June 22, 2024
team with hands up in the air

CSU Assistant Provost Shares Seven Lessons on Leadership

By: Dr. Elwin Jones, Assistant Provost and Dean for the College of Business

After 40 years of leadership experience in business, community and private institutions, I have learned seven behaviors for effective leadership that work in all situations. These behaviors can be incorporated into any leadership toolbox, no matter if the leader is seasoned or just breaking out. These behaviors can be tweaked to fit your style and industry.

1. Challenge the status quo
Just because a process or procedure has worked in the past does not mean that it cannot be improved upon. That will not happen, however, unless the practice is challenged. Find a better way, use innovation and find a new approach to produce strong results. Challenging the status quo may not win friends, but if you look around at the things in your life that were not there five years ago, you may be surprised. Someone challenged the industry, changed the product, invented new on top of old and now your life is changed. Be the change-maker.

2. Be the First to Speak
In the next meeting you attend, be the first to speak. You know who the talkers are in your meeting: those individuals who seem to speak for recognition rather than adding value. Therefore, be the first to offer an opinion. What you will find is that you now have permission to speak for the remainder of the meeting and you will feel empowered to speak, but you must speak up first. The behavior may cause you to step out of your comfort zone, but you will experience a freedom. Others will notice and will ask your opinion. Be sure you contribution to the meeting is of value and speak with confidence. Just try once; you will see this works.

3. Make Change Constant and Consistent
When everything remains the same, people become bored and complacent. Change brings new life to old habits and performance. Change should become a constant strategy and should be consistent; the process of change and the communication of change is predictable. Leaders who introduce change on a consistent basis engage individuals and can excite the stagnant and nonproductive processes. Know that communication is key to winning the day with change; even over-communicating is a solid strategy.

4. Become Emotionally Engaged
While we cannot allow emotions to rule the day, we can emotionally engage with others on a personal and professional basis without overruling our good judgment and common sense. Final decisions should be based on facts and data. I have learned that emotional decisions will let you down, and you will either apologize or have to make a different decision. Being empathic with the plight of others is important, so use that knowledge to make wise decisions that benefits all involved.

5. Be Decisive Yet Humble
At times, decisions must be made that may or may not favor the majority, or may even be very unpopular. This is the role of a leader! Being decisive is not making a decision alone in a vacuum. Quick decisions are needed from time to time and facts and data might be scarce. I find that when a decision is needed on the spot, the power of making that decision is best peppered with a hash of humility. Being humble does not make you weak or demonstrate a level of inability. My brother always says, “Do not confuse my meekness with weakness or my humility with inability.”

6. Have a Presence, Even When Absent
The most effective leaders have a presence even when absent. The character of the leader runs within direct reports and employees. A leader’s presence can be so strong that individuals know how to respond, how to act and how to make the right decision even in the leader’s absence. Be the leader about whom everyone asks, “What would he/she do if they were here?” Create a presence that goes beyond your physical presence and you will find that your team will achieve their goals and objectives even when you are absent.

7. Accept and Take Risks
Are you a risk taker? Do you allow others to take risks without fear of action if they fail? I would guess that most of us are risk takers at some level, and the fear of failure may keep us from taking more risks. Without taking risks, we would not have put a man on the moon, searched the depths of the ocean or maybe even crossed the street. Encouraging risk-taking leads to the next new product, the more efficient process and challenging the status quo. Challenging the current status quo, which could be your supervisor or even your co-workers, can be difficult; however, risk-takers and those who encourage risk-taking will be the next group of great leaders.

Dr. Jones joined CSU in 2008 as an adjunct faculty member and served as chair of undergraduate business, dean of faculty services, and the interim dean of the College of Business. He holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration from the University of West Florida, a master’s degree in business administration from Capella University, and a doctorate in business administration and organizational leadership from Northcentral University.

Disclaimer: These testimonials may not reflect the experience of all CSU students.
Multiple factors, including prior experience, geography, and degree field, affect career outcomes.
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