The world today is changing so rapidly that organizations need people with leadership skills on their team. Leadership expert Steve Wood provides readers with ideas they can use to improve their leadership and management skills.
His interpretation of leadership lessons from published sources are designed for the busy leader on the go regardless of experience.
Please subscribe to this blog (in the box on the right) to have Steve's helpful advice delivered to you weekly. This blog is also syndicated on BusinessBlogs.
Get More for Free!
Join Steve's Private Email List and he will personally update you on his latest leading-edge articles, tips and resources. When you subscribe, you will receive 1 or 2 new and informative articles per week in your email.
I’m in the middle of the book George Washington, A Life by Ron Chernow, which is a very compelling book on this wonderful leader. When we read about George Washington it is easy to see why he was one of the most admired leaders in history – he had immense credibility. Friends and foes alike recorded many stories that described his integrity, vision, inspiration, and competence – all critical elements of credibility. Since I think every responsible leader should yearn for and try to earn credibility, let’s take a look at how that can happen.
In their terrific book, The Leadership Challenge, James Kouzes and Barry Posner write about their 30 years of research into leadership credibility. Every few years they send a survey to about 75,000 people around the world and ask them to identify the “seven qualities that they most look for and admire in a leader, someone whose direction they would willinglyfollow.” With almost no exception the four qualities that top the list are: “honest, forward-looking, inspiring, and competent.” The authors point out that since “trustworthiness, expertise, and dynamism” make-up what is called “source credibility”, then they suggest we look at the four qualities followers suggest are most important to assess a leader’s credibility.
I’d like to use examples from four leaders I think have or had credibility to discuss the four qualities. They are: General Colin Powell, Martin Luther King, Steve Jobs, and Jack Welch.
Honesty. To be frank, I wasn’t one who initially thought we should invade Iraq. But then I watched General Colin Powell present evidence to the United Nations on why Saddam Hussein and Iraq were serious threats and I started to change my mind. I remember thinking when we attacked them, “if General Powell says it is okay, then it must be the right decision.” Why did I feel that way? Because I trusted what he said. Although we found out years later that the information he relied on was wrong and he should have pushed for more confirmation, it doesn’t change the fact we trusted him. My perception of him was that he was honest and I could trust him; a view shared by millions of others. I think this video of Colin Powell gets at the essence of what he thinks leadership is.
Forward-thinking. We commonly refer to this as “vision.” Followers admire leaders who have a deft ability to not only describe a desirable future state, but who can help everyone get there. They help followers do the right things that assure the group gets to that future place. I think Martin Luther King Jr., who wrote his powerful “Letter from Birmingham Jail” this week in 1963, gives us a great example of a credible leader who was forward-thinking. If you have never actually read his “Dream” speech, you should. King masterfully weaved-in visual metaphors that inspired followers then and inspires followers now to “let freedom ring.”
Inspiring. The third quality of leaders who have credibility is inspiration. Yes, some leaders display charisma, which inspires followers, but others can inspire with just their behavior. Inspiration moves followers who watch or listen to what leaders say and do. The late Steve Jobs, certainly a successful business leader, who is viewed as credible by many people, was definitely inspirational. In the video “Revenge of the Nerds – Great Artists Steal” Larry Tesler, one of Jobs’ close employees at Apple, described Jobs’ this way, “When I wasn’t sure what the word ‘charisma’ meant, I met Steve Jobs, and then I knew. He wanted you to be GREAT and he wanted you to make something that was GREAT and he was going to make you do that.”
Competent.The fourth quality of credibility is competence. This means the followers believe the leader has the experience and talent to do the job. It doesn’t mean they have the talents, knowledge, or skills to do every job in the organization, it means they have what it takes to do their leadership job. One of the most competent business leaders of the 1990s was Jack Welch, who was the President and CEO of GE. During his leadership tenure at GE he not only completely transformed the company; he created business practices that are still used today in many businesses. As President he led an annual, 30-day review process called “Session C.” These were intensive reviews of talent and business units where his overall knowledge and talents were on display. It has been well published that nearly everyone who went through this process left impressed with Welch’s competence, although not his tact and grace sometimes.
Credibility is not easily measured and you really can’t judge yourself; it is something others do. However, if you yearn to be a credible leader, invest your energy into developing these four qualities, and then behave consistently, you might just earn it.
Steve Wood is the President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Leddy Group and Work Opportunities Unlimited, Inc. (WOU). In addition, Steve provides strategic planning and organizational development consulting services to clients. READ MORE >>
Steve Wood is the President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Leddy Group and Work Opportunities Unlimited Inc. (WOU). In addition, Steve provides strategic planning and organizational development consulting services to clients.
Prior to joining the company, Steve spent 17 years in the banking industry where he was promoted to Senior Vice President and Senior Commercial Loan Officer.
Strategic Planning - Many organizations have a plan or pieces of a plan, but only a few have a thoughtfully developed strategic plan. Strategic planning is a process that has a beginning and no end! It starts with the formation of a mission and core values statement. The process continues with the development of a vision statement, long-term objectives, regular SWOT analysis, strategies, and short-term objectives. We can help you achieve your Strategic Planning goals.
Organizational Development - An organization is a group of people working together for a common mission. As the organization succeeds, more people (employees, customers, stakeholders) are involved and the organization grows more complex. Culture, structure, and systems evolve to deal with these growing complexities. Leaders at all levels develop. Ask me how we can help you achieve your Organizational Development goals.