Courage – The Sixth C of Leadership

The sixth C, Courage, refers to the leader’s willingness to seize opportunities despite the inherent risk and uncertainties.  It is easy to have an idea.  Many people are quick to point out problems, and even speculate about solutions.  What sets leaders apart is that they have the courage to act on those ideas and implement those solutions.  It should be emphasized that courage is not about fearlessness.  It is about being afraid and moving forward anyway.  It is about pursuing a passion – a purpose – that is greater than one’s fear.

Leaders influence change toward a common vision.  Change can be inherently difficult, and sometimes frightening.  It involves leaving the realm of “what is” for “what could be.”  This is risky and requires courage.  Why are leaders willing to take this risk?  They do so because the best leaders understand that failure, while it hurts in the moment, is a passing thing.  Regret is not.  The regret that comes from not trying – from missed opportunities – can last a lifetime.  So, even more than failure, leaders fear regret.  They understand the adage, “You may be disappointed if you fail, but you are doomed if you don’t try.”

Leadership experts, Kouzes and Posner (2006) refer to this willingness to take risks as “Challenge the Process” and describe it as “searching for opportunities by seeking innovative ways to change, grow, and improve” and “experimenting and taking risks” (p. 5).  What is known is usually safe; the unknown is often risky.  That is why one of the main ways leaders can encourage others is by creating a safe space for team members to take risks.  Leaders can do this in two primary ways: (1) providing help and support to an individual taking a risk and/or trying to achieve a goal; and (2) treating failures as learning opportunities.

One theory that addresses the role the leader should play in their followers’ goal achievement is path-goal theory.  According to Northouse (2010), path-goal theory involves leaders who “help subordinates define their goals and the paths they want to take…when obstacles arise…[it] may mean helping the subordinate around the obstacle, or it may mean removing the obstacle” (p. 132).  It emphasizes that it becomes the leader’s job to provide appropriate support to the subordinates.  Similarly, organizational change expert Kotter (1995) refers to it as empowering others to act on the vision.

Kotter (1995) echoes path-goal theory when he states that empowering others involves removing obstacles for employees trying to contribute to the vision.  “Renewal [achieving the vision] also requires the removal of obstacles” (p. 7).  Gill (2003) also recognizes the importance of empowering those carrying out a vision or change initiative.  To him, empowerment involves “giving people knowledge, skills, opportunity, freedom, self-confidence, and resources to manage themselves and be accountable” (p. 315).

In addition to empowering – rather encouraging – others, leaders can develop a risk taking culture by viewing mistakes and failures as learning opportunities instead of immediate grounds for dismissal (Kouzes & Posner, 2006).  Thomas (2009) puts it this way:

Progress and learning, then, mean expecting and allowing some honest mistakes – and using them as important learning opportunities.  If workers are afraid of being punished for honest mistakes, they are likely to play it safe and stay very close to well-established, tried-and-true solutions. (p. 165)

While followers must be held accountable, creating a no-fail culture will severely cut down on innovation and growth.

These principles presented by Kouzes and Posner (2006), Thomas (2009), and the path-goal theory are also reflected in the transformational leadership model.  Specifically, intellectual stimulation, one of the four factors of transformational leadership, involves supporting “…followers as they try new approaches and develop innovative ways of dealing with organizational issues” (Northouse, 2010, p. 179).

Finally, in addition to having the courage to take risks and cultivating this same courage in others, it is also important for leaders to take the time to celebrate success.

[As was discussed in a previous blog post, here at Inta-Great, we define leadership as “a service-oriented relationship by which change occurs as a leader influences others toward a common vision.”  In order to be effective at influencing others in the pursuit of that vision, we propose that leaders follow the Inta-Greated Leadership Model which consists of the “Seven Cs of Leadership:” (1) Composition; (2) Character; (3) Catalyst; (4) Compassion; (5) Communication; (6) Courage; and (7) Celebration.  Embodying the Seven Cs is what allows leaders to have an impact at the personal, team, and organizational levels and ultimately results in real transformation and sustainable results.]

