One of the challenges of writing community based articles is to cover the wide spectrum of topics within single articles in order to tie an accurate and complete message together.
This challenge has gotten me to think about the key components of a more complete message involved in building healthy organizations and communities – a message that may be more clearly communicated and understood.
When I think of these key components I think of quality leadership; the importance of preserving our history; living in community; the challenge of change; visioning and planning; financial management and investment thinking; and community communications.
So, the following columns I’ll share will address these topics. We’ll start off discussing what I believe is at the core of success for most public or private organizations and that’s quality leadership.
WHAT IS IT?
There are thousands of definitions of leadership and how it’s defined. What’s really important is to ensure that your organization has a shared understanding of what leadership means.
I was fortunate to work at 3M, and the understanding I had of leadership was driven by an understanding of five key attributes that I have never forgotten and have been part of my ongoing definition of quality leadership: inspire a shared vision of the future; enable others to take action; encourage the heart; challenge the process; and model the way for others.
Let me share why this definition stands out for me.
Inspire a shared vision of the future: Maybe the most important attribute is to be strategic and think about the future. Leadership requires inspiring in others a vision for the future of an organization. That takes communication skills to inspire others to share your view and generate additional energy to achieve the vision.
This visioning also requires a commitment to long-term planning. Measures of goal progress need to be in place so the organization or community understands the progress. This can build confidence and trust to share the vision.
Enable others to take action: The work of the organization is not done by a few people. If the vision is shared across an organization, then the ability to enable others in the organization to take action will more effectively move you forward, toward your vision. I believe an organizational approach of controlling people is obsolete, and hierarchical thinking is gone by the wayside. Most people want to do interesting, challenging work, they don’t need the work prescribed by their boss.
Encourage the heart: If you believe that people are your most important resource, you should take time to encourage people. Encourage their hearts and it will create an environment that you’re all in this together. It will build a sense of community important to achieving results. How difficult is it to drop a quick note of thanks or good job? It makes a real difference.
Challenge the process: This may be the most difficult attribute to develop. It means if you’re in a leadership position it’s OK for people to challenge the process because they may have a suggestion with an alternative approach. This can create defensiveness, unless you are committed to a work culture that says “We’re in this together.” It requires emotional stability and quality leadership and can bring tremendous value to an organization striving to be the best it can be.
Model the way for others: If you are in a leadership position people will listen to what you say, but more importantly, they will watch what you will do. Words are words, actions are everything. Leaders can say something is important, but if they don’t do it themselves, then that will damage credibility. People will not believe or trust the words being said because they are only words. Modeling the way for others will build a sense of community.
Define leadership in your organization and then develop people in support of that model. Everyone is a leader because, even if you have no people responsibility, you lead yourself, and these attributes apply to your own personal growth and development.
No matter what organization you look at, when you peel back what’s at the core of success, you will find quality leadership. Invest in it, develop people and their leadership skills and your organization and your community will benefit.
On this journey of the key components of public or private organizational/ community success, the next topic I’ll share is about looking back at your history as you think about and plan your future.