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Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Signs of a Positive Leader

So how do we know when we're following a true leader? Well, that's something we all have to decide for ourselves. But we have some ideas about what it takes to excel - as an expert and as a leader. So here's our list:

1. Positive, no Matter What.  Leaders don't jump on the easy bandwagon of negativity. A true leader is determined to find the positive, no matter how ugly things appear. They hold fast to their positive vision - tirelessly seeking the best outcome for all. Anyone can throw in the towel and succumb to negative, woe-is-me, finger-pointing thinking. Leaders rise above the negative path - finding positive aspects in any situation to help their followers find a better way to live and grow.

2. Problem Solving. When there are issues, leaders focus on solving them in the most expedient way possible. They don't start a witch hunt to find out who caused the problem. That won't solve anything. Leaders roll up their sleeves and dive into problem solving mode. They inspire others to do the same - leveraging expertise and a positive focus to solve the issue and move on.

3. The Guts to Be a Winner. Those with true expertise usually also have the guts to spit in the face of a business storm and come out a winner. They don't collapse under the weight of negative commentary, shudder when the naysayers gather like a pack of wolves. They stand up and come out fighting with every positive aspect in their bones. Their inspiration teaches all of us how to be winners in the face of the negative storms that are bound to hit us.

4. Thoughtful Commentary. Leaders don't run around pointing to others saying things like 'just look at that awful product, look at how stupid those other companies are'. No way. Leaders are thoughtful and constructive with every word that comes from their mouths. Our words are one of the most powerful things we own. Leaders know that, and are thoughtful with their words. When they comment - it's always in the spirit of positive, helpful and supportive advice or wisdom. Even when they point out an issue - they follow it with a recommendation for how that issue can become a  strength. Their words are always used to inspire and lift their followers.

5. Consistency and Integrity. Leaders value their own integrity above all else. They refuse to sacrifice that integrity no matter how large their potential gain. Leaders have consistent, fair and well-founded opinions. Yes, those opinions will evolve - they must to avoid getting stuck in the status quo.   But when they do evolve, leaders will share the logic and reasoning behind that evolution. Then they'll be consistent with that evolved opinion. Leaders don't flop back and forth like a poor fish out of water, seeking a ride on the most popular tide.

6. Placing others before themselves. Leaders know that the 'good of the many outweighs the good of the few, or the one.' They place the good of their followers above themselves, their fame, their fortunes. Great leaders are servants - placing the value they provide above all else.

7. No Chest Thumping. Leaders quickly let us all know they are just like the rest of us. Leaders do everything they can to make others feel special because they are focused on lifting their followers - not themselves.

8. Thumper Rules! Leaders follow Thumpers' lead:  'If you can't say something nice, then don't say anything at all'!

For more on how we can help you develop as a Positive Leader, please contact: graham.watson@positiveleadership.co.uk 


Developing Leaders from the Military

Bill Simon, the chief operating officer of Wal-Mart U.S. and a 25-year veteran of the US Navy and Naval Reserves, had a suggestion. What the company should do, he argued at the time, was create a programme to recruit junior military officers - the lieutenants and captains who had recently led soldiers, sailors, Marines, and airmen.

Regardless of where you fall on the favourable-of-military-and-war scale, the fact is the military is a leadership-training hotbed, particularly in wartime.

According to General David Petraeus, the man in charge of U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan:

"Tell me anywhere in the business world where a 22- or 23-year-old is responsible for 35 or 40 other individuals on missions that involve life and death. Their tactical actions can have strategic implications for the overall mission. And they're under enormous scrutiny, on top of everything else. These are pretty formative experiences. It's a bit of a crucible-like experience that they go through."

Recently GE CEO Jeff Immelt gave a speech at West Point called "Renewing American Leadership". In the speech he said that 21st-century leaders:
  • Need to be better listeners.
  • Need to be comfortable with complexity.
  • Must be willing to delegate so that the organisation can move quickly.
Even the US Army Training and Leader Development Panel concluded in 2001 that it needed officers with two basic qualities: self-awareness and adaptability.

Does this mean that the military is the only place you're going to find:
  • Better listeners.
  • Those comfortable with complexity.
  • Self-awareness.
  • Adaptability.
  • Those who take strategic risk and fail with certainty.
  • Those who are comfortable leading self and others.
No, of course not, but this definitely provides a learn-by-doing framework from which to source future leaders within and without your organisation.

Maybe they came from the military, or public safety (police and fire), or another company, or even your own firm (when you weren't looking) where existing leadership trial by fire and brimstone has forged the new millennium of management talent.

Identify them. Nurture them. Train them. Allow them risk and responsibility.