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By Marlene Caroselli, Author, “Principled Persuation”

The words of Reverend Martin Luther King ("Anyone can be great because anyone can serve.") remind us that leadership possibilities, like service opportunities, exist for each of us--no matter our level within the organization. Leaders can make a difference--small or large--in the way things are done in a workplace. There are some cautions, though, for those, interested in bringing improvement to their organization.

One caveat comes from Nancy Astor, the first woman to serve in England’s Parliament. "The main dangers in this life," she asserted, "are the people who want to change everything—or nothing.” There are dangers associated with extremes; thus, the moderate, middle-of-the-road approach to change is often the wisest. It acknowledges that much of what executives are already doing is exactly what they should be doing. But if company leaders are doing what they were doing five years ago, they simply aren’t optimizing their managerial talents. The pace of change today demands a change of pace. The skills that serve leaders well today cannot, in toto, serve them well five years hence.

You’ll need to urge a paradoxical change-within-stasis style. Encourage your staff to determine core values and maintain fidelity to them. At the same time, have them examine processes. Where improvement is needed, they have to make it.

You can encourage programs of continuous learning, of continuous improvement within organizations. You can help effect positive change. But only if you walk the oft-cited talk. Quite simply, theory must be put into practice. The best practitioners of management theory know this. They believe this. They live this on a daily basis. If the application of new knowledge is already something your participants are doing on a daily basis, congratulate them. 

If your staff members/colleagues are not used to learning and experimenting to enhance their managerial style, help them acquire new knowledge and use it with their subordinates. Help them facilitate the transition between information and expertise.

 As it has for most of you, the topic of leadership has long held fascination for me. After studying the topic at length, I’ve come to the conclusion that a leader can be defined, quite simply, as one who effects positive change. This basic definition satisfies questions like these that always arise when leadership-definitions are formulated: “Was Hitler a leader?” (by this definition, no) and “Can you have a leader without followers?” (by this definition, yes).

 By contrast, a manager is one who maintains the status quo. To be sure, there are times when managers are called upon to lead. And, there are occasions when leaders are expected to manage. But, there are managers who could not be called leaders. And, there are leaders who do not have the title of manager. The roles are distinct and discrete although they admittedly overlap from time to time.         

 Author Ken Blanchard maintains that the key to leadership today is influence, not authority. And John Maxwell asserts, "Leadership is influence. That's it. Nothing more. Nothing less." If you or your co-workers wish to wear the leadership-hat more often, you must develop skills of influence. Leaders who rule autocratically don’t rule long. In the rare circumstance when they do, subversive activity surrounds their rule. Loyalty is minimal in such circumstances; so is respect. But, CEO's who lead by influencing others, by motivating average employees to make extraordinary contributions, experience just the opposite. They inspire trust, cohesion, and harmony.

Dr. Marlene Caroselli, author of 60 business books and one e-book “Principled Persuasion”. She is an international keynote speaker and corporate trainer for Fortune 100 companies. In 1984, she founded the Center for Professional Development, an organization dedicated to helping working adults enhance their professional skills. She has served as a consultant to many Fortune 500 companies, government agencies, and educational institutions. She contributes frequently to a number of well-known publications (among them are Stephen Covey’s Excellence Publications and the National Business Employment Weekly). For article feedback, contact Marlene at mccpd@frontiernet.net



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