As I write this blog, the business press is again filled with details of corporate America responding to decreased profits by significantly reducing its headcount. The now familiar cycle takes another turn..profits down, headcount cut, stock price up, employee morale dashed. Since Hammer and Champy released their cry for “re-engineering” in the mid nineties the slashing of the workforce coupled with decreasing trust and respect for corporate leadership has been all too common. I read recently someone describe leadership as “the art of disappointing people at a rate they can stand.” What your reaction to this view?
I just can’t align with this paradigm. For me an essential element of effective leadership is the alignment of the human heart and mind, racing towards a better tomorrow. There is a dominant air of optimism in contrast to gloom and managed disappointment. We are thirsting for examples of leaders in our workplaces boldly stirring the hearts of people with a vision of a better tomorrow and a plan that transforms hearers into trusting and willing followers. Can you commit to advancing this vision of leadership? What role are you playing?
More than 25 years ago I was moved by the writings of James Kouzes and Barry Posner in their book “The Leadership Challenge.” The fifth edition has recently been released and as I read it my pulse still quickens with the timeless power and simplicity of their message. Their research reveals that above all other characteristics people still believe that effective leaders must be honest, competent, inspiring and forward looking. The old adage that “if you don’t believe in the messenger you won’t believe the message” still holds true. The timeless leadership practices are:
- Modeling the Way: Be a guardian of company values and demonstrate alignment between actions and values.
- Inspiring a Shared Vision: Win others by casting a picture of exciting and aspirational opportunities.
- Challenging the Process: Encourage and reward the search for new approaches. Parking in the “status quo” spot is discouraged. Spilling of some “milk” is anticipated, however the killing of the “cow” of course must be avoided.
- Enabling Others to Act: Improve team competency and remove barriers that erode trust.
- Encourage the Heart: Celebrate victories while making everyone feel valued, needed and trusted.
When all is said and done great leaders see themselves as serving others. Let’s equip ourselves to make full advantage of very leadership opportunity that comes our way.