Zintro experts discuss their leadership priorities

leadership priorities.2We asked CEOs to tell us about their leadership priorities by answering these questions: How do you use leadership priorities to make important decisions? What are some new trends in leadership that you are interested in? How are you incorporating these new ideas? Their stories are diverse, in-depth, and insightful.

Thomas Eakin, an executive coach, says that he works with the underlying principle that leadership is the most significant contributing factor to organizational success or failure. “I focus on several priorities: how leadership actions are dependent on personal values; organizational success depends on how well members are led to optimize risks as defined by its stated values; and there is a practical approach to leading that ensures values are maintained, risks are optimized, and the mission is accomplished,” he says.

Eakin says that he helps leaders to first evaluate how their own values align with those of the organization. “When there are misalignments, the leader’s decisions, actions and behaviors can actually take away from rather than contribute to mission accomplishment,” he says. “Leader behaviors, which are incongruent with organizational values, can affect the effectiveness of the organization as a whole because member actions are a reflection of leadership. It’s critical for leaders to recognize where gaps are between their actions and the ideal example they can set for others in order to find the motivation within themselves to realize positive change. Once leaders recognize the need to change what they are doing in order to lead positive change, it’s important to ensure the organization is structured for success. Leaders must practice on a daily basis to develop this structure and create a continuous improvement culture.”

Eakin developed a practical leadership model through which a leader can evaluate values alignment, develop strategies, and create a culture capable of organizational adaptation as situations change. “The model begins with a definition of leadership, identification of leadership principles, and a process to create an environment in which those principles can be practiced,” he says. “The initiative and responsibility for how risks are managed and processes are improved and changed is controlled by the leader.”

Vince Proffitt, president of a medical device company, says that he began evolving his leadership philosophies and priorities while he was in the US Air Force. Proffitt outlines these critical leadership priorities:

  • Take care of your people and they will take care of you: “People need to feel valued and they need to be empowered. They need to believe you care about their personal and professional development. They need to see you go the extra mile for them when needed. In short, they need to see that you serve them and the organization as a leader. When that is recognized, you have become an inspirational leader with the type of loyalty that has all but disappeared from corporate America,” says Proffitt.
  • Lead from the front: “An early lesson for me was to never ask people to do anything that you are not willing or able to do yourself. This does not mean that you have to be an expert at everything, but you have to be engaged with all aspects of the business,” explains Proffitt. “If you are not interested in something, you can be certain your employee will feel the same way and not act like a critical part of the organization. Leadership is not telling people what to do, but inspiring them to follow you. To follow someone, you have to respect them and their capabilities.”
  • Culture is king: “People want to believe that they are building something great. The mission and the vision must be aligned with where people want to be in five, 10, and 20 years. My company’s first publicly available documents were about our code and our service difference, all culture and ideology. The right culture helps you recruit the right people and build a brand with a genuine team,” Proffitt says. “To get there, people need to be motivated beyond money; they have to believe. Taking care of your people, leading from the front, and creating and sustaining a culture of excellence and dedication will make your people believe.”

Steven Ingram, a management consultant, says that leadership priorities should start with people. “There is a misconception that leadership is automatically linked to a position or title. There are no quick fixes or magic pills when it comes to leadership. Leaders need to do more than just mandate leadership training; they need to model the leadership behavior they want from their staff,” says Ingram. “You have to do a deep dive to get an understanding of your staff and then determine how to work with your staff to obtain the objectives associated with your role.”

Ingram says that when your staff has a good feeling about their position and feel like they add value to the organization, significant gains can be made in productivity, quality, expense control, customer service and morale.

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By Maureen Aylward

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