Leadership is any influence relationship that brings about change…this can be a teacher/student relationship, a parent/child relationship, a politician/citizen relationship, a business owner/employee relationship, a community leader/volunteer relationship and peer/peer relationship. These ten guiding principles can support leaders in becoming trusted by their followers and for withstanding challenges of today’s ever-changing world.
(1) Leaders must be willing to be highly visible during crisis.
Enron, WorldCom and Martha Stewart...Their greed and fraud have further eroded trust in people around world, and as a result, corporations and business owners are now operating with a brand new set of rules. Building trust requires a special effort on behalf of CEO or Business Owner to communicate openly, honestly, and often…especially during crisis or tough times. During a crisis, stakeholders want to hear from their leader…they don’t want to hear from his or her spokesperson. They not only want to hear from person at they top…they want to engage in open communication that involves sharing of information and ideas, and they want to know that their voice has been heard. During turbulent times, it is important to take advantage of all types of opportunities for communication, including open forums, task forces, breakfast meetings, media, one on one meetings, and stakeholder surveys. More formal forms of communication strategies include 360 degree feedback assessment or a full communications audit (which may take 2-6 months to complete.) The goal is to communicate openly and often and to continue assessing your communications program every day to insure that a culture of trust is being maintained.
(2) Leaders must be willing to take a stand- based on their vision and their values.
This does not happen in a vacuum…leaders must be willing to admit that they need strong support from an executive coach or a strong mentor who can guide them to doing tough internal work required to shift their thinking and to get off ego trip that many leaders live . They must be willing to carefully explore their values and how they can move their companies in direction of a vision that is unwavering. This takes boldness, and a leader’s stand must be nailed into ground and secured with cement...the stand must be so strong that leader does not become “wishy-washy” during tough times and in face of controversy. Consistency is key, and leader must know and believe in his or her stand on a very deep level...from heart...not because public relations director or Chief of Staff told him or her what to do or say. This is a genuine stand that is driven by leader's authentic value system that never changes.
(3) Leaders must be willing to be fully engaged with four focus areas of their being: physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually.
These areas of being must also be congruent with leader's environment. Leaders of today must be willing to be fully engaged...physically fit, emotionally balanced, mentally tough, and spiritually centered. Leading a strong life is a quest that many leaders run from, because it can be tough, but it is crucial if he/she wants to engage followers in a way that is trusting. I cannot help but think about Tiger Woods when I think about leaders being fully engaged. He is an example of a world leader who is a model of what I am describing. His body is fit, his mind is sharp, his emotions are solid, and his spiritual presence is inspiring. He is being followed by young men from all corners of world and viewed as an inspiring model and mentor in world of golf.
In addition to strengthening four areas of being, leaders must be willing to create a strong environment...one that is congruent with leading a strong life. The environment must be clean, clutter-free and optimized for speed, efficiency, and effectivness. The people and network surrounding leader must be moving forward and fundamentally strong, and activities leaders choose must point to a life that is built for change and is rock solid. If environment is not congruent with goals a leader seeks, her resources, energy, and effectiveness will become drained over time, and people will no longer be willing and loyal followers. They will seek a stronger leader to turn to for direction and hope.
(4) Leaders must be willing to build deep pockets of social capital by designing a network based on diversity.
In book "Achieving Success through Social Capital", author Wayne Baker advocates building of networks based on diversity, In chapter 2, he states: "Diversity provides benefits of multiple perspectives on problems, protection against groupthink, and enhanced ability to collect, process, and digest information. Management teams with members from diverse functional background, for example, perform better than homongenous management teams." Building a diverse network is a crucial step in leaders being able to build a strong business and personal life. It is not uncommon to see leaders develop homongenous networks...known commonly as cliques. This is a dangerous approach, because network does not develop arms and legs it needs to reach four corners of globe, to get resources and knowledge it needs, and it can actually cave in on itself, pulling company down with it. By reaching into different cultures, ages, geographical locations, educational backrounds, and belief systems, leaders can build networks that will yield biggest results and that will be sustainable over time.
(5) Leaders must be willing to overcome growing tide of cynicism in business world and define an upbeat style of leadership.
In article “A Prescription for Leading in Cynical Times” authors James Kouzes and Barry Posner, authors of Leadership Challenge discuss this in detail. Cynics are evident in every company in world. They usually believe that human conduct is motivated by self- interest, and they have a disbelief about integrity of others. They have high expectations of world, and they are continually disappointed when people in their lives don’t meet those expectations. To begin working with this challenge, leaders must be willing to drop their own cynical "The World Stinks" attitude and develop qualities that others say are important to leadership such as integrity, competency, ability to relate, visioning, inspiration and drive build a thriving and cohesive team.
(6) Leaders must be willing to push edges of innovation.
I want to begin by talking about difference between innovation and creativity. William Coyne, senior vice president for R&D at 3M once described difference: "Creativity is thinking of new and appropriate ideas whereas innovation is successful implementation of those ideas within an organization. In other words creativity is concept and innovation is process." Innovation always involves treading into uncertain waters, and entering a new territory can be challenging, even for most creative of thinkers. Yet falling behind can be a great deal worse than taking risk to stretch and grow into new markets with new ventures. If companies are to move into future, leaders must be willing to push edges of innovation each and every day. Executing an experimental venture requires planning, and it requires revisiting ideas that your company may have put on shelf years ago, and whose time has now come. It is about zeroing in on best possible strategy, discovering what systems are needed and what processes will be required to get job done and to come out on profit side of venture. Your new offering should meet demands of your customers and should be an improvement over way things are currently being done. As Nike says “Just Do It.” Start today to begin process of innovation, and see what comes about for future of your company…you may just be surprised!