Cornerstones of Leadership

February 23, 2005 · by DesignIntelligence

In the epilogue to his book Leadership by Design: Creating an Architecture of Trust, author Richard Swett outlines what it takes to be a responsible and effective citizen-architect.

In the epilogue to his book Leadership by Design: Creating an Architecture of Trust, author Richard Swett outlines what it takes to be a responsible and effective citizen-architect.

"In a time when it seems that unbridled selfishness and narcissism run amok in a contemporary society, the good leader should not be a superstar but rather a star citizen who speaks truth to power-first to himself, then to the community and ultimately to those in authority,” Swett writes. “Most important, the leader should be ready and willing to accept the consequences of his or her actions. These are the elements of character in our leaders that will enable us to address the future of our communities."

Here are Swett's markers on the qualities and building blocks of sound leadership:

  • A good leader uses the design process as a model that allows everyone to participate and thus improves and expands the politics of civic engagement.
  • A good leader has the broad reach of a polymath who accesses design and technical proficiencies to build and to manage what is being built.
  • A good leader possesses the vision of the master builder by first defining what is to be done, and then by coherently articulating those defined goals to others.
  • A good leader knows who she or he is; personal ethics, the understanding of power, and the desire to serve come from this wellspring of inner knowledge.

    The building blocks upon which our leadership foundation can be built are also four in number:

  • Order out of Chaos: Power is a force engendered through associating with a broad constituency.
  • Step up to the Plate: Courage is necessary to take the initiative and bear the responsibility of our decisions.
  • Building a Bridge of Trust: Personal and collective professional credibility makes possible the public's trust in us.

  • Creating New Value: Limitations can unleash the power of creation that leads to new and original solutions. (Make lemonade out of lemons!)

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