R. Bryan Braley

Listener, Learner, Leader

Category: Leadership

What is Leadership? – Part 7

A Personal Theory of Leadership – Skills of Effective Leaders

If you are just joining the discussion, you may want to check out:

  • Part 1 to establish some context for this article.
  • Part 2 to see how I define leadership.
  • Part 3 to discover the key components of leadership.
  • Part 4 to understand the leadership values I count as most important.
  • Part 5 to uncover the goals of effective leadership.
  • Part 6 to find out what effective leaders do.

                Skills that contribute to effective leadership fall into three categories: technical, conceptual, and interpersonal. (Yukl, pp. 152-154) Technical skills, which center on job knowledge, are more important at lower levels of management and leadership. Conceptual, or cognitive skills include analytical thinking, planning, seeing the big picture, problem solving, and playing chess instead of checkers. Interpersonal skills are those that deal with people and relationships. The need for these skills become increasingly important at higher levels of leadership as the need for specific job knowledge decreases.

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What is Leadership? – Part 6

A Personal Theory of Leadership – Behaviors of Effective Leaders

If you are just joining the discussion, you may want to check out:

  • Part 1 to establish some context for this article.
  • Part 2 to see how I define leadership.
  • Part 3 to discover the key components of leadership.
  • Part 4 to understand the leadership values I count as most important.
  • Part 5 to uncover the goals of effective leadership.

The behaviors of effective leaders are dependent on the environment in which they are leading. (Yukl, p. 59) However, there are a few behaviors that are necessary for any leader to be effective. The first is doing the right thing by acting with integrity in every area. Next, a leader must do things right. An effective leader knows themselves because they engage in self-evaluation. This knowledge allows them to lead from their strengths while staffing to their weaknesses and empowering those they bring around them to operate in their individual strengths as well. In addition to self-evaluation, effective leaders think about the future and how to get there. They also motivate themselves and others through positive internal and external communication. (Neck & Manz, pp. 67-68) Continue reading

What is Leadership? – Part 5

A Personal Theory of Leadership – Goals of Effective Leadership

If you are just joining the discussion, you may want to check out:

  • Part 1 to establish some context for this article.
  • Part 2 to see how I define leadership.
  • Part 3 to discover the key components of leadership.
  • Part 4 to understand the leadership values I count as most important.

Though the goals of effective leadership may be many, I believe the most important goals of effective leadership are Developing People, Reaching Goals, Making Things Better, and Passing the Torch.

Developing People

Leadership is about people. You can’t lead without people. You can’t succeed as a leader without people. Therefore, you must develop people and help them grow. The growth of your organization depends on the growth of your organization. For example, Rick Warren states that he has never been concerned with growing his church. He believes that by continuing to learn and grow personally, he makes room and gives permission for others to learn and grow as well. The result of individual growth, according to Rick, is organizational growth. (Warren, n.d.) Therefore, it is imperative for the success of the leader and the organization that leaders develop people for the sake of developing people. It is the responsibility of the leaders to provide an environment in which subordinates can learn and grow. Furthermore, leaders need to empower their subordinates in order to create or perpetuate a culture of engagement and personal fulfillment. Continue reading

What is Leadership? – Part 4

A Personal Theory of Leadership –Leadership Values

If you are just joining the discussion, you may want to check out:

  • Part 1 to establish some context for this article.
  • Part 2 to see how I define leadership.
  • Part 3 to discover the key components of leadership.

Everyone is driven by their real values and the best way to find out if a value is real or professed is through observation. Do their words and deeds line up with each other? If they do, the values they profess are the values they believe. The values that I feel are important to leadership flow directly from my discussion of the key components of leadership. They include: a love for and obedience to God which drives a lifestyle of honesty, integrity, high morality, ethical thoughts and actions, and a love for people. A love for people demands humility, transparency, and a clear vision of where to take them and the willingness to do what it takes to get them there. A clear vision starts with self-awareness and self-leadership and requires a focus on a future that can be realized through a commitment to excellence that is achieved through the innovation and creativity of the team. Let’s take a closer look at the values of an effective leader: Love for God, Love for People, and Vision for the Future

Love for God

As a follower of Christ it is vital that I maintain a love for God. This love and reverence acts as a source of strength and humility at the same time. Love for God and His Word is demonstrated by obedience to His commands, following His leading, asking for His opinion and guidance, and accomplishing His goals. Although God is a gracious God, His standards far exceed those held by most of the people in the world and the church today. Conducting myself in a way that is pleasing to him will translate into honesty and integrity in my dealings with others and helps keep my thoughts and actions moral and ethical. A failure in one of these areas, whether ignored or publicized by others, violates my value of a Christian lifestyle. Though many try to separate spiritual from secular, I have never been able to do so and can testify that my effectiveness as a leader suffers greatly when I violate this value.

Love for People

Jesus said that the greatest display of love is laying down your life for another. He demonstrated this when He gave His life on the cross. He made a way for us to go to a place that we would not and could not go.

My personality lends itself to being more task-oriented than people oriented. However, as a minister, my focus on and dedication to the process facilitates the end result of reaching, teaching, and keeping people for Christ. As a computer technician, it makes me very good at what I do – solving computer problems which removes roadblocks for others to help them accomplish their goals. As a trainer, I choose to focus on developing the system in such a way so that those that graduate from my program are better equipped to do what they need to do. So, I love people enough to create the process to serve them.

