We currently live in a time that is always evolving and changing, sometimes very rapidly. Leadership must always be focused on the future even when making decisions for today. The most successful organizations are those that are inclusive, make sound decisions quickly, and evolve at the rate of the world. Forward leadership is a set of skills leaders use to create flexible, inclusive, and evolving organizations.
Leaders in the world of public safety are oftentimes faced with decisions that need immediate action; however, these immediate actions will have long-term impacts. Forward leadership ensures these decisions are made quickly and with the focus of creating long-lasting and successful organizations.
There are several behaviors that can be mastered to increase the forward leadership within the organization. We compiled 5 of the most effective behaviors leaders can utilize to continue to move their organization forward while utilizing behaviors that are inclusive.
Forward Leadership Behavior #1: Good Listening Skills
Listening is not just about hearing the words others speak, but instead understanding the actual message delivered. Leaders who listen are able to make better decisions more quickly, as they already have the necessary information from their stakeholders. Leaders who actively seek input from their members, citizens, and constituents know their needs and are able to incorporate them into their decision-making process.
Successful leaders ensure they hear the message being delivered and check for clarification prior to speaking. They listen for meaning and check for clarification. Leaders who simply wait for their turn to speak, rather than truly determining the message of others are not able to easily guide their follows towards the vision, mission, and values of the organization. Forward leaders take the time to determine the true message behind the words and use it to respond in a way that efficiently moves their followers forward.
Listening is also about being present. As a forward leader, it is important to detach from the daily chaos of meetings or record keeping to listen to members within the organization. Members in the organization need to feel valued and know their concerns are being listened to. This is crucial in building morale as well as obtaining information from the front line members who are out in the community.
Forward Leadership Behavior #2: Strong Communication
“Communication is key” is commonly stated as general knowledge, but most do not know the true depth of this statement. Strong communication is a set of behaviors that ensures the messages you are sending are the same messages being received by your followers. As a leader, you must convey your vision, mission, and values clearly to all important stakeholders. Inclusive communication ensures that different modalities and explanations are used for the delivery of your message. Remember, if the message is not received or is received incorrectly, it will be seen in the behaviors (or lack thereof).
Communication may involve memos, emails, or even notices. Forward-thinking leaders maximize the modalities for communication and have an “open door” policy for members to provide feedback, check-in, or ask questions. Forward-thinking leaders also understand that when issues arise within the organization, community, country, or globally, the leader must adjust his communication to account for the faster pace that typically occurs during these times. SOP’s, SOG’s and daily notices must reflect current situations and may have to be re-evaluated as necessary.
Forward Leadership Behavior #3: Commitment and Passion
Leaders must demonstrate enthusiasm for the vision and a passion to achieve it. If you are not committed or do not show a level of passion in its achievement, your vision may ultimately fail. Commitment through difficult times as well as when things are smooth sailing shows that you are always focused on the vision, encouraging, and setting the standard for your team to follow.
LEAD BY EXAMPLE. Do you complete the tasks in front of you on a regular basis? What are your expectations of your members? If you expect your company officers and administrators to complete tasks, have the same expectations of yourself. As a leader your members are looking for guidance and of course, LEADERSHIP; so lead with a forward example. Your staff and members will be motivated by the example you set.
Forward Leadership Behavior #4: Attitude of Positivity
Most of us have been around an individual who is always upbeat and positive. Not only is it inspiring, it is a driving force in our behaviors. When members in an organization see leadership being positive and working in a positive fashion, it leads to a group of individuals moving collectively towards the Mission, Vision, or Diversity Statement within the organization. It’s ok to have personable moments with members in the organization, but when it’s time to be productive, get it done by leading from the FRONT. In fact, behavior science tells us that focusing on the positives by providing positive feedback, modeling wanted behaviors, and encouraging others actually increases employee satisfaction.
As a leader, you will have daily meetings pertaining to organizational structures and occurrences. A forward leader will not just look at the obstacles in front of them, but also praise the positive actions of members and build upon those actions. EVERY member has something to add in their own way, so LISTEN and allow them to shine as well.
Forward Leadership Behavior #5: Be an Innovator
There are times that apathy can set in after being a leader in the same field for many years. If this happens, take time to review your vision and reinvest yourself in reaching it. Organizational and personal visions change over time and revising them can give the jolt of energy, focus, and passion necessary to keep moving forward. Look back on past experiences as a learning tool to help move forward and create innovative, new ways of doing things. Encourage your team to look for new solutions to old problems and leverage their experiences. This not only provides you with new and innovative solutions but also increases the value of those working with you.
Forward-thinking leaders are prepared for change and can adapt when applicable. They use the members within the organization to accelerate progress. Listening increases acceptance to all members and communication leads to credibility in the organization. Commitment and passion display a will to move forward and being positive builds morale and satisfaction within. Lastly, innovation will propel your organization forward, by not only adapting to change but by engaging all members.