Thinking differently and leading differently

Four cornerstones that can define your leadership philosophy, identity and brand


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Everywhere we look, we find new articles and books about the characteristics, priorities, actions, behavior, qualities and mistakes made by leaders. But canned recipes and steps don’t work very well when it comes to leadership, because leadership approaches need to be tailored to fit the leader, the business strategy and the organization’s needs.

Thinking differently and leading differently are critical for leadership impact. Here are four cornerstones that define your leadership philosophy, identity and brand.

1. Trust and credibility: We all know these don’t come easy and are breakable, with devastating repercussions. Many would say that we build trust by being honest and by doing what we say we’ll do. But there’s more to trust than that.

I trust people who care about my well-being, who value me and my work and who I can count on to help me succeed. I trust people who ask the right questions and really listen. Looking back over the last decade, it’s not surprising that the overriding message received by employees, due to the impact of leaders’ decisions, actions and priorities during the recession, has been one of prioritization – revenue and profit over people. Layoffs, elimination of investments in people, more autocratic leadership and reduced transparency have caused loss of trust. And now, more than ever, leaders and managers need workforces with new skills and high commitment to improve business performance.

Credibility is related to trust. It’s about being recognized as knowledgeable, skilled, honest and reliable. We earn credibility by doing what’s right. We earn credibility by sharing information, leading by example and walking our talk. We earn credibility by executing business strategy effectively, through fairness, wisdom, communication and follow-through. We earn it by explaining ourselves, by building buy-in, and through success and fostering win-wins.

2. Transparency: A concept that gained momentum following the Enron scandal and other corporate management debacles, transparency has become a standard practice, in varying degrees, in most organizations.

Many articles promise that transparency builds trust, but while transparency can contribute to building trust, by itself it cannot sustain trust between leaders and their workforces. Trust requires more than information and data being shared.

More and more, customers want to know that businesses are taking responsibility for the greater good, and that business will put the best interests of the customer and the planet ahead of profits. Employees want leadership that cares about them. Reflecting on your personal leadership philosophy, decisions and behavior. Are you satisfied with the messages your customers and your employees are receiving?

3. Inclusion: This is a concept that seems to have its roots in empowerment. It means inviting and pulling people into discussions, planning change and making decisions that impact what they do and how they do it. It means enabling them to contribute in ways that are meaningful to them. To bring out the best in people, it’s essential to bring them into decision-making discussions and planning at the early stages. Asking for their input and ideas and enabling them to partner with you provides leaders with a body of knowledge that cannot be accessible in any other way. Inclusion leverages the skills, knowledge and experience of people throughout your organization for the good of the business. It means showing appreciation and recognizing people’s strengths and contributions. In addition, a philosophy with a cornerstone of inclusion demonstrates leaders’ value, caring and respect for their people.

4. A future and a path: People need to see a future for themselves in the organization and a path to it. It’s that simple. Where is the company today, and where is it headed? What will the company be doing differently in the next few years? Employees want to know how they fit in now, and how they can fit in later. Developing skills, knowledge and experience for today and for the future is good for both the business and its people.

Providing strategic goals, training and development and career paths that enable your people to envision a desirable future for themselves helps to address the universal question, “what’s in it for me?” by engaging people and aligning them to contribute to achieving the business strategy.

Is your leadership strategy, and are your day-to-day decisions, present- and future-focused?   

Rosanna Nadeau, principal/consultant, at Prism Perspectives Group LLC, Mason, can be reached at 603-878-1546 or Rosanna@PrismPerspectivesGroup.com.

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