Today, more than any time in our history, we need effective leadership. Whether it’s in the White House or in a state house, we need leaders who are capable of finding solutions to the astonishing array of problems we face, and the vision to anticipate and mitigate the unknown future problems that await us.
The list of problems facing us in the 21st century is daunting. From climate change to transnational threats such as pandemics and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction to the dislocations and disruptions caused by globalization, humanity’s survival will depend on leadership that can chart a course through an uncertain and turbulent sea of constant change.
We no longer have the luxury to wait for the emergence of a great leader to take the helm. Each of us must take responsibility for effective leadership in our own little corner of the world. The aggregate effect of all these little effective corners of transformational leadership can move spaceship earth into a safe trajectory and off the path to chaos and destruction.
The good news in all this is that, with a little effort, we can all be effective leaders. Remember, a house is built brick by brick or board by board. By applying the following techniques of effective leadership, we can build a strong and enduring structure.
The 7 keys to effective leadership
- Put people first. People are the most important asset of any organization. The U.S. military’s motto is “Mission first, People always.” This is an explicit recognition that without people, nothing is accomplished.
- Encourage risk taking and innovation. Organizations that stick to the ‘tried and true’ often stagnate. Progress comes only through moving into uncharted territory and trying new things. Identify and reward the risk takers and innovators in your organization.
- Embrace change. Change is a constant in life; in fact, the only constant. To be an effective leader, you should not only embrace change, you should promote it.
- Emphasize honesty and integrity. The most technically competent people who lack honesty and integrity are little more than charlatans. If an organization is to prosper and endure, it must exude trust, and the integrity of an organization is a function of the honesty and integrity of every member of that organization.
- Establish open communications. Knowledge is the key to power and success. As a leader, it is essential that you have access to the knowledge of those around you. An atmosphere of open, candid communication provides you the knowledge to make effective decisions.
- Foster a learning environment. Each decade, science and technology increases exponentially. Learning should be a life-long pursuit. In addition to continually learning yourself, as a leader, you should encourage your subordinates to constantly upgrade their own skills and knowledge.
- Be a team builder. No man is an island. Except for certain works of art, nothing is created without the effort of a number of individuals working together. Leverage the diversity and different talents within your organization through the creation of teams.
When building a house, there are a number of ways to put on the finishing touches to make the house unique. But, whether it’s a skyscraper or a summer cottage, it is essential that it have a strong foundation. These seven principles form the basic foundation upon which a solid leadership structure can be constructed.
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Oakley, Ed, and Doug Krug, Leadership made Simple: Practical Solutions to Your Greatest Management Challenges, Centennial, CO, Executive Leadership Solutions, 2006
Ray, Charles, Things I Learned from My Grandmother About Leadership and Life, Baltimore, MD, PublishAmerica, 2008
_______, Taking Charge: Effective Leadership for the Twenty-first Century, Baltimore, MD, PublishAmerica, 2009
Smith, Perry, Rules & Tools for Leaders: A Down-to-Earth Guide to Effective Managing, New York, Penguin Books, 1998
Published by Charles Ray