5 Leadership Practices for Making a Difference

I was sitting on Kirkwood Avenue in Bloomington, Indiana, yesterday waiting for a student that I am currently advising when out of the blue a sophomore undergraduate came up to me. He recognized me from a lecture I gave to his class last year and he wanted to thank me again for all the great advice and just say hello.

I cannot begin to tell you how great that felt! Not only did he remember me, he also wanted to take the time to share his feedback. At that moment, I realized we both got to experience a pretty cool win-win.  He got the knowledge from my experience and I got the confirmation that I had made a difference.

After our brief encounter, I started to think about James Kouzes and Barry Posner’s five fundamental leadership practices that are based less upon a leader’s personality and more upon their actions:

1. Modeling the Way – Am I doing a good job setting a positive example for others to follow? How am I adding value to a student’s purposes and goals? When I wrote my book, Growing Success; A Young Adult’s Guide to Achieving Personal and Financial Success I wanted to write a book that I wished that someone had written for me when I was that age. As a result, I act as an inspirational guide to help young adults change their awareness for success.

2. Inspire Shared Vision – Am I communicating a clear message to others? Do my words resonate and inspire others to pursue their goals and manage their fears? I communicate clearly to young adults by breaking down the steps to success in all areas at their level of experience and understanding, thereby enabling them to manage their fears and discover ways to succeed on their own terms.

3. Challenge the Process – I have always liked to challenge the status quo! I am the kind of person that does not like to take “no” for an answer, or only believes that something cannot be done after I have tried and either succeeded or failed on my own terms. I have 3 marathon and 9 half-marathon medals to support that theory. I endeavor to empower young adults to identify probable outcomes in order to achieve their desired goals. It is important that young adults understand the purpose behind what will manifest their future success—“the why”—as well as how to achieve it. Do you have what it takes to just go for it?

4. Enable Others to Act – I have always believed actions speak louder than words. An old friend once told me “put it on mute”; is there any truth or trust behind your words? Don’t tell me; show me! Do my lectures inspire others to believe in themselves enough to go for it? Succeed or fail, you will be a better person for getting out there and putting your words into action. The life lesson I strive to bestow upon young adults is that you need to take action if you have any hope of attaining your future goals and success.

5. Encourage the Heart – Do you make efforts to show support and praise for others? I was truly rewarded yesterday by that student’s feedback and kind words. Always remember to take the time to stop and either thank or praise someone for the kindness or support they have provided for you. By always being attentive to the needs of others, it will be returned to you tenfold.

Mostly importantly, it is important to always remember that we cannot effectively lead others unless others agree to follow. Truly successful leaders not only inspire others, they make a difference.

Take a moment to thank someone who has really made a difference in your life today. Give yourself and someone else a cool win-win!

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