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.

Compassion – The Fourth C of Leadership

Mark Twain once said,

“Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great.”

The best leaders help others become great by coaching, mentoring, and investing in others’ lives.  Their goal is to empower others to achieve their full potential, thereby developing the next generation of leaders.

The Inta-Greated Leadership ModelBefore one can go about coaching and developing greatness in others, however, it is important that those people feel that the leader cares about them.  For, it has also been said, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”  We are all more open to being coached and receiving advice when we trust that the person coaching us and offering us advice has our best interests at heart.  Otherwise, our natural tendency is to become defensive and offended.  That is why the fourth C of leadership is Compassion.  A leader must be motivated by love and compassion to serve and empower his or her people.           

Kouzes and Posner (2006) refer to it as “Enable Others to Act,” and describe it as infusing “people with energy and confidence” and ensuring that “people feel strong and capable” (p. 6).  In striving to do so, emotional intelligence plays a key role.

Emotional Intelligence expert, Daniel Goleman (2001) writes, “What distinguishes great leaders from merely good ones?  It isn’t IQ or technical skills.  It’s Emotional Intelligence: a group of five skills that enable the best leaders to maximize their own and their followers’ performance” (p. 1).  Emotional Intelligence does this by helping leaders understand that everyone is unique – everyone has his or her own combination of personality style, strengths, weaknesses, and motivators – therefore, not everyone can be coached or developed the same way.  [Which connects us back to our first C, Composition.]

The call to coach and develop others is also prominent in the transformational and servant leadership theories.  Individualized consideration is the fourth factor of transformational leadership.  It consists of “…focusing on the development and mentoring of individual followers and attending to their specific needs” (Powell, 2011, p. 5), and “…trying to assist followers in becoming fully actualized” (Northouse, 2010, p. 179).

In regard to servant leadership, many of Spears’ (2002) ten characteristics of the servant-leader focus on coaching and mentoring others.  Those factors include: (a) empathy, accepting and recognizing others for their unique gifts; (b) healing, the calling to “help make whole” those they lead (p. 5); (c) stewardship, “a commitment to serving the needs of others” (p. 7); and finally (d) commitment to the growth of people, the leader’s responsibility to nurture the personal and professional growth of his or her employees.

Finally, it should be noted that leaders must not only coach, mentor, and empower others, but also personally be coached, mentored, and empowered.  There is a need for leaders to seek counsel, so that they can be continually growing and developing.  It is only after one has personally wrestled with tough questions, decisions, and experiences that one can lead others down that same path.  As Manz (2001) puts it, leaders must “…serve as an example of someone who has sincerely struggled with being personally effective and found his or her own way.  Then, as a result, [leaders] are in a better position to help others find their own way as well” (p. 15).

Once again, however, a leader cannot stop here.  In addition to equipping people to achieve the vision through Compassion, leaders must also utilize the fifth C, Communication, in order to cast the vision and inspire others to action.

[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:

  • Goleman, D. (2001). What makes a leader? In J.S. Osland, D.A. Kolb, & I.M. Rubin (Eds.), The organizational behavior reader (7th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.
  • Kouzes, J. & Posner, B. (2003). Student leadership practices inventory.  San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers.
  • Manz, C. (2001). The leadership wisdom of Jesus. San Francisco: Brett-Koehler.
  • Northouse, P. G. (2010). Leadership: Theory and practice (5th ed). Los Angeles: Sage.
  • Powell, G. N. (2011).  The gender and leadership wars.  Organizational Dynamics, 40, 1-9.
  • 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.

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.

Composition: The First C of Leadership

As we introduced 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.”  And second, to be effective in 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 these 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.

The Inta-Greated Leadership Model

In this post, we will further explore the first of our Seven Cs – Composition. 

To begin with, transforming culture requires transforming organizations and institutions, and transforming organizations and institutions requires transforming individuals.  Therefore, culture cannot be transformed without individuals being transformed.  That is why leadership must begin with composition.  Composition requires that the leader understand the unique personalities, strengths, and motivators of themselves and others.  As Drucker (1999, p. 11) writes, “The need to manage oneself is therefore creating a revolution in human affairs.”  Essentially, one must effectively lead oneself before attempting to lead others.

In addition to Drucker (1999), Charles Manz also (2001) emphasizes that leaders must first lead themselves before they lead others.  “We are challenged first to examine ourselves and get our own act together before we try to lead others” (p. 12).  As leaders, we have to understand our personality style, strengths, motivators, learning styles, and weaknesses because this forms the foundation of our growth and development.  Knowing oneself and identifying one’s strengths and weaknesses helps leaders become more effective – not only personally but at the team level as well.

Once one has taken the time to understand oneself – personality traits, learning styles, strengths, and weaknesses – one also has the responsibility to understand that others are just as unique.  Then, instead of rejecting those differences, one is able to see them as complements.  It allows one to create and lead a team where others’ strengths balance one’s own weaknesses.  Or, in the words of strengths-expert Marcus Buckingham (2008), “There are no well-rounded leaders – only well-rounded leadership teams.”  And finally, at the organizational level, this awareness allows leaders to better match individuals to roles/jobs that play to their strengths.

In regard to transformational and servant leadership theory, composition closely aligns with the “awareness” and “building community” characteristics of servant-leadership.  According to Spears (2002), leaders build community, by caring for others and bringing them together.  Spears also notes that this ability stems from the leader’s level of awareness.  Being aware involves having a deep understanding of oneself and others which “strengthens the servant-leader” by allowing him or her to build better teams.  Finally, awareness also “aids one in understanding issues that involve ethics and values” which leads us to our second C, Character (p. 6).

