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Loyalty
December 27th, 2012
by Bill Boyajian

Credible leaders build loyal followers. This isn’t at the top of the agenda. It follows naturally when, in the course of everyday business, they adhere to the powerful principles of honesty and humility.

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Loyalty is something you earn, not something you demand. You have to build it through credibility — in you and your organization. Loyalty is the result of people feeling appreciated. Most people want to be loyal to those they work for, at least until such time that they show they don’t deserve it.

Suppose you are the new head of a department or division. You inherit a number of people from past leadership. You want to make sure you have their support, but how do you go about it? Well, what you don’t do is haul people into your office and demand their loyalty. You can’t demand loyalty. You must earn it by first earning respect.

Loyalty doesn’t mean sticking with an organization for a lifetime. Plenty of people do that and complain about things constantly. I would rather have people work hard and do a great job than reward them for sticking around for 20 years — possibly because they’ve got nowhere else to go.

Don’t get me wrong. I like people who stay the course. Heck, I did it for 31 years. But longevity alone is not the measure of loyalty. Demand excellence in staff members, but don’t demand loyalty. Earn people’s loyalty by being a credible leader.

Openness and Teachability
December 20th, 2012
by Bill Boyajian

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To be a good leader, you need to be a good learner. You need to be open to new ideas and able to learn and benefit from others. You need to be teachable. Because leaders are freewheeling, they take risks when others back off. They march to their own beat while others fall in line. They think outside the boundaries while others stay inside the lines. Despite all this, a leader must be disciplined and must exercise self-control. Self-control helps build confidence and keeps us open to what others think. Without it, we are unlikely to build anything of lasting value.

I’ve known leaders who can’t borrow an idea from anyone else. They can’t even listen to others in order to learn for themselves. They are compulsive in doing things their own way. This gets discouraging for followers. They see their leader as a controller who can’t take direction and won’t learn from others. Such a leader drags people down and lacks credibility. Instead, be open. Be teachable. Be disciplined. Have self-control. These will make you a credible leader.

Are You a Content Leader?
December 13th, 2012
by Bill Boyajian

If so, stop taking yourself so seriously. Can you poke fun at yourself? Can you use a little self-deprecating humor and perhaps reveal something more about yourself to others?

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Learn to laugh at yourself and to use appropriate humor at the right times. I’m not talking about being a comedian. I’m suggesting using humor to make people feel more at ease. Sometimes it’s good just to use humor for the sake of making people laugh. Humor that is unexpected disarms people. It frees them to relax. It demonstrates that you are a regular person. It establishes common ground and helps break down defenses. It also gets people to open up — to you and to others.

Leaders who can relax in themselves stand out from the crowd. They don’t overuse their position or authority. They are content with who they are. They exhibit humanness. They engender credibility.

The Secret Power of Contentment
November 29th, 2012
by Bill Boyajian

The trick to success in life, and leadership, is not getting what you want; it’s liking what you’ve got after you get it. Many leaders are almost never content. Their restlessness is what drives them to achieve. This isn’t a bad thing, as long as it’s manageable. Contentment is something that is learned, especially for a leader. It doesn’t come naturally. It has to be acquired through a focused effort. Leaders can accomplish great things, but it is never enough if they constantly compare themselves to others.

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Learn to be grateful for what you have. Part of being content means you must focus on gratitude rather than on social comparison. It’s a choice we make. Cicero said, “Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all others.” Our human nature drives us to be better than (or at least as good as) others, and society fuels this notion. If we weren’t so conscious of what others have, we would be much more content with what we have. I’m not suggesting complacency. Instead, I’m advocating contentment. It has a lot to do with your credibility as a leader. The more content you are, the less you have to prove to others, or to yourself. You’ll have more time to think of others. And that will give you an opportunity to bridge into their lives, rather than being fixated on your own. You’ll become less aware of your own wants and needs and will spend more time helping others. Audrey Hepburn said it this way: “Remember, if you ever need a helping hand, it’s at the end of your arm. As you get older, remember you have another hand: the first is to help yourself, the second is to help others.”

