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The Quest for Genuine Leadership
There is a scene in the movie “The American President” where Michael Douglas (the President) is having a heated conversation with Michael J. Fox (his domestic advisor) where Mr. Fox states “people are searching for leadership, and in the absence of genuine leadership, they’ll listen to anyone who steps up to the microphone!” While this movie was made in the 90’s could it apply to today?

The key word in the quote above is genuine. That means it is real, it is authentic… period. There is a great difference in real and the imitation brand of anything, particularly in leadership. Just a simple example; I remember when I purchased my first car with real leather seats. There was nothing like it. From the smell when you got in the car, to just the way they made you feel. From that point on, any imitation just would not do. Same with real leadership; once experienced, it becomes the standard.

How do you define genuine leadership? Does it display certain traits? Is there really a visible difference? I believe the answer is yes. Here are two examples of leaders I have been associated with over the past 27 years.

Those that say: This leader feeds you to the sharks. You never really know where you stand with these leader types. Words like “When I did this” or “This is how I did it” yet all you hear are their words and no actions to validate their statements. Other instructions include such things as “it’s out there now go get it!” as they point you to the edge of the plank.
Those that do: This leader will swim in the sharks with you. They dive in first! This leader not only has a conviction about what they do, they show you. There directions are “there is opportunities out there and this is how we will get it, follow me. Both these leader types create a culture inside their organizations that determine how successful or unsuccessful their team will be.

Culture is not fluff: I know this term is used a lot but it is significant. As I stated above, it determines your long term success. Your culture is not so much what you are doing but why you are doing it. People in an energetic culture get things done are more productive and positive. People in a lethargic culture are non-performing, unfocused and live for the 5:00 o’clock whistle. People who are acknowledged for great performance will always outperform those who are told they will never measure up. You know exactly what I am talking about. You have been in places or even worked where you have witnessed both. Culture can’t be hidden and it begins at the top!

A culture of HOPE: I have recently begun a very strict fitness program. I am getting older and I just need to do this. I have started tracking my efforts and while not easy, I am beginning to see results. It is amazing how one will perform to reach a goal when they are encouraged and are fortunate to live and work in a culture of hope. Hope gives you the belief in what you are doing. It keeps you on the journey. While my progress with my fitness program does not always measure up to my expectations, I continue to pursue the goal because hope keeps me going. I can see the goal and I have a reason to get there!

Early in my sales career and to this day, the driving force to get up and go to work every day is based on the hope and belief I have in what I am doing. It is validated by the people and the business opportunities I discover when HOPE takes over; AND just like my fitness program, sometimes I don’t get everything I expect but that does not change my belief in the journey because I have hope in that there are other opportunities waiting. This is the culture I live in daily. Not a guarantee but promises of opportunity, hope.

A culture of HOPE defined
1. High in human potential: A HOPE culture realizes unconditionally that the long term success of the organization will be based on how it values its people. They are any organization’s greatest asset. Ask yourself: Do you pay as much attention to your human potential account as your bank account?

2. Optimistic in approach: Focus on the positive in everything. From work to pursuing opportunities a HOPE culture is one that believes the next opportunity is just around the corner and that each role and responsibility make a difference. Ask yourself: Do you enjoy your work, your co-workers and are you as a leader pursuing and leading to the next great opportunity?

3. Passionate in performance recognition: Do you truly value your team members, your staff and those who work with you and for you. A HOPE culture passionately recognizes great performance. People are much more inclined to go above and beyond when they know their efforts are noticed. No big ceremonies needed, sometimes just “nice job” or “you made it happen” will do. Ask yourself: Do I consistently recognize those around me when they do a great job or do I take their efforts for granted?

4. Example led in leadership: As in the illustration above, people will follow you into the sharks if they believe you are genuine. A culture of HOPE is example led from the top. When others see your commitment to the cause, your example, they can’t help but follow…its real! Ask yourself: How well do I provide clear direction and then lead the way?

I believe passionately that we have great leadership potential all around us. From small organizations to huge empires, genuine leadership exists. I am convinced of this every day. There are transparent, sincere individuals among us that people are ready and willing to follow .It is my HOPE you, like me are in high pursuit to be one!
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