Take time to reflect on tested theories of great leadership to make our communities and residents the best they can be.

It is always good when theory and reality intersect, right? So as I read articles and books on leadership, my litmus test is how the theories regarding effective leadership play out in real life situations. Thus three of my favorite authors are John Kotter and Kouzes & Posner. Here is why.

Kouzes & Posner propose that there are five key traits that effective leaders in the 21st century must demonstrate consistently. No long laundry list (whew!), just five relatively simple, understandable behaviors. My sense is that these characteristics will resonate with effective leaders, who have learned through their successes as well as their failures. Savvy followers will say to themselves, “Yes, they nailed it”. Hoping that curiosity now has gotten the better of you, noted below are the traits.

According to Kouzes & Posner effective leaders Model the Way. They act with absolute integrity and never ask the people they work with to do anything they would not do themselves. They also Inspire a Shared Vision, not one they have created all on their own, but one that has been built upon the hopes and aspirations of all involved. Kouzes & Posner also state that the best leaders continually Challenge the Process. In other words they understand that if they want their organizations or groups to be better tomorrow, next month and next year no matter how good they are now, they must ask themselves and others where results are less than optimal. Then, the related processes must be changed to achieve better outcomes. Next, the best leaders Enable Others to Act. From my perspective this goes beyond empowering people to do their best. It reflects an accompanying commitment to provide them with the tools and resources they need to function as high performers, both individually and organizationally. Finally, great leaders in this century understand the need to Encourage the Heart. This last trait intersects wonderfully with an unwavering premise of the other author mentioned above, John Kotter. Below is his rationale for encouraging the heart.

John Kotter says that no matter how smart people are, unless they first become emotionally engaged, i.e., having their hearts encouraged, it is difficult to fully engage their minds in the task, project or initiative at hand.

I expect that we all have been involved in undertakings about which we have not been too excited (emotionally unengaged). On the other hand, hopefully there are far more times when we have said yes to things that have captured our hearts so to speak – our personal passion, imagination, unbridled excitement and steadfast commitment to convert dream to reality. Further, in these instances we have been surrounded by like-minded individuals.

Think along with me about the great things that are happening right before our eyes in our own community. Without exception they all have involved not only the head, but also the heart. Certainly that has been true for all things good at Butler Community College over the past nearly two decades, as great faculty, staff, students and community supporters always have gone far beyond the proverbial call of duty to engage their heads and hearts in making a lasting difference for others.

So…new year, new beginnings. Let’s all take time to reflect on tested theories of great leadership to make our communities and residents the best they can be. Model the Way, Inspire a Shared Vision, Challenge the Process, Enable Others to Act, and always, always Encourage the Heart.

Jackie Vietti,

Leadership Butler 1999