Leadership is critical for any organization, according to Kerry G. Denson, but often managers just don’t have the “tools”–the training–to be effective leaders. That can hurt the organization at any level.
Denson is a retired brigadier general from the Wisconsin Army National Guard and operates his own business, Applied Leadership. He offered his thoughts during a presentation to the Wisconsin Business Owners Lunch & Learn on Friday. During his 40-year military career, Denson observed what motivates people. Knowing this allowed him to create “Leadership Tools” for his own “Leadership Toolbox.” Through his leadership workshops and other presentations, Denson shares these tools so that managers can become leaders.
Leadership is a universal human trait. “We all respond favorably to good-quality leadership,” he said. True leadership results in a motivated, efficient organizational culture.
Denson, who also served as Deputy Adjutant General of the Wisconsin National Guard, said every organization takes on the personality of its leader. “Leadership is that powerful.” Employees want to work for a confident leader, but there is a fine line between confidence and arrogance.
Leaders shape who their subordinates become, Denson noted, adding that employees should not be treated as a commodity. They are “real people like you or [me].”
Denson offered important advice for all leaders:
1. Keep employees informed. This is especially true if the organization faces challenges. Absent clear information from their leaders, employees believe what they hear through the rumor mill. Providing good information helps maintain trust, confidence and respect.
2. Let them know their efforts are appreciated. Denson said that income isn’t a motivating factor, at least long term. “We want to belong to an organization that’s bigger than us; something that allows us to become something we couldn’t [be] by ourselves.”
Regularly reach out to those individuals and compliment them for their efforts. While in the Army, Denson would frequently send hand-written letters to soldiers. He mailed these to their homes so that family members could share in the satisfaction of receiving the compliments.
“Take the time to say thank you to those who help you,” Denson said, “and it will be paid back in spades.”
For related reading, see “How to be a good manager” and “Using suggestions builds, maintains morale.”
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