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This article was originally published in the Tribune-Star on February 17, 2018.
‘Leader’ is defined as a person to guide a way by going in advance. Leadership is an important function of management, which helps to maximize efficiency and to achieve organizational goals. The following points justify the importance of leadership.
Effective leaders are architects – providing mission, vision, values and organizational clarity. They are planners for short-term and long-term initiatives, executors to ensure things happen, in essence putting pieces of the puzzle together. Leaders are also conductors, teachers, stewards, innovators, experts and thinkers. Each of these titles indicates action through addressing concerns for human efforts, mentoring and coaching employees, serving others before they serve their self, enable innovation in the organization, have a greater understanding about weaving the culture together, and think critically.
How often does a community, town, city or county experience effective leadership? Putting their self-interest before the community, stakeholders, lining their pockets or moving their own agendas forward takes first place in allocating limited and valuable resources. If changes are to occur, then those that have held appointed and elected positions for years or decades even must be open to change and not fear adjusting the path to vitality.
It is an election year, and many officials are fearful of not being reelected due to a decision or vote they cast to support the school system, public service providers, quality of life expenditures or economic drivers. Is this why you were not selected in that position to begin with? Leadership programs through various outlets encourage residents to get involved in board development and governmental affairs, but where are the alumni of the programs? In addition, we see so often leaders violate ethical and moral grounds to promote their own agendas. Effective leaders are accountable for their actions and those of the organization, responsibility is owned by the decision maker.
Leadership builds the foundation of values in the organization; examples are set by actions of the person viewed as the leader. Values, morals and ethics have a trickledown effect. For example, a company might tout to be environmentally friendly. However, no recycling bins are in the workplace and employees do not recycle — why you may ask. The answer is simply, the belief is not held by management and therefore not implemented at the basic operational levels. The organization models their behavior and attitude after yours. This is also applicable to counties, towns and city officials.
Finally, leadership demonstrates that people do indeed matter. People do the front line work; they talk with customers and portray company values. If employees feel valued by the leader, then this feeling is passed on to customers and suppliers. You must have a heart as a leader. All talk and no action will not promote a healthy culture.
Leadership is never easy. No matter how effortlessly some leaders appear to manage, the path of a leader is one fraught with constant challenge and surprise. However, the leader does not face the challenge alone. By definition, a leader has a group or organization working to meet each challenge and achieve each goal. Good leaders recognize that they do not have all the answers and are constantly reeducating themselves on their businesses and sharpening their leadership skills. Formerly rare processes such as goal-setting, constant feedback and a system of rewards are now the norm in most workplaces.
Heather Strohm is a community development regional educator for the Southwest Region of Purdue University Extension who regularly contributes a Business Cents column for the Tribune-Star. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.