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Leadership Self-Development Journey
“You are today where your thoughts have brought you.
You will be tomorrow where your thoughts take you.”
- James Allen
LEADERSHIP STYLE: Different situations require different leadership styles to be effective. Good leaders are flexible and versatile in their style.
CULTURAL AWARENESS: In an age of globalisation and culturally diverse workplaces, sensitivity for differences is critical to the leader's success in mobilising people as a community.
SELF-INITIATIVE: To be a leader is to take the initiative to make a positive difference.
INSPIRING HOPE: Nothing is as damaging to an organisation as the negative attitudes of its people. It is the leader's uppermost responsibility to inspire hope and create a positive climate.
PASSION: The leader does not only have to have a strong sense of responsibility, but passion for the cause.
SELF-DISCIPLINE: The leader's self-discipline sets the standard and example for others without which consistent performance is not possible.
BUILDING RELATIONSHIPS: Leadership is by definition action in the context of relationships. To ignore relationships contradicts leadership whereas building them enhances teamwork.
VISIONARY THINKING: The mental picture of a desired destination, big or small, sparks focused activities and worthwhile endeavours, which is why leaders' first task is to imagine the ideal future.
LIFE-BALANCE/RESILIENCE: To sustain his energy and ability to focus, and to set a credible example, a leader needs to have good balance between the different areas of his life and model resilience.
TREND/SYSTEMS AWARENESS: A big-picture view to spot trends early on and an understanding of the influences of systems and their relationships is needed for the strategic direction that the leader must give.
STRATEGIC THINKING: With the vision or goal in mind, leaders accept responsibility for the most effective way to achieve the vision or goal.
SELF-CONFIDENCE: To lead requires the confidence to take the first step and have others follow you.
TECHNOLOGY AWARENESS: Understanding the potential positive and negative effects of technology in the organisation enables the leader to balance human interests with efficiency.
ADAPTABILITY: Effective leadership is more a consequence of the leader's ability to adapt well to changes than a consequence of his knowledge or experience.
BEING SERVANT: By choosing to serve and not boss the team, the leader builds them up and collectively they grow to become better leaders in service of the organisation.
COMMUNICATION: The leader's ability and commitment to communicate with clarity and appropriateness is essential to his leadership effectiveness.
BUILDING TEAM: It is in the development and performance of the team that the leader's effectiveness can be seen.
CONNECTING WITH PEOPLE: Only by making good heart and mind connections with people can the leader hope to influence them to co-operate enthusiastically.
CHARACTER: Leadership involves many tests of courage, resilience and morality which make strong character indispensable.
SELF-AWARENESS: Self-awareness opens the door to effective communication and the leader's ability to relate to others.
BUILDING SUPPORT: A leader must be able to build support for his ideas and direction or else fail as a leader.
SELF-MOTIVATION: The leader motivates himself with his personal vision, passion, potential and moral convictions.
RECOGNITION: Leaders recognise people privately and publicly out of real appreciation for their contributions as well as personal qualities.
DECISION MAKING: With firm and apt individual decision making together with skilful facilitation of team decisions the leader ensures momentum and backing for the direction taken.
EMPOWER: The more empowered and free people feel, the more they give to the cause. Rather than trying to control, leaders show trust in people's inherent capabilities.
ORGANISATIONAL AWARENESS: Sufficient awareness of different aspects of the organisation, such as the reason for its existence, the history, structure and culture, enables the leader to align himself and his team effectively.
BUILDING TRUST: By being honest, open and consistent and by showing the willingness to trust the team, the leader lays a strong team foundation for the good, but especially bad times.
PERSEVERANCE: Leadership disappears when we give up and emerges when we choose to persevere when others would have given up.
AUTHENTICITY: A leader cannot help others unless he shares himself openly and honestly.
CREATIVITY/INNOVATION: Since leaders focus on potential and imagine the future to be different, they demonstrate and encourage innovative and creative thinking.
SELF-REGARD: Positive self-regard is necessary for a leader in order to accept criticism, learn from it and continue leading with confidence.
HONESTY/INTEGRITY: The leader is credible and ethical to the extent that his beliefs, values, attitude and behaviour forms an integrated whole.

