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Posts Tagged ‘vision’

3 Modern Leadership Myths

November 17, 2011 Leave a comment

mythbustingTen or twenty years ago, debunking leadership myths was easy. In every other corner office you could find an overconfident boss barking orders to masses of underperforming employees. However, over the last decade there has been a shift in the prevailing management winds.

Most of the changes have been good—though none revolutionary. People are getting more respect. Collaboration, engagement, and performance are all on the rise. More and more companies are doing well by doing good. None of it is “new,” successful leaders have been doing this stuff for years. It’s just becoming more acceptable.

However, there are some questionable tenants in this growing “new” leadership doctrine that haven’t been fully thought out. They sound good and leaders are assimilating them as founding principles, but after further inspection, you’ll see many of their premises are flawed.

I offer the following examples and ask for your feedback:

Myth #1: There’s no place for harsh or domineering leadership styles. In this new era of individual respect, the idea of a leader issuing unilateral orders without asking for opinions from others seems utterly barbaric. As a result, the autocratic leadership style is snubbed and reserved for dictators and half-wits. In fact there a number of situations where a strong autocratic leadership style is called for—so we should learn how to use it, not ignore it. What would you think of an EMT that arrived at the scene of an accident and promptly gathered everyone around to hear their opinions on what to do first—CPR, call for more help, or tend to other wounds?

Myth #2: Experience is the best teacher for a leader. It’s etched in every big company’s fast-mover career timeline—get the right jobs to get the right experience. You do that and you’ll be better qualified for leadership positions at the top. I have nothing against experience. In fact, it’s an absolutely essential part of learning—but it’s not always the best teacher. Yesterday’s experience may be totally irrelevant to tomorrow’s challenges. If you’re not careful it could pigeonhole your view of the world and lock you into an antiquated perspective. For experience to make you better, you must reflect on it.

Myth #3: You have to be an optimist to be a great leader. There’s no room for pessimism among great leaders—they’re always hopeful, always positive, and always believing that good will triumph in the end. Yeah, well, you could say the same about the couch potato who sits at home all day watching motivational speakers on YouTube. The fact is, you need some pessimism as a leader. You need to be able to envision the worst possible scenario—and really believe it could happen—if you’re ever going to successfully defend against it. And honestly, without pessimism, there would be no real change. All change starts with a discontentment.

What do you think are the big myths in leadership today? 

How to Drive Clarity as a Leader

June 22, 2011 4 comments

leadership clearClarity is a leader’s best friend.

Think about how fun and rewarding it is to serve a leader who’s providing clarity. Think about how miserable and frustrating it is on a team that lacks it.

All the marks of an exceptional leader—authenticity, initiative, trust, courage, insight—stem from clarity.

Being clear with yourself about your purpose and core values enables you to answer tough questions, make quick decisions and act with confidence. Being clear with others engenders trust and guards against misunderstanding, thus reducing friction and frustration.

As a leader, I strive for clarity in three main areas:

• Clear Thinking. When I get bogged down by unnecessary distractions, my team suffers. I need to keep focused on what’s important in the moment—our purpose, our people, the problem at hand. Exercising, eating right and getting enough rest all help me think clearly.

• Clear Communication. Poor communication can negate great leadership. It’s that simple. I could have the best vision, best solution, best intent, best plan—but if I can’t communicate it clearly, none of it matters. Understand your receiver and deliver a message on their terms, not yours. Aways get a back brief.

• Clear Conscience. Transparency and authenticity go hand in hand. The more clear and open you are with other people about your thoughts, feelings and ideas, the more believable and trustworthy you become in their eyes. And the easier it is to sleep at night. We waste so much energy maintaining our personas and facades.

As leaders we deal with ambiguity every day, but where you can, strive for as much clarity as you can with the resources you have. It’ll make life easier for you and those you lead will love you for it.

Where else do you think clarity is important?

Shooting for the Moon

May 25, 2011 1 comment

leadership vision

I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth. 

John F. Kennedy

50 years ago today, John F. Kennedy charged congress—and the nation—with the most ambitious goal of the 20th century: putting a human being on the moon. This idea galvanized the nation for years to come. Many still look to the accomplishment of this goal on July 20, 1969 as one of America’s greatest achievements.

