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  Enlightened Leaders Make a Difference
By Roger E. Herman, CSP, CMC

Good leaders have low employee turnover. Workforce stability is a natural consequence of enlightened leadership. A stable, productive workforce is relatively unusual in our turbulent times as we're faced with labor shortages, worker mobility, and rapid change. Leadership makes the difference.

So, what is enlightened leadership . . . and how does it work?

The first concern is whether the executive is actually a leader . . . or just a manager in leader's clothing. Leadership is not management. The two skills are distinctly different, though good leaders also posses--and use--strong management techniques when needed.

Leaders inspire, rather than direct. They coach, encourage, and guide. Effective leaders earn agreement with their people about what has to be done. They determine--with their team members--what resources are needed to get the job done. The leaders provide those resources, then get out of the way so their people can perform.

Enlightenment comes as the leaders are able to move psychologically to a higher level. Now the intellect kicks in--the leaders are using their heads and their hearts more than their hands and their guts. They see a vision for the future, and they gain powerful perspectives of the environment--of today and tomorrow--and how that environment will affect the organization.

With a deeper understanding of the big picture, enlightened leaders become more creative and more stimulating. They open opportunities for their people to do great things--to learn, to grow, to make a difference. These leaders share information and insights with their people, so they also can see the big picture. Their followers gain a purpose to their endeavors which makes work a lot more fun.

Enlightened leaders cultivate the skills of their subordinate leaders--building increasingly strong concentration on people, rather than numbers. The coveted good numbers come when people are happy in their work and their surroundings. It feels great to come to work; people enjoy the experience and almost hate to go home at the end of their day. The organizational culture is conducive to high performance, safe and healthy, and overall a nice place to work.

People feel like they really belong in this kind of organization. Leaders continually express a high degree of caring, sincerely, about their people. Emphasis is placed on building and maintaining positive relationships, most importantly between employees and their immediate supervisors. A sense of teamness and mutual concern grows from this attention, feeding a culture of collaboration--people helping each other (and customers) because they want to, not just because it's a job.

Enlightened leaders assure that everyone has the resources needed to perform at a high level. Those resources include information (open book management practiced here), tools, equipment, materials, time, space, and a supervisor to cut through red tape and remove any obstacles to high achievement.

Recognizing that people want to grow, enlightened leaders provide a wide range of opportunities for learning and for new experiences. They set the example by reading, participating in industry conferences, and visiting with peers in customer, supplier, and industry organizations. These leaders encourage their company to bring in outside experts to provide new ideas, information, perspectives, and insights. While learning helps to make things run more smoothly and more effectively, people are also welcome to take courses on topics that have nothing to do with work, but that help them grow.

Compensation is important to all of us. The money issue will always be there. Enlightened leaders downplay the dollars and emphasize other rewards, giving employees a more well-rounded compensation package. Benefits are enriched far beyond the standard hospitalization and major medical offering, responding to the needs and interests of the employees. Individualized plans tailor compensation to each person.

Those who can acquire and practice the principles of enlightened leadership find that their people understand what is expected of them, and deliver. They focus on results, rather than activity, interacting comfortably with co-workers with open communication, trust, and commitment.

All this is up to the leader. Some of the talent is natural; some is acquired. The key is to bring these principles into action--throughout the organization--to make a positive difference for all involved . . . and for the world around us, today and tomorrow.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            

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