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 Lake@Work Newsletter
A Leadership Measuring Stick
Posted: April 15, 2011


Are leaders born or made?  Some people are "more inclined" to exhibit leadership behavior; it comes to them more naturally.

Here are six questions to ask yourself to make sure that your suggestions or criticism is taken in the way it was intended. 

However, everybody can learn to become a more effective leader.  Below is a LEADERSHIP MEASURING STICK.  Rate yourself on a 1 to 10 scale, where 10 is Excellent, 5 is Average, and 1 is Failure.




1. Action orientation

As an influencer of people, you stay away from weak-kneed questions such as "Can you do this?" and assertively ask others "How are we going to get this done?"

You personally take action, and you refuse to make excuses for inaction. You also delegate actions that others must take and relentlessly ensure that the action is implemented.

_____ Score yourself from 1 to 10

2. Change maker

Perhaps you have heard it said that "leaders are readers." But they do not just read for reading's sake. They read to learn so they can get new ideas on how to change things for the better. When I coach executives or speak to audiences, I might ask what they have read recently to improve themselves as a person, as a professional, or as a leader. But then I tend to take them off guard when I say, "I do not care what you have read. I want to know what you have done with what you have learned."

You create, initiate, and shape change rather than passively accept the "status quo." You challenge others when you hear "We have never done it that way before."

_____ Score yourself from 1 to 10

 3. Opportunity grabber

As a leader, you're always looking for opportunities to develop the leadership potential you see in others. Indeed, effective leaders are more focused on developing talent than they are on acquiring self-oriented power. As one of the most influential family therapists of the 20th century, Virginia Satir taught, "Power can be used for growth rather than who has the right to do what to whom and when."

You seize the opportunities that are available in your present situation at the same time you invest in future opportunities.

_____ Score yourself from 1 to 10

4. Results focused

Without exception, exceptional leaders are "results focused" because they're goal setters. They do more than wish upon a star and wait for the law of attraction to give everything they want and need.

No, absolutely not! While leaders understand and use the power of attraction, they DO more than that. They write down their goals ... because they know a WRITTEN goal is hundreds of times more likely to be achieved than a goal merely thought about.

They write out their goals using the SMART formula ... where S = specific, M = measurable, A = achievable, R = realistic, and T = time oriented.

As a leader you care more about getting things done than who gets the credit. You can flourish in an environment with our without boundaries and silos.

_____ Score yourself from 1 to 10

5. Performance rewarder

You evaluate people and place people in positions based solely on their strengths, performance, and potential rather than seniority or political correctness.

In particular, problem solvers should always be rewarded. If you think for a moment, a lot of your success today is because someone solved problems for you yesterday. Your parents were your first problem solvers. They taught you how to eat and walk, and they disciplined you when you needed to learn a new lesson. Your boss is a present-day problem solver. He/she recognized your gift and then gave you a check for using your gifts.

Your life is surrounded by problem solvers. And leaders never overlook this. They never take it lightly. Whether it is the maid that cleans your office, the mechanic that repairs your car, or the cheerful employee who treats your customers with respect ... all these people ... and many more ... are helping solve the problems in your life. Reward them.

Just remember: Anything unrecognized becomes uncelebrated. Anything uncelebrated becomes unrewarded. Anything unrewarded will exit your life.

_____ Score yourself from 1 to 10

6. Positive thinker

W. Clement Stone was one of the most prolific writers on positive thinking as well as the CEO of one of the most successful insurance companies in the United States. He lived to the age of 100, but he was always telling his sales agents, "The sale is contingent upon the attitude of the salesperson, not the attitude of the prospect."

In other words, your leadership effectiveness has more to do with your attitude towards your followers than it does their initial willingness to buy or follow.

Or as Billy Cunningham said, "If you want to motivate people, show them first how highly motivated you are. I always want people to work with me, not for me."

You keep a positive attitude, refusing to give up, seeking out the opportunity that lurks in every situation. And as an effective leader with a positive attitude, you realize things are never as bad as they seem.

_____ Score yourself from 1 to 10

7. Vision driver 

As the leader drives the vision and defends the vision, he/she builds the team and builds the organization.

However, the effective leader balances future vision with present-day reality. He's still detail-oriented enough to know whether the objectives are being met and whether or not you're on the right course.

_____ Score yourself from 1 to 10

8. Mistake processor

You seek consensus, but if you do not get it, you are not paralyzed by the lack of support given by others. If it turns out your action was a mistake, you learn from it. And you are tolerant of others who make a mistake as long as they learn from it.

One extra thought. In the process of dealing with the mistakes made by you or others, you avoid using the "they" word and you stop others from talking about "they." As soon as the word "they" is utilized, you describe yourself as a victim, such as "They failed to get the bid in on time," which means "we" are stuck with the circumstances, and "we" are not responsible for what goes wrong around this place.

That is NOT leadership. That is a "poor-me" syndrome at work. Instead, when you hear "they" language, turn it into a "we" statement, such as "We failed to communicate clearly and firmly about what was needed for those bids and when they had to be done. How can we fix that so it doesn't happen again?"

_____ Score yourself from 1 to 10

9. Communicator

You communicate constantly. You are always influencing, encouraging, critiquing, and listening.

And of all those skills, listening may be the most important. That's why everyone from Jesus, to St. Francis of Assisi, to Stephen Covey have told us to "seek to understand before you seek to be understood." In other words, stop "assuming" you understand and start asking a lot more questions to make sure you truly do understand. (PS: Your ears work better when your mouth is closed.)

And the ONLY way to ensure understanding is through the use of paraphrasing where you re-phrase what you heard ... to see if that is what the speaker intended to say. Listen, paraphrase, and then ask, "Did I get it right? Is that what you were trying to say?" Just remember, this is the ONLY thing that ensures communication.

_____ Score yourself from 1 to 10


Now add up your scores. If you have an overall score of 80 or above, I would put you in the "Excellent" category of leadership. If you have an overall score between 50 and 79, get some feedback, get some coaching, read some books, and take some classes. You CAN improve your leadership skills. There is no doubt about it. And when you improve your leadership abilities, you maximize your influence and make your organization a better place to work and your home a better place to live.


2011 Reprinted with permission from Dr. Alan Zimmerman's Tuesday tips.




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