The other day I watched a television program with great interest. It featured the leaders and innovators responsible for that period of Japan’s great economic growth. Barely a decade after the war, Japan recorded an average growth rate of 9%. Looking at the people who drove this economic growth and innovation, I was reminded of the four common behaviors of great Leaders proposed by the guru of leadership, Warren Bennis.
Professor Bennis was a well-known business administration professor who also served as an advisor to four presidents, including President Regan. He interviewed 90 prominent leaders in business, government, and academia, and he derived four common behavior. We demand these common behaviors of our leaders today, and I believe they can serve as a foundation for those who strive to promote self-examination and organizational reform.
Below are the four common behaviors of Great Leaders:
1. Vision: Provide An Exciting Vision
You need a vision that excites people and keeps their attention. During his time in office, Prime Minister Hayato Ikeda spurred on a period of high growth by introducing an “income-doubling plan” that enticed people.
According to Professor Bennis, an inspiring vision energizes people, and in return they will do everything in their power to make it a reality. It takes more than just a sales plan to attract people, and it is important to show a vision of the future that we all can embrace.
2. Meaning: Do Whatever it Takes to Make the Meaning Stick
Sharing the meaning or implications of a vision in concrete terms raises each individual’s awareness of their role in the bigger picture. It also leads to more healthy and constructive behavior. Replacing abstract talk with familiar examples or sketching out images are behaviors that help strengthen the understanding of the vision.
Part of a leader’s strategy is to do tasks and activities that inspire concrete action and behavior that align with the long-term vision. It is also necessary that they give constant feedback to team members.
3. Confidence (Trust): Set Direction and Win Trust
The decision to turn post-war Japan into a heavy industrial nation was very difficult, and at the time other nations believed it would be impossible. However, the leaders implemented a very successful plan that came to be known as “The Japan Miracle.” Through many consistent policies and heavy investments in the private sector, they accelerated Japan’s industrial restoration.
Objection and tough resistance from your peers and other people around you always accompany innovation. However they can be overcome and trust can be earned through tenacity and providing consistent results once your direction is firmly set.
4. Positive Self-Regard (Self): Treat Oneself With a Positive Attitude; Live Creatively
Great leaders don’t just emphasize their strengths; they also understand and accept their weaknesses. Treating an imperfect self positively is the driving force that gives rise to ambitious goals and great accomplishments. Moreover, leaders who view themselves positively also tend to view their team members more positively as well. As a result, the group is also positive and optimistic, and is ready to achieve the desired results.
Great leaders do not have a fear for failure. Instead, they understand that failure is an opportunity to learn, and a stepping stone to continued success.
Are the four common behaviors above something we all have from birth? I’m sure that there are some leaders for whom that is true. It is also true that we all have the ability to grow through education and life experiences. Trainers, coaches, and consultants will play a significant role in developing these characteristics in future world leaders, including those in Japan.
“Leaders: The Strategies for Taking Charge” (1985) Harper & Row
Warren Bennis, and Burt Nanus