Forging Ahead

With the political season heading into the home stretch and another four to five weeks’ run of election advertisements, I thought I would make a post about taking a stand. I am not posting to show support for one party or another, for one politician or another, simply a forest view of the nation versus the view of the tree and its relationship to leadership.

Tough decisions lie ahead of all of us, whether it is during the upcoming and aforementioned election, about our economy, and our nation’s own survivability in different aspects on the world stage. Being a leader is also about making tough decisions and the decisions we make when placed in charge of others. Some of the difficulty arises because we cannot please everyone and what we decide is not always popular in the here and now, but important for the future. It is with this basis that I base this post.

When I think about the state of our nation, I worry about a few major items. The economy involves the job market, real estate prices, stock prices on Wall Street, and a mountain of other topics. For my generation, I believe it’s time we take the stand of making the difficult decisions. We need to pay higher taxes to pay down the national debt and we have to remove tax breaks that have been in effect. There is no way around needing to increase income and lower expenditures, and certainly no need to be outspending the next 15 or 16 countries on just our national defense budget. Where we do need to spend money is on the infrastructure of our nation and news articles about bridges falling down or simply driving down terrible roads should be proof enough. This creates jobs for us, but I propose more drastic measures, such as actually spending to educate our people. College is certainly a part of this education, as with the public school system leading up to college, but education can mean training in specialized fields, such as mechanics, carpentry, or renewable energy and technology. After paying down the debt and learning that we do not always need to continue spending outrageously, we can then consider tax breaks, subsidies for business, innovation, and the like, but not until we have learned long term responsibility. We can no longer blame other generations for the debt nor push it forward to the next generation as has been done for so long.

Tough decisions, such as those mentioned here, are faced by leaders every day, sometimes several times per day. Times like the present require us to take a stand and do something instead of pointing fingers, delaying problems, or simply making ourselves look good and living an easy life. We can reach the point of an easy life, but must first take the steps necessary beforehand to get there. Hoping and praying for change in politics, at work, or anything we do are a start, but it is more important that we make the decisions and take a stand.

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Dressing for success

As stated in my first blog post, understanding leadership requires study, practice, and making mistakes. Studying leadership involves a myriad of elements, but after reading an article while searching for content to post on Twitter, it occurred to me that some people do not know a lot of the basics. The referenced article concerns interviews, but the basic ideas contained therein also apply to studying (and later practicing) leadership and management.

The first point of the article talks about generation Y (or the millenials) not dressing appropriately for interviews. I think most people would agree that we enjoy being casual, but, as with all things, there are considerations of time and place for everything and during an interview or in a position of leadership, there are these same considerations for dressing appropriately. When you are in charge of others, or just interviewing for a job, you want to set yourself apart in the way you dress and focus on being professional. The difference does not have to be very different, just enough to separate yourself from the rest.

This distinguishes us from others from the first moment we meet others, in the case of an interview, and from the other employees in your department. I came across this firsthand during my time as a leader in a voluntary organization. The particular organization had uniforms that were optional for wear and after taking charge of it, I chose to wear one during meetings. After several months, I decided not to wear one during a meeting and the amount of comments about it missing I received after the meeting’s conclusion was staggering. Those in charge before me almost never wore a uniform and people said it made them feel like a cohesive group and it signaled to them where to turn when they had questions because it was a distinguishing characteristic. As a historical note, one of the reasons Julius Caesar wore a red cape in battle was to signal to his troops that it was him, where he was, and that he was their leader (not to mention not to attack him because he wasn’t the enemy). It also gives everyone a sense of pride-in their department, in their organization, and in their leader looking and acting the part.

Last thought on this topic is that you do not want to over do it either. You are looking for distinguishable, but not to act above those you’re leading. It’s not to show off, but to inspire and help show others why you’re worth being their decision maker. In the case of the article, it’s to show you’re worth hiring over the others with similar accomplishments and create a lasting memory for the hiring personnel.

Concerning Leadership

Leadership is a word used by most people, especially involving success or failure, but few give much thought to the topic. This is a shame when one considers how much the topic permeates our lives. Understanding leadership requires study, practice, and making mistakes. Leadership requires participation by all involved in the process because leadership accomplishes nothing without followers and this is fostered through open communication.

With leadership being spoken of by most people, we must first break it down into its many components to take the first step of studying leadership. Examples I have experienced in life, seen on the news, and in history will provide a thread of commonality with readers to relate to the components presented. Practicing leadership is the only effective way to learn about and get a feel for leadership and we can practice leadership in small ways many times per day. Most situations require leadership in some degree, whether the scenario is played out at work, at home with children and family, in organizations we volunteer our time to, in the sports we enjoy, or in our time spent online and thus requiring understanding and practicing leadership. We are practicing leadership many times without knowing we are practicing it and thus requiring more attention than the great majority of us give to the topic.

Practicing anything inherently brings about mistakes. Mistakes are feared in life because they are perceived as detriments to advancing in our jobs, in volunteer organizations, or in the eyes of those we care about. This perceived fear must be overcome to allow for practice to happen because, as already mentioned, we cannot understand leadership without practice.

Increasing the benefits of anything we attempt to lead is fostered through open communication between all parties involved. Although seemingly easy to do, the reality of communicating openly is not practiced by many leaders, nor is it requested by followers.

In understanding leadership, we are not only preparing ourselves to become great leaders, but we are also making better followers of ourselves. When knowledge of leadership is found in more people, we increase understanding, productivity, and better feelings throughout organizations. The beliefs expressed in this blog have been practiced by me since my teenage years and have benefited me in all endeavors I have attempted and would like to show how it can benefit you.