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Thrust into a leadership position? Need to make important decisions quickly? Are others looking to you for inspiration, focus, motivation, mentoring, coaching, guidance? You make decisions, and others follow? Are you a leader?

A group of researchers led by psychologist Kurt Lewin set out to identify different styles of leadership. Although this was an early study, it was quite influential. Their research identified three major leadership styles. These types were identified as autocratic, participative leadership, also called “democratic,” and delegative leadership.

Autocratic leaders make decisions without consulting their teams. This is considered appropriate when decisions genuinely need to be made quickly, where there is not a need for input from others, and when team agreement is not necessary for a successful outcome.

Participative leaders, also called democratic, allow the team to provide input before making a decision, although the degree of input can vary from leader to leader. This type of leadership is important when team agreement matters, but can be quite difficult to manage where there are lots of different perspectives and ideas.

Delegative leadership is also referred to as laissez-faire leadership. In this style, the leader does not interfere with the work process and allows people within the team to make many of the decisions. This works well when the team is highly capable and motivated, and when it does not need close monitoring or supervision. However, this style can also arise because the leader is lazy or distracted, and thus lead to failure.

Inspirational leaders throughout out history have viewed leadership and inspiration from various points of view. For example, Sigmund Freud, considered the founder of the discipline of psychoanalysis, and for his theories of the unconscious mind, said: “[M]uch of what we do, and how we react, is in direct proportion to our desire, our craving – to feel important.” A leader who takes into account that those on his or her team all have a desire to feel important, can inspire and motivate them to do their very best work.

Henry Ford, founder of the Ford Motor Company, said “If there is any one secret of success, it lies in the ability to get to the other person’s point of view, and see things from that person’s angle as well as from your own.” Wow, pretty neat.

Dale Carnegie, considered by many to be one of the most common-sense, and inspirational, interpreters of dealing with other human beings, advocated the follow leadership principles:

Begin with praise and honest appreciation. When we acknowledge the value of a person has to our organization, we establish a positive tone for open communications. This technique would also appeal to Freud’s desire and craving of all people to feel important.

Call attention to people’s mistakes indirectly. This creates an environment that keeps associates from becoming defensive.

Talk about your own mistakes before criticizing the other person. This concept eliminates barriers and helps others to be more open.

Ask questions instead of giving direct orders. This concept allows the individual to take increasing ownership of both the problem and potential solutions.

Let the other person save face. In order to deal with inappropriate behavior, and yet still maintain their dignity, this approach is quite effective. It can often eliminate or reduce hard feelings.

Praise the slightest improvement and praise every improvement. Be “hearty in your approbation and lavish in your praise.” There is no better way to increase productivity, and efficiency and commitment of others than praise. Give recognition to your colleagues. Appeal to the individual’s craving to feel important.

Give the other person a fine reputation to live up to. When we set high expectations, we help others achieve their full potential.

Use encouragement. Make the fault seem easy to correct. By expressing our belief in another person’s ability to correct a fault, we give him or her confidence to improve their performance.

Make the other person happy about doing the thing you suggest. By encouraging a person’s desire to improve their performance, the leader can help develop attitudes and behaviors that are more productive.

Winston Churchill said: “ All the great things are simple, and many can be expressed in a single word: Freedom, Justice, Honor, Duty, Mercy, Hope.” A leader must constantly strive to enhance the potential of each of his or her team members. A leader must set the example for the team members to be their best. This is especially important in the area of attitude.

Benjamin Franklin said: “Any fool can criticize, condemn, and complain, and most fools do.” A leader, on the other hand, utilizes praise, makes their team members feel important and glad, even happy, to be productive team members.

“Character is like a tree and reputation like a shadow. The shadow is what we think of; the tree is the real thing.” said Abraham Lincoln. Be like a tree with deep roots. Show character. Inspire your team members to become their best! Coach, mentor, inspire. Set the example! Watch your team members follow your lead.

“Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap, but by the seeds that you plant” said Robert Louis Stevenson. Be a great leader, plant some seeds, and watch your people grow professionally as well as personally.

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