is the most glorious and rewarding of all leadership tasks.” ~ by James Kouzes and Barry Posner in Credibility: How Leaders Gain and Lose It, Why People Demand It.
If the country is to recover financially, politically, and emotionally new transformational leaders will have to emerge. It will take new leaders who understand that leadership is a about flexibility, serving people through participatory processes, not power and commands. These leaders will identify the problems people want solved not made-up issues such as deficit spending during a time of joblessness and poor consumer confidence. These new leaders will be citzen-centered rather than self-centered, having the mental mindset of collaboration and flexibility, authenticity, innovation and focus on problem solving and results. They will have the required passion, perseverance, assertiveness and ethical character to do what is right to achieve shared goals. For example, having everyone including the very rick 2% of Americans and big Corporations pay their fair share to get America back on track. What these new leaders will focus on is developing relationships across party lines so as to find common ground in making America strong again.
Let’s examine the lack of leadership in our government. This Citzen-Ccentered leadership style will be different from many media reports that see leadership as position power and character driven. Leaders before being elected will have to show proven track records for producing results through democratic processes and engagement with people. Here are some of the keys for succeeding as a leader in the 21st Century::
- Communication skills of Active Listening and Empathy are the most important skills for a future leader. We need to pay attention to the words and actions of others while suspending judgment long enough to allow your thinking to catch up with your emotional instincts. Why? Because as leaders, if we speak too soon, we shut off communication and stifle innovation and problem solving. When shut of communication we create divisiveness and encourage decreased involvement and participation. We create an environment of win-loss thinking and dictatorial mandates that do not gain the support of followers. Thus, creating a more tribal and patrician approach to governance than pluralist involved electorate.
- Leadership is a learned behavior, not a character trait. Good judgment, for example, is certainly a hallmark of exceptional leadership, but it isn’t something you are born with. “More than anything, good judgment comes from listening and learning how to cooperate and gain public or employee support for their vision and initiatives.
- Communicating and storytelling. This is not a skill everyone is born with, but it’s a skill we can all develop. People on your team want to believe! They want to believe you know where we are going, that you keep your promises or you will get us there even if you are not sure of the exact path at this moment. They want stories that inspire them and encourage their involvement in creating their own constructive solutions to problems.
- MMFI Rule and Recognition for contribution for team success. This is necessary to sustain motivation during the hard times. It’s not hard to do and doesn’t require a lot of effort or expensive gifts. A thank-you note or peer recognition is enough most of the time.
- Negotiation is a practical skill for every leader. Negotiation is often misunderstood to be the domain of clever deal makers. It’s actually really simple. Make very clear requests for a promise. Understand exactly what the promise is – what is being done, when, and what the standard of excellence is, and then check up on the status to make it happen.
- Leadership for Others rather than focus on personal achievement and ambition. We need leaders who use power as a tool for inspiring others to create a better future for all not the select few , not as a tool for retaining their position or perks.
- Assertiveness–Firm and decisive decisions that take courage and spine to make.
These are the process and leadership skills essential for 21 Century Leadership, inspiring excellence, and meeting followers needs. They are easily practiced, and serve as the foundation for successfully attracting funding, talent, making tough decisions and persevering in reach the vision that inspired us all in the beginning.
In this fashion the transformational leadership deficit is really an “opportunity” for selfless people to get involved and put us back on the path of freedom, caring and economic security. So practice the leadership skills needed, and step in when you are ready. Now is your golden opportunity – let’s see how many of you are up to the challenge. We need you all.