Archive for the ‘Leadership’ Category

One of the characteristics of a multiplying type of leader according to Liz Wiseman’s book Multipliers is that they are talent magnets who gain a reputation of being the best people to work for.  According to Wiseman, “People flock to work for them knowing they will be fully utilized and developed to be ready for the next stage” (p. 63).  This contrasts with diminishing leaders who, instead, focus on building empires.  Diminishers “bring in great talent, but they underutilize it because they hoard resources and use them only for their own gain” (p. 63).

I’ve worked for empire builders and I’ve worked for talent magnets.  I didn’t stay with empire builders for long.

For my current employer, I’ve had the great fortune of working in my present and most recent previous role for talent magnets.  In fact, I approached each of them with the idea of joining their team in some proposed capacity that was not at the time a part of their plans.  They were talent magnets for me as I worked to convince them of the needed role and that I was the person for it.  In each case, first in 2009 and again in 2011, after several months of discussion and planning, roles were created for me.

Both of these managers and the departments they lead (or led in the past) have no lack of people wanting to join their teams.  As for our current social media team, we know that when we have positions open we have the luxury of looking for and bringing on nothing but the best because of the competition that exists for the openings.  Adding two more people soon should be quite fun and exciting for us (assuming all goes as expected in gaining approval for the roles).

I’ve heard it said many times that people come to a position because of the job, but they leave because of management.  I believe that is frequently true.  I have left roles for that reason.  How much better is it to be working for a leader who is a talent magnet and to work among the great talent that magnet attracts?

Leap year lesson #322 is Be a talent magnet, not an empire builder.

It is self-evident that leaders need to be able to lead or else they fail at the primary role they hold.  That said, I can’t imagine anyone in any position of leadership who has always made the right decision, so perfection is an unrealistic expectation of any leader.  It’s surely rare (but possible) that there have been leaders who always made the wrong call.

We’re all human.  Sometimes we get it right.  Sometimes we screw up.  That goes for leaders and followers.

When leaders mess up, what is important is how they take that knowledge, own it, and then change behavior so that it doesn’t happen again.  That is the only right response to becoming aware of one’s shortcomings in leadership.

That is, unless it’s too late.

Sometimes the negative impact of leadership is so damaging that the leader becomes the story.  This is almost always the critical point at which the leader must realize that he/she cannot continue to lead in that setting any longer.  Indeed, in the absence of significant followers, he/she is not leading, anyway.  When circumstances reach this point, the leader needs to think first of the organization and its long-term good and step out of the way so that others can lead down a fresh, new path.

Leadership is hard.  Its demands are great.  Its impact is far reaching.  It is sometimes thankless.  It is anything but easy.  Still, in the case of failed leadership, the best thing to do may be to step aside and allow others to experience the excitement, newness, freshness and enthusiasm that comes from new beginnings under new leadership.  That may be the most selfless act of true leadership one can offer.  It may not be how we would have preferred the script to be written and acted out, but it may be the right thing to do.

Leap year lesson #295 is Leaders must know when to step aside.

I watched Tuesday night’s second presidential debate with great interest.  Although I am conservative and will vote accordingly, I genuinely tried to listen to each exchange and hear it from the standpoint of an undecided voter in order to make my own judgment about the potential impact of the debate on that all-important segment of the voting population who will determine the winner of the election.  I wasn’t listening in order to cheer on every punch my candidate threw or to combat every point made by the other side.  I seriously wanted to sit with a notepad in hand and put a simple tick mark in a column for Romney, Obama or Draw after each question’s series of responses.  While I won’t share the score in all three columns here, I will say that I put more tick marks in the Draw column than in either of the other two.

It was a challenge to try to listen to each speaker and imagine how the general population might respond to the debate.  It is impossible, of course, to completely separate our biases from our ultimate judgments of who wins or loses arguments.  It is, however, possible to try to do a far fairer job of it than we typically do in politics and other areas of life.  It is not difficult at all (if we try) to be more unbiased than the spinmeisters who clutter the airwaves after a debate.

Our country is as polarized as I’ve ever seen it politically.  No matter which side wins in November, about half the country will be disappointed.  Many will hold grudges and be uncooperative until they get a chance to win again in 2016.  That’s a shame.

Part of the leadership we need is to unite our people around common concerns and purposes.  For someone to lead that way, he will have to do the very hard thing of being as unbiased as possible, listen to all, work across the aisle, and then make a decision and own it.  Anything less will just perpetuate the division.

That is no small task.  I wish the eventual winner well.

Leap year lesson #290 is Bringing people together takes real leadership.

Leaders need to tell their people the truth.  That goes for governments, businesses, civic organizations, churches and any other group.  When there is no longer the solid belief that you are being told the truth by someone in a position of authority, then there is no longer the basis for trust that must be there in order to continue that relationship.

These thoughts come to mind because of a situation I am aware of in an organization I belong to outside of work.  I won’t be too specific here because this isn’t the proper place or the time to divulge details, but I can at least draw from it a daily lesson learned.

Participation is this group is voluntary, but long-term relationships run deep.  The thought of turmoil, conflict, angst, distrust and hurt feelings in this group sickens me.  The thought of leaders lying to their people sickens me more.

There are some hard, private, one-on-one conversations that need to happen soon to avoid things unfolding in a terrible way that damages more people and the organization.  Leadership needs to stop trying to save face, and stop hoping that the matter and certain individuals go away.  Instead, they need to be honest with their people, own up to their actions and the reasons for them, and trust that the situation is one we can get through if they tell their people the truth.  In the absence of that, they forfeit their right to lead and I can freely exercise my right not to follow.

I know this all sounds vague to a reader not involved with my situation, but the point of the lesson is what is important, not the details of it.  That lesson is that we can never afford to get to a place where leaders lying to their people is acceptable.  We may cynically accept it in politics (although we shouldn’t).  In government and other organizations we belong to, we must challenge and hold accountable leaders to tell us the truth, or it is time for that leadership to change.

Effective leadership requires trust.  Trust involves integrity.  Integrity demands honesty.

Leap year lesson #272 is Leaders can’t lie and still lead.

After teaching a class at church this morning, I was taking a coffee pot down the hall to clean when I was pleasantly surprised to see my daughter-in-law Lauren and 18-month-old granddaughter Abby round the corner a few feet away.  Within a few seconds, Abby reached for my finger and clearly wanted to walk down the long hallway.  So we did.  Then she wanted to go down the next hallway, up some stairs, to another set of stairs, across a pedway to another building, then down some more stairs – half empty coffee pot still in need of cleaning and still in hand.

All the while she had a good grip on my finger and a good grasp on where she wanted to go.  We let her lead until we got to a point where we needed to direct her toward the parking lot.  She was occasionally reluctant to go where we wanted, but a well-timed “Let’s go find Daddy” perked her up to come along in our preferred direction.

Since Abby is my granddaughter, she has standing permission to grab my finger and lead me wherever she wants to go – anywhere she wants to go and for as long as she wants to go unless there is danger involved or an unbending schedule demands less flexibility.  She trusts me.  I trust her.

In other relationships and scenarios, we need to be more cautious, though, in whom we allow to lead us so easily.  There is no shortage of people around who want to lead – politicians, bosses, family members, friends, neighbors – even strangers who knock on our doors and ask for our support in some cause.  Some of the above are worth following on occasion.  Some are not.  Wisdom and discernment are needed to judge the situation and the trustworthiness of the other people before allowing them to take us by the figurative hand and lead.

Not everyone is built to lead.  Some only follow.  Not all who are built to lead are worthy of following down the path they would take us.  Be careful who you allow in that role in your personal and professional life.

Leap year lesson #266 is Be careful who you follow.