True Leadership

The qualities of a leader and the workplace community.


A basic premise the leader must hold in building new business communities is that everyone is creative and each person has a unique contribution to make to the “whole.” So, a leader should be dynamic enough to creatively engage the community’s energy and stay committed to the desired outcome, despite the obstacles that inevitably crop up; someone who is rooted in their own virtues, many of which are shared by the community members, and someone who knows themselves, while having the flexibility, as well as the capacity for discomfort, dissent and transformation.

We also need leaders with integrity and high standards of behavior to help create a culture of trust and safety. We need discomfort to create an alternative future, and we need dissent to ensure all voices are heard and to engage in conversations of commitment. What comes to mind is someone who is positive, solutions-focused, kind, and highly-principled. You want to see a good degree of spontaneity, creativity, confidence, and flexibility. You want someone who is intuitive with people, as well genuine and caring in their approach. You want someone who asks a lot of questions – who is curious. A good sense of humour certainly helps as well.

You want a person who has a natural instinct to help and to create opportunities for continued learning, and who understands that progress is often nudged along by the ripple effect, following the example of one person’s courage in being more accepting, strong, and inclusive.

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Carolyn Shaffer and Kristin Anundsen (Creating Community Anywhere, 1993) have sketched out eight qualities of an effective and efficient workplace community and I think this is a good foundation from which to judge the progress of one’s community building efforts:

  1. Alignment of Values – members see themselves as parts of the whole and reflect the whole by pursuing a common mission that aligns with their personal values;
  2. Interdependent Network Structure – that reflect friendlier team-based, flattened, non-hierarchical structures that allow decision-making to reside with the most capable and knowledgeable members in each unique instance;
  3. Teamwork – prevails as a methodology of getting the work done whenever possible. The organization clarifies roles, but does not attach them to specific people, and encourages/provides continual opportunities for everyone to learn each others skills and share each others knowledge;
  4. Open Communication – that flows randomly in all directions (upward, downward, sideways, from outside-in and from inside-out);
  5. Mutual Support – once trust is established, co-workers become not only willing, but eager, to help each other complete projects;
  6. Respect for Individuality – the good health of all contemporary communities depends upon diversity and the seeking of perspectives from all groups and members;
  7. Permeable Boundaries – exist which acknowledge and support interdependence, rather than independence or dependency;
  8. Group Renewal – regular renewal sessions are held to improve the sense of community and team work, clarify values, and to review and re-commit to the vision and mission.

 Building business communities is difficult work, no doubt; however, the rewards are magical. At the end of the day, so to speak, we all have a longing for sanctuary in our lives – safe havens where we can learn, grow, contribute, be appreciated and be fulfilled. When our workplace is dedicated to this caring community approach, we live better, happier lives and are able to easier achieve our professional and personal goals, as well as those of our workplace.

BH/ Adapted/GHLC

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