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  Lessons in Leadership

This is the eighth in your weekly series of Lessons in Leadership. As we continue our focus on the qualities of the leader, we'll look at sensitivity this week.

Effective leaders are sensitive. That sounds like a matter-of-fact statement relating to that touchy-feely aspect of human relationships. Well, yes, that is part of sensitivity, but that's not the full picture. Let's explore several aspects of sensitivity.

Caring leaders evince a high level of sensitivity to others--to their personal needs, to their families, to friends and co-workers. This sensitivity is often manifest in responses to needs of others, expressed or not. Leaders are ˛present,˛ not aloof or detached. When in conversations with others, be highly attentive to the other people involved. Listen carefully--to the words and to the feelings being expressed. This skill is not easy for most of us; it must be practiced and deliberately applied. When you are sensitive to the positions and feelings of others, they know. And they will respond with a higher level of openness and genuine communication.

But sensitivity goes beyond the human-to-human element. In leadership, I suggest that sensitivity implies that an alertness is apparent, a heightened level of awareness to everything around you. Let me give you an example. A floor supervisor in a machine shop is so sensitive to the sounds and ˛feel˛ of the hum of the machinery, he can tell when a machine is running out of calibration or when anything isn't quite right. I've seen this phenomenon in action. The level of sensitivity is amazing.

As leaders, we must have the same sensitivity to our organizations . . . to the people and the systems in our organizations. When something isn't running right, the leader often identifies that something's not right. Diagnosing humans or systems running off-kilter is more difficult than picking up a machinery problem, and often more difficult to fix.

To be a really effective leader, build your sensitivity in your environment so you can detect when something is amiss. Then you can go find it and fix it. That's a special part of leadership.

Lessons in Leadership is produced by Roger E. Herman, Certified Management Consultant, CEO of The Herman Group, Greensboro, North Carolina.

Copyright 2001, Roger E. Herman. All rights reserved. Duplication in any form without written permission is a violation of copyright laws.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            

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