How did this simple statement drive such a monumental effort? I believe it met—and exceeded—all the criteria of a SMART goal:

1. Specific: He completely avoided ambiguity. When speaking of the future we tend to use vage speech. Kennedy left no wiggle room. He even included bringing the person home (that’s the tough part).

2. Measurable: The Space Race had been in full swing since the Soviets launched Sputnik four years earlier. The US needed a quantifiable goal—a way to judge and determine success.

3. Ambitious: You’ve got to stretch yourself, inspire yourself, push the envelope of what you think is possible. This is where purpose and passion are forged. Landing someone on the moon still fires the limits of our imagination.

4. Realistic: Counter to the previous criterium, your goal must remain in the realm of possible, albeit on the edge. Putting someone on the moon in the 1960’s would be difficult, but doable.

5. Timeline: “…before this decade is out…” Setting a time limit is crucial. it focuses and intensifies your work, giving you something to drive toward. Otherwise there’s no urgency.

What are you shooting for—what’s your moon?

How to Achieve a Strategic Viewpoint

February 10, 2011 8 comments

Leadership Thinking

When I was a boy of fourteen, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be twenty-one, I was astonished by how much he’d learned in seven years. – Mark Twain

One of the most powerful realizations for anyone—especially a leader—is the day you discover that your view of reality isn’t necessarily (isn’t even usually) the same as reality itself. We all have a point of view; meaning, we have a finite vantage point from which we see people, issues, and situations. Reality exists, but we rarely see it in its objective form.

Regardless, leaders still need to make decisions according to their best guess of reality. One of the best ways to improve your guess is to collect different points of view into a unified, strategic perspective. Here are seven tips to keep in mind as you gather other opinions and viewpoints:

1. Quantity helps. The more perspectives you get, odds are, the better picture you’ll get.

2. Diversity helps even more. The more varied perspectives, the fuller the composite view. Talk to everyone from the janitor to the CEO. Don’t dismiss people because of position (higher or lower).

3. Really listen. Don’t just go through the motions. Appreciating someone’s point of view is more important than agreeing with it.

4. Put Yourself in their shoes. Use your imagination. Try to truly look out from where they are.

5. No one has the whole truth. No one sees all the dimensions of reality; we all have a limited piece of the puzzle. Don’t take any person’s opinion as the gospel.

6. Hold your tongue. Don’t offer your opinion right away. If you’re the leader, you might unintentionally shut down other people.

7. Don’t overlook your own view. You have a valid point of view yourself, don’t lose it among all the others. Your perspective might just be the missing piece to the puzzle.

How do you ensure others’ perspectives help and don’t hinder your vision?

7 Reasons Why No One is Following You

August 31, 2010 18 comments

poor leadershipI believe everyone has the capacity to lead. If that’s true, then why aren’t there more skilled leaders out there? I (and a slew of my betters) spend a lot of time thinking, writing, and talking about how to lead well – how to take what you’ve got and use it to guide and inspire others. Even with all this help we struggle sometimes to muster all our gifts and talents and skills in the right direction. We fail to connect with those we mean to lead. We fail to convince others to join us on the adventure.

Many blame their inability to attract great followers on external factors like the economy, poor timing, lack of capital, no experience, or even bad weather. I believe the biggest thing that holds us back isn’t external, its internal. We sabotage ourselves with runaway emotions and uncontrolled attitudes.

So here are 7 ways that I’ve seen leaders make themselves unattractive to followers. I hate to admit it, but I’ve fallen prey to each of them to some degree at one time or another. So watch out!

1. You’re selfish. Nothing stinks more than a selfish leader. This can be subtle. But it’s easy to sense selfishness in a leader, and the stench will turn your stomach. Leaders serve people and organizations. Period. Be generous!

2. You’re anxious. Fear is healthy; anxiety is deadly – to you and your followers. Go ahead, be afraid. Then do what needs to be done in spite of your fear. That’s courage. That’s what people follow.

3. You’re insecure. An insecure leader, trying to gain worth or significance from others, is just plain pathetic. You must trust yourself before you can expect others to do the same. Know what your identity is rooted in.

4. You’re short-sighted. People want to go somewhere grand and accomplish great things – no one dreams of being a loser. If you can’t see the bigger picture, the bigger vision, you definitely can’t lead anyone there.

