By Carrie Cousins, APSE diversity fellow and night sports editor at The Roanoke (Va.) Times
Leadership is a choice.
Leadership is based on shared values and understanding.
What leadership is can be a little different for each individual.
These were the messages conveyed by Sheri Lynn Fella, a lecturer at the Indiana University Kelley School of Business and leadership development consultant, during a seminar for the APSE diversity fellows in Indianapolis.
The first step in leader development is for potential leaders to do a little self-exploration, Fella said.
Define leadership for yourself, determine why you think leadership is important, understand things that challenge you as a leader and understand your values.
This set of core values will help a leader make decisions, lead a team and can influence how a person foes about his daily business. Core values are likely to influence the way a reporter writes a story, even if the person writing does not know it.
“Your values should guide your decisions,” Fella said.
A strong set of values that you follow and expect of followers will help you gain trust and commitment from a group.
“Do what you say you will do,” Fella said furthers explaining that this becomes even more important when times are tough. How a leader performs in moments of crisis will really define the type of person he is.
Every choice a leader makes along the way will define him and how others see and respond to him as a leader. Those choices can be what define a leader.
As a person develops into a leader, Fella suggests looking at a personal brand. What do you want people to think when they hear your name, she said to ask.
Each person’s leadership style can be different but also effective.
“You own that,” Fella said. “You are always you.”
Effective leaders also employ five practices that sound simple but can be challenging:
1.Model the way for others. Don’t ask things of your group that you are unwilling to do. Exhibit behaviors that you would like to see from others.
2.Inspire a shared vision. Leaders and the people who follow them have a common goal. Keep your group focused on achieving that success.
3. Challenge the process. Try things in a new way. Look for alternative solutions. Be proactive rather than reactive when looking for solutions to problems.
4.Enable others to act. One of the most rewarding parts of joining a group is interaction and collaboration. Allow members of your team to take the lead when they have a good idea. Shared leadership can have appositive influence on a team leader and other members of a group.
5.Encourage the heart. It all comes back to that set of values. Do what you feel is right and is in line with your values. Leadership is not always easy but at times should make you feel good.
Leaders must also work continually to help people find measures of success, Fella said. Value “small wins” and break down tasks into manageable bits and record that accomplishment.
Fella recommends a cycle of keeping tasks simple, giving constant feedback on progress, starting with the easy tasks first and celebrating success. This cycle will ensure that team members understand their shared vision and values and understand the plan going forward.
Understand that not every task of project will result in perfection. It is a leader’s responsibility to learn from that failure and motivate others to move on to the next task.
“Leadership is about learning,” Fella said. “It is an experience.”
Additional reading: Fella suggests a few sources for finding out more about developing leaders.
1.“Mindset: The New Psychology of Success,” by Carol S. Dweck
2. Books from James Kouzes and Barry Posner, including “The Leadership Challenge”
3. “Leaders make the Future: Ten New Leadership Skills for an Uncertain World,” by Robert Johansen
4.Books from Clint Sidle, including “The Leadership Wheel: Five Steps for Achieving Individual and Organizational Greatness”
5. Writings from the Institute for the Future at iftf.org