October 23, 2012 | Author: PM Hut | Filed under: Leadership
Leadership Traits - Assertiveness
By Gerald Gillis
One of the more common weaknesses found in leaders is the trait of assertiveness. Wait, you say. Isn’t assertiveness an important quality for any leader bent on success? Indeed, it is. It’s the question of balance that becomes paramount, such that too much or too little assertiveness can illuminate shortcomings that obscure the more favorable qualities.
Balancing this important skill with the others in a leader’s portfolio can augment and extend that same leader’s influence and effectiveness. Too little assertiveness and a leader risks being seen as weak and ineffectual; too much and the leader may come off as bullyish and insufferable. In either case, the imbalance is conspicuous and constricting, therefore putting at risk the good results which might have otherwise been achieved. With the ability to find the right balance, the effective leader is forceful enough to move the organization in the preferred direction without browbeating and hence alienating large numbers of the workforce.
Think of the right balance as much like the front-end alignment of a car: If the car’s alignment is in good order, you’ll likely notice the more favorable qualities of the car instead, if indeed you notice anything at all; if the alignment is poor, you’ll notice the obvious problem and perhaps even think of the potential damage to the tires and other areas.
How can assertiveness compliment the other leadership traits you possess? Consider the following:
- Create and foster an environment of teamwork and inclusion. It’s obviously important for the leader to assert his/her own opinions and expectations, but it’s also important for the leader to build a team whose members’ input is sought and valued. It’s important for the leader to display and teach the right assertiveness balance, such that the more reluctant team members aren’t crowded out by the more aggressive. An assertive leader creates, teaches, and coaches, and in the process builds something that lasts, that makes a difference.
Break down the barriers to change. Employees are often suspicious of and threatened by change, hence making them reluctant and often resistant. A leader must not only challenge the status quo when dealing with employees, but often must convince his/her own hesitant bosses of the needs and benefits of change. An assertive leader makes the case and drives the change process with passion, commitment, and effective, timely communication. Leading an organization through major change is hard, grinding work, and is best done not by the passive or the bullying, but by the smart, inclusive, assertive leader.
Make it clear to others who you are and where you stand. If you disagree with a particular finding or direction, for example, then by all means don’t sit idly by and offer nothing more than the cowardice of silence. And don’t suffer fools when it comes to questions of ethical behavior. Make sure your core values are clearly understood, and that your integrity is not something you are willing to compromise. Not now, not ever. Be a leader with courage here, not an equivocating politician.
Remember, assertiveness is an important trait, and just as importantly must be maintained in the right balance
Gerald Gillis is the author of the award-winning historical novel “Shall Never See So Much.” Gerald’s forthcoming novel, a business thriller, is due for release in the Fall, 2012. Visit his website at http://www.geraldgillis.com and his blog at http://geraldgillis.blogspot.com.
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