Projecting and Reflecting

A simple principle about leadership

Projecting and Reflecting

Our followers will reflect whatever you project. It is just that simple. It is also just that scary.

Many years ago when our children were very young, I was joking about their behavior (and by behavior I mean misbehavior) in Sunday School one morning. I jokingly said that they must have learned that behavior while playing with the other children. The response from the teacher was humorous but it stung my heart. It became one of the most haunting little statements that anyone ever made to me when I was a young parent. Here is what she said: “Children only do what they see at home.”

I was suddenly mortified. What if that was true? (And I believe that it is to a large extent.) What if those little eyes really are watching my every move? Fast forward now many years later and I can tell you that my children have grown into incredible adults. They are each wonderful parents and role models for their own children now.

But stay with me, please. This is not an article about parenting. It is really a quick article about leadership outside of the home. And it is about how our followers perceive us. In other words, how do they perceive the leadership message or methodology that I am projecting? And can I tell what I am projecting by how they reflect my leadership?

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“Empathy…FUHGETTABOUTIT”

Leadership Lessons from the Shuttle Program

Empathy?

I have been spending a lot of time at work recently helping to implement a project that is dividing those that will be affected by it. Some are very excited about the opportunities that the project will provide, and others are concerned about negative impacts that they fear it will bring. The resistance has gotten political, and the war of words has permeated both conventional media and social media. Although I do not interact directly with those in opposition, I find myself wanting to reach out to them to correct a lot of the misinformation on which they are basing their statements and to chastise them for being so ugly in their choice of words, especially on Facebook and in website comments.

Since positions on this project are so sharply divided, it is obvious that, regardless of the outcome, one side or the other is going to be disappointed, bitter, angry, and even scared. I’ve had the chance to watch the project’s leaders reach out to those who are so critical of them. Those leaders have resisted the temptation to criticize and stifle discussion. Rather they have indicated a willingness to listen and to hear the background and justification for the fears. They have acknowledged that some of the concerns are, in fact, legitimate for some, and have offered ways to mitigate those impacts. In short, they have shown Empathy.

An Obvious Lack of Empathy from History

Now, Empathy does nothing to change the situation itself. The “facts of the case” remain the same. However, Empathy does speak to the heart of the individual. Being understood and having your feelings legitimized has a softening effect and even a healing component. It can be the difference between just experiencing disappointment as opposed to feeling steamrolled…discomfort instead of pain.

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Adaptive and Agile Leadership

Which One Are You?

Adaptive and Agile

So many of the world’s problems, and the issues that organizations, businesses, and people face every day can seem intractable and unsolvable. Leadership consultants Ronald Heifetz, Alexander Grashow and Marty Linsky discussed a new way to lead the charge to change in their book in 2009 entitled, “Adaptive Leadership”.

Adaptive Leadership calls for moving beyond outdated approaches and embracing new skills and attitudes to guide your organization in the 21st century. Adaptive leadership combines established ways of leading with new skills and new perspectives for dealing with unprecedented challenges.

I am currently engaged in writing a book about this need for adaptive leadership. I am choosing to talk about it in terms of being “agile” in our leadership. I don’t believe the words are interchangeable. But they are certainly synergistic.

What is the difference?

The differences to me are subtle. But they are real. An adaptive leader is usually discussed in terms of their ability to bring change to an organization or to guide the organization through a change that may be thrust upon them Agile leaders, on the other hand, are more concerned with the people and the processes that will be affected by the change.

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Ignorant or Oblivious Leaders

Is there any real difference?

Are You Ignorant or Oblivious?

Did you have a chance yet to read my article on the importance of “thinking” from last week? If not, I think it is well worth the few moments to step back and read that one first to get a baseline.

Just like that old saying that I found in an old frame, I know that there are some things that I know. And I know there are some things that I don’t know. The problem is that there are potentially a lot of things that I don’t know that I don’t know. Do you know?

That sounds almost like a line from a Gilbert & Sullivan musical. For those of you who are not theater buffs or who are under the age of 50, go “Google it.”

There were a lot of comments sparked and conversations started about the importance of knowledge and awareness of our own leadership situation. And those comments and conversations have caused me to want to take another look at this issue of ignorance and obliviousness.

There is a difference

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Leaders and Conflict

What can you do about it?

Leaders and Conflict

I have been thinking a lot lately about conflict and conflict resolution. I think we can all agree that some level of conflict is unavoidable. However, how we face it and whether or not we resolve that conflict says a great deal about our own leadership styles and abilities.

Consider the following statement by Warren Bennis, one of the foremost writers on leadership and organizational and management theory.

“Leaders do not avoid, repress, or deny conflict, but rather see it as an opportunity.” 

Leaders, this is one of your primary responsibilities. You cannot delegate this to one of your followers. Nor can you pretend that conflicts do not occur within the organization that you lead.

Conflict is unavoidable

I have spent much of my adult life working in the corporate world during the week and serving in a non-profit and volunteer organization on weeknights and weekends. And let me assure you that conflict is common to all organizations. Yes, you will even find conflict within churches and religious organizations. But we, as leaders, have the responsibility to sense conflict at its earliest stages and resolve it before it affects the entire organization.

True leaders do not avoid it nor do they run from conflict. I am not suggesting that they go and seek it out or that they invent it where it does not exist. But, great leaders must lead in times of calm and in times of conflict.

