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Lessons in Leadership

Inspiration from the American Election

Lessons in Leadership

By Cheryl Stein
Monster Business Coach

Elections are a time when we naturally think about leadership. We look at the candidates that are vying for the top spot and we try to evaluate who will be the best one to do the job. Since a new American President was inaugurated just a short while ago, and what seems like the entire world is thrilled with the potential of this new administration, I thought it would be a good idea to try and identify the qualities of a great leader and to see what lessons can be learned for the Canadian executive.

New and Innovative Ways of Thinking

A great leader is not afraid to challenge the traditional ways of thinking and behaving and to mobilize people toward something new. That doesn’t mean that the past is ignored or discarded. Truly successful leaders are able to see the changes that are necessary but are also able to see the good in established practices.

A great Canadian business leader should be someone who takes the risk to do things differently while making people in the organization feel comfortable that the past ways of doing things will not be ignored. Canadian businesses should foster this kind of leadership and be aware of creating the cultural conditions to allow innovation to occur.

Creating a Shared Vision

A great leader is one who understands what “could be” and is able to get people excited about moving toward that goal. The leader’s ability to communicate is key to getting people on board. It requires a desire to understand how people are thinking and feeling and a commitment to make changes that will answer to these desires. People want to follow leaders who understand them and who have a real understanding for the problem and for the required solution.

A great Canadian business leader should be someone who understands that creating a vision is a collaborative process, one that requires bringing people on board. They must also understand that they need to have energy and enthusiasm in the way they communicate that vision.

Leading by Example

A great leader is one who understands that their actions can be the inspiration for people to follow them. It is not enough to have ideas for how things should be. A great leader embodies the necessary action for that change to occur.

A great Canadian business leader should be someone who isn’t afraid to roll up their sleeves and get in the trenches. In this current economy, Canadian executives need to inspire the people that work for them by being role models. Leaders who are capable of being fundamentally human are the ones who people want to work for.

While these qualities certainly help gain the support of followers in a leadership race, it is a different set of leadership qualities that will allow the Canadian executive to effectively lead his or her team in the long run. “New research suggests that the most effective executives use a collection of distinct leadership styles…And better yet, it can be learned.” Says Daniel Goleman in “Leadership that Gets Results”. Goleman explains that the truly successful leader is one who can adapt to the changing needs of his or her team and that these different styles of leadership can be learned much in the way that one can learn a new skill or habit.

These leadership styles are:

• Coercive
• Authoritative
• Affiliative
• Democratic
• Pacesetting
• Coaching

Essentially, the truly great Canadian leader is able to be different depending on the situation. He or she would be coercive in an emergency, authoritative when creating a new vision or strategy, affiliative to mend relationships and help people work together, democratic to create buy in, pacesetting to inspire and coaching to teach and pass on the torch. While not all executives are good at all things, the Canadian executive could certainly be coached to develop strength in one leadership style or another, effectively learning to be a more well rounded and flexible.

Presidents and Prime Ministers come and go but our current example of great leadership is a beautiful thing to behold. In this dawn of a new era, take it all in, and learn all you can.


Goleman, Daniel. Leadership That Gets Results. Harvard Business Review. March-April 2000. Reprint R00204.

Johnson, David & Johnson, Frank. (2003) Joining Together: Group Theory and Group Skills. 8th edition. Boston, MA. Allyn & Bacon

Cheryl Stein is an Associate Certified Coach, a credential that is designated by the International Coach Federation. For more information, visit Stein Consulting and Coaching.