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The Warsaw Voice » Business » March 27, 2013
Business & Economy
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Leadership in Times of Crisis by Tomasz Krajewski
March 27, 2013   
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At a time of an economic slowdown, the future of Poland’s economy hinges on a number of factors, not all of which depend on you. What does depend on you is what’s going on in your company. It is up to people like you—CEOs and managers—whether a company becomes an effective organization capable of conquering the market, whether your employees really feel they are part of the company and are keen to work hard to accomplish common goals, or whether they feel growing anxiety as they wait to see what the future brings.

Leaders and managers
Let us first consider the difference between a leader and a manager. I once heard an interesting definition, according to which managers do things the right way and leaders make the right decisions...

Various employee efficiency surveys reveal a fact that no responsible manager can ignore: a mere 10 to 25 percent of employees perform with maximum concentration and commitment at work. You should ask yourself if you want your employees, associates, and business partners to be motivated, loyal and committed. If your answer is yes, then take a look at yourself: do you play fair and practice what you preach?

World famous leadership expert John Adair, the author of numerous books, including Effective Teambuilding, once said: “Remember that a person can be appointed a manager at any level, but he or she is not a leader until the appointment has been ratified in the hearts and minds of those who work with the person.” So if you want your business to grow and if you want to effectively introduce changes, you need to work on becoming a natural leader and a great manager.

People long for true leaders and are fed up with those who hide behind e-mails and conventional behavior. What they want is somebody who is authentic— that’s a primal need that has to be satisfied to make people feel safe.

What makes a leader?
A leader is someone who creates unique strategies, knows how to rally people around them and then launch their strategies with precision and accuracy so they benefit people, the company and the business environment. Leaders inspire people to commit themselves to setting and pursuing goals. A leader is a special kind of boss who places an emphasis on deep trust, respect, mutual encouragement and achieving goals together.

I believe there are several personal traits and behaviors that determine what kind of leader you are, if at all.

1. Courage is the most important attribute of a leader. On the personal level, it is about having the courage to have your own opinion and in business, to make bold decisions.
2. Leaders have a value system, a kind of inner compass, to guide them, determine their decisions and choices and show them the way in their personal and professional lives.
3. Congruence is extremely important as far as values, beliefs, declarations and actions are concerned. You know there is congruence when there is consistency in action, because while many companies and managers talks about lofty missions and ideals, they much more seldom pursue such ideals in real life.
4. Your personal commitment makes people respect you more and forms bonds within the company. Personal commitment is the most effective way of increasing your power to influence people, companies and organizations. Leading by example demonstrates that you are as committed as you want your employees to be.
5. Communication. Bearing in mind the aforementioned desirable characteristics of a leader at a time of crisis, you should never use so-called corporate speak. When not suited to a given situation, it is ineffective, if not harmful. What you communicate shows whether you care that your employees feel safe and understand what is happening, why it is happening and what you are all aiming for. It is not about always having good news to tell, but about making people realize why things are the way they are and what they can do themselves to change the situation.
6. When called for, it is good for a leader to know how to be firm and authoritative. At the same time, he should have a clear idea where he wants to take the organization. It is about knowing where you stand, identifying the key steps to achieving your goal and naming the goal and the benefits it will bring.
7. Some say a leader needs to be charismatic, but I believe there is more to it than that. A leader has to be both charismatic and humble. Charisma will make others follow you, but humility tells you to consult others before you fix your course. A leader detached from the rest of the company could lead it down a dead-end street.
8. You have to clearly state the rules of the game, as that is what makes people feel safe. Give your employees a few key rules, clear and logical ones, to identify with and they will have a sense of security.
9. Leaders are stable and free from anxiety and over-optimism. It’s okay if you feel angry and frustrated about poor work quality and business developments, but not about people. The role of a leader is to filter out negative emotions. Leaders never project negative emotions and pressure onto their teams.

A true leader builds up morale when faced with difficulties and in spite of difficulties. Leaders are committed to what they do and inspire others to do the same.

During leadership classes at the RedHat company, we work on being fair to ourselves, to other people and to our companies. We learn to tell the truth, difficult as it might be, in a way that strengthens people’s connection with their companies and leaders.

You can refine your managerial skills through training. If you want to work on what makes a leader and learn to be humble and influential at the same time, coaching is the tool for you, as it strengthens your personal skills and opens you up to other people.

The key to success is to be real, be there for people and build strong relationships and shared values. What is essential in being a true leader is managing other people’s emotions, inspiring courage or even heroism and setting a example for them to follow. It is important to be able to control your own emotions. In order to control them, you have to understand them and know where they come from. You have to be able to deal with difficult situations and that too is something worth learning at leadership workshops.

Tomasz Krajewski is an ICC coach who designs effectiveness techniques and development tools at the RedHat company, which teaches personal development through coaching, training, workshops and mentorship. Krajewski has many years of experience in business and has worked for international corporations. Throughout his career, he has provided training to over 2,800 people.
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