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Kenneth W. Keller: You may be the leader, but are you leading?

Inside Business

Posted: October 6, 2009 5:56 p.m.
Updated: October 7, 2009 4:55 a.m.
A common perception in the rest of the business community is that "everyone who works at a bank is a vice president."

Titles are inexpensive and often do not represent the authority or responsibility level of the position. So, setting title aside, ask yourself if you are a leader, are you truly leading? What is it that leaders do? What should you be doing if you are leading?

Here are fifteen areas where leaders should lead.

Leaders set a vision. All organizations are on a path to somewhere. That vision has to be articulated to those involved. Does a vision exist? Is it shared often enough so that everyone is clear as to what it is?

Leaders determine the mission. A mission is what sets the organization apart and states what the organization does. When was the last time the mission was reviewed? It is being communicated every day?

Leaders control their attitudes. Success in life is based more on mental attitude than mental capability. Attitude is demonstrated in tone of voice, facial expressions, handwriting, posture, eye contact, dress, handshake, voicemail message, decision-making, delegating and management style. The leader's attitude always seeps through.

Leaders are tenacious. They keep going until something stops them, and then they still keep going. Accomplishing anything takes time but people want to be led by determined leaders.

Leaders continuously improve themselves. A leader has to be in a state of continuous improvement. Leaders listen to the advice of others. They devote ample time to learning and talk to a wide variety of people. How much time is spent learning?

Leaders are honest and ethical. Honesty is truth, integrity, being genuine, equitable and frank. It implies an absence of fraud, deceit and deception. Most important, it is demonstrated in daily actions.

Leaders think before they talk. Leaders pause and think through what they are going to say. Leaders tend to act quickly but they think slowly. The best leaders listen far more than they speak.

Originality is critical. Imagination is important. A leader asks: "Is it a change? Does it improve things? How can we adapt it and take it to the next step?" Are questions asked to stimulate thinking or, discouraged because the answers are already known?

Leaders are publicly modest. Secure people can be modest. Insecure people are not. Leaders graciously accept nice things people have said about them, but they don't always believe it. Leaders give and share credit.

Leaders are decisive. Leaders ask: "How do you like to have things happen? How would you approach this? What do think would work best here? What have you seen that works well in this situation?"

Leaders are gutsy and a little wild. Leaders take risks. They believe, "No guts, no glory." Leaders aren't the same as owners. Leaders invest; owners see most everything as an expense.

Leaders have a sense of humor. The typical child laughs 400 times a day but adults laugh only about 15.

Leaders do their best to make people smile and laugh; it builds a better workplace.

Leaders are competitive. Business is a constant competition. Leaders understand that competition is a good thing for personal and professional growth because it sharpens skills and gets the blood flowing.

Business is war, waged on a daily battlefield. Leaders are detail oriented. Leaders know the details of what matters. They take full responsibility for the outcome. They know that the higher the position, the more important details become.

Finally, leaders lead by example in all they do.

Do you?

Ken Keller is president of Renaissance Executive Forums, which brings business owners together in facilitated peer advisory boards. His column represents his own views and not necessarily those of The Signal.


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