Commitments
November 21st, 2012
by Bill Boyajian

Dedication is the foundation of commitment. It is the determining factor that characterizes our vision for life, work, and relationships. Our commitments shape our leadership more than anything else. Commitments build up or tear down. Leaders live out what they are committed to and often have little trouble selling out to their business or professional career, but can struggle to be equally committed to marriage, family, personal health, or spiritual life. This is no bulletin to leaders, nor is it my intention to overstate it. If you’re honest, you know this is true.

As a leader, you need to consider to what and to whom you are committed. You need to think about the people who are near and dear to you. You need to contemplate where the balance is in your life, and whether you are committed to people over the long haul. Simply ask yourself: Am I dedicated to the wellbeing of others? Better yet, ask your spouse, parent, or best friend.

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Recently, as a friend of mine and I were discussing marriage, he defined it as love, and I defined it as commitment. I actually said to him, “What’s love got to do with it?” Of course, it has a lot to do with it, but in my view, love is too fragile and too emotional to base a lifetime commitment on it alone. Anyone who has been in a serious relationship, personally or professionally, knows that there are ups and downs in any relationship — any business deal, any partnership, any marriage. Sometimes we feel loving and supportive; sometimes we don’t. That’s just part of being human. And that’s why I would rather trust my marriage to commitment than to love — though it’s hard to beat having both.

You may be in a partnership — personal or professional — that simply doesn’t work. You may need a way out. If so, you need to find the best way to extract yourself with integrity and dignity. Your commitment to doing the right thing in the right way is vital to your leadership.

Morals and Ethics
November 15th, 2012
by Bill Boyajian

In the The Crisis of Character, R. Bruce Bickel discusses what he describes as the difference between morals and ethics and how our modern culture confuses the two. According to Bickel, “Today the words are nearly synonymous, but historically there’s a vast difference. The word ‘morals’ comes from the Greek word mores, describing the shifting changes in society — literally it means ever changing. Societal changes bring about moral adaptations that are reflections of current trends.” Bickel continues, “In contrast, our word ‘ethics’ comes from the Greek word ethos and describes ideas of security and stability….you’ll find the word used to describe a place one would go for protection in the midst of a storm….hence, a place of stability and permanence. Ethics refer to a set of standards that are absolute.”

Bickel accords a permanence to the word “ethics,” implying a set of standards that are rock solid, whereas he links morals more to societal norms that are reflective of generational changes and shifting trends. Morals adapt to the times of our lives, whereas ethics remain a constant. Bickel goes on to say, “While morality is concerned with what people do, ethics is concerned with what people ought to do.”

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Regardless of your stance on morals and ethics, they are hot buttons for leadership. When then President Bill Clinton had improper sexual relations with Monica Lewinski, it revealed his moral character. When he then wagged his finger at the world and denied it, he bent the truth.

Leadership has always been a high calling. A leader with loose morals is judged by society and his or her culture. A leader who yields on ethical standards often faces legal consequences. As a leader, you can’t afford to compromise either, especially when society and culture mix morals and ethics together and allow relativism to replace absolutes. The extramarital affairs of Tiger Woods are a case in point. They weren’t illegal so far as we know, but the public saw his behavior as immoral. His character and reputation suffered as a result, despite his plea for privacy. As one commentator stated, a public person gives up his privacy when he or she makes millions from his fame.

Character determines conduct. Conduct determines credibility. And credibility is one of the pillars of leadership.

Model Integrity
November 8th, 2012
by Bill Boyajian

Leaders model integrity from the inside out. Integrity is defined as “uncompromising adherence to moral and ethical principles; soundness of moral character; honesty.” I like the way Steven Covey said it in The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People: “Integrity is, fundamentally, the value we place on ourselves. It’s our ability to make and keep commitments to ourselves, to ‘walk our talk.’ It’s honor with self.” Clearly, the best way to show integrity is to model it. It’s also the best way to instill it in others.

When you think of someone with integrity, who comes to mind? Abraham Lincoln? Mahatma Gandhi? Mother Teresa? What does history tell us about these people? What did they have in common? They were moral people who lived out principles of leadership that put them at the top of their class. They thought more about others than themselves. They kept their promises. They lived what they believed. Their lives were a demonstration of noble ideals without needing the trappings of success or the perks given to other famous people. Their integrity could weather all storms because their greatness was not embodied in themselves, but in what they did for humanity.

