Archive for August, 2010

Leadership stereotypes

Posted on August 22, 2010. Filed under: command or control, expectations, leadership legacy, leadership stereotype, personal leadership |

Today’s post is very different to the one I had planned – all because of two unforseen factors.

The first was the point at which I was up to in reading Malcolm Gladwell’s book “Blink” where he talks about a war games scenario. One team gathered and formatted many types of data and information on the ‘enemy’ and used that to create detailed forecasts and plans about what would happen next in the battle. The other team was far more adaptable and creative in the situation. The rogue leader in the scenario (known as Rip – or more correctly Paul Van Riper) refused to allow himself or his team to become caught up in the process or the data analysis – he told his team that he would be in command not in control.

Let’s look into that phrase a little deeper – being in command traditionally is associated with control (we even label one leadership style as command and control) yet here is a man saying that he is going to be out of control. How many people could panic if they knew their leader was out of control. Yet think about it: what leader expecially at senior levels can be physically in control of every single task and interaction within the business or even the team?  MMany of our assumptions and stereotypes place this undue expectation on a leader – and then when s/he fails to deliver on that level of detail we criticise.

For those of us who are or have been leaders I’m sure there are examples and experiences coming to mind right now.

Leadership as being in command and out of control.

A freeing statement – the leader is freed to focus on the vision, strategy, holistic view while the team are empowered to do what they do best. It allows members of an organisation to apply their technical specialties and perhaps gain a high degree of satisfaction from being trusted enough to be left alone to get things done.

Naturally this is not a totally hands off situation – the leader is always there if and when the team need to reach out for guidance or assistance. The leader is not effective if present and close to the team to the point where s/he is “in the face” of the individuals trying to get their work done.

So leadership as being in command not control.

That seemed like an interesting topic to contemplate as it seems far removed from how we normally reward or monitor the performance and effectiveness of leaders.

And the second factor that came up today – leadership as a legacy. After attending a great dinner on Friday night hosted by Loddon Murray Community leadership I held onto a comment about our role as leaders being to pick up where others have trail blazed us to and then also paving the way for those following us. Each of us has an opportunity, or even an obligation, to smooth the way to some degree for those following us.

It made me think about the role of leadership as being about a legacy and in some ways it’s humbling to see yourself as both a leader (traditionally associated with success and being one of a small group) and as a piece of a larger puzzle or tapestry.

Two thoughts, related in many ways yet different.

Looking forward to more discussion and development on these areas.

Have a great day.


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Listening Leadership

Posted on August 3, 2010. Filed under: client centred, culture, expectations, Leadership and teams, leadership response, personal leadership |

Today I participated in a web conference about marketing and I began thinking about how some of those principles would apply to broader business activity including leadership.

Being focused and having a goal: this is like management and leadership 101 isn’t it? We all know that without a goal you might have a nice trip or journey yet you don’t know where you”ll end up. I agree that sometimes that’s not such a bad thing, although there are limits: my view is that life is about the journey as much as the destination and that it is the how as well as the where that is important.

Keeping it about others not you: in marketing terms this is about focusing on your segment of the market and delivering what they want (like the pull concept) rather than what you want to produce (or a push context).  In coaching and counselling terms this is also referred to as client centred: keep your attention 100% focused on the person/people you are dealing with and when they are satisfied with what has occurred then you have done a great job.

This one took a while to really “get” because being someone who takes pride in what I do I was always wanting to do the best that I believed was possible for me to do. And then I realised that sometimes when people have developed or learned or received what they needed that is enough. Sure there may be future times where they come back for more and the additional pieces of the puzzle, but there can be limits on over delivering. Please note that I do also manage to have this co-exist with a principle of going the extra mile and the belief that it is better to over deliver than to over promise.

Listening and responding: no this is not just about communication, it is more about hearing what the audience needs and then responding and perhaps adapting so that need is met. I like the alliteration of leadership is listening, but really what does it mean?

To be a leader is to be the first to correctly interpret what a team or a client is saying, confirm that with them and then work with them to deliver on that need.

Being a leader is being open to the views of others, even when they may differ from your own. This can be one of the hardest things to master – especially when new to a leaderhip role and/or when working in a competitive environment. So many people seem to believe that they have to be and be seen to be right 100% of the time in order to be effective or successful. Making space to listen to alternative points of view may seem like a weakness to some.

Creating the right environment for people to bring their best to the table is all about leadership. Many people talk about employee engagement and the statistic at the moment is that one third of employees are looking for another job. Another current statistic is that 48% of employees admit to having covered at work for a colleague who is hung over. Would these numbers be any different if leaders in companies had created open and honest environments where matters such as these could be discussed in a no blame context?

We talk of consultation and communication without really paying attention to the ground work that needs to be done, especially by leaders, to create the culture and perceived safety that is essential to staff being really open about their views. And being brave enough to contribute their best creativity in brainstorming activities. At this point I am harking back to one of my earliest posts about leadership being like gardening – the leader needs to prepare the ground for there to be a fulsome harvest.

These words of mine feel very similar to the concepts and principles of Courageous Followership and Servant Leadership, yet I’ve deliberately tried to keep away from words such as those due to the uncertain or negative connotations they often have.

Effectively leadership as a concept is as unique as every one of us, yet as tried and tested as the tides. There may be variations and sometimes stormy weather, yet the patterns of success are the same and there are some consistent fundamentals that need to be applied for there to be success.

When I think of leadership at the moment I am thinking of a couple of friends. Their story is a very personal one and not for me to share: suffice it to say that they have been through a deep loss and are grieving. Yet they have remained constant as friends to others while being able to ask from their friends when they need. Their story is powerful and compelling yet they listen closely and attentively to the words and expressions of others around them too. They are leaders in the way they have accepted their individual journey and made it their own: not allowing themselves to be swayed or judged by what others expect, yet at the same time forging a path that is open to others to learn from and follow regardless of whether they are in the same situation to begin with.

Isn’t that leadership?

Of course environments and people are different. And so there cannot really be one leadership way. I do agree with Stephen Covey from 7 Habits of Highly Effective People – begin with the end in mind, first look to yourself before looking to others to resolve concerns, and sharpen that saw.

I’m off to do some saw sharpening this week: attending a BizFest tomorrow in Bendigo and a breakfast event the day after. Networking and learning and sharing my knowledge where it is relevant. What a great week.

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