Conflict must be resolved

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Rockhopper Penguins

Leadership Lessons from an Unlikely Source

rockhopper-penguins

It would be a great thing if I could choose from where inspiration would come. But that is not the case. Today it comes from a documentary that I was watching recently about the migratory habits of penguins. That’s right, penguins!

What did I see?

I saw a group of very dedicated penguins trying, trying, and trying again to come ashore on one of the Falkland Islands and return to their nesting ground. With each attempt to come ashore onto a steep and rocky shore, another wave would come crashing in and sweep them off the narrow ledges that they were standing on as they tried to ascend the steep cliffs to its breeding grounds. It would wash them back out to sea and they would have to swim back and begin the ascent up the rocky cliff as wave upon wave tried to knock them back down.

The easy leadership analogy

The easy leadership analogy would be to take their persistence in relentlessly pursuing their goal of reaching their breeding grounds. The urge to breed is certainly a driving force in their lives. In fact, that drive is one of the strongest in our lives as well. These little penguins would try and try, and try again. And more often than not, they would be knocked off the cliffs and fall back down below and bounce into the surging turf. Fortunately, their little bodies were covered by a thick layer of fat and feathers to protect them from the elements. And each time they fell they would bounce around and then pop back up.

The other leadership analogy

But then I saw it.

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Going 1-on-1

Leadership Development

going-1-on-1

There are a lot of concepts and skills that can be communicated in group settings. Seminars and conferences are great forums for idea and information exchange. But, if you want transformation and not just information when it comes to leadership development, then you may want to consider going “1-on-1.”

I am incredibly blessed with a small cadre of leaders that I go 1-on-1 with on a regular basis. The frequency is not as often with some of them as I would like. However, the key is that I am talking or meeting with them in a focused 1-on-1 setting. It may be over the phone, but it is 1-on-1 and there are no other voices distracting us from our reason for being together.

Why 1-on-1?

The main reason for going 1-on-1 is that it forms an intimate and a private conversation between the two participants. It is in those moments that real dialog can occur. You can offer and receive significant feedback that would just not be appropriate in a group setting. And you can forge a relationship that will be sustained and strengthened by committing that time together.

What would we talk about?

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Know Your Followers

How much do you know about your followers?

know-your-audience

One of the factors that were most important for me back in the days when I was a professional speaker was a maxim that I learned from the former actor that taught me all I needed to know about professional public speaking. He taught me that I needed to “know my audience” before I spoke to them. Those were wise words.

What do you know about your followers?

Leaders, how well do you know your followers? Just what do you know about them? Do you even know them at all? These are tough questions. But, they are questions that we need to consider. Knowing them will provide us the insights into their lives and personalities that we need to be a better leader.

How do you get to know your followers?

Let’s assume for a minute that you accept the value of knowing your followers. How can you get to know them better? Consider the following ideas:

Go to them — Go and visit them. If you regularly have 1-on-1’s with your followers, consider having the next one at their office or sitting at their desk. Why? You will see the things that are important to them by what is on display at their desk. Is it a picture of their family? Their motorcycle? Is their favorite sports team obvious? You may not ever know some of these pieces that make up the whole person unless you make the effort to go to their space.

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20 Things You Need In A New Leader

Is it time for a change in your organization?

20-things-you-need-in-a-new-leader

Perhaps we don’t really “need” a new leader. Maybe we just really “want” it. Do you ever feel that way?

Change is inevitable. I know, that is so cliché. That doesn’t make it any less true. Leadership change is often needed when organizations have plateaued, been through a crisis, or leaders have taken themselves out of the picture for various reasons. In each of those cases, someone must take a hard look at the organization and the needs of all the parties concerned and select another leader.

What are some things that an organization should consider in selecting a new leader? Consider with me the following as a partial list of key skills, abilities, traits, or tendencies. It is not an exhaustive list by any stretch. But it may spur some thoughts and ideas as an organization moves forward with seeking and selecting new leadership.

They must possess Leadership Abilities– This one almost goes without saying. When selecting a leader, make sure they have demonstrated leadership somewhere and some place before you bring them into your organization.

They Must Demonstrate Past Performance / Results – When searching for a new leader, do your research. Check out the leadership candidate. Has he/she demonstrated strong leadership in the past? Do they get results?

They Must Realize That They Are Part of Something Bigger – Each of us is a part of a much larger organization. And we should consider that we are building something that is larger than our local organization and it should fit well with the larger organization.

They Must Show That They Have Learned From Past Mistakes – Everybody makes them. How does the leadership candidate show that they have learned from mistakes made in the past?

They Must Show That They Can Fit Within the System or Personality of the Organization – Does the candidate mesh with the organization’s overall system or personality? If not, you are destined for conflict.

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Be Genuine

Leadership Basics

Be Genuine

One of the buzzwords bandied about these days is “genuine.”  You will also see that used almost synonymously with the words “authentic” and “real.” But what does that mean?

Almost every definition indicates that to be genuine, authentic, or real is to be the same on the inside as you are on the outside when it used to describe a leader. It may be defined well by stating what it is not — It is not FAKE.

It is also not an excuse to be a jerk! Many times I have seen it used as nothing more than an excuse for one’s own bad behaviors or to excuse poor interpersonal skills. I have seen it used as an excuse to let a baser set of reactions govern our lives and coarser language dominate our speech when we need to be striving to elevate our behaviors and our words.

What does it look like to be genuine?

Consider with me for a moment 5 things that will help us recognize a leader who is genuine.

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