Some of the leaders I admire include Vince Lombardi, Reggie White, Steve Jobs, Howard Schultz, Peter Drucker and Martin Luther King. Others include Oprah Winfrey, Margaret Thatcher and my mother.
These individuals had courage, vision and followers. They were decisive on the one hand and had humanity on the other.
These people had the ability to influence others, get important things accomplished and make a difference.
With the challenges facing our country and communities, we need leaders at all levels: family, community, business, organizations and religious institutions.
Leadership and management are related but different. Managers maintain order and work within a budget. Leaders advance a vision or direction, challenge the status quo, and promote innovation and risk taking to find a better state. Their focus is effectiveness rather than efficiency.
Leadership is the art of influence and getting people to follow you. Leaders rely on knowledge and integrity which is trust. This requires self-confidence, a sense of purpose, and communication skills. In business, leaders help people and organizations to see and realize their potential.
Leadership can be learned and leadership skills can be developed. We are not born leaders and leadership is not in our DNA.
Essential leadership elements include vision, vitality, proactivity, decisiveness and humanity. Each element can be further broken down for understanding — needed knowledge, skills and experiences.
From a knowledge perspective, there are programs and resources available. Many articles have been written on the subject. The military has some of the best materials and training programs. I would also encourage reading biographies of successful leaders.
From a skills perspective, most are “soft skills” and include communication, relationship, self-awareness (emotional intelligence), problem solving, teamwork and teaching. Others include writing, public speaking and salesmanship.
Experience and practice are essential to leadership development. This experience can come from sports, project or program lead responsibility, career positions, community service, coaching, teaching and team involvement.
Practice and self-study are very important. I spent years working to improve my communication and public speaking skills.
We should encourage our youth to aspire to leadership roles and positions. We should encourage our organizations and businesses to teach leadership and provide leadership opportunities for development.
By Robert Keller
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