Leadership doesn’t just happen. Leaders are made, not born. Leadership is a set of skills and abilities that anyone can learn. Those skills can be strengthened, honed and enhanced.
No one said leadership is easy, but the rewards are great! In making the commitment to be a role model for our groups, to look positively at the future, to encourage our team members to be the best that they can be and then thank them for their efforts, we are fostering not only their development as leaders, but our own, while positively moving our team into the future.
In the past five weeks, we discussed the ‘Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership’ which can make better leaders of us all. To recap, the Five Practices are:
1. Model the Way
2. Inspire a Shared Vision
3. Challenge the Process
4. Enable Others to Act
5. Encourage the Heart
Leaders who use these practices create higher-performing teams, increase sales and customer satisfaction levels and foster renewed loyalty and greater organisational commitment.
We also considered each of the four attributes that compel people to follow a leader, including that the leader be honest, forward-looking, inspiring and competent. People who work with such leaders are significantly more satisfied, committed, energized and productive.
Today, we will explore each of the 10 commitments of leadership. These 10 commitments are:
1. Clarify values
2. Set the example
3. Envision the future
4. Enlist others
5. Search for opportunities
6. Experiment and take risks
7. Foster collaboration
8. Strengthen others
9. Recognize contributions
10. Celebrate the values and victories
If you want to make a significant impact on people, on communities and on organisations, you can do so by making the most important commitment: The commitment to become the very best leader you can be.
In The Leadership Challenge, James M. Kouzes and Barry Z. Posner write about the ten commitments for effective leadership. Their work has stood the test of time. While the context has changed over the years, the content of leadership hasn’t.
Let us go through these Ten Leadership Commitments:
1.Clarify your personal credo. The values or principles that you believe should guide your part of the organisation. Make sure that you communicate your credo orally and in writing to your key constituents. Post it prominently for everyone to see (e.g., leadership commitment). Challenge yourself, challenge others. Search out challenging opportunities to change, grow, innovate and improve. As a leader, when you clarify our personal values, it becomes easy to see how important it is to walk the walk when you talk the talk.
2.Set the example by aligning your actions with the values we share as a team. “What does the team value?” The commitment that you make, is to not only figure out what you value as an individual, but also to take it a step further and apply that to the team and then take that one step further and make sure that the way that you act and how you spend your time together with the team, reflect what you value as a group. As a leader, it’s especially important for you to set the example and take the lead in making sure that you are role modelling the behaviours you want to see in others.
3.Turn what you envision for the future into a five- to ten-minute ‘vision speech’ for your team. Keep the written speech in your daily planner. Review it daily, revising and refining, as you feel moved to do so. Envision yourself ten years from now. Write an article about how you’ve made a difference in the last decade – how you’ve contributed to your job, your organisation, your family and your community. Talk about the future in terms of the optimistic possibilities. By thinking of the possibilities, it creates a positive vision for the future and goals to work towards – moving your team forward, now that is a beautiful thing!
4.Harness the team’s enthusiasm and turn it towards creating common goals in that everyone believes. The key is in the discussions that you have with your group. It’s in the brainstorming and sharing of ideas and creating an environment that allows all people to fully engage and participate in the process. If everyone can contribute to the process and the product of your team, you have a greater opportunity for buy-in and thusly, a much higher likelihood of success.
5.Seek innovative ways to change, grow and improve ‘ways of doing’. How many times have we found ourselves saying, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it?” Or, “We’ve always done things this way, so why make a change?” It’s not about change for change sake, that’s not the point. But change for the sake of growth and improving what we do. Learn from mistakes… sometimes that is a hard thing to do. But in terms of leadership it is essential.
6.Experiment, take risks and learn from the accompanying mistakes. Reach out to risk takers. Ask them what motivates them. Give them the opportunity to talk about their experiences and share the lessons they’ve learned.
7.Foster collaboration and build trust among the people with whom we work. Create an environment where all people feel valued and safe to share a part of themselves. Remember, you do work together, why not enjoy it and be successful at it. Share power with team members.
8.In delegating to our followers, empower them to become full, participatory members of your team. Let them know that you value their efforts and that their work product is important. One of the best parts of delegating is that you never know when a simple task may energize a team member and bring out their best! You may have a team member discover a hidden talent even they didn’t know existed!
9.Set goals that are achievable. Tell people what the key milestones are so that they can easily see their progress. Recognize individual contributions to the success of every project.
10.When you work hard, you should play hard too. First, take the time to celebrate victories. Second, recognize the contributions of your team. Don’t get caught up in solely getting the tasks accomplished and forget that an important part of the task should always be to say, “We have created something great” and then say, “You’ve done a great job.”
Replace the word “I” with “we.” As a leader, you can do the job alone; extraordinary things are accomplished as a result of group efforts, not individual efforts. “We” is an inclusive word that signals a commitment to teamwork and sharing. Use it liberally.
Kousez and Posner write: “The Leadership Challenge is about how leaders mobilize others to want to get extraordinary things done in organisations. It’s about the practices leaders use to transform values into actions, visions into realities, obstacles into innovations, separateness into solidarity and risks into rewards. It’s about leadership that creates the climate in which people turn challenging opportunities into remarkable success.”
(Lionel Wijesiri, a corporate director with over 25 years’ senior managerial experience, can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)