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How to Lead and Influence Change
By Anne Warfield   Printer Friendly Version

You know for years we have held the majestic eagle as our sign of a good leader. It soars so high above everyone else, has a beautiful wingspan, eyes that can see it's prey from miles away and uncanny accuracy in getting it's food. Definitely a leader. Definitely something we should admire and look up to. Definitely the way we should be if we want to lead, right? Wrong!
I think eagles are one of the worst animals we can model after as leaders. You see, they don't play as a team. They build their nests in cliffs where no one has access to them. They take care of their young only. They do everything for their young and when they feel they are ready they just push them out of the nest and say, "fly or die" Now I ask you, is that a warm environment to work in?

We need a new way to look at leadership. You see, leadership is no longer a position, it is a way of thinking. So whether you are a secretary, a foreman, a sales person or an executive you all should be leaders. You should feel you are the master of your work space every day . And every day you should ask whether you would hire yourself tomorrow if you were the owner.

In order to be a good leader there are several key traits you need to exhibit. First you need to be a clear communicator. You need to have a clear vision that you can share with others. Most companies I meet with have a long mission statement that even the CEO can't remember. A good mission statement should be one you can wrap your arms around and use to judge whether you did a good job today. When Les Wexner, Chairman of Limited designed Victoria's Secret his mission was "to design a store where Cybill Shepherd would love to shop for lingerie". This gave his people a clear vision of what to look for as they designed the store. Bill Gates mission is to "put a computer on every desk". This is something tangible that every person can see and can act in accordance with. One telephone company I worked with switched their mission statement to "your best friend's on the line." This way every person could make sure their voice tone, and actions matched what they would do for their best friend. Within 3 months their sales rocketed to the highest they had every had.

Now, you might be saying, but wait that is the CEO's job to come up with our mission statement. Not so. You should get together with the other people in your department and decide what is the one key reason you are all there. What is the one result you all want to see and then come up with a mission statement that fits that goal and gives passion to your team.

The second key ingredient in a leader is they are very "WE" focused. They see themselves as supporting others and working towards a united outcome. They are willing to take all blame and share all victories. They don't worry about how to make their job easier, they worry about doing what is right. If you are a true leader you will share information you have with others. You will want to draw out the best in others. Job descriptions become irrelevant. What is most important is what needs to be done to get the result you desire. You will think outside the box and work for solutions never thought of before. Finger pointing doesn't happen with true leaders. They instead want to know how the problem can be fixed. They want to know what caused it so people can learn from it and not repeat it. They do not shame or embarrass others. They are the first to point out good things that others do.

Good leaders lead as well as follow. They don't worry about how others perceive them. They know that some of the best ideas can come from others around them so they keep their ears open. They know that in order to lead they need to continually learn so they see themselves as teachers and students at the same time. They welcome new ideas and suggestions from others.

"A leader is not someone you look up to because they are the best. A true leader is someone that looks in to you and draws out your best." Anne Warfield

And lastly, good leaders are willing to set guidelines. They know that in order to do a good job people need to know what is expected of them. They need to know the outcome they are working towards and they need to know what flexibility they have with decisions. Good leaders will share all that needs to be shared so people can achieve results. They look to shatter paradigms and see things in a new way.

So ask yourself, do you lead or do you follow? Do you take risks at your company or do you strictly follow policy? Are things going on at your company that you think should change? If so, have you taken the time to offer your ideas and suggestions? Do you take charge and work as a team?

I would like to see a new mode of leaders. Not eagles, that can be loners. From this day on think of yourself as a goose. You see, geese fly in a V formation. And since the lead position is tiring, the lead goose will fly to the back and new goose will take the front position. Because their outcome has been clearly communicated they don't worry about flying off course. If one goose gets hurt, then two geese fly down to take care of the wounded goose. They never leave one goose out to struggle on its own. Just imagine how your company would soar if it was full of geese as leaders!

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