Ten Time-Tested Truths about Leadership (Part 4 of 5):

by V. S. Ravi Elangkoh

“Like precious metals, our leadership mettle
can be refined in the fire of challenges and change.”
                                                                                             ~ V. S. Ravi Elangkoh

CrucibleIn Part 4, the penultimate installment of our series, we shall consider the seventh and eighth truths about leadership that are advocated by James M. Kouzes and Barry Z. Posner.

Truth no. 1:  YOU make a difference.

Truth no. 2:  Credibility is the foundation of leadership.

Truth no. 3:  Values drive commitment.

Truth no. 4:  Focusing on the future sets leaders apart.

Truth no. 5:  You can’t do it alone.

Truth no. 6:  Trust rules.

Truth no. 7:  Challenge is the crucible for greatness.

Truth no. 8:  You either lead by example or you don’t lead at all.

Truth no. 9:  The best leaders are the best learners.

Truth no. 10:   Leadership is an affair of the heart.

Truth no. 7: Challenge is the crucible for greatness.

The seventh leadership truth concerns facing challenges and leading change. Just as gold is refined in a graphite crucible at an extremely high temperature to remove impurities, leaders of gold have endured the refiner’s fire in crucibles of challenges only to emerge stronger and wiser.

No person – whether a leader or otherwise – can improve himself or herself by keeping things unchanged. On the other hand, leaders desire change – whether gradual or disruptive and sudden – and welcome the challenges associated with such change.

Are you someone who sees a brick wall that traps you in, or do you see an opportunity to get past those walls, if not break them? Can you take charge of your people under adverse and uncertain conditions without buckling yourself? Are you resilient enough to bounce back higher and better from setbacks? Can you look beyond the present difficulties and envision the exciting possibilities that challenges can pose? Are you able to help your people transform successfully during various transitional stages?

Sounds like a tall order? Leadership is not an insurmountable calling. You have within you what it takes to be a leader. Whatever else you’re short of…those can be learned and developed. So, the truth of leadership is not out there. The truth is right here, inside of you.

Truth no. 8: You either lead by example or you don’t lead at all.

People want a leader whom they can follow with confidence. They need tangible evidence of leadership, that’s why they follow someone who models or exemplifies what they believe to be the right characteristics of a leader.

Have you ever wondered why in some countries, the citizens are pleased to have a monarchy? They respect and revere the monarch although he or she is merely a figurehead. In turn, the royal family attempts to be good role models to the monarch’s subjects through patriotic and charitable acts. The royal family understands that they are under constant public scrutiny and any inadvertent misstep might spell a public relations’ disaster for them.

By nature, people yearn for a role model that they can look up to. Whether that role model is a member of royalty, a celebrity, a family member, a corporate leader etc., we tend to be inspired by other people’s positive behaviour or actions. As children, we had a tendency to mimic the adults’ behaviour; and even when we’re all grown up now, it’s not that much different! On the flip side, we are just as easily disillusioned by the inappropriate words or deeds of others.

Your behaviour represents what’s inside of you; therefore, people are watching whether what you say and do is consistent with your values, as if looking out for an inspirational role model in whom they can place their confidence and entrust their future. As Kouzes and Posner aptly put it, “Quite often the greatest distance that leaders have to travel is the distance from their mouths to their feet.”

Today, take some time to reflect on your behavioural integrity – do you do what you say you will do? Do you have a feedback system that shows you where you have deviated or slipped? If you have not done well, do you take responsibility for your mistakes? Are you willing to change yourself first? Can you make sacrifices yourself before expecting others to do so too?

Remember, your behaviour impacts the behaviour of those around you. The humility to receive feedback and acknowledge your shortcomings will not only act as an antidote for pride and arrogance but also cultivate the seed capital for your long-term growth and development.

[Image courtesy of Toa55]

(To be continued in Part 4)