The Pragati Leadership Blog

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Leaders by example Vs Leaders by default

on May 11, 2011

‘I have a dream’ – such a simple line, yet it moved millions to act like never before. When Martin Luther King uttered these famous words, he announced to the world that he was their visionary leader who saw a better future and would therefore lead by example to that end. He inspired his followers to dream with him and turned them into believers who would go on to realise this dream collectively. He didn’t say ‘I have a plan’ – to quote Simon Sinek. Think about it. How many leaders can you recollect coming across who have ‘led by example’ and were not leaders ‘by default’?

What then goes into making a good leader? There are some traits that a leader must have to be able to lead his/her team effectively towards success. Let’s look at these qualities as personal and professional traits.

Personal traits

Confidence: A must-have since only a person who has confidence in his/her abilities can help others know their true worth and perform well. It’s the confidence that helps a leader fight problems and come out of them successfully.

Honesty: A good leader will always be honest and straightforward. It’s this honesty that gains the respect and trust of others. Success is always a team effort and it cannot be possible if the team members do not trust the leader’s abilities and respect his/her judgment.

Will power: Resilience or will power is what makes or breaks a leader. A true leader will always have that extra source of will power to dig in and never give up in spite of troubles.

Professional traits

Person-focus: No two ways about it – it is the team that gets the work done and a lot depends on them. Team members look up to a leader who has a person-focus and not only goal-focus. A leader needs to be able to be a part of the team progress, understand problems and give solutions.

Motivating: A good leader is one who constantly keeps the team motivated in spite of all the troubles and is able to derive performance out of them. But for that, one needs to be motivated oneself in order to lead form the front.

Visionary: A good leader must be able to see the future and decide what needs to be done to realise that vision. This leader thinks out of the box and sees opportunities that others do not. He/she creates plans that work and makes everyone believe in the power of cohesive-thinking.

Disciplined: A true leader will always be disciplined and will know what has to be done and how it has to be done, be it personal or professional. This is what makes him/ her stand out – being equipped with the right mixture of personal qualities and professional skills that are hallmarks of a true leader.

Wanted: Inspirational Leaders

Now more than ever, employees are starving for a sense of feeling connected to a higher purpose than just meeting this month’s sales and profit figures. An inspirational leader can really make the difference in improving the confidence of people, who will in turn enhance the organization’s performance.

This seems to be the perfect time to bring more personal meaning to the team’s work and inspire to shine, despite difficult business conditions. This effort doesn’t cost money and will certainly lead to better long-term results. So how can one become an inspirational leader?

The key is to look within. Inspirational leadership is a fundamental shift in one’s state of mind. It is not a cheerleading exercise but an effort to activate the inner passion of people. Everyone has something within them that serves as a personal motivation for their own level of success and satisfaction. Inspirational Leaders can tap into that source of energy and unleash the full potential of individuals and teams.

We must constantly remind ourselves that everybody wants to feel like they are part of a movement, rather than merely cogs in a wheel. Whether they are in accounting, information systems, human resources, sales, or operations, people who understand the holistic goal of the organization can quickly see how their work is connected to the ultimate outcome. It is not difficult to see that leaders who can establish this type of emotional connection to goals are invaluable to the organization.

Last but not the least, as a leader, it is imperative that one encourages full participation and ensures that all voices are heard. Traditionally there are a handful of people who are comfortable with being very outgoing and such individuals will clearly contribute. Yet the quietest people often have some of the most insightful suggestions. Inspirational leaders have the ability to bring out the best from all types of people. Yes – the old debate about extroverts and introverts resurfaces again! But we must remember that everyone is different and as leaders we must be the ones to adapt styles to produce the best results.

Now comes the best part – celebration and recognition! People need to understand how they are doing. Recognition is very important because once people are inspired towards a common goal they will want to be informed about progress. Inspirational leaders know how important personal appreciation and recognition is to maintaining a motivated work force. Small celebrations when key milestones are achieved are great tools to help them team reflect on the journey and correct the course where necessary. These celebrations allow leaders to not only acknowledge the people who have crossed another great hurdle, but to share best practices so others may benefit from the learning along the way.

That also brings setbacks into the picture. Inspirational Leaders who motivate teams also know how to deal with setbacks. They use such situations to show visible support for team members who may have taken a large risk and fallen a bit short. More importantly, they use setbacks for key teaching moments so as to minimize future shortcomings.

In the end it comes down to a few choices that separates leaders from inspirational leaders. Can we embrace the mind-set that we will bring out the best in people? Can we take the disparate actions of many and create a common cause greater than the sum of the parts? Only then will the organization benefit in a truly wholesome manner thanks to a culture committed to developing people who will accelerate performance.

So go ahead – Lead by example by choosing to be an inspirational leader and converting work into purpose.

Source: Article by Jerry S.Wilson, senior vice-president of the Coca-Cola Co., where he serves as chief customer and commercial officer. He is a personal branding expert and co-author of Managing Brand YOU: 7 Steps to Creating Your Most Successful Self.

Before we sign off, here’s something that is straight out of our dreams of an ideal leader! Till next time, happy reading and happy leading!

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