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November 10, 2008

Reflections on Leadership

Reflections on Leadership

Leadership, as defined by Wess Roberts, Ph.D. in (Leadership Secrets of Attila the Hun), is the privilege to have the responsibility to direct the actions of others in carrying out the purposes of the organization. After reviewing this book, I had to pause and reflect on my leadership ability and the way I handle leadership issues at my Association of REALTORS®.

As an association manager, I use my leadership skills constantly to guide and encourage my 900 plus members to excel in their day to day efforts. My efforts in this regard provide many short-term benefits to my members, but as I reflect on the principles and practices discussed, I find that my leadership for the future path of the Association is lacking.

For example, during one of my recent association meetings, a proposal was made to change the governing documents to provide member companies with additional paths for advertising their property listings. In preparation for this meeting, my staff spent many hours developing several draft documents for the committee's review. However, since the change would radically alter the way the Association did business the committee balked at implementing these changes and instead authorized a onetime exception to an existing rule.

Touchstones

So, where did I fail? The greatest leadership challenge that Attila faced was to forge the barbaric hordes into one nation. If I use the barbaric hordes as a “simile” for my member committee, did I use tools available to me to inspire them to come together as one? The answer would have been a resounding “No.” Granted, I cannot use all the tools available to Attila, but the tools that worked well for him are in many ways the same tools discussed by Kouzes & Posner.

So, where did I fail and what tools worked so well for them that would work well for me?

Goal Setting – When I reflect on the issue above I find that I failed to ensure that the committee had a firm goal in mind. In many ways I saw the committee as setting the goal and that my goal was to follow their lead and implement their policies and procedures. But I think that ultimately the committee is only providing me with the “Big Picture” and that I must determine the goal, and I must make sure the “barbarians” understand the goal.

Vision – When I reflect on the issue above I find that I failed to provide my committee with a vision for the future. In this case, I provided a means to an end and not a clear understanding of the benefits and pitfalls of implementing this new method of advertising listings. In this instance, the committee focused on only the negative aspects of the change rather on the benefits all of our members would derive from the change. Ultimately, I have to show the “barbarians” the rocky path AND the vision of the future.

Allow others to lead – When I reflect on the issue above I find that I failed to enlist the aid of others in achieving the ultimate goal. The best way to lead a group of barbarians is to provide them many competent and inspiring leaders who share the common goal and can show them that the ultimate goal is beneficial to them.

Listen – When I reflect on the issue above I find that I failed to listen to my committee members. At the meeting, I entered the fray as one of the “barbarians” and not as a leader. As such, I did not see or understand when they approved something that violated existing rules.

Touchstone Summary - Ultimately, leadership is not about who sits at the honored position at the campfire, but who provides the “barbarians” with:
  • A common goal that is beneficial to all
  • A vision on how to achieve the goal and a path to success
  • Soliciting the aid of other leaders in achieving the goal
  • The ability to listen to what my members so I can understand not only what is said but what they are saying.
Theory to Practice (or my anticipated approach to putting these principles into action)

In summary, the only magical formulae for developing leadership traits is in reflecting on what has gone wrong in situations where leadership has failed. Therefore, in my conclusion that leadership traits are acquired only when one can recognize their failures, reflect on what went wrong and put into place corrective actions to mitigate the failures. In the issue above, my biggest failure was becoming one of the “barbarians” and losing sight of the ultimate goal.

What needs to be done is that I have to reflect more during my dealings with my members and ask myself if I have become a “barbarian.” If the answer is yes, then I will know that I have to shift my focus and re-assume the leadership role of Attila.
 
 

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