5. You’re not going anywhere. You can’t steer a parked car; neither can you lead without moving. The movement doesn’t need to be physical; you can move hearts, minds and beliefs – but you’ve got to move!

6. You’re entitled. Think you deserve to be trusted? Think again. Trust is always – always – earned. Followers choose to give it or withhold it. If you want their trust, ask for it, don’t demand it.

7. You’re a jerk. At it’s core, leadership is a relationship. You can’t hope to get the best out of someone if you treat them with disrespect or contempt. Great leadership springs from a genuine care for others.

Which of these 7 do you struggle with the most?

Did I miss any?

3 Things Bill Hybels Knows about Leadership

August 10, 2010 11 comments

Leadership tipsLast week I attended the Global Leadership Summit and got to hear from some great leaders and thinkers including Jim Collins, Dan Pink, Tony Dungy and Jack Welch to name a few. Bill Hybels, Senior Pastor at Willow Creek Community Church and founder of the summit, opened the event with a story about a time recently when he was feeling discouraged as a leader and questioned whether he really knew anything about leadership.

Going back to the basics he slowly reassured himself that he did know a few things about the subject. Here are three things he shared from what he’s learned during his 35 years leading one of the largest and most influential churches in America:

1. Leaders move people from HERE to THERE. This simple truth is not in and of itself revolutionary. However, here’s the key insight: the first step in moving people isn’t telling them how wonderful THERE will be – if you do that first, you’ll always have some people who’ll say, “well, that sounds great and all, but we like it HERE. And we’re not moving.” The first step should be to tell people how awful it is HERE. Help them believe that they cannot stay HERE, then show them how great THERE will be.

2. It Takes Fantastic People. Hybels recommends considering all your people and asking the question, “How would we react if this person told us they were leaving.” Separate each person into one of three responses:

  • “Phew!” – We wouldn’t really miss them and honestly the team will operate better.
  • “Ugh.” – That’s a key position, now we’re going to have to find someone to replace her.
  • “Vomit!” – This person is all but irreplaceable! What can we do to keep them!?!

Next, he suggests you talk with people in the first group and see if you can find them a better fit somewhere else. Finally you talk to individuals in the last group and you let them know that you consider them fantastic and invaluable to your organization. Keep an open dialogue and make sure they feel free to share any frustrations that may come up.

3. Mile-markers & Celebrations. The hardest part of the journey between HERE and THERE isn’t right after you get started or when you’re almost there, it’s in the middle. That’s where vision leaks and people lose hope. This is the critical leg of the journey. Find something to celebrate your progress – any progress. You must work to renew their sense of hope that they really are going to get there some day.

What do you think of his points?

What are a few things you know about leadership?

I See You

July 27, 2010 11 comments

Leader's VisionSawubona!

This is how the Zulu greet one another. It literally means, “I see you.” And, yes, they were saying it long before the Na’vi of James Cameron’s Avatar were saying it. Last week I offered 3 ways to connect with others. Number two was “Seeing People.” I’d like to dig into that a little deeper with the help of our African friends.

Sawubona isn’t just about seeing you physically; it’s about giving the gift of acknowledgment and recognition to your very existence. The response to Sawubona is Ngikhona, which means, “I am here.” The concept behind these simple words is that before you saw me, I didn’t exist – by seeing me, you bring me into being. It stems from the African worldview of Ubuntu (literally: I am because you are) which maintains that individuals need other people to ultimately be fulfilled.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu described Unbuntu as the essence of being human. He goes on to say that a person with Ubuntu is “open and available to others, affirming of others, does not feel threatened that others are able and good, for he or she has a proper self-assurance that comes from knowing that he or she belongs in a greater whole and is diminished when others are humiliated or diminished, when others are tortured or oppressed.”

We cannot lead what we cannot see. How many people do we interact with – or just plain walk by – everyday that we don’t take time to really see? Are we in some small way denying their  existence when we rush by them? I don’t know; but I do know how powerful it is when someone deliberately pays attention to me. So be generous with your time and attention today. As the Zulu say, Umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu – a person is a person because of people.

Who are you going to take the time to really see today?

photo credit Dr Cullen