The following article was featured in the July/August issue of PORK Network magazine.
One can’t deny that Hitler and Stalin were leaders: They were effective communicators and they convinced people to follow them blindly. Their leadership, however, was built on fear and intimidation. While effective, neither was “authentic.” True authentic leadership empowers and motivates others to new levels of excellence. Operations that have embraced this philosophy are reaping the benefits.
Authentic leaders provide people with the tools necessary for success. They think about the needs and wants of others, which is the definition of servant leadership. Effective, authentic leaders ensure followers have their ear when it’s needed, and make themselves accessible. Leaders earn the title if they are true and authentic. They offer mutual respect and make sure followers know their value to the organization.
In his book, Becoming a Leader, Warren Bennis writes, “Leadership opportunities should be offered to all would-be leaders early in their careers, because they build drive, trigger a can-do spirit, and inspire self-confidence.”
The art of listening
People in the communication business know how important it is to speak and write to be understood. But what about other professions? Are you clear in guiding your employees? Rarely will a leader be criticized for being “too clear.” As simple as it sounds, even those who should know how to communicate clearly fail. Meetings and conversations are a good way to maintain a high level of communication. Go out of your way to ask questions of your staff and listen to their responses.
Communication is much more about listening than talking, and it isn’t just about listening to what people say – it’s also about listening to what they don’t say. Practice saying, “If I understand you correctly, you’re telling me…” That extra level of communication – and patience – shows recipients you truly value their opinion and care enough to understand them correctly. In this way, any misunderstandings can be rectified right away.
In addition, leaders must provide positive reinforcement and support. The power of positive recognition often is severely underestimated.
Effective human relations
A leadership style that works for one person may not necessarily work for someone else. Don’t be afraid to “morph” your management style over time. After all, leadership is a work in progress and the information gleaned through experience can make you an even more effective leader in the future.
Leadership and human relations are closely tied to emotional intelligence, said Daniel Goleman, a recognized leader in the field.
Terry Orlick, author of the book In Pursuit of Excellence, is a sport psychologist who has worked with Olympic and professional athletes to help them maximize their performances and achieve their goals. One of the premises is that individuals have to maintain focus, stay positive, stay connected with the right things, improve in small ways every day and not waste time in the process. He discusses the hours it takes to be proficient at any sport or endeavor and the importance of embracing a positive perspective. At no point does it talk about IQ. Rather, the emphasis is on self-leadership and emotional intelligence.
He wrote, "What triggers your emotional reaction to an event is the way that you perceive the event, or what you say to yourself about yourself in relation to it, rather than the event itself. A simple shift in your perspective about the importance or meaning of a particular event, or a shift in your belief about your capacity to cope with it positively, can change your focus and your emotional reality."
This philosophy reinforces the fact that everyone controls his or her own destiny and that people grow as individuals by perfecting self-leadership skills in conjunction with their emotional intelligence. You cannot manage others effectively until you know how to manage yourself.
Concept of team
Owner/managers can accomplish much more collectively than they can individually, which is why many companies have adopted a team approach to problem-solving. Successful teams build upon team members’ individual strengths and provide the opportunity to form a cohesive unit.
In The Art of Leadership, authors Manning and Curtis write that effective teams are evident in “enlightened workplaces,” where inclusion is the norm, servant leadership is practiced, and leaders work to bring out the best tendencies and characteristics in their team members. High performing teams are committed to a common goal and to the team members, and a level of trust and openness is evident.
Job satisfaction equals performance
Leadership is a fascinating, ever-evolving combination of art and science. While there are many facets to leadership, the importance of leadership authority, empowerment, communication, listening, effective human relations, and the concept of team can’t be overstated. Authentic leaders understand the value of appreciation, communication, access and support for employees. They also know the impact high-performing teams can have on the success of a business. Meshing these leadership and team-building components will help your business – and the individuals within it – perform at the highest level.
For more articles and features from the July/August issue of PORK Network, click here.