Leadership: The Elusive Skill

Leadership. It’s a subject that has garnered increased attention in our society over the past few years. A cursory glance in the morning paper, a few minutes into your favorite morning news show, or scrolling down the feed of your social media outlets, it seems as if everyone is talking about leadership and what makes a good leader. WMCCAI weighed in on the subject this past August as part of its Effective Leadership Workshop. The presentation was presented by me alongside George Gardner, general manager of Montebello Condominiums located in Alexandria, VA. As part of the discussion, attendees learned the essentials to effective leadership and what tools and practices are necessary to develop this skill.

Leadership Is a Skill

Leadership is an elusive skill. It can be learned but it requires concerted effort and self awareness. Becoming an effective leader is a process and as you embark on this journey, you will soon discover that just when you feel you have mastered one facet, another challenge lies ahead.

There are five levels of leadership according to John C. Maxwell, a leading authority on leadership. They are Position, Permission, Production, People Development and Personhood (Pinnacle). Most managers start at Level 1 – Position. People follow us because they have to; they have no choice. The goal for us as managers is to move beyond Position and aim for the highest level, Personhood (Pinnacle), taking it one level at a time. It’s a long climb, it’s not without great effort, and you cannot skip a level.

Leadership simply defined is influence over others contrasted with management, which is the process of assuring the program of your organization is implemented. As community association managers, we need both these skills to work in tandem in order to get the cooperation we need from our team members and boards to accomplish the goals and missions of our communities.

 Priorities are Critical

A skill critical in leadership development is the ability to set priorities. As managers, many times we are called to think on our feet but that does not mean that we do not give serious thought to our actions. We must prioritize ourselves and our teams or else we will become firefighters, running from one crisis situation to another.

  • Do things in order of priority.
  • Don’t allow another’s lack of planning constitute an emergency or urgency on our part.
  • Delegate – Ask yourself, “What do I have to do that no one else can do?”

Integrity – The Cornerstone of Leadership

The most important ingredient in leadership is integrity. Since everything rises and falls on leadership, it is imperative that our integrity remains intact. In fact, it’s the secret to rising and NOT falling. Integrity is living it BEFORE leading others and is the result of discipline, inner trust, and a decision to be relentlessly honest in all situations.

An effective leader is a change agent. People view the change by the way they view the change agent. If you arrive at a property with “there’s a new sheriff in town mentality” or “it’s my way or the highway” it’s doubtful that you will get support from those around you. Instead, lead from a position that your success is the team’s success and you value input. This establishes trust in the process and you as a leader. The more people trust the leader, the more willing they are to accept change. Allow your team members to take ownership of the change and gain their buy-in. Without ownership of the change, any change will be short-lived.

Leadership without People is Not Leadership

Leadership involves developing your most appreciable asset within your organization: your people. No matter who you are or where you come from, everyone wants to feel worthwhile and that your efforts are appreciated. As a leader, your key responsibility is people development and it does not only pertain to their professional development, but rather it should be a holistic approach, concerned with every aspect of a person’s development, personal and professional. Our mission as leaders is to add value to others, to develop and promote our staff. Ultimately, we should strive to make their jobs rewarding.

Crystal Clear Vision

An effective leader casts a vision for the team and that vision needs to be clearly defined. It brings to mind an analogy I like to use to illustrate clear direction and vision. Imagine if you visiting a new city and you hailed a taxi to take you to a destination. You get into the taxi, assuming that the driver knows his way around the city but only after a few minutes, you realize that this is not the case. The driver has unfolded a map but it’s apparent the driver doesn’t understand how to read it. There are a lot of wrong turns, you become increasingly frustrated and decide to cut your losses, exit the cab and find another means of transportation. You haven’t progressed much from your original starting point and the knowledge that your time was wasted makes your blood boil. The same can be said for those who serve under and alongside us. If as leaders we do not have a clear vision that has been properly communicated to our team, we cannot expect success, but rather frustration.

Our challenge as community association managers is to motivate our team members and boards. Once you’ve developed a clear vision, promote it to the group and convince them that it is worthwhile. This is where effort comes in. Repetition is critical. Reinforce your vision consistently and incentivize your team to continue to be motivated in realizing your vision until it truly becomes their vision too.

A Few Final Thoughts on Leadership

Leadership CAN be learned. Contrary to popular belief, there is no such thing as a born leader. Leaders are made, not born.

Earl Nightingale, author and radio host spoke and wrote at length about personal development said, “People with goals succeed because they know where they are going.”  The key to developing strong leadership skills lies in personal development.

  • Commit to waking an hour early each day to read and to learn.
  • Invest in individual growth.
  • Don’t allow yourself to get comfortable.
  • Get started TODAY! Tomorrow is not promised.

Effective leadership is the difference between having people follow because they have to and having people follow because they WANT to.

By Crishana L. Loritsch, CMCA, AMS, PCAM

Crishana is the general manager of The Adagio Condominium located in Bethesda, MD. She has been an active member of the chapter since 2002, where she has volunteered on the Quorum Editorial, Membership, and Public Outreach committees and has served as Public Outreach Committee chair, Secretary on the Board of Directors, and Communication Council Chair. Additionally, Ms. Loritsch has received numerous awards including Rising Star, Committee Chair of the Year, Chapter Appreciation Award, and was most recently recognized as the 2017 WMCCAI Volunteer of the Year. An avid runner, she spends many early mornings preparing for her next big race.

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