Dedicated to Positive Change

by Jennifer Zammuto, Heart of Illinois United Way

When it comes to successful leadership, influence is more important than authority. Whether your personal leadership style comes from The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People or Everything I Learned from a Little Golden Book, a good leader needs three fundamentals to succeed: common sense, common courtesy and uncommon courage.

Using common sense, a leader can recognize the innate talent and individual leadership skills of everyone on his or her team. At every level within the organization, regardless of gender, employees deserve to have equal opportunities to express what makes them a leader within their role. When team members feel a sense of ownership and are connected to the organization’s decision making, they are more invested in meeting the organization’s goals, objectives and outcomes.

Common courtesy is a key communication strategy to understanding and positively influencing others. Researchers at the Harvard Business School have found that leaders who project warmth versus strength are more likely to gain long-term support. By taking the time to understand the needs and values of the people you want to gather around the table, you can become a better communicator while demonstrating a level of commitment to the people you want to influence.

One of the greatest influential women, Eleanor Roosevelt, once said, “Courage is more exhilarating than fear and in the long run it is easier.” Not every decision a leader makes to reach their organization’s goals will be popular. In order to accomplish measurable outcomes, a leader often needs uncommon courage to create positive, sustainable change. When a leader directly faces the challenges to the organization’s success, and engages team members in the process, the resulting collaboration can lead to new innovations and better management.

Leadership and influence are symbiotic in nature but should not be used interchangeably. According to the Forbes Coaches Council, understanding this difference is crucial. A leader can build a group of followers on charisma alone, but an influencer has the skill to bring together a community by leading with ideas and values. When a leader is expected to guide and impact their organization’s outcomes, he or she must influence and empower the people around them to make positive results.

As Peoria Magazines pays tribute to local women in the workplace this month and empowers female leaders, we want to express our appreciation for the work of past and present Women of Influence honorees. Since the Heart of Illinois United Way launched our Power of the Purse event five years ago, we have experienced firsthand what a dedicated group of women can do to make positive change.

Throughout all of central Illinois, we are honored to live in a community that is filled with generous, caring and dedicated individuals of all races, ethnicities and gender that lead by example and continuously share their time, talents and treasure for the common good. iBi

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