Humility is another indication of loving others more than you love yourself. According to Jim Collins, Level 5 leaders exhibit a profound humility that can best be explained by the parable of the window and the mirror. (Collins, pp. 33-35). It is this humility that demonstrates a love for people, they give their people the credit for success and keep the blame for failures and setbacks for themselves. It is natural that followers are less likely to follow a leader who always blames them and takes all the credit for themselves. The existence and demonstration of humility lends itself heavily to transparency, another value I believe exemplifies effective leadership. In my opinion, participative leadership and building a culture of trust require transparency and vulnerability. Leadership is not a show, the leader is not an actor. Leadership is one human being leading other human beings and none of us are perfect.

Clear vision also demonstrates love for people because a lack of vision by a leader indicates that he/she does not care enough about the people they are leading to take the time to focus and get a clear direction. Furthermore, I believe the values of love for people and dedication to a clear vision feed the value of modeling the way, or leading by example, and persevering until the job is done, no matter how rough the journey may be.

This section would not be complete if I did not address the importance of the individual. It is the individuals that make up the teams that make up the departments that make up the divisions that make up the organization. We must value the individual by empowering them, developing them, and leading them in a way that is appropriate to their situation and level of competence. Valuing the individual is about loving them and love is always more about the other person.

Vision for the Future

                As indicated above, I believe developing and communicating a clear vision for the future shows a level of love and respect for one’s followers. As an INTJ with Futuristic and Achiever strengths, I believe an effective leader must have an effective vision and a focus on the future. I realize that not all effective leaders have the same preferences and strengths that I possess, however, this is my theory of leadership. The experts agree that the clarity and motivational qualities of the vision directly affect the level of effectiveness of the leader. Therefore, an effective leader must place a very high value on vision. They must also value excellence and continuous improvement as the vehicles through which that vision can be achieved. Leaders that are satisfied with mediocre will remain in mediocre organizations with mediocre success. As Collins states, “Good is the Enemy of Great.” (Collins, p. 1) In the spirit of excellence and communication, a leader must value discovering and applying creative and innovative solutions to challenges and problems. As Blanchard urges, they must challenge assumed constraints (Collins, p. 94), push the envelope, and look for creative ways of doing things.

Collins, J. (2001). Good to Great. New York, NY: Harper Collins Publishers, Inc.

Be sure to check out:

  • Part 5 to uncover the goals of effective leadership.

What is Leadership? – Part 3

A Personal Theory of Leadership –Key Components of Leadership

If you are just joining the discussion, you may want to check out:

  • Part 1 to establish some context for this article.
  • Part 2 to see how I define leadership.

While there are many things discussed and delineated as key components of effective leadership, I must go beyond the opinions and advice of others and determine my position regarding those components. As a Christian, it is imperative to begin my discovery with the Bible. Against that standard, I can then compare the words of others and my own opinion.  According to the Bible, the components of leadership are:

influence (Proverbs 14:28)
communication (Proverbs 15:22)
vision (Nehemiah 2:17-20)
high morals (Proverbs 16:12)
integrity (Proverbs 16:13)
learning (2 Timothy 2:15)
servanthood (Matthew 20:25-28)
leading by example (John 13:15)
love (John 15:13)
(Grunlan, 2014)

(Leadership Principles, 2014)

 

With the biblical standards for leadership in place, I now consider those additional components found among non-biblical works, keeping in mind that leadership is leadership. Jim Collins identifies personal humility, fearlessness, unwavering resolve, and professional well as components of Level 5 Leadership (Collins, pp. 21-36) while Maxwell states that integrity is the most important ingredient of leadership. (Maxwell J. C., p. 35)  Valsania, et al identify the components of authentic leadership as self-awareness, balanced processing, moral perspective, and relational transparency. (Valsania, Moriano, Alonso, & Cantisano, 2012) Also prevalent among extra-biblical discussions of leadership were the components of influence, vision, communication, learning, servanthood, and leading by example.

From these lists, I have identified the following as key components of effective leadership: Integrity, Influence, Vision, Communication, Leading by Example, Lifelong Learning, and Servanthood. Continue reading

What is Leadership? – Part 2

Part II – A Personal Theory of Leadership – Definition of Leadership

Be sure to read Part 1 to establish some context for this article.

A topic must be defined in order to be studied. Therefore, I will begin by offering a definition of leadership. The following definitions were of particular interest to me as a part of this exercise: influence; (Maxwell J. C., p. 21) making things better; (Summerfield, 2014) the influential increment over and above mechanical compliance with the routine directives of the organization; articulating visions, embodying values, and creating the environment within which things can be accomplished; the process of giving purpose to collective effort; the process of making sense of what people are doing so that people will understand and be committed; and the process of influencing others to understand and agree about what needs to be done and how to do it, and the process of facilitating individual and collective efforts to accomplish shared objectives. (Yukl, pp. 3-7) After considering the experts’ definitions and my understanding of leadership, I offer the following definition:

Leadership is employing vision, communication, and role modeling in the process of influencing others to work together toward a common goal while facilitating the achievement of individual and shared objectives. 

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What is Leadership? – Part 1

Part I – A Personal Theory of Leadership – Introduction

Leadership has been defined, described, dissected, and diagnosed by leaders, followers, researchers, philosophers, educators, and students throughout history.

The very utterance of the word evokes images of Abraham Lincoln, George Washington, Nelson Mandela, and Gandhi as they led their world through turbulent times. It also forces us to realize that Adolph Hitler, Mao Tse-tong, and Joseph Stalin were great leaders in their own right. They simply practiced bad leadership. (Kellerman, 2005)  It could even be argued that without the lens of hindsight, those that followed them counted each as a great leader, regardless of the effects of their leadership on others. Therefore, as John Maxwell stated, I must conclude that, “leadership is leadership, no matter where you go or what you do.” (Maxwell J. C., p. 8) Continue reading

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