Leadership Behaviors and Beliefs

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imageIn my previous post, I suggested the practice of behaviors and beliefs are critical to developing leadership skills. In interpersonal interaction, one’s behaviors will evoke a response of some type in others. These responses may be verbal, physical, mental or emotional. An aspiring leader must be aware of which behaviors to exhibit in order to evoke the desired response from others. This is tricky because everyone is different and the same behavior will generate different responses in individuals.

It would be mentally exhausting to calculate the optimal set of behaviors for each interpersonal interaction. Doing so, would be analogous to an “if-then” approach to leadership. This is why beliefs matter. Consider why we behave the way we do. Is it a result of what we think and believe? If so, how can a course or program develop appropriate beliefs? I suggest these programs can only equip attendees with tools, but it is the actual practice and the results which will develop and reinforce beliefs.

As I continue to learn as a leader, my beliefs evolve. I can’t say I will ever reach the point where I have everything figured out, but I think I will try to summarize what I do believe:

  1.  Leadership is a profound privilege.
  2.  Choose humility over hubris.
  3.  Everyone deserves dignity and respect.
  4.  No one wants to do a poor job.
  5.  The feeling of success inspires people to do more.
  6.  Trust is sacred; incredibly priceless.
  7.  A leader cannot know everything.
  8.  A leader will be wrong sometimes.
  9.  Those being led will forgive faults, if the right environment has been established.
  10.  People want to be heard. Find a way to have them speak.
  11. Listen more, speak less.
  12.  People desire growth, even outside of their occupation. Help them grow.
  13.  Failures are the leader’s fault.
  14.  Success cannot happen without those being led.
  15.  Lead by example in character and ability.

These beliefs have guided me over the years and have resulted in the demonstration of a number of behaviors in various circumstances. I could probably list some of these behaviors and provide a detail of the circumstances, but I want to emphasize that beliefs are fundamental. If the beliefs are appropriate the behaviors will be as well. In addition to meeting goals and targets, the result of appropriate beliefs and behaviors is a feeling. A feeling of confidence, excitement, trust, and a desire to continue, to do more. When this happens, a leader can be confident he or she is on the right track.

I have been vague about my own experience as a leader to this point because I don’t want to leave the impression that I am gifted or otherwise exceptional with leadership. This contradicts with belief #2. However, next time I may have to go into some detail to illustrate who I am, what I have done, and why leadership inspires me.

Here goes…Leadership!

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I finally decided to start posting the inner workings of my brain. I suppose I’ve held back for quite some time due to anxiety about my own ideas. Perhaps they are not exactly right. Perhaps I neglect to consider a key portion of the topic I choose to discuss. Maybe I’ll make a grammar mistake. In any case, I feel there is quite a bit I can learn by simply putting my thoughts into a medium other than my own brain.

For the moment, I feel like discussing leadership. Leadership is something I am very passionate about and I contemplate and research this topic frequently. I won’t go into my own experience just yet, but I am very grateful for the opportunity I have had as a leader.

I will start by addressing the difference between leadership and management. I think the following thoughts will mostly mirror other literature on the subject, but maybe I can inject some original thoughts as well. Management is commonplace. We all know what a manager is and what they do. I don’t like this term. A manager is one who controls things. This is fine (and often necessary) when the things involved are inanimate like money, data and supplies. However, our world also uses managers for people. The implication is that people need control or else some sort of chaos would ensue. How does it feel as a person to be “managed?” When we use managers for people, we constrain possibilities even if reaching targets and goals.

My intent is not to bash management, but to distinguish the skills and characteristics between managers and leaders. We need both. Leadership is different in the sense that the skills involved are not necessarily a science like management. If leadership is not a science, then can it be taught? This is a difficult question to address, because one could argue yes and no with substantial evidence. I will answer this question indirectly; leadership can be learned.

So if leadership can be learned, where can we learn it? Do we take a course, read some books, enroll in the company’s leadership development program? I am skeptical about the success of these approaches. Think about anything else we’ve learned. We spend 12-20+ years learning in a formal setting in the pursuit of proficiency in a specific field. Leadership is different from this type of learning because it involves a set of behaviors and beliefs. One can listen to lectures and take notes, but these activities alone cannot change one’s behaviors and beliefs; they have to be practiced.

So, I have yet to define exactly what leadership is. I find the definitions unhelpful, redundant or very similar to the definitions of management. The definitions are not adequate because they don’t place enough emphasis on the human side of leadership. Leadership is about a relationship between people. It is through relationships that we develop trust and bonds difficult to describe in words. Like a good relationship, good leadership causes people to feel positive. In the absence of leadership, feelings are neutral at best.

It is through the practice of behaviors and beliefs that people can learn the feelings involved in leadership. Some of the feelings which provide evidence of good leadership are positivity in the pursuit of a goal, loyalty, and inspiration. Which set of behaviors and beliefs will produce these things? Perhaps that is a discussion for a later post.