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Vision, Enthusiasm, Motivation, Courage: Keys To Leadership


Daniel O. Coleman, C.P.M.
Daniel O. Coleman, C.P.M., Purchasing Manager, Enron Corp, Houston, TX 77002, 713/646-7028,

83rd Annual International Conference Proceedings - 1998 

Abstract. Whether it is in your professional life, personal life, or NAPM association life, there are times when you will accept a position of leadership. You will want to be a leader, or you will be asked to be a leader, or you will be required to be a leader. There are specific skills each of us can learn to improve our effectiveness at leading ourselves and others to achievement. Effective leadership is the result of a combination of skills and techniques, all of which can be learned, developed, and refined. Among these are vision, enthusiasm, motivation and courage.

"Progress occurs when courageous, skillful leaders seize the opportunity to change things for the better." -- Harry S Truman

People are interested in managing change, and being an integral part of initiating change through leadership.

Vision. All effective leaders have a sense of vision, a snapshot of the future, a concept of the finished product, the final destination, or result of their effort. The more clearly a vision is rendered in the mind, the more effective a leader will be.

Most people do not have a clear vision for the future, and they will readily follow somebody that does have vision. The sense of belonging to a movement is powerful, and effective leaders are able to distinctly describe their vision to others.

Vision, like goal-setting, is perhaps the most important element of achievement, and of leadership. Knowing where you are going, what you are trying to achieve, the value of that achievement--these are vital to being an effective leader.

You can develop a vision in much the same way you would a set of goals and objectives. Determine an image of an integrated purchasing system, financial growth for your organization, or a completed construction project. When you see the vision, begin to build the pieces to support it. And then create enthusiasm for fulfilling the vision.

Enthusiasm. As a leader demonstrates personal enthusiasm for a vision, it becomes contagious among disciples. People like to be around enthusiastic leaders. Understand that every group, every team has a set of defined roles and positions. Each position must be executed properly for the success of all. As a chain is only as strong as the weakest link, so a team is as strong as it's weakest member. Each role must be played, including the role of the leader. Accept the role, just as each member accepts their position. It is the role of the leader to express enthusiasm, eagerness, an urgency and an excitement for the design of the future.

Leaders should never consider their position one of privilege. Effective leaders abide by the Golden Rule, and treat others accordingly.

"If you aren't fired with enthusiasm, you'll be fired with enthusiasm" -- Vince Lombardi, Green Bay Packers football coach

If you do not naturally radiate enthusiasm, this too is a skill that can be learned and improved. Enthusiasm is demonstrated by having a sense of urgency. Excitement in your voice is expressed through changes in volume and tempo. Your body language expresses enthusiasm through increased gesturing, and with postures that lean forward instead of reclining. Before presiding over team meetings, give yourself a pep talk, fire yourself up with enthusiasm, and let it be seen by the rest of the team. They'll respond to your excitement!

Motivation. Understanding differences in people, knowing their "hot buttons", recognizing the value of diversity--these are keys to motivation. Most people have a sense of wanting to be part of a successful team, receiving encouragement and positive feedback.

"An automobile goes nowhere efficiently unless it has a quick, hot spark to ignite things, to set the cogs of the machine in motion. So I try to make every player on my team feel he's the spark keeping our machine in motion. On him depend our success and victories." -- Knute Rockne, Notre Dame football coach.

Know what motivates people in groups:

  • A sense of belonging -- people want to be a part of successful organizations, and enjoy experiencing a sense of achievement.
  • Having input into developing shared goals -- while the leader may provide the vision, others will be motivated by having input into how the vision is accomplished.
  • Working toward goals that are worthwhile -- good causes attract good people.
  • Having responsibilities that challenge -- many people like to have their skills stretched from time to time, and achievement is heightened by challenge.
  • Being kept informed, and seeing that progress is being made -- nobody likes to be kept in the dark.
  • Receiving acknowledgment for having contributed to the group goals -- recognition and thanks for a job well done are inexpensive and irreplaceable rewards for effort.
  • Having confidence and trust in the leader.

The last item is extremely important, and speaks to the personal integrity and honesty of the leader.

Courage. Visions of new ideas are not always popular, and many people are predisposed to resist change. Effective leaders are prepared to handle resistance and even criticism to their ideas. If you believe in your ideas, in your vision, you develop the courage to stand by your conviction. An important element in leadership is personal integrity, the willingness to stand behind your ideals. The same is true with your goals and vision.

"Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear -- not absence of fear. " -- Mark Twain

"To fight a bull when you are not scared is nothing. And to not fight a bull when you are scared is nothing. But to fight a bull when you are scared -- that is something." -- Anon.

Just as public speakers accept nervousness as a natural reaction to their situation, fear is a natural condition when encountering new situations. Public speakers accept nervousness as a natural response to standing in front of an audience. They work to reduce their nervousness through preparedness, and to channel it as positive energy. This way they are not overpowered by it. The same with encountering fear in your leadership role--channel it into positive energy. Accept it as a natural condition, be prepared to respond to criticism with information and facts. Be prepared to respond to resistance with enthusiasm and conviction.

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