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People with integrity never deliberately withhold information that can reveal truth. Your integrity builds credibility and is the result of the trust and confidence people have in you. If you lack it, or lose it, your leadership will suffer. If we lose our credibility, we lose our ability to influence. If we lose our ability to influence, we lose our leadership

Are You a Confident Leader?
October 25th, 2012
by Bill Boyajian

It takes self-confidence to shoulder the ultimate responsibility for things that go wrong. Insecure people can’t do it. They’re threatened by the fear of failure or criticism, and that’s why they lack credibility. It’s a paradox that, in trying to hide from failure, you become more visibly at fault. So often, the credibility you desired is lost, as is your leadership. It also takes courage and confidence to give credit to others, to praise their accomplishments without any thought of taking credit yourself. There is really no limit to what you can achieve if you don’t care who gets the credit.

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Suppose you’re a vice president in an organization, and you just spearheaded a successful global event. You are looking for praise amongst your peers and staff, but instead are asked to recognize the people under you who helped organize and host the event. At first you’re disappointed because you wanted to get credit for leading the team, but then realize that taking the podium to praise your staff is a stronger sign of leadership.

Just as confident people give out praise and gain leadership and credibility in return, confident leaders take the hit when things go wrong, and, in an ironic twist, look stronger for doing it.

Give Credit and Accept Responsibility
October 18th, 2012
by Bill Boyajian

As a leader, you must always give credit where credit is due, but you must also accept responsibility when things go wrong. There is no single act that gives you more credibility than accepting the failure of those under you as your own. It will score points with those above and below you. Taking a hit for mistakes and problems when things go wrong is hard, but it’s the right thing to do, as long as you have a firm understanding of what happened.

Why is accepting responsibility such an important element in leadership? When subordinates know you will back them, they are more inclined to take risks. They will be more innovative in their work. It helps to bring out the best in them. That’s what you want. And that’s what they want.

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Are you old enough to remember when Coca-Cola Company introduced “New Coke” on April 23, 1985 — effectively throwing out the soft drink so many people loved? That day lives in marketing infamy as one of the colossal blunders in consumer-goods history. But Robert Goizueta, then chairman and CEO of the firm, stepped in and took responsibility for the risky decision — a mistake that could have toppled the iconic brand — and soon repackaged traditional Coke as “Coca-Cola Classic,” regaining credibility for the corporation as a whole.

The return of the original formula Coca-Cola on July 11, 1985, just 79 days after the previously announced change, stands as a testimony to taking measured corporate risks but also as an example of how leaders act — and react — to challenges their company faces in the heat of a firestorm. Goizueta’s willingness to accept responsibility for the introduction of “New Coke” spoke volumes about his leadership and engendered the trust of his staff. Despite the incredible backlash of public sentiment — something that could have cost the Chairman his job — his creativity in “rebirthing” Classic Coke built credibility with his people and with consumers. Instead of becoming just another case study of marketing blunder, it goes down as one of the best rebounding feats in American business.

Giving Up Power Gets More in Return
October 11th, 2012
by Bill Boyajian

I can’t think of a better example of giving up power and getting more of it than the extraordinary election results in England in May 2010. It showed that if you want to be respected, don’t try to show your smarts. Instead, show your respect for others.

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In the first British coalition government since World War II, England’s new prime minister, David Cameron (Conservative Party), heads a unique hybrid government he describes as “Liberal-Conservative,” in tandem with former Liberal Democrat Party leader Nick Clegg as deputy prime minister. Clearly an historic political union, which both men have agreed to maintain for five years (new elections are earmarked for May 2015), this rare opportunity actually presented itself because Cameron fell just short of an overall majority.

As James Chapman explained in England’s daily Mail Online, Cameron has tied at least half of his traditional political opposition to his future success as prime minister. This is more prescient in the current global economy than it may first appear, because the new government must make massive spending cuts to British public services, and now the inevitable voter backlash will be spread across party lines. Officially called the Liberal Democratic Conservative Government, this is nothing less than the unprecedented realignment of British politics, which some see as an attempt by a new generation of political leaders to marginalize the right wing base while reducing the future power of the Labour Party. Both are bold moves against the legacy of traditional power bases.

By “giving up” some of his surface power, Cameron actually strengthened his hold on maintaining a stable administration — two political leaders, once adversaries, now working together for England’s future, and the common good.

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International Jewelers Block Insurance

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