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Leadership: The importance of being intentional

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Contributed photo: Donna Goss teaches a class at the Leadership Development Institute.
Contributed photo: Donna Goss teaches a class at the Leadership Development Institute.

Peter Drucker once said, “The only thing that happens naturally in organizations is confusion, friction and malperformance. Everything else is the result of leadership.”

Humans are flawed; we naturally say and do things that are ineffective. It just happens. We have to learn to be intentional in order to overcome our human frailty.

This is the essence of leadership. We see future possibilities of how something can be better, we enlist others in sharing that vision and then we intentionally take action that both sets the example for others and starts us on a journey to that intended future.

As Jim Collins, author of “Good To Great,” says, “Greatness is not a function of circumstances. Greatness, it turns out, is largely a matter of conscious choice and discipline.”

Organizations today, whether a for-profit business, a not-for-profit organization or a part of the public sector, struggle with the need to be great, to perform at higher and higher levels.

Limited resources combined with higher expectations make it necessary to deliver products and services at higher levels, on a sustained basis, and in a way that builds a reputation of high quality.

The demands on organizational leadership are significant and continue to grow. The challenge to develop that leadership, especially as we approach the rapid exit of Baby-Boomer executives into retirement, has become a priority.

Unknown to many, the Center for Business & Industry at Northampton Community College has been an important source for those needs for 35 years. CBI has built a leadership development consulting resource that looks into the future and identifies needs and how to help organizations meet them.

CBI recognizes the challenge in today’s social order that people – with all of their complexity – desperately need leadership. Although technology has had a tremendous influence on that social order, it is people, who make up our organizations and execute the day-to-day work, that will define performance.

Taking advantage of more than 40 years of working with top-tier business schools such as the University of Pennsylvania (Wharton), the University of Michigan, the University of Virginia, Duke University and Harvard, the leadership team at CBI brings fresh thinking to its ability to support a company’s need to build strong leadership, management and organizational effectiveness.

Why has CBI been so successful?

Its approach is to focus on application, not just learning. It is in the business of performance improvement, not training; training is just a tool. Organizations need their leaders to set direction, inspire higher performance, enable employees to be successful and encourage and embrace a can-do attitude.

Just learning about what it takes to be effective is not enough. Because so much of leadership is about who you are, CBI helps its clients to be aware of their strengths in order to find new opportunities to use them – and to be aware of, and avoid, the pitfalls that undermine success.

It is only then that learning the skills and practices of effective leaders can be applied in a way that adds to organizational success. Leadership is about being intentional.

“Practices of Successful Leaders,” a program that has a 10-year history of enhancing the leadership capabilities of its participants, is designed to combine this emphasis on both learning and application.

As a recent participant said, “I feel that the materials presented really applied to real-life situations. Rather than just presenting the theories, there were examples given and discussions of how we can use this back at work.”

People need to be engaged in order to translate learning into action. Each of us needs to discover the leader that resides within each of us.

CBI also provides consulting and training services to many other aspects of an organization’s needs, from technical to safety and environmental health.

Taking great pride in serving the Lehigh Valley, CBI is working with more than 100 businesses (locally and nationally), many not-for-profits, almost all of the local colleges and universities and state and local governments. (Clients span the U.S. and parts of Canada.)

CBI can assist an organization in developing its workforce through its open-enrollment programs or it can go deeper by taking its consultants inside an organization and building a program to address specific needs to enhance performance challenges.

Leadership is everything. In its absence, we risk confusion, friction and malperformance – all the signs of becoming normal, not great.

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