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Seven Enduring Truths about Leadership During Crisis

In these uncertain times when the foundations of our global economic system are being challenged, we need to look beyond the pessimistic predictions, the fads, and the simplistic solutions to what's proven and what's real. It's critically important to remind ourselves of what the evidence tells about how leaders get extraordinary things done. We also need to understand the vital role credible leaders play in restoring confidence and in revitalizing organizations.

1. Challenge is the greatest opportunity for greatness! In these challenging and difficult times, we are likely to see some of the best leadership we've seen in the last two decades. The greatest leaders throughout history are remembered for how they dealt with change and adversity.

2. The most important leader role models are YOU, not "them". Thousands of young people and working professionals, in two separate surveys, were asked who the most important role models for leadership were. In both categories, most people chose family members, teachers, coaches, and community and business leaders. Very few choose politicians, entertainers, and athletes, the ones who seem to dominate our headlines. The leaders who have the most influence are the ones who are closest to us.

3. The one attribute that is the foundation of all leadership - something that has remained the same for that last 25 years and is not likely to change for the next 25 years - is credibility. That is, doing what you say you're going to do, walking the talk, keeping commitments, honesty, and trustworthiness.

4. Start learning how to look ahead, to be forward looking. Being forward-looking was selected as the one quality that most differentiated leaders from team members. It's also the most difficult aspect of leadership to learn and put into practice. So if you're an executive or aspiring leader, this needs to be the focus for your development

5. You can't change people's behaviors by telling them - you have to show them. The leadership quality that has the biggest impact on people's performance is modeling the way - setting a good example.

6. Personal values drive commitment. Helping leaders and employees get clarity on their own values - even if unclear on organizational values - have the greatest impact on commitment. We often put a lot of effort into defining organizational values, yet this has little impact on employee commitment.

7. The secret to success is to stay in love. U.S. Army Major General John H. Stanford was asked about how one becomes a leader. "When anyone asks me that question, I tell them I have the secret to success in life. The secret to success is to stay in love. Staying in love gives you the fire to really ignite other people, to see inside other people, to have greater desire to get things done than other people. A person who is not in love doesn't really feel the kind of excitement that helps him to get ahead and lead others and to achieve.”

Source: Jim Kouzes, co-author of The Leadership Challenge

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