I often begin my leadership courses with a simple request of the participants, “Name some truly GREAT leaders.” The responses follow a predictable pattern, “Ghandi, Colin Powell, Martin Luther King, my mom.” Your MOM? Yes, my Mom! Ah, this course is graced with a very insightful person!
Leadership is not a behavior driven by charisma, sounds bites, or a unique commitment to a personal passion. Leadership is a skill – a skill we each can learn and apply in our organizations, our families, our communities, and our lives, if given half the chance!
Yes, leadership comes more easily to some of us. However, leadership is not just for individuals who manage people, processes, and results. It is insufficient to say, “She’s the owner – she must provide the leadership” or, “He is the VP of Sales, he’ll take the leadership role in gaining new customers.”
Wouldn’t it be great if all the people in your organization demonstrated insightful leadership, whether working on the billing process, e-commerce, or serving customers? I often hear executives and managers grumble, “I wish he would take ownership of the process.” or “Be accountable for your decisions!” When we make these statements, we bemoan our lack of leadership.
How can we foster and nurture leadership in our organizations, from Fortune 100 to sole proprietors? (Don’t think sole proprietors don’t need leadership skills – we need them even more!) An essential error business managers can make is to talk about leadership in vague terms, as though everyone knows what it is. We often decide the concept is too amorphous to put words to it. Well, that is simply not true! Our first action to encourage leadership is to create a picture of what leadership looks like in our organization. What behaviors do we want? What interactions manifest leadership to us? What evidence can we point to that leadership exists?
Leadership is not ambiguous or indescribable. It isn’t an attitude or a personality trait. Leadership consists of specific, identifiable behaviors. To foster leaders in our organization or community, we must identify and articulate the behaviors of leadership. Force of personality and strength of charisma can accentuate leadership – but are neither necessary nor sufficient to incite leadership.
Begin to create leadership in your business by choosing and communicating a model of leadership. ANY MODEL! How about the “Green Tree” model? Plant a seed, fertilize and water, and prune. I just made that up – and it works as a model of leadership behavior! We can describe leadership as the activities of planting a seed in the minds of our organization members or our clients. Leaders fertilize and water the seed to help it grow strong. Prune it – by cutting away processes that don’t support it. When we are clear about the leadership behaviors we want in our organizations, we foster learning and commitment to those behaviors.
In the next article, we’ll explore a model of leadership used in many organizations. However, if you consider yourself a leader today, don’t wait for the article! Begin right now to list the specific leadership behaviors YOU want in your organization or business.
Andrea Sigetich is president of SageCoach, based in Bend, and works with organizations, large and small, in the development of leadership and management competencies. SageCoach also provides executive, managerial, and professional coaching, one-on-one, to create leaders in organizations, and leaders in life. www.SageCoach.com.