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Lessons in Leadership

How to take charge and manage change.



Steering The Way

Leaders unlock secrets every day to making employees, customers, shareholders, partners, investors and others happy. Great leaders know emotional roller coasters, knee-jerk reactions and empty promises can cause a company to suffer and even fail.

When local executives reflect on their top role, certain words stand out, such as “communication,” “consistency” and “change.” You’ll see these concepts throughout this section, which looks at four components of leadership: vision, impact, style and well-being.

Above all else, the foundation of effective leadership is communication, say Rod and Kelli Baxter, co-founders and principals of Value Generation Partners, a Naples-based firm that offers coaching, consulting, assessment and training services. Their books include Strategy Driven for Success Handbook.

“In real estate, it’s location, location, location. In leadership, it’s communication, communication, communication,” Rod Baxter says.

When a company or organization experiences a change in leaders, that ability to communicate is put to the test. Everything from internal newsletters to Twitter to signs in the workplace can be part of how you choose to communicate, and when you’re consistent with communication, it shows that you are going to follow through and deliver on your promises.

Steps for Stability

It’s important for new leaders to develop strategic goals and objectives, along with a timeline to achieve goals. Rod Baxter adds that leaders must first understand what culture they have, what culture they need and how a change in leadership will transform the current culture.

“When a new leader comes in, there are going to be issues. [He or she] doesn’t know what the team is doing. The team doesn’t know the leader’s style. You have those fundamental issues,” Kelli Baxter says.

A key step in change leadership is what the Baxters call “new leader assimilation,” which includes meetings with the new executive and leadership team to open up the lines of communication around these and other questions: What are my expectations? Do I need to change? What do you need to change to allow us to communicate more effectively and more efficiently?

Those discussions give a new leader and his or her team a jump start to set them up for success, as opposed to struggle. “Once those issues are taken away, then they can get to the core of what they need to be doing,” Kelli Baxter says.

Once you get acclimated to and understand your team, the best leaders see a vision of where they want the organization to go and keep that vision and focus for the team, says Joseph Padgett, an executive with LCEC.

“At the end of the day, it’s not about you; it’s about the team and where the team is going,” he says.


Best Tips to Make a Tough Decision

Decision-making is a chief responsibility for any leader, and making the right decision can be a main source of stress. For tough decisions, the risk can be high—but so can the reward. Understand the readiness to adapt to the change.

  1. Identify the current culture. Then, based on the risk involved, you can put together a plan to roll out the change at a certain pace, Rod Baxter says.
  2. Avoid an emotional state. Look at the pros and cons of any situation and accept how far you are willing to take a risk on things, Padgett says. Take the information you have and ask yourself, “What outcome am I seeking?”
  3. Use and analyze tools. For example, key performance indicators can directly align to a company’s overall objectives and strategies and can be used by every member of your team. That will help you measure improvement and stay focused on a vision, Kelli Baxter says. Then you can say “yes” or “no” to big decisions.
  4. Focus on your core values. Write out your relevant core values and determine which ones match and which ones conflict with each side of the decision, says Eric Cioffi, owner of Naplesbased Well Vending. “I will then choose the side that is most aligned with my core values, even if I fear being wrong and failing. Fear is a natural reaction to danger that has its benefits, but when it becomes personalized and drives decision-making, it will be hard to maintain respect as a leader,” he says.
  5. Lean on your team. Get feedback from experts around you, such as a business coach, mentor, CPA and/or legal team.
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