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Trend/systems awareness
Organisational awareness
Visionary thinking
Strategic thinking
Cultural awareness
Technology awareness


Connecting with people
Building relationships
Being servant
Building support
Building team
Building trust
Leadership style
Decision making
Inspiring hope


The leader as builder of trust

It is distressing to observe how many different, very costly, systems in the modern organization are designed and implemented as an alternative to human interaction based on trust. Employees, hoping to contribute meaningfully to the organization with their best efforts and skills, often get completely bogged down by practices of recording, reporting and scoring their work. Instead of being productive and making a positive difference with their skills, they feel they are wasting time to either calm the nerves of the manager or meaninglessly comply to the rules of a system that produces reports that they never hear of.

In the bigger system of modern society we often experience that our word does not count for much anymore. Whether we are dealing with a bank or wanting to make use of the services of a library, we need to submit evidence of who we are, where we stay, and other, often seemingly irrelevant, personal information. While we mostly are prepared to tolerate the paperwork when applying for a loan at a bank or for membership at a library, we can feel insulted by management's demands to show evidence of every bit of work we do and explanation of how we spend our time.

There are many good reasons for having systems that measure and record all kinds of work activities, but the effectiveness and productivity of our organizations will not be determined by the level of control that is exercised but the level of trust that exists. In bureaucratic organizations you have high levels of control and the absence of creativity and entrepreneurship. In its life-cycle it is one step away from death. Accountability is necessary, but the less trust there is in organizations the more dependent we become on external, bureaucratic measures with increased levels of frustration as a result. Form triumphs over function. Meetings are then no longer a means of open, honest and constructive debate. They become sterile reporting sessions with lots of information but very little movement in terms of new ideas, change of heart and a boost of energy.

Consider the chain of destructive behavior when a manager does not trust the people who report to him. A person who is not trusted typically does not feel valued. Even if he contributes significantly to the organization through his work and even if those contributions are recognized, he will not feel valued when treated with suspicion or distrust. Once a person feels that his integrity is questioned or not respected, he responds by shielding himself off from the person who distrusts him. The relationship becomes strained and such a person less open, less forthcoming, less enthusiastic and less helpful. Information and ideas that he normally would have shared, now remains hidden from his manager.

It is obvious that the less information and creative ideas the manager has, the less able he is to solve the problems that faces him from day to day. The more problems he has and the more pressing they are, the more the distrusting manager will try to proof that he does not need others to manage. It is a mindset that typically originates from unfulfilled dependency needs in childhood. If, as a child, a person feels abandoned and left to his own ability to survive, it will most probably manifest later on in life as a deep-seated fear that other people will prove to be unreliable. As leaders, they develop tremendous self-reliance. They tend to become controlling and impatient with people who do not succumb to their ideas and wishes. When they become parents they will teach their children not to trust others easily.

At the point when the distrusting manager finds himself in a corner and is desperate to get out, the climate of fear and suspicion is so advanced that nobody is prepared to offer any support or help. Not only does he suffer the consequences of inefficiencies and un-productiveness but so does everyone else.

The level of trust in a work organization is in the first instance determined by the leadership. Unfortunately, leaders rarely discuss their distrust with the other person; instead, they act on it and thereby aggravates the situation. Trust or the lack of it is as real to the life of a business organization as its sales figures. What is more, it is more fundamental to its success than the commitment and hard work of all its members. Cohesion and team synergy is built on trust. Without it, people's commitment and hard work is diluted.

It is understandable that we don't want to feel vulnerable and by trusting others we willingly are making ourselves vulnerable. However, that is the risk that good leaders are willing to take in order to grow a community that work as a team. Good leaders are aware of it and see their roles as builders of trust. They know that trust is not built by an attitude that implicitly says: I don't trust you, but you can trust me. Being trustworthy is only one side of the coin. Yes, as leaders we need to demonstrate honesty, integrity, consistency, discipline, work ethic, humility and commitment to be trusted. But we also need to be willing to be first in extending trust to others.

Different scorecards and other management tools are helpful to the goal of building an efficient organization. However, if the organization is already low in trust, it is most likely seen as yet another example of distrust and management's way of controlling behavior rather than leading and inspiring people in a way that demonstrates their belief in them.

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