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posted: 1/5/2014 7:20 AM

Career Coach: A year of leadership lessons

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When we review the major events that have occurred over the past year, there are many leadership lessons that we can apply to our daily lives.

We celebrated the life of Nelson Mandela, and replayed his tremendous impact. Like leadership experts James Kouzes and Barry Posner noted in their book, "A Leader's Legacy," Mandela lived by the code that every day you create your legacy. Leaders often forget this. As Mandela showed us, every person, no matter what their station in life, can have an impact on the world around them by the small steps they take each and every day. Like Mandela, they have to make sure that credibility and integrity are at the core of who they are and what they do on a daily basis.

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Lessons learned: Integrity is the key foundation. Leave your legacy by the actions you take each day.

Many in the world have been reinvigorated by Pope Francis and his call to a simpler life, modeling, as he says, the life of Jesus. By his focus on humility and acceptance of all people, he turned many people back to the Catholic Church. This illustrates the tremendous impact a leader can have on his or her followers. They have the power to genuinely influence the morale and engagement of their followers. They also have the responsibility to "walk the talk." Much is written about the simple life that Pope Francis lives and the fact that he is willing to get in the trenches with the common folks.

Lessons learned: Leaders need humility; they can't expect their followers to do anything they would not do themselves; leaders can have a deep and lasting impact on their followers by being role models.

Diversity is still an issue in the United States. The Trayvon Martin/George Zimmerman case raised many issues about race and the perceptions and stereotypes we hold regarding others of differing races or ethnicities. We still have a long way to go here, even with the progress we have made over the past few decades.

Lessons learned: Leaders need to assess their diversity initiatives to see how effective they are. Do they do enough to really change attitudes and behaviors?

When Prince George Alexander Louis, son of Prince William and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, was born, the world watched. Some reports indicated that Catherine's pregnancy injected approximately $347 million into a sluggish economy. Kate and William showed they wanted to be highly involved in raising their own child, despite the fact that they could have so much assistance provided. They also continue to reach out to the public to better connect with them.

Lessons learned: People want to rally around something positive and hopeful for the future. To be effective leaders, managers need to make sure that they reach out and connect with employees.

The federal government shutdown illustrated many negotiation tactics -- including hardball tactics by both sides. It also showed the importance of remembering your constituents (since many would say that the political leaders seemed to have forgotten). The shutdown also revealed that for collaboration to occur, individuals have to be truthful about their underlying interests.

Lessons learned: In negotiations, remember who all your constituents are and be working for them. Work toward collaboration (not simple compromise) if you have time and the issues are critical.

This past year, we also dealt with somber events such as the Boston Marathon bombings, the shooting rampage in the Navy Yard in Washington, and additional shootings in schools and other formerly "safe" places. We publicly grieved about the losses of innocent lives and we revisited the issues of gun control and terrorist activities. We were also inspired by images and stories of regular people and first responders engaging in heroic acts to help each other. These stories remind us that good citizenship is alive and well, especially in the toughest of times. Natural disasters such as the tornadoes in Oklahoma and the typhoon in the Philippines also reveal how valuable life is, and what we can do to help others and positively impact their lives.

Lessons learned: Live each day to the fullest since life is short. Be willing to step in to help your fellow human beings when they are in trouble. Pay it forward.

The year 2013 was filled with so many major events, and though some were quite disturbing, something positive usually came out of those events through the spirit of people. Leaders should cultivate business cultures that build hope and spirit among people and encourage and recognize organizational citizenship behaviors. All would then feel the positive impact.

• Russell is the vice dean and the director of the Executive Coaching and Leadership Development Program at the University of Maryland's Robert H. Smith School of Business. She is a licensed industrial and organizational psychologist and has more than 25 years of experience coaching executives and consulting on leadership and career management.

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