The Leadership Litmus Test

March 30, 2010

“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more, and become more, you are a leader.” – John Quincy Adams

litmuspaperPeople who know me, know I’m addicted to quotes. When I read this quote, it struck me as being so parallel to a recent article I read on leadership titled “Recession as a Litmus Test”. Take a look!

The article discusses that during times of recession (or difficult times in general), there are four distinguishing aspects of leadership. Those four aspects are as follows:

1 – Disciplined Thinking (Dream more)

Help others to see through the noisy clutter of confusion during times of uncertainty. Focus on the known, such as the core business requirements, and keep an eye on the big picture.

2 – A Bias for Action (Do more)

Don’t just wait around for someone to tell you the new vision or the next steps to take. Start creating it….one step at a time. You may need to take a step back once in awhile, but three steps forward and one step back is better than no steps forward at all.

3 – Timely and Transparent Communication (Inspire others)

Be open, be honest, be realistic. Find the right balance between realism and optimism, but always communicate.

4 – The Ability to Inspire Followership (Become more)

After someone speaks to you, do they feel as if they can move forward or do they feel “stuck”? Use the three items above to help inspire others. Lead by example.

Now, picture yourself in this situation. Due to a recent reorganization, you now are leading a blended team of individuals from two very different organizational cultures (maybe it was a merger, maybe it was a global reorganization effort, whatever the case may be). You need to begin laying out your strategy, supporting projects, plans and processes for your newly-defined team. But where do you begin?

Timeline and Transparent Communication – Acknowledge and recognize the differences in cultures. Discuss as a new team how you begin to for the new culture and expectations within your team.

Disciplined Thinking – Think about what you know and how to “anchor” your team on the known vs. worry and complain over the unknown. Sure, as a new organization, not everything will be clearly defined. However, some things must be known. For example, the organization must have a business strategy and long-term goals. You can always use this information and collect data on the competitive marketplace or industry environment

A Bias for Action – Act! Based on the facts that you know now, start creating your strategy, begin planning projects that support those known goals. Start your research!

Inspire Followership – Examine your team and others that you have an influence on. After each interaction, think about the impact you had on them. If the impact was not as positive as it could have been, consider what you can do differently the next time you interact with your team.

Distinguish yourself from all other leaders by implementing these tactics on a regular basis. Take these steps and you’ll pass the leadership litmus test.

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