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Five ways you can become a better leader

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Do you want to maximise your leadership potential? Follow Jim Kouzes' five practices of exemplary leadership.

In the rapidly evolving world of work, organisations must continuously develop a robust pipeline of leaders who are ready to engage employees, push forward growth strategies and drive innovation. Companies that fail to invest continuously in the leaders of tomorrow may find themselves falling behind their competitors.

When Barry Posner and I began our leadership research more than 30 years ago, we had a simple question: “What do leaders do when they are operating at their personal best?”
When functioning at their best, leaders model the way, clarifying values and setting an example based on a set of shared values. They also envision an uplifting future and enlist others in a common vision.

They challenge processes, searching for opportunities, experimenting and taking risks, and learning from the accompanying mistakes. Effective leaders enable others to act, fostering collaboration and strengthening others.

Finally, they encourage the heart, recognising contributions, celebrating the values and the victories. The five practices are just as valid in the Middle East as they are in other regions of the world. And in fact, they account for more of the variance in employee engagement in the Middle East than in all but one other global region. Great leadership creates great workplaces everywhere we look.

HR professionals have a role in ensuring leaders develop The Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership®. Here are five practical actions HR professionals can take to develop the capacity of leaders to make extraordinary things happen:

Model the way

Coach leaders to ask themselves at the end of each day: “What evidence exists that I did what I said I would do – made decisions and took actions consistent with our shared values?”

Inspire a shared vision

Ask all leaders to engage annually in this exercise: Imagine it’s five years from now and you’re attending a ceremony honouring you as the “leader of the year.” What do you hope others are saying about you? What are the ideals you hope they say you stand for? What evidence do they cite to prove that you have demonstrated exemplary leadership?

Challenge the process

Leaders should adopt this daily routine: Keep a journal that records your answers to: “What did I do today to improve so that I’m a better leader than I was yesterday?”

Enable others to act

Coach leaders to pause before every interaction and ask themselves: “What can I do in this moment to make others feel more powerful, competent, and able to do more than they think they can?”

Encourage the heart

This one is the easiest of them all. Urge your leader to say “thank you” more often. When people are encouraged, they report performing at higher levels, so every leader needs to express appreciation of exemplary efforts every day.

Jim Kouzes

By Jim Kouzes

Jim is an award-winning author, speaker and executive educator. He is speaking at the HR Summit and Expo 2015.

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