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Business Last Updated: Dec 5, 2012 - 9:35:51 AM

4 Characteristics of Pivotal Leadership
By Doug Dickerson
Dec 5, 2012 - 9:34:18 AM

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Pivot – n; a person or thing upon which progress, success, etc. depends
-    World English Dictionary

A story is told about Charles Francis Adams, a 19th century political figure. Adams kept a diary and one day his entry read, “Went fishing with my son today- a day wasted.” His son, Brook Adams, also kept a diary. His entry was far different than that of his father. His read, “Went fishing with my father – the most wonderful day of my life!” The father thought he was wasting his time while fishing with his son, but the son saw it as an investment of time.
The illustration reminds us of how our perceptions shape our reality. What the father perceived to be a waste of time was perceived in a totally different light by his son. It also reminds us of the importance of leadership. Leaders come in many stripes and styles and each possess their own unique approach. In short, leadership development is a work in progress.
In considering the qualities of exceptional leadership I turn to a word that is rarely used to define it -pivot. No, it’s probably not the word on the tip of your tongue in your leadership vocabulary. But in the context of the definition above it might just grow on you. So what are some pivot points of exceptional leaders? Here are a few for your consideration.
A pivotal leader puts forth a clear vision. Success will only come to your business or organization if those in leadership have a clear vision for where it is going. Leaders who are directionally challenged by a lack of vision will not go far. Leadership guru Denis Waitley said, “A dream is your creative vision for your life in the future. You must break out of your comfort zone and become comfortable with the unfamiliar and the unknown.” When a leader presents a clear vision he sets into motion the opportunity for success.
A pivotal leader shapes core values. Core values are the non-negotiable principles of how you operate. These values define who you are, who you hire, the way in which you treat your customers and your competitors, and how your reputation is measured. When decisions flow out of core values it elevates everyone to a higher standard.
A pivotal leader has a positive attitude. Winston Churchill said, “Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference.” He’s right. Pivotal leaders are acutely aware of the power of a positive attitude and the difference it can make in their organization. The challenges of leadership can be daunting but a positive attitude will defuse stress, keep the team focused, and build strong morale.
A pivotal leader shows grateful appreciation. One of the endearing attributes of any successful leader is that of gratitude. Smart leaders understand that their success is tied to the hard work and dedication of those around him. When leaders recognize the contributions of others they are exercising a degree of heart intelligence that is just as valuable as their business smarts. Tangible acts of appreciation go a long way in building team confidence and indicate that you recognize that it was a team effort.
Are you a pivotal leader?
Doug Dickerson is a nationally recognized leadership columnist and speaker. He is the author of the new book, Great Leaders Wanted. A Lowcountry resident, Doug is available to speak for your business. Visit his website at for more information.
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