Did you ever get coal in your stocking?
Many of us have heard the story of Saint Nicholas who dutifully makes his annual list of good and poor performing children. He knows when they are sleeping. He knows when they’re awake. He knows if they’ve been bad or good. He tracks them throughout the year, noting what they’ve done that makes them worthy or not of toys at Christmas time.
The Gift of COAL
As the story goes, Santa brings coal for the stocking of those poor performing children. Interestly, poor performing leaders bring COAL to their organizations.
Please let me define COAL that poor leaders bring:
C :: Confusion
O :: Obesity [unhealthiness]
A :: Apathy
L :: Low
Without clear leadership, conflicting goals and competing priorities can create confusion. Confusion results in conflicting efforts, wasted resources, and general frustration within the organization. People are unsure of the right action to take because poor leaders give different answers to the same question.
Poor leaders are vague in their directions and lack the correct amount of control to critical tasks.
O :: Obesity:
Obese organizations are unhealthy and may eventually die. These organizations lack the leanness to survive. Obese organizations can develop negative beliefs and behaviors that can, like a cancer, eat away at the healthy part of the organization. The healthiness stems from not holding people accountable for their actions. Poor performance receives the same response as good performance. So, the good performers eventually lower their own standards or leave for healthier organizations.
A :: Apathy:
Poor leaders do little to develop commitment and motivation. Apathy and even cynicism can flourish in this environment. In what appears to be apathetic leadership there are few honest discussions. The un-discussable remains un-discussable and progress is non-existent.
Many in the organization know the problems, but few address them.
L :: Low-ness:
Poor leaders leave the organization generally very low; low in positive results, low positive levels of effort, low in skills to appropriately complete critical tasks. As a result, business goals are missed, work satisfaction is low, and the future seems uncertain. In uncertain environments the tendency is to hunker down and protect.
Growth slows to a crawl.
Good leader bring GIFTS
Good leaders bring gifts to their organizations. A good leader recognizes their contribution to the organization and they care about the people in their organization. As a result, the good leader has a positive impact on the organization and its people.
G :: Gain
I :: Inspiration
F :: Focus
T :: Teamwork
S :: Success
G :: Gain
The organizations accomplish goals. People feel like they are making progress on improvements and solving problems. There is a momentum to tackle the hard problems. The organization and the people see the benefit and experience the gain.
I :: Inspiration
There is a sense of “want to.” Leaders make us feel we can do more, and be more than we are. A good leader will take time with people, listen to questions, and provide support. The good leader seems to truly care about people.
F :: Focus
Good leaders provide clear, consistent communications to all stakeholders. There is no mistaking the goal and what needs to happen to achieve the goals. There’s power in the alignment effort that comes from focus. People have a clear understanding of the critical tasks that are required.
They’ve seen the gains being made and feel motivated to pursue the goals.
T :: Teamwork
Good leaders move us from “me” to “we.” There’s a connectedness between people and effective cross-functional communication comes easy. People work respectfully toward common goals. When there are difficulties, the leader will model positive behaviors by pulling people together to analyze and solve tough problems, rather than allowing people to separate themselves and talk about each other.
S :: Success
Ultimately, a leader leads to success. It’s the power of “we” that achieves great things. It is always amazing when someone can rise up and lead a group of people to accomplish together what seems unattainable.
The gift of a good leader is the shared vision, the sense of belief in the vision, and the empowerment to make the vision a reality.
What Good Leaders Do Well
What does your leadership style bring?
Each of us has a choice of how we respond to the conditions in our organization.
We can be a good leader or a poor leader. We may even choose to be no leader at all and allow bad things to happen to us and our organization without any effort to control it.
Most of us want to bear gifts to our organization. Very few desire to have ill effects on others. So, what are the things that good leaders do? There are three important attributes that good leaders have. Good leaders are obsessed with their vision, they hold people accountable, and they give the gift of feedback.
In his book, The Four Obsessions of an Extraordinary Executive, Patrick Lencioni writes about those leader obsessions. They are to build and maintain a cohesive leadership team, create organizational clarity, over-communicate organizational clarity, and reinforce organizational clarity through human systems.
People within the organization need to clearly understand the direction and goals they should strive for, there should be a strong leadership support system to provide support and direction, and there should be positive reinforcement for positive action.
It should be easy to do right and hard to do wrong.
Inspect What You expect
Holding people accountable has come to be thought of as very negative, when, in fact, it is exactly the opposite.
Have you ever seen what driving a car with no oil in the engine does to an engine? I have a friend who’s a mechanic and he tells me that it happens more often than you might think. But how does it happen? Most times the engine blows because the owner neglected to hold the engine accountable by checking the oil level.
Without this checking, or holding accountable the engine fails, the car fails, and ultimately the owner fails to get where they want.
In much the same way, a leader will check in, or hold accountable those that they care about. This act is an act of concern. It is what they find when they check in that determines whether they take action, or just allow things to continue as before. The leader who cares about people takes the time to check on people.
The Gift of Feedback
Lastly, good leaders give the gift of feedback. It takes a true leader to care enough about a person to offer insights and suggestions. Many people act or communicate in ways they do not intend. They cause bad feelings and hurt relationships.
A good leader, when coming across this situation, will provide the benefit of feedback, they become the mirror for that individual.
Whether that individual is a peer, boss, or team member, the leader cares enough to offer an outside view. The leader does not force their point, merely share a perspective. When others see the pure spirit of the feedback they don’t respond negatively.
We love good leaders like good children love Santa, because of the gifts they bring. There is a spirit of satisfaction that comes from being around someone who cares about you enough to show you with a gift. And as the old saying goes, it isn’t the size of the gift; “it’s the thought that counts.”
What are the thoughts you have for the people you lead? What kind of leadership style do you practice? What’s the legacy you leave and the gifts your leadership style brings? What could you do tomorrow to make your leadership better than it was yesterday?
Image Sources: eventa.co.uk, funnychristmaspresents.com, 4.bp.blogspot.com
- On Leadership, Corruption, and The Empire of the Heart (linked2leadership.com)
- The Quality of Leadