Sunday, 26 April 2015

Show how much you care...

I started to write these blogs 3 years ago out of desire to share my understanding of the issues related to authentic leadership.  For the most part I have been able to avoid becoming too repetitive.  But this time I am being deliberately so as the topic is, in my mind, that important.

As a leader, do you have the courage to answer this question?

What is your shelf life; or put in other words, what is your 'best before' date?

You may recall from earlier posts that one of your primary responsibilities is to be the person with the most passion.  You are always the `glass half full` champion from whom the rest of the team draws its strength when things are difficult.  This role can be both physically and emotionally draining with the potential of sapping you of your joy.  And if that happens, your leadership effectiveness is at risk.

Let's face facts.  At some time or another we must all move along (or aside) and allow someone else to take the reigns.  Sometimes it is a matter of age; sometimes the changes in technology require a new approach; perhaps it is simply at matter of lack of passion.  Regardless of the catalyst, will you respect your position enough to relinquish it?

In a small business this decision can be extremely delicate because of potential succession issues within the family.  In larger firms, giving up the status and influence of your role may be a blow to the ego.  But if you truly are the leader that you feel you are, you will set aside the personal aspects and do the right thing for the company.

It is a tough call!  But if you are sensing that the company needs a change then you can be pretty certain that your staff have been sensing if for an even longer period of time.  We are generally the last to admit personal shortcomings.

Get input from your partner; seek the opinion of a trusted peer; or call in an outside professional who can be honest and dispassionate.  But don't let it linger.  Too much of what you have already built becomes at risk the longer you postpone the inevitable.

Take the burden off your shoulders and show how much you really do care.  Everyone, including you, will be better off in the long run.

Friday, 17 April 2015

It's all about 'we'!

We have been led to believe that leadership is all about the individual.  But the reality is that there is a big distinction between leadership and the leader.  In fact, leadership is less about the 'me' and almost always about the 'we'.  Let me explain.

Anyone can declare themselves to be the 'leader'.  But the act of declaration does not confirm anything.  Consider the assertions of Gen. Haig after the attempted assassination of President Ronald Reagan.  Haig was Secretary of State when he learned of the attempt and boldly declared '...I am in charge...'  The US constitution though had already addressed such a situation and Haig was well down the list of candidates.  His comments were noteworthy but meaningless.

Though less grandiose in the grand scheme of things, our declarations are likewise without merit if our status is self proposed.  In the absence of the affirmation of others, we lead no one and thus we are no more significant than a bell without a clapper.  Furthermore, without a common goal or objective, there is no where to lead.  Simply staying in place has equal merit to chasing our tails and indeed they are one and the same.

Leadership then is must be viewed as a threefold equation.  First, there must be one individual who is recognized as the leader.  As long as this individual is appointed in an appropriate and legitimate manner, their skills and qualities are not a topic of debate.  Their appointment confers both the appropriateness and legitimacy.  Secondly the individuals being led must acknowledge the legitimacy and they must willingly support the individual.  Their option, if they oppose the leader, is simple...quit.  And finally there must be a common goal which satisfies four criteria.  The goal must be legal, ethical, moral and achievable.

These three represent an authentic leadership model.  You can now see how leadership is very distinct from being a leader.  Leadership is all about the 'we'.  Being a leader is all about the 'me', that is, the qualities, characteristics and skills that one brings to the position.

Finally, why is it important to understand this distinction? 

Any approach that does not comply with this model is not, by definition, an authentic leadership model.  For example, if you speak of a military or other crisis response situation, it is not a leadership model but a command model. If the person in charge seeks no input or exhibits no empathy to the 'followers' then that person is a dictator, not a leader.  If compliance comes by virtue of threats or actual harm, that person is not a leader but a tyrant. 

What model defines your approach?  If you are more likely to be in the commander, dictator or tyrant classification, then there is little wonder why you are not reaching your goals on a consistent basis.  Take a long look in the mirror.  If all you think of is 'me' and not 'we' then you are falling short...far short...of your responsibilities and getting the type of outcome you have earned and deserve!

Wednesday, 1 April 2015

The paralysis of failure.

They are four short words;
'...if only I had...' 

Most often they are expressed with at least a tang of regret.  Sometimes the longing is to be able to undo that which was done.  Other times the desire is to have acted on that which had been left undone.  Regardless, done or undone, it is past tense.  You cannot change the past.  But how often are we paralyzed by it?

As a leader you are no different from the rest of humanity.  You make mistakes.  Things do not always work out as planned.   

Spoiler are fallible.

What differentiates the most effective leaders from their peer group is their response to failure. Does your regret sap your confidence, your joy and your passion?  Does fear of failure paralyze you from moving forward?  Do you dwell on the mistake?  Or do you learn from it and use it to motivate you to future success?

Your team chooses to follow you because of the character that you display, day in and day out.  They are all realistic enough to know that perfection does not exist, but strength of character does.  What will motivate them to continue to follow and support you lies not so much in your ability to be perfect, but rather in your ability to carry on. 

When the inevitable happens, acknowledge it, learn from it, and use it to your future advantage.  And do it immediately. The longer you wallow in the trough of failure, the longer it will take to reach those fields of success!