As part of the growth of the 3Rivers Leadership Institute I have created a leadership development tool based on the acrostic L.E.A.D.E.R.S. This model is the foundation for the leadership development experiences that I provide through the services of the 3Rivers Leadership Institute.
Each letter stands for a component of the model:
In my next several entries, I will describe the meaning of each letter in my weekly blog. I trust you will find these summaries helpful and give you a sense of the concepts and behaviors that are essential to effective leadership. Here is the first installment.
Conventional thinking often equates leadership with the person who has the title, someone who is identified as such by his or her position. If a person is the president, director, CEO, or manager, then that person is the “leader” and all others who are not in a “leadership” position are, by default, followers. Leadership in the L.E.A.D.E.R.S model, however, is understood as something quite different.
According to the L.E.A.D.E.R.S model, leadership is not about the position or power of the leader. Rather, leadership is a process. That occurs when leaders and followers together engage to accomplish clearly-established purposes or goals. This process of leadership is possible because leaders and followers are in a relationship with one another based on influence. This influence relationship is not based on power or position, and is not the result of coercion, threats, intimidation, or manipulation. Rather, this influence relationship occurs through thoughtful persuasion, positive interpersonal connections, and the freedom to choose whether or not to be in such a relationship (Rost, 1993).
This view of leadership certainly turns conventional thinking on its head. Instead of leaders leading by “wielding their power and authority,” leaders do the necessary and sometime challenging work of leading by getting to know their followers, interacting with them regularly, discussing with them the nature of the organization’s business, and, through encouragement and support, strengthening their commitment to its vision and mission.
This kind of leadership is not easy. It requires that leaders take on the herculean task of creating a work environment in which leadership as a process can take place. It means dealing with all sorts of different people, some who are not easily persuaded or motivated to engage in the process of leadership.
For leaders to lead in this way, there must be effective communication. Communication is a key to establishing the type of influence relationship with others that is described above. Such leaders view communication as a “conversation.” This means that leaders communicate regularly with all employees, use a variety of formal and informal means, and ensure that the whatever the message may be, everyone in the organization understands its true meaning.
Leaders who communicate effectively engage others in open, honest, and accurate discussions of information that is important and necessary for organization success. They promote dialogue, expecting to receive helpful feedback and to use that feedback to inform future organizational development and direction.
First and foremost, leaders who are effective communicators practice “inclusion.” They begin with the belief that all employees must know what is “going on,” because they value employees as important assets in the success of the organization. Communicating regularly helps to avoid the vacuum of silence that is often filled with rumors and inaccurate information.
Second, leaders connect with employees not only using the “official” methods through memos, emails, video presentations, and formal meetings, but also by talking with them in the hallways, on the shop floor, and in their offices. Leaders understand the influence of these informal networks within their organization when it comes to communication, using them to help distribute important news and to obtain feedback.
Finally, effective communication occurs when the message has been received and is understood. To verify this is the case, leaders “listen.” They do more than talk; they ask questions. They seek to find out how employees interpret what they are hearing. It makes little sense for leaders to deliver a message without knowing what employees really hear and understand. This kind of two-way communication helps to insure that all parties “are on the same page” and, at the same time, builds confidence among employees that what they have to say matters.
When leaders communicate effectively, they generate trust among all employees. By reflecting a positive “ethos” or character in how and what they communicate, they express authenticity and reveal transparency, not only about themselves but also about the organization. As a result, they build the kind of influential relationships that are necessary to be effective leaders.
Dr. James Dittmar is the Founder, President, and CEO of the 3Rivers Leadership Institute which began in 2014.