Referenced Works:

  • Gill R., (2003). Change management or change leadership. Journal of Change Management 3(4), 307-318.
  • Kotter, J.P. (1995). Leading change: Why transformational efforts fail. Harvard Business Review, 73(2), 1-9.
  • Kouzes, J. & Posner, B. (2003). Student leadership practices inventory.  San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers.
  • Northouse, P. G. (2010). Leadership: Theory and practice (5th ed). Los Angeles: Sage.
  • Thomas, K.W. (2009).  Intrinsic motivation at work: What really drives employee engagement. San Francisco: Barrett-Koehler.

Catalyst – The Third C of Leadership

Harry S. Truman once said,

“Men make history and not the other way around.  In periods where there is no leadership, society stands still.  Progress occurs when courageous, skillful leaders seize the opportunity to change things for the better.” 

These history making leaders have a vision for a better future, rally people around the vision, and work with those people to achieve the vision.  In other words, they act as Catalysts.  Therefore, Catalyst, the third C, refers to the leader’s ability to inspire aligned action toward a compelling vision. 

Kouzes and Posner (2006) state that leaders must “inspire a shared vision” by “envisioning the future” and then “enlist others in that common vision by appealing to shared aspirations” (p. 4).  Organizational change expert John Kotter (1995) declares that every successful transformation effort he has researched involved the leaders developing a clear and inspiring vision for the future.  Kanter (2005) puts it this way, “A raw idea…must be shaped into a theme that makes the idea come alive.  Ideas don’t launch productive changes until they become a theme around which others begin to improvise, a vision that raises aspirations” (p. 4).  And, Senge (1990) emphasizes that, “The practice of shared vision involves the skills of unearthing shared ‘pictures of the future’ that foster genuine commitment and enrollment rather than compliance” (p. 488).  And finally, Gill (2003) writes, “A vision is a desired future state: this is the basis for directing the change effort” (p. 312).

In regard to the transformational and servant leadership theories, vision plays a prominent role in both of them.  To begin, the servant-leader characteristics of “conceptualization” and “foresight” emphasize the importance of vision.  Conceptualization is the ability “to dream great dreams,” and foresight is described as “closely related to conceptualization” because of its focus on future possibilities (Spears, 2002, p. 7).  Next, the inspirational motivation factor of transformational leadership involves leaders creating excitement and enthusiasm around the vision through the use of symbols, emotional appeals, and simple messages (Northouse, 2010).  This link between the vision and motivation is one of the main reasons why it is so important to leadership.

Motivation expert Kenneth W. Thomas (2009) explains, “the purpose and vision, then, provided a target that could align the efforts of different people to solve problems and cooperate….the compelling vision was a strong motivational force that inspired people” (p. 23).  It is important to note, however, that when it comes to creating a vision or purpose statement, research has shown that not all visions are equally effective.

According to Thomas (2009), workers are rarely inspired by purposes that are focused on making a profit or other economic considerations.  Instead, the vision or purpose statement should connect to workers’ need for recognition, responsibility, and the opportunity to fulfill one’s potential.  For example, Chick-fil-A’s mission statement, “Be America’s Best Quick-Service Restaurant” hits on all of these needs.  The focus on being known as the best speaks to one’s need for recognition and fulfilled potential, and it makes the employees responsible to America for their service.  In the end, however, having a vision is not enough.  Leaders need to utilize the rest of the Cs in order to go about achieving the vision.

[As was discussed in a previous blog post, here at Inta-Great, we define leadership as “a service-oriented relationship by which change occurs as a leader influences others toward a common vision.”  In order to be effective at influencing others in the pursuit of that vision, we propose that leaders follow the Inta-Greated Leadership Model which consists of the “Seven Cs of Leadership:” (1) Composition; (2) Character; (3) Catalyst; (4) Compassion; (5) Communication; (6) Courage; and (7) Celebration.  Embodying the Seven Cs is what allows leaders to have an impact at the personal, team, and organizational levels and ultimately results in real transformation and sustainable results.]

