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Preparing for the leadership challenges that await

5 min read


Early in my career, I embarked on a soul-searching exercise to help me define who I wanted to be, what I was willing to pin my reputation on and what skills I needed to develop to be true to my vision and succeed.

While earning my master’s degree in organizational leadership, I began to understand the value of servant leadership — a belief that the manager is really the servant of the employee, there to help the employee accomplish their job. That focus lead me to define how I work and interact with my team, the larger Toshiba organization and our communities.

Because business is rarely black and white, but rather gradations of gray, business subtleties can tax leaders as they face today’s challenges, some with ethical, moral and social implications. To address these challenges, leaders must have a clear idea of their values, their performance objectives and the skills they need to embody to be successful.

Doing some upfront, difficult work to pinpoint their position can provide a compass from which leaders can act, determine their communications platform and then identify skills to develop along with goals to achieve their objectives.

For this journey, here are a few tips to serve as a guide.

Know what makes an effective leader

Before any steps can be taken, businesspeople should know the characteristics that will transform them from merely a manager into an effective leader.

Something to consider is what makes a great leader great. For instance, great leaders are accessible; someone who employees can approach with issues. A great leader is not cowardly, but courageous. “Progress occurs when courageous, skillful leaders seize the opportunity to change things for the better,” said former President Harry S Truman. Also, a great leader does not deflect, but is accountable for their actions. John C. Maxwell, a leadership authority, said, “A good leader is someone who takes a little more than his share of the blame, and a little less than his share of the credit.”

The leadership platform

Every great leader needs clear-cut values, and everything a leader says should communicate these. A platform, or the building blocks for principles, is essential. When shaping a platform, managers can think about whether it encompasses these ideas:

  • Personally motivating — a platform should be something that is inspirational.
  • Fits expertise — a leader should be well-versed in their chosen topic.
  • Makes a compelling story — a compelling story will ensure a captive audience.
  • Resonates with the audience — a platform is something the leader cares about but also something the audience cares about.

A great way to look for a platform is where a leader’s values and their organization’s objectives meet. For example, a company’s mission might be centered on customer-focused partnerships, and a leader might choose her platform on the idea that the customer always comes first.

Setting goals

Another important step in ensuring leadership success is to set clear goals. Goals help define objectives to work towards and will serve as motivation that sets the standards for self-satisfaction with leadership performance.

Goals should be specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-targeted.

Determine communication skills that need to be honed

For the audience’s endorsement, a leader should be compelling, confident and charismatic. According to the Harvard Business Review, there are many communication techniques that a charismatic leader can use.

For instance, using contrasts in statements can make a point bigger and better. When former President John F. Kennedy said, “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country,” he clarified what he was not saying to make his argument stronger. Another tactic is the use of rhetorical questions to encourage engagement. Geico uses them in advertisements, like the television commercial that poses the question, “How happy are folks who save hundreds of dollars switching to Geico?” A humorous answer leads the audience to the conclusion that saving money leads to happiness.

In the end, following these four steps alone won’t make someone an effective leader. Desire, hard work and dedication are vital. As coach Vince Lombardi of the Green Bay Packers once said, “Leaders aren’t born, they are made. And they are made just like anything else, through hard work.”

Catherine Wolfe is senior director of corporate and strategic communications at Toshiba America Medical Systems, where she is responsible for research and communications activities. Wolfe has contributed to the successful promotion of several of Toshiba’s leading products, as well as the company’s reputation and sales in diagnostic imaging. She has written numerous articles and spoken at industry conferences on leadership communications, marketing and customer satisfaction topics. Toshiba America Medical Systems is a leading provider of diagnostic medical imaging systems and comprehensive medical solutions, such as CT, Cath & EP Labs, X-ray, Ultrasound, MRI and information systems.