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Words to the Wise: Leadership Role & Impact (August 2023)

I’d like to share some basic thoughts and principles regarding the role and impact of leadership with respect to organizational culture and how employees perceive their company. Much of this will not be new to you if you are an experienced leader or HR professional. And the research in this area has shown consistently over decades that the same basic principles apply.

As you review the material, consider whether it means what it always has to you, or do you have a different take on the subject now, and if so, why? One of the best things about being on a team is the learning from each other, the value of different perspectives, the feedback we receive that not only informs, but can make us, our processes and our decisions better.

Most importantly, leaders have special accountability in an organization, and that is to develop leaders throughout the organization. Every day, we role model the values and behaviors of our organization – the culture essentially. We do that without even thinking. But, when we do think about what we’re role modeling, about how we are perceived, about the culture we create, how well do we think we’re doing, and what could we do better? Leaders should lead by example and inspire employees to innovate, communicate, collaborate, and motivate. I illustrate the concept this way:

Actions always speak louder than words. So, it’s the actions and behaviors of leaders that speak most loudly and convincingly regarding the culture and values of your company.

Question: as individual leaders, do our everyday actions support / reinforce leadership’s expectations that we innovate, communicate, collaborate, and motivate our employees to achieve? If not, why not?

And as a leadership team, how could we be better? I have read and said this many times over the years – “a team is not a group of people who work together; a team is a group of people who trust each other.”

Besides trust, the other two most often stated principles of a leadership team are mutual respect and effective communication. And the three key drivers of trust are connection, respect, and accountability. Please consider your experience with your current leadership team.

Question: as a team of leaders, where are we on the trust spectrum? Are our connections strong? Do we feel respected? And do our behaviors align with the culture – i.e., are we accountable to our employees and to each other?

Being a leader is not necessarily easy. It’s easier to achieve an ‘exemplary’ leadership level when you have a team of trusted colleagues who are vested in your success. The authors of The Leadership Challenge, Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner, characterize exemplary leadership by the following five practices:

Where along the path to exemplary leadership is your leadership team?


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