Referenced Works:

  • Gill R., (2003). Change management or change leadership. Journal of Change Management 3(4), 307-318.
  • Kanter, R. M. (2005). Leadership for change: Enduring skills for change masters.  Teaching Note, Harvard Business School Publishing, 1-15.
  • Kotter, J.P. (1995). Leading change: Why transformational efforts fail. Harvard Business Review, 73(2), 1-9.
  • Kouzes, J. & Posner, B. (2003). Student leadership practices inventory.  San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers.
  • Northouse, P. G. (2010). Leadership: Theory and practice (5th ed). Los Angeles: Sage.
  • Senge, P.M. (2003). The fifth discipline: The art and practice of the learning organization. In J. S. Ott. Classic reading in organizational behavior (pp. 484-491). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth/Thomson Learning.
  • Spears, L. C. (2002). Tracing the past, present, and future of servant-leadership. In L. C. Spears, & M. Lawrence. (Eds.), Focus on leadership: Servant-leadership for the 21st century. (pp. 1-16). New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
  • Thomas, K.W. (2009).  Intrinsic motivation at work: What really drives employee engagement. San Francisco: Barrett-Koehler.

Character – The Second C of Leadership

“Ability may get you to the top, but it takes character to keep you there.” ~ John Wooden

[As was discussed in a previous blog post, here at Inta-Great, we define leadership as “a service-oriented relationship by which change occurs as a leader influences others toward a common vision.”  In order to be effective at influencing others in the pursuit of that vision, we propose that leaders follow the Inta-Greated Leadership Model which consists of the “Seven Cs of Leadership:” (1) Composition; (2) Character; (3) Catalyst; (4) Compassion; (5) Communication; (6) Courage; and (7) Celebration.  Embodying the Seven Cs is what allows leaders to have an impact at the personal, team, and organizational levels and ultimately results in real transformation and sustainable results.  In this post, we will further explore the second of our Seven Cs – Character.]

Throughout the leadership literature, there is an emphasis on the leader serving as a role model for followers.   A leader cannot be viewed as a role model; however, if they do not possess character.  Character refers to the integrity of the leader.  It means others view them as credible and possessing moral authority. 

Kouzes and Posner (2006) refer to this principle as “Model the Way” and describe it as leaders being “clear about their personal values and beliefs” (p. 3).  They go on to encourage leaders to “keep people and projects on course by behaving consistently with these values and setting an example for how they expect others to act” (p.3).  Being clear about one’s own values and setting an example for how others should act paves the way for leaders to be champions for the organization’s values.

Not only is a leader responsible for developing his or her own character, he or she is also responsible for helping to develop the character of his or her team and organization.  According to Johnson (2012), “Leaders are the ethics officers of their organizations, casting light or shadow in large part through the example they set” (p. 318).  Essentially, leaders need to serve as ethical role models to their followers, and they need to be champions of the ethical decision-making process.  This means leaders must internalize the ethical climate they promote by embodying the organization’s values and then hold others accountable to those values.  Doing so requires rewarding those who act ethically and punishing those who do not—regardless of the results from that employee’s behavior.  Leaders must walk the ethical talk.

The idea of leaders serving as role models is also especially prominent in the transformational leadership theory as it closely aligns with the “idealized influence” aspect of transformational leadership.  Idealized influence refers to transformational leaders’ ability to live by standards and values that allow followers to view them as role models.  “They [transformational leaders] are deeply respected by followers who usually place a great deal of trust in them” (Powell, 2011, p. 177).

Finally, the leader’s character is important because it affects how well others respond to the leader’s attempts to cast a vision and instigate change.  For example, renowned change expert, John Kotter (1995), states that in order to facilitate change, leaders must embody the change and serve as role models for the rest of the organization.  “Communication comes in both words and deeds, and the latter are often the most powerful form” (p. 6).  He then goes on to emphasize the importance of leaders communicating the change vision “in deed” because, “nothing undermines change more than behavior by important individuals that is inconsistent with their words” (p. 6).  Similarly, Roger Gill (2003) also emphasizes the importance of leaders serving as role models when facilitating change.  Gill writes, “In any change process, the change champions – leaders – must be credible,” and he then goes on to define credibility as being perceived by others as honest and competent (p. 316).

It is this link between character and change that sets the stage for the next or third C, Catalyst.

References:

  • Gill R., (2003). Change management or change leadership. Journal of Change Management 3(4), 307-318.
  • Johnson, C.E. (2012). Meeting the ethical challenges of leadership: Casting light or shadow (4th ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
  • Kotter, J.P. (1995). Leading change: Why transformational efforts fail. Harvard Business Review, 73(2), 1-9.
  • Kouzes, J. & Posner, B. (2003). Student leadership practices inventory.  San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers.
  • Powell, G. N. (2011).  The gender and leadership wars.  Organizational Dynamics, 40, 1-9.

The Inta-Greated Leadership Model

Leadership is often discussed but rarely understood.  A complicated discipline – it represents a mix of psychology, sociology, anthropology, communications, business, and political science theory – it is not easy nor for the faint hearted.  Instead, leadership is a calling that requires dedication, perseverance, and humility.  For those who persevere, however, leadership is greatly rewarding as leaders play a key role in creating, changing, and cultivating culture.  But first, being an effective leader requires that an individual understand what leadership really is.

To many, leadership equates to management.  And yet this is not the case.  Management is focused on tasks and details and comes from a place of positional authority.  In contrast, leadership is focused on vision and serving others from a relationship built on influence.  Anyone with a title can demand a certain level of compliance from their subordinates; however, a true leader is one who not only inspires compliance but greatness.  I grew up playing sports, and in that context we used to call it “giving 110%” or “running through walls.”  At worst, management will result in people giving up when faced with a wall; at best, those people might figure out a way around the wall.  Leadership alone is what inspires and enables people to run through walls.

The question becomes then, “How do I enable and inspire others to run through walls?”  The simple answer of “being a leader” is not enough.  What does it mean to be a leader?  After studying many different leadership theories and perspectives, here at Inta-Great, we have come to believe there is a fundamental difference between providing a definition of leadership and providing a model of leadership.  While a definition is simply about explaining a phenomenon, models are about what specific behaviors, actions, and character traits are effective or ineffective.  Definitions describe; models prescribe. With that in mind, we’ve developed the following definition and model of leadership.

At Inta-Great, we define leadership as “a service-oriented relationship by which change occurs as a leader influences others toward a common vision.”

And, in order to be effective at influencing others in the pursuit of that vision, we propose that leaders follow the Inta-Greated Leadership Model consisting of the “Seven Cs of Leadership:” (1) Composition; understanding the unique personalities, strengths, and motivators of themselves and the team; (2) Character; cultivating credibility and moral authority; (3) Catalyst; inspiring and aligning action toward a common vision; (4) Compassion; coaching and empowering people to do the best they can; (5) Communication; persuading, presenting, listening, and negotiating; (6) Courage; seizing opportunities despite the inherent risk and uncertainties; and (7) Celebration; showing gratitude and celebrating success.

We believe that embodying the Seven Cs is what allows leaders to have an impact at the personal, team, and organizational levels ultimately resulting in real personal and cultural transformation and sustainable results.  Please see a visual representation of the Inta-Greated Leadership Model as Figure 1.1 below.

The Inta-Greated Model of Leadership

Free from fads, fluff, and feel-good teaching, the Inta-Greated Leadership Model is based on proven leadership principles.  To illustrate this, we will be publishing a series of blog posts in the near future that will discuss how each of the Seven Cs connect to the leadership literature.  We hope that you join us as we explore the research and evidence supporting each of the Seven Cs and the impact they are capable of having at the personal, team, and organizational levels.  And, as always, we wish you the best of luck as you continue on your leadership journey.

12 Time Management Habits to Master in 2013

An interesting read about Benjamin Franklin’s method for changing habits and encouraging character growth.

2013–A New Year & A New Start

2013– a new year and the perfect time for a new start.  

This concept is nothing new.  For as long as most of us can remember, people have been using this time of year to set their “New Year’s Resolutions.”  However, for most people, those resolutions are broken as quickly as they are made.  Anyone with a gym membership will tell you gym traffic typically doubles during the month of January before slowing down to its usual flow around mid-February.  So why are we so bad at following through with our New Year Resolutions?

Most of our resolutions tend be made in the moment with lots of emotion but with little consideration and little planning.  For example, we look into the mirror on January 1st, see the results of our holiday merry-making, and adamantly declare–“I NEED to lose weight!  I will start working out!”  This example highlights another problem with many new year’s resolutions–they tend to be reactive and not proactive.

The many problems begin shortly after we join the gym.  We don’t actually know what exercises we should be doing–are we just trying to lose weight or build muscle?  Or maybe we should be trying to tone muscle.  Then, real life hits, and suddenly it is hard to fit going to the gym into our busy schedules.  And finally, we haven’t actually made any changes to our eating habits, so even though we are going to the gym a bit more often, we’re not seeing the results we want–and before you know it those problems add up and we stop going to the gym altogether.  Have you ever experienced anything like this in your own personal or work life, and what can we do about it???

Most resolutions fail because they are not linked to a broader vision.  Instead of standing alone, personal and organizational goals should support our personal or organizational vision.  Therefore, identifying the vision becomes the first step.  We’ve already discussed the “Key Aspects of a Great Vision” before, so we won’t go into all the details about it here.  But, we will remind you that quite simply, vision paints a picture of the future state you/your organization wants to achieve.  It defines what success looks like.  If we go back to the weight loss example, a strong vision statement would be, “Living a healthy lifestyle that includes a regular work-out program and a nutritional diet.”

But sometimes, having a big vision can seem overwhelming to a leader.  We have these big dreams—how are we ever going to achieve them?

The answer is simple; we need a plan.  The key lies in translating the vision into multiple, smaller goals.  When we do this, it is very important to write these goals (or resolutions) down.  Writing them down creates personal accountability, because now, we have a list that we can go back to and measure ourselves against.  However, don’t just take my word for it…

According to Dave Kohl, professor emeritus at Virginia Tech (as quoted in Five):

  • 80% of Americans say they don’t have goals.
  • 16% of Americans have goals, but they don’t write them down.
  • < 4% of Americans actually write their goals down.
  • < 1 % of Americans write down their goals on an ongoing basis.
  • People who regularly write down their goals earn 9x as much over their lifetimes than those who don’t.

So, don’t wait.  Make this the year you get serious about your resolutions.  Take the time and identify your vision and break it down into smaller goals to achieve that vision.  Then, write those goals down.  You’ll be amazed at the difference consideration and planning can make.

Referenced Works:

  • Zadra, Dan. (2009). Five: Where will you be five years from today?. Seattle: Compendium, Inc.

15 Words of Wisdom

We know it’s been a while since we posted some “Words of Wisdom” on the      Inta-Great blog, so we decided to give you 15 of our favorites at once!

(If you follow Inta-Great on Facebook or Twitter, you may have seen some of these before, and if you are not already following us on Facebook or Twitter—you should!)

  1. “The best executive is the one who has sense enough to pick good men to do what he wants done and the self-restraint to keep from meddling with them while they do it.” -Theodore Roosevelt
  2. “Chance favors the prepared mind.” – Louis Pasteur
  3. “Experience is not what happens to you; it is what you do with what happens to you. Don’t waste your pain; use it to help others.” – Rick Warren
  4. “About the only thing that comes to us without effort is old age.” – Gloria Pitzer
  5. “Courage does not always roar.  Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, ‘I will try again tomorrow.’” – Mary Anne Radmacher
  6. “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world.  Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” – Margaret Mead
  7. “Watch your thoughts, for they become words.
    Watch your words, for they become actions.
    Watch your actions, for they become habits.
    Watch your habits, for they become character.
    Watch your character, for it becomes your destiny.”
  8. “When you find yourself in a hole, the best thing you can do is stop digging.” – Warren Buffett
  9. “We’ve been put on this earth to invest in other people. That’s when you get the greatest joy and satisfaction in life–when you invest in other people.” – Kathy Coder, President of Inta-Great
  10. “Research shows convincingly that EQ (Emotional Intelligence) is more important than IQ in almost every role and many times more important in leadership roles.”      – Stephen R. Covey
  11. “With practice & patience you can do anything you set your mind to.”
  12. “Most leaders spend time trying to get others to think highly of them, when instead they should try to get their people to think more highly of themselves. It’s wonderful when the people believe in their leader. It’s more wonderful when the leader believes in their people! You can’t hold a man down without staying down with him.” – Booker T. Washington
  13. “You do not lead by hitting people over the head — that’s assault, not leadership.”
    – Dwight D. Eisenhower
  14. “Nothing can stop the man with the right mental attitude from achieving his goal; nothing on earth can help the man with the wrong mental attitude.” -Thomas Jefferson
  15. “Make something of yourself. Try your best to get to the top, if that’s where you want to go, but know that the more people you try to take with you, the faster you’ll get there, and the longer you’ll stay there.” – James A. Autry

Courage, Failure, & Leadership

cour·age
noun \ˈkər-ij, ˈkə-rij\
Definition of COURAGE
: mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty
–  Definition from the Merriam-Webster Dictionary

When it comes to defining courage, the key phrase is: “and withstand.”  Courage is not about fearlessness.  It is about being afraid and moving forward anyway.  It is about pursuing a passion—a purpose—that is greater than one’s fear.

In his book, Next Generation Leader, Andy Stanley identifies courage as one of the “five essentials for those who will shape the future.”  I’ve struggled with this emphasis on courage because courage seemed to be more of a personality trait than a skill.  And, requiring a leader to have a certain personality trait reminded me of the outdated “Great Man” leadership theories.  These theories essentially said that leaders are born, not made, and all great leaders share a certain set of personality traits.  Contrastingly, at Inta-Great, we subscribe to the transformational and serving leadership theories—theories that focus on skills and competencies leaders can learn and develop.

However, after moving along in my leadership journey, and watching others on theirs, I have come to realize that Andy Stanley is right.  Courage is essential to leadership.  But what I have also come to realize is that courage is less of a personality trait you are born with and more of an attitude that is cultivated.  [Look for another post about how to cultivate courage in the near future.]

So, why is courage so important to leadership?  As it was defined earlier, courage involves persevering in the face of “danger, fear, or difficulty.”  Danger, fear, and difficulty tend to result from ambiguity and uncertainness about the future.  And, if there is one area leaders specialize in, it is ambiguity and uncertainty.  At Inta-Great we define leadership as, “A service-oriented relationship by which change occurs as a leader influences a group of individuals toward a common purpose.”  One of the key words in this definition is “change.”

Leaders influence change toward a common purpose.  Change is inherently difficult, and sometimes frightening.  It involves leaving the realm of “what is” for “what could be.”  Leaders are not content to relax, put their feet up, and pat themselves on the back.  Instead, they are leaning forward, looking toward the future, and thinking about how things could be even better—and yet, thinking about it is not enough.

How many people at your workplace have opinions about what should change in the organization?  Probably a lot.  Most people have ideas about how communication could be improved, what new products should be developed, what management should be doing, etc.  But, they are not doing anything about it.  Contrastingly, leaders at all levels are those who not only see the opportunities, but seize the opportunities—taking steps toward making change happen despite the inherent risk and uncertainty.  This requires courage.

Sometimes taking the risk pays off.  The leader is successful and achieves what he or she sets out to achieve.  And, in some ways this is what one is taught when studying leadership.  If you follow this approach—if you utilize these essentials of leadership, or these four factors of transformational leadership, etc.—you will be successful.  But sometimes this doesn’t happen.  Sometimes a leader will do everything right—cast a great vision for the future, empower those around him or her, etc.—and he or she will fail.  What happens then?

Recently, my mentor, a successful and engaging woman, set out on a new path.  She felt led to pursue what many called an impossible goal.  She knew it was going to be an uphill battle, but her vision of what could be and her passion to serve others gave her the courage to try anyway.  And try she did.  She gave 110%, made some great progress, inspired many along her way, but in the end, she failed.  She did not achieve her goal.

So once again, she, and other leaders who have failed or will fail, must tap into the power of courage.  This time, courage will be needed to pick oneself up, identify one’s next goal, and begin working toward it.  As Mary Anne Radmacher has said, “Courage doesn’t always roar.  Sometimes courage is the little voice at the end of the day that says I’ll try again tomorrow.”

While everyone needs time to “lick their wounds” so to speak, leaders refuse to let failure define them.  Instead, they use it to strengthen them.  Leaders know that failures are great learning opportunities.  They know that failure experiences are hard, but they help the leader cultivate wisdom for next time.  Sometimes failure is a necessary perquisite for success.  This is the risk the leader is willing to take.

Why is the leader willing to take such a risk?  As we’ve already discussed, the passion and purpose the leader is pursuing is a strong motivator.  But, there is something else.  The best leaders understand that failure, while it hurts in the moment, is a passing thing.  Regret is not.  The regret that comes from not trying—from missed opportunities—can last a lifetime.  So, even more than failure, leaders fear regret.  They understand the adage, “You may be disappointed if you fail, but you are doomed if you don’t try.”

So, while my mentor may not have achieved her goal, she can rest in knowing that tomorrow, or next month, or next year, or twenty years from now, she will never have to look back at her life and wonder “What if…”  “What if I would have taken that risk?”  “What if I would have left my comfort zone?”  Instead, she will know that she worked hard, made a lot of progress, inspired many individuals, and paved the way for those who will come after her.

And now, in some ways she has an even bigger opportunity than those who achieve their goals—for it is during times of trial and darkness that one’s true character really shines.  By refusing to let this experience define her, she will go on to impact even more.  I know for me, she remains a source of inspiration and a great lesson in courage and leadership.  Finally, it is my hope, that others will be inspired by her story to act courageously.  For as we have seen, courage is essential to leadership. 

-Written by Valerie Faust, Director of Blossom & Flourish and Training & Development Consultant

How Leaders Can Facilitate Change

Change is an integral part of any type of growth.  If any organization is to grow, leadership must recognize that change is inevitable, and then set up a process to help people embrace it.  Too often, employees experience what they perceive to be random attempts at change with no thought-out plan.  It is these impulsive and unsuccessful change attempts which lead to an organizational culture of skepticism and negativity.  To prevent such a culture from taking root in their organizations, leaders need to: (a) be aware that most people dislike change, (b) solicit input from the employees, and (c) communicate and celebrate the change.   

When trying to implement a change, the first thing leaders need to understand is that most people reject change.  In fact, up to 80% of people in an organization can be labeled as reactive thinkers.  Reactive thinkers tend to resist change, avoid responsibility, fear taking risks, and have low confidence (Oakley and Krug, 1991).  Therefore, change efforts must begin by changing the mindset of these individuals As Oakley and Krug emphasize, one of leadership’s main responsibilities is to bring out the best in those they lead Attitude is critical to performance, and one of the key issues behind attitude is one’s self-esteem.  One way to help improve employee self-esteem is by soliciting their input during the change process.

Some leaders have the “it’s my way or the highway” mentality – they believe they can impose their ideas onto other people.  And yet, as Oakley and Krug point out, this philosophy does not work for implementing long-term change (1991).  Instead of only telling people what to do, leaders should strive to engage employees in the change process.  Leaders can do this by asking for employee feedback, questions, and ideas to make the change more successful.  This experience not only increases employees’ self-esteem and confidence, it also helps employees feel a sense of ownership for the change initiative. 

Engaging people throughout the change process facilitates organizational “buy-in.”  Without such commitment it will be impossible to move change forward.  Another way to develop buy-in is by building trust with one’s employees.  It is only when people trust a leader that they will be willing to follow him or her into the unknown territory of change.

One way of building trust is through constant, clear, and honest communication.  The first step in the communication process is to develop a clear vision around why the change needs to take place and what it will look like.  Unless change is clear in the leader’s mind, it will be impossible for him or her to communicate a compelling vision to others (the same is true for leadership teams).

Once the leader is clear on the vision, he/she needs to communicate it.  Leaders can communicate the vision by delivering speeches, sending emails, posting the vision statement on the wall, participating in discussions – but most importantly –  by “living out” the message.  As Kotter (1995) says, “Communication comes in both word and deeds, and the latter are often the most powerful form” (p.65).

This consistent communication in word and deed will reinforce the change process as will celebrating successes.  Many times leaders are so bogged down with trying to achieve results, they do not take the time, energy, and resources to acknowledge success.  For employees, the perception of never being recognized can erode their desire to engage in change as engaging usually takes great effort.  One way to combat this is by celebrating short-term wins and recognizing, perhaps even rewarding, employees for their involvement in the change process (1995).

Overall, leaders need to remember that change does not happen overnight.  Instead, it is a long and deliberate process that requires engaging one’s employees, communicating a clear vision, and celebrating successes along the way.  When used together, these actions will help employees open their minds and be more receptive to new ideas and change in order to help the organization grow.

Resources:

  • Kotter, J. (March, 1995). Leading change: why transformation efforts fail. Harvard Business Review.
  • Oakely, E., Krug, D. (1991). Enlightened leadership. New York, New York: Simon and Schuster.

Animated Leadership Lessons

Here’s a creative article filled with leadership lessons! Who knew there were so many hidden gems in some of our kids’ favorite animated movies?