On Leadership and Cowboys and Snowmen

Cowboys and Snowmen

I’ll confess… what I wanted to be when I was younger is no longer my career aspiration… I wanted to be a cowboy. A real American cowboy!

That may have been a side-affect of watching too many John Wayne movies as a kid.  Although my dream career as a kid was “highly aspirational…” It was far more realistic than the kid down the street from me. He wanted to be a snowman…

Although, growing up in Northern Minnesota, a snowman may have been a quite possible career choice.

On Dreams and Dreaming

The danger of having big dreams, it seems, is that dreams don’t always come true.  Dreams may not portray reality as time unfolds. Consequently, most of us lose the ability to dream big in our careers.

Considering how much time and effort it takes to have a successful career, it is surprising that we stop short of continuing our deep desires and we often stop dreaming big. 

This summer, we took our kids to Disney World.  At the end of a very long day, the park closed with a light show and fireworks display.  During it, the song “When You Wish Upon A Star” was playing, and I was caught by the line,

“When you wish upon a star, makes no difference who you are…”

Adult, though as I am, I was left wondering why we stop believing that our wishes can come true.

Keep Dreaming, or Wake Up and Smell the Coffee

To get a handle on your vision of the future, ask yourself these questions:

  • Where do you see yourself in the next few years? 
  • What do you see yourself doing?

These can be difficult questions to answer. But your answers may help determine your current satisfaction and motivation levels, whether positive or negative.

For most employees, the days are gone of putting in a career with one company.  It is estimated that most employees will leave a position after less than 5 years. And in reality, many employees are leaving positions much earlier than that. 

Today’s employees are often expected to be more customizable, uniquely talented and qualified, and dispensable then they once were.

Creating Balance

In this down economy, people may be entrenching in current positions in hopes of waiting it out until the job market turns around. However, employees now are much more likely to evaluate their career choices based on what they want to do, instead of what the company wants from them. 

  • Are you in the position you want to be?
  • Do you want to be with the organization you are with for years to come?
  • How long do you see yourself in your current position/company?

How you answer those questions will likely impact the effort you put in, the relational level you invest, and the attitude and approach you take to your work and the organization’s long-term success.  Take steps now to get where you want to be, whether with your current organization or in a different one.  

You owe it to yourself, your organization, and the future success and happiness of both.  Don’t stop dreaming.

As leaders, what is the importance of being practical?  What dangers are there in dreaming big?  What big dreams do you have for your leadership and your career?  Are you in the right position with the right company for your dreams and their dreams to be accomplished?

——————–
Joe Plante is a Doctoral student in Organizational Leadership
He serves in training, leadership, & organizational development
Email | LinkedIn | Twitter

Image Sources: cooldesktopbackgroundsx.com

Winner Winner Chicken Dinner

Winner Winner Chicken Dinner

If you began reading this article because you like to eat fried chicken, or because you enjoy gambling, then I must apologize. This post is about leadership and how to win at it.

We can grab a bucket of chicken, take it to poker night, and have fun saying “Winner winner chicken dinner” on another occasion…

“Duh, Winning!”

Duh, Winning!So what is the secret recipe to winning as a leader that is going to earn us that chicken dinner? Is there a Secret Recipe of 11 Herbs and Spices that makes leaders into consistent winners?

Or perhaps is the formula for being a winning leader a bit simpler?

The key to “winning” as leaders is to be constantly learning and improving.  (Although actor Charlie Sheen might have another definition of “winning.”) You need to develop yourself and those around you to be a winner.

Just simply know this:

Personal development IS professional development.

What you invest in for yourself can prepare you to use later to invest in other people.  However, many leaders seem reactive instead of proactive in dealing with the present and preparing for the future.

  • We are in an unprecedented era of change.
  • The pace of life and work has never been so dizzying.
  • If leaders are not able to adapt to or start change, they may find their leadership outdated.

So what about you? What steps are you taking, or plans are you making, to further your development?

Prepare to Succeed

If leaders are not able to adapt to change, and personally change, they will not be able to sustain their success.  Leaders must be preparing for the future to be successful in the future.  There are many tools and resources to help leaders prepare themselves for the future.

Start with Exercise

One helpful exercise in better understanding your leadership strengths is called Reflected Best Self (RBS).  The exercise involves requesting feedback from those who know you about your leadership strengths, and feedback about times you have excelled as a leader.

Much discussion on leadership development today  focuses on whether to try to develop leadership “blind spots” or “gaps,” or whether to instead focus on further sharpening leadership strengths.

Getting Stronger Faster

The RBS exercise emphasizes the benefit of focusing on strengths.  Strengths are motivating.  While encouragement is motivating, criticism can be draining.

It is a paradox of human psychology that while people remember criticism, they respond to praise (Roberts, Morgan, Spreitzer, Dutton, Quinn, Heaphy, and Barker, 2005).

There are many other assessments to help gauge your strengths and preferences.  The Myers Briggs Type Indicator [MBTI] is particularly popular.

Leaders who operate from their strengths are more likely to be successful.

“ . . .Only when you operate from strengths can you achieve true excellence (Drucker, 1999).

Additionally, self-awareness and self-understanding are important to leadership success.  Many leaders do not know their true strengths. Leaders who know themselves, are better able to lead.

Most people think they know what they are good at.  They are usually wrong (Drucker, 1999).

In Pursuit of Excellence

Personal and professional development is your responsibility.  By pursuing further development and identification of learning opportunities, employees are bringing additional value to their organizations, because organizations must also be improving and adapting to sustain and further their success and growth.

What is the best way to further professional development? 

  • Networking?
  • Academic Education?
  • Training?

How are you developing yourself as a leader?

This may depend on your organization and position.  Think strategically about your current leadership and your current role, and then find your desired leadership and desired role.  Recognize the steps necessary to get from the present to the desired future.  Create a game plan for getting there.

What will you learn this year?  How will you improve?  Be successful as a leader by constantly learning and improving.  Your future success will be partly determined by your efforts today.

——————–
Joe Plante
is a Doctoral student in Organizational Leadership
He serves in training, leadership, & organizational development
Email | LinkedIn | Twitter

Image Sources: beckeyskountrykitchen.com, ohinternet.com

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