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The Journal Gazette

Sunday, June 11, 2017 1:00 am

The building blocks of leadership

Speakers through the years have helped in constructing a framework for empowering others

Cheryl Taylor

Recently, leadership development expert John Baldoni spoke to more than 400 of the region's non-profit board and staff leaders at the Foellinger Foundation's annual Williams Lecture. Baldoni, author of “Moxie: The Secret to Bold and Gutsy Leadership” shared five key attributes that form his framework of leadership.

They are mindfulness, opportunity, X-factor (character), innovation and engagement.

As I listened to John, I considered how his ideas meshed with those of other leadership experts including several Foundation lecturers.

Stephen Carter, the late Stephen Covey, Malcolm Gladwell, Daniel Goleman and Ronald Heifetz are but a few well-known thought provokers.

These thinkers provide frameworks through which we, both as individuals and as organizational leaders, understand our roles and responsibilities – and better execute them.

Frameworks give us the language to recognize, articulate and engage with complex leadership challenges.

Covey offered us “7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” timeless principles that ensure human effectiveness. He followed up with “The 8th Habit,” urging us to find our voices and enable others to find theirs.

Peter Drucker, an early advocate for organizational management, advised us, “…to increase the productivity of Knowledge Work and the Knowledge Worker.”

Opening the window to “The Tipping Point,” Gladwell reminds us to look for “connectors, mavens and sales people” to ensure that critical ideas are maximized.

Goleman has done more than taught us about emotional intelligence, he has provided a language to converse about a topic that people recognized but had difficulty articulating.

Heifetz explained the difference between technical leadership and adaptive leadership.

He recommends we spend time on “The Balcony” so we can develop “organizational and cultural capacity to meet problems successfully according to our values and purposes.”

Additionally, frameworks provide a way of understanding complex ideas and distilling them down to their essence. They give a common language to leaders to engage in multifaceted challenges.

Frameworks offer a bridge between two or more people who have different viewpoints.

Frameworks are important but in themselves are insufficient.

To truly engage with others – for the frameworks we use to be pillars of both strength and flexibility – we must start from a posture of civility.

Carter focused on the importance of civility in our day-to-day dealings with others, stating that if we aspire to be a person of good character, we should demonstrate it.

Long ago, Carter stood on the dais in Fort Wayne and explained that an attitude of civility is “the sum of the many sacrifices we are called to make for the sake of living together.”

Guided by civility, we must internalize the frameworks that work best for us by recognizing our own abilities and lack thereof. We must place ourselves within our organizational cultures and decide how we appropriately both reflect and reshape those cultures. Then, we must actually lead.

Sometimes we need guidance. The for-profit world has long recognized this. It has historically provided leadership education and training resources for its employees. The non-profit world, however, has only recently come to value the importance of ongoing education.

This stark disparity was revealed by University of California research that shows the private sector invests an average of $120 per employee per year in development and continual learning, compared to the non-profit sector's investment of an average $29 per employee per year.

The Foellinger Foundation has committed to addressing this issue through the Helene Foellinger Leadership Development Initiative. The initiative is currently a $1 million commitment to provide nonprofit directors and rising leaders an opportunity to think about leadership through the lenses of strategy, entrepreneurship, innovation, communication, influence, character and personal growth.

Participation in the program provides leaders time to think with their peers in a safe space. It gives them the strength to “Lead Like No Other.” The ultimate goal of the Leadership Initiative is to encourage them.

“Encourage” is defined as supporting the demonstration of courage. Supporting the demonstration of “moxie.” Isn't that really what leadership is about? The courage to explore, experiment and innovate. The courage to recognize difficult issues and address them head on, armed with data and couched with respect.

Perhaps the most important attributes for us as leaders are civility and courage. Without them, everything else may just be so much noise.

Cheryl Taylor is president and CEO of the Foellinger Foundation.