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Lesson 13: True leadership brings stability (Part 2)

In the first part we looked at why stability is one of the bedrock principles of successful leadership. We dispelled the myth of the “lazy male lion”, a stereotype I wanted to set straight. The chances of survival for a male lion, in an environment as competitive as where they find themselves, are already slim, and the victors are few. When you follow male lions the way I have, from an early age, you appreciate how arduous their life is. Seeing them raised as cubs and then sometimes violently ousted from their family and territory. How they then join forces in a desperate effort to survive in a world filled with danger. The reality of hunting on your own without any support from the pride dawns very quickly on them. No lion survives as a vegetarian! Few would make it to adulthood, and only one becomes king and rules over his own pride and territory. There are never easy takeovers and the scars prove it. All for the privilege to sire their own cubs and to pass on their genes to the next generation. Life in the pride is never certain or safe as the next challenger/s for the throne might be lurking in the dark.
A pride of lions does show remarkable parallels with our world… we will agree that in these stable moments the “pride” truly flourishes. The stability allows their pride to settle down, to raise cubs and to expand their territory.  Clearly leadership gives stability and that is what keeps a “pride” together. 
Leaders need to asses this quality within themselves and find answers to some soul searching questions that greatly impact on the stability they offer. I like to view these issues as pillars of stability.

How credible are you?  REMEMBER, Credibility is the foundation of stable leadership.
Credibility is about a leader’s believability; if you don’t believe the messenger, you won’t believe the message. Honesty, competence and trustworthiness comes to mind as the elements that influences a leader’s ability to be credible. Without credibility there is very little stability. As leaders exhibit higher levels of credibility, their followers are more productive, supportive and trusting.  Without trust leaders cannot have a “relationship” with their followers, and leadership does not exist without relationships.

What core values do you stand for?
Core means centre, heart focal point, foundation.
Values are principles, standards, morals, ethics, and ideals. Values always have worth, importance, and significance
Stable leaders have an open mind, but they also have strong convictions and core values.  While stable leaders listen to others, they are not prone to being indecisive.  Their values drive their actions – not the court of public opinion. You might not always agree with stable leaders, but you’ll never have any doubt as to where they stand. They are decisive when it comes to choosing to do what is right, not wrong.
Leaders must know their own values and beliefs to truly understand their motivation. Those values must be in line with the organization they are working for, or they cannot truly commit to the work they are doing. Stable leaders know that living the values must focus on their constituents as well. Leaders must work to help their groups develop values and ensure that the work they are doing aligns with those values. A leader cannot create values in isolation and expect followers to commit to him or her just because they are supposed to do so.

Do you know who you lead?
The most stable leaders understand their success is rooted in the care and well-being of those they lead. Stable leaders have a natural bias toward empathetic and compassionate behaviour. They don’t listen to respond but to understand.  When those you lead know you care, it creates a sense of trust and stability not often found.
Do you allow others to fail by taking blame out of the equation?
If the people you lead are afraid to make mistakes you’ll never see their best work – you will have led them to a permanent state of mediocrity. Stable leaders make it safe for people to think big, take risks, and try new and different things. Nothing creates stability more than a high-trust environment where people are rewarded for the right behaviours – not punished for them.

Blame is the enemy of stability. Blame is not about accountability it is about passing a contentious issue or challenge and making sure it lands in someone else’s lap. Taking blame out of the organizational culture and replacing it with a more solution oriented mind-set allows more people the confidence to participate in solving problems as they arise rather than spending time looking for ways to shift blame or to take cover.
As Jim Collins explains it in “Good to great” we need stable leaders “On the one hand they look in the mirror, not out the window, to apportion responsibility for poor results, never blaming other people, external factors, or bad luck. Yet on the other hand, they look out the window, not in the mirror, to apportion credit for the success of the company—to other people, their teams and colleagues”

Do you embrace the future?  Really??
A leader that broadens his/her knowledge base creates a more stable environment.  The more a leader knows and understands about future challenges the less there is to fear.  Focusing on the future sets leaders apart. It is the capacity to imagine and articulate exciting future possibilities. Leaders should gain insight from their past experiences but should inspire others to see what a better tomorrow will look like and to show people how they will be part of that picture.

Leaders should talk about the future, where they would like to be and what will be needed to be successful. People need to be confident, resilient and eager to see and experience what comes around the corner.

According to Kouses and Postner’s leadership research, when faced with the scenario of a new leader entering an organization/ team, the most common question followers asked was: “What’s your vision? Where are you taking us?” This question is not one that followers ask of their teammates or peers, but only of their leaders, emphasizing the importance of a leader’s vision.”. Leaders are not afraid to talk about the future. They have a compelling case of where the organisation should be and where they see themselves. That is where they will spend most of their time… in the future.

Our problem lies in the fact that our culture has fallen in love with the idea of the celebrity leader. The Charismatic individualist who swoops in to save the day, politically, economically and even socially. This fuels the mistaken belief that a high-profile, larger-than-life leader is required to make a country or company great. We keep putting people into positions of power who lack the inclination to bring the much needed stability that is one key reason why so few companies and even countries ever make a sustained shift.
As Robert F. Kennedy once said, "Few will have the greatness to bend history itself, but each of us can commit to a series of actions to make the world better, and the sum total of all those actions will write the history of your generation." Maybe there is one of you who will bend history, but for the rest of us, we have the opportunity to make a difference - right here, right now.

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