Continuous improvement

In my last column, we began an exploration of the characteristics of a leader of transformation, one who leverages continuous improvement to incorporate change into the rhythm of an organization, thereby strengthening that organization for the future. While some of these characteristics derive from innate strengths or a person’s particular experiences, there remain a number of skills that a leader can and should develop to become this kind of leader.
We have already considered the importance of communicating and listening. This month, we will briefly touch on three other skills that influence how you work with others inside and outside the organization: a commanding demeanor, collaboration and consultation, and advocacy.
Terms sometimes used to describe leaders of transformation are motivated, inspired and polished. All of these contribute to what I call a commanding demeanor — quite simply, you must be intentional about projecting yourself as a leader. These attributes provide clarity and confidence when representing and articulating the organization’s vision, core values and operational principles. For new leaders, a professional development course that incorporates public speaking lessons can offer a head start on developing the mannerisms necessary in the leadership role.
While it is important for a leader to act like a leader, your collaborative and consultative abilities are essential to building consensus within a transformational system. In this environment, success is dependent upon everyone working toward an agreed-upon course of action. Collaborating and consulting, when applied proactively in a context of ongoing communication, can help to counter concerns and contribute to a healthier culture. Simultaneously, this will enable you to recognize and reward individuals who are essential to the success of continuous improvement.
Forbes contributor and consultant Carol Kinsey Gorman maintains that collaboration and consultation is not a “nice-to-have” philosophy. In “8 Tips for Collaborative Leadership,” she contends this approach is essential to productivity in an inclusive environment. She says it energizes teams, releases creativity and makes working together both productive and joyful. It inspires everyone to work toward common goals despite differences in convictions, cultural values and operating norms.
Finally, it is also valuable for you to be an advocate. By creating an environment in which colleagues feel supported, confident and positive, you empower them to perform at their best, even under trying conditions. Professional integrity and passion are key attributes of advocacy.
In this regard, you are a role model — you set the pace for the rest of the organization, creating a positive and productive working atmosphere. You inspire high — but achievable — expectations and, consequently, infuse high standards of excellence in the organization. Along with a strong work ethic, advocating is one of the most important characteristics of a leader of transformation.

By working with others through a commanding demeanor and an emphasis on collaboration, consultation and advocacy, you can shape a culture of teamwork and position yourself as a confident and caring leader worthy of the mantle. However, this is only sustained through a commitment to consistency and keen observation. We will discuss these skills next time.

Alex Johnson, Ph.D. is president of Cuyahoga Community College