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Want to Be the Leader? You’ve Got to Earn It

An AmericanLaundryNews.com Exclusive
CHICAGO — As we enter the new year, I first want to thank all of you who read my columns on AmericanLaundryNews.com. I appreciate your comments and suggestions.
Let’s continue our discussion about leadership. We all must have an honest understanding of who we are, what we know, and what we can do to add leadership value to our organizations. Keep in mind that it is the followers, not the leader or someone else, who determine if the leader is successful.
If your followers don’t trust you or they lack confidence in you, they will be uninspired unless you make the necessary corrections. To be a successful leader, you have to convince your followers and your superiors—not yourself—that you are worthy of being followed.
Different individuals and teams require different leadership styles. A new employee usually requires more supervision than an experienced worker. A person who lacks motivation requires a different approach than one who is highly motivated.
The fundamental starting point is having a good understanding of emotions and motivation. You must come to know your employees and understand their weaknesses as well as you understand your own.
Leadership requires two-way communication; you must be open to such exchanges. And, recognize that much of this openness is nonverbal. For instance, when you “set the example,” you are communicating to your people that you would not ask them to do anything that you would not be willing to do yourself. So, if you direct your employees to avoid flying first class or staying in expensive hotels, you should follow suit.
Don’t second-guess your organization’s leaders right below your level if they think they are being overwhelmed. When one segment of your organization requires additional employees, make sure you listen to others that are also screaming for support. What and how you communicate either builds or harms the relationship between you and your employees.
Keep in mind that what you do in one situation may not work in another. Use your judgment to decide the best course of action and the leadership style each situation requires. For example, it may be necessary to confront an employee for inappropriate behavior. But, if the confrontation comes too late or too early, or is too harsh or too weak, then your efforts could be ineffective and actually result in a loss of respect among your employees.
The situation normally has a greater effect on a leader’s actions than his or her traits. And other forces can also have an impact. Examples include your relationship with your seniors, the skill of your followers, the formal and informal leaders within your organization, and how your organization is built.
Although your position as manager, supervisor, lead, etc., gives you the authority to accomplish certain tasks and objectives for the organization, your leadership role may have been assigned, meaning there was no real competition—the job was just handed to you.
The position alone does not make you a leader; it simply makes you the boss. A leader makes followers want to achieve high goals, while a boss may do nothing more than order people around.
You reflect “Assigned Leadership” by virtue of having your position, but you can display “Emergent Leadership” by influencing people to do great things.
Have a happy 2011.

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