References:

  • Buckingham, M. (2008). The truth about you: Your secret to success. [Video]. (Available from Thomas Nelson, Inc., Nashville, TN).
  • Drucker, P. (1999). Managing oneself. Harvard Business Review, 77(2), 64-74.
  • Manz, C. (2001). The leadership wisdom of Jesus. San Francisco: Brett-Koehler.
  • 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.

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.

Super Bowl Wisdom

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In honor of this weekend’s Super Bowl, we thought it fitting to put together our Top 6 Words of Wisdom from football legend, Vince Lombardi:  

  1. “People who work together will win, whether it be against complex football defenses, or the problems of modern society.”
  2. “Football is a great deal like life in that it teaches that work, sacrifice, perseverance, competitive drive, selflessness and respect for authority is the price that each and every one of us must pay to achieve any goal that is worthwhile.”
  3. “The good Lord gave you a body that can stand most anything. It’s your mind you have to convince.”
  4. “Winning is not everything – but making the effort to win is.”
  5.  “Perfection is not attainable. But if we chase perfection, we can catch excellence.”
  6. “They call it coaching but it is teaching. You do not just tell them…you show them the reasons.”

And because we couldn’t just keep it to 6, here’s one more for the extra point:

  • “After all the cheers have died down and the stadium is empty, after the headlines have been written, and after you are back in the quiet of your room and the championship ring has been placed on the dresser and after all the pomp and fanfare have faded, the enduring thing that is left is the dedication to doing with our lives the very best we can to make the world a better place in which to live.” 

Thanksgiving Leadership Lessons

Thanksgiving has come and gone, and we at Inta-Great hope you had a wonderful holiday filled with family, friends, and maybe even some time to relax and rejuvenate.

We also hope you had some time over the holiday vacation to reflect on what and who you are thankful for—in both your personal and work life.  So here’s our question, did you let anyone know what you are thankful for?  Did you let anyone know you are thankful for him/her?

Thanksgiving serves as a good reminder about how important it is to express gratitude.  Good leaders are appreciative.  They understand that an encouraging word and a sincere “thank you” can help motivate others and create a positive work environment.  After thirty years of research,leadership experts Kouzes and Posner concluded in their latest book, The Truth About Leadership, that:

“the highest performing managers and leaders are the most open and caring…They are more positive and passionate, more loving and compassionate, and more grateful and encouraging than their lower performing counterparts.” 

Why does being grateful and encouraging make such a difference?  It’s quite simple really.  We all work harder and smarter for people we like, and we tend to like people who appreciate and encourage us.  This is often clear in our personal lives.  Most of us would not settle for a spouse or significant other who did not appreciate our efforts or encourage our personal development—and the data shows us that most of us will not settle for a boss who does not appreciate our efforts or encourage our personal development either.  A Gallup poll of more one million employed U.S. workers concluded that the number one reason people quit their jobs is a bad boss or immediate supervisor.  And, a separate study by Florida State University found one of the main reasons someone is labeled as a “bad boss” is for “failing to give credit where credit is due.”

Not only do people work harder for bosses they like, they are also more willing to take smart risks.  Recently, we wrote an article about the importance of courage and risk-taking when it comes to leadership.  As a leader and manager, you should strive to cultivate leaders at all levels of your organization, and this means giving employees the freedom to take risks.  Innovation will not take place if your employees are afraid to leave their comfort zone.  Knowing they work for a positive and encouraging boss makes employees feel safe enough to be courageous and innovative.

That is why it so important for leaders to not only be appreciative, but to express their gratitude as well.  Don’t let this overwhelm you.  Expressing gratitude doesn’t mean you have to develop a new, complex HR policy about employee recognition, it just means you have to say “Thank you.  Kouzes and Posner put it this way, “recognitions don’t need to come in the form of elaborate events or expensive awards.  In fact, the more personal they are, the more impact they can have.”

So, if you haven’t already, take a moment and reflect on who and what you are thankful for this year.  Maybe you’re thankful for the many ways your spouse has supported you this year.  Maybe you’re thankful for how your employee managed that high profile project.  Maybe you’re thankful for the dedication and loyalty someone has shown to the organization.  Perhaps you’re thankful for someone’s positive attitude and enthusiasm   Maybe it’s even something “little” like everyone pitching in to keep the office kitchen clean.

Then, once you’ve identified who and what you’re thankful for, let them know it.  Send them an email.  Add a personalized thank you note to those Christmas/Holiday cards you hand out every year.  Or better yet, tell them in person.  For many leaders, end-of-year or mid-year employee performance reviews are coming up—those are great opportunities to let your employees know you appreciate them.  In the end, we promise you’ll be thankful that you did. 

Referenced Works:

  • Kouzes, J.M. and B. Z. Posner. (2010). The truth about leadership: The no-fads, heart-of-the-matter facts you need to know. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

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

Key Aspects of a Great Vision

You cannot lead others if you don’t know where you are going–that is why having a vision is so important.  

So, what are some key aspects of a Great Vision?

1. It is clear and compelling, and it is short and sweet.   

2. It makes people excited to be a part of something greater than themselves. 

3. It appeals to one’s need for: recognition, responsibility, and fulfillment

4. It’s NOT about the money.

Listen to the clip below to learn more about the key aspects of a Great Vision.