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AE Chair Report: Reaching New Heights

August 20, 2012

“Industry is talent-driven today, not gender- or race-driven. What matters now is if a person has the skills and leadership ability to get the job done.” —Stedman Graham, author of Diversity: Leaders Not Labels

Diversity: Leaders Not Labels

Leaders are everywhere. They reside in every city, every position, and every organization. Leaders are employees and volunteers; men and women; old and young. Leadership knows no ethnic, cultural, racial, or religious bounds. Just look around you.

What’s significant about leadership is that everyone has the potential to rise to a leadership role by building on his or her natural abilities. Each of us can take a different path to becoming a leader—that’s how we discover new dimensions of leadership and reach new heights.

For their book, The Leadership Challenge, James Kouzes and Barry Posner interviewed thousands of executives worldwide and asked them what traits or characteristics they look for in leaders. They noted several hundred traits and eventually culled their list down to 15 key observables.

Although the priority of the traits can change over time, four were repeatedly recognized and clustered together in individuals who are considered leaders. They are: honesty, the ability for look forward (vision), the capacity to inspire others, and competency.

As the rules of today’s workplace evolve, we expect these traits of our leaders. Today, we also expect our leaders to be “emotionally intelligent.”

In Working with Emotional Intelligence, author Daniel Goleman describes this trait as “the capacity for recognizing our own feelings and those of others, so that they are expressed appropriately and effectively, enabling people to work together smoothly toward their common goal.”

He describes five characteristics of emotionally intelligent individuals:

  • Self-awareness: understanding your emotions and their effect on others, and knowing your strengths and weaknesses.
  • Self-regulation: being in control of your emotions and impulses, and taking responsibility for personal performance.
  • Self-motivation: using your inner drive to accomplish both personal and group goals, despite obstacles and setbacks.
  • Empathy: sensing and meetings others’ needs, and understanding other people’s feelings and points of view.
  • Social Skills: relating well to others, listening openly and communicating clearly, negotiating and resolving disagreements, and fostering group synergy to reach collective goals.

When you are considering your own performance as a leader, ask yourself: Where do I stand on the E.I. scale?

Another important aspect of leadership is your ability to model the actions and attitudes of others you identify as leaders and be a model for others. Emphasize the value you provide and give back where you live and work. These steps will define you as an influential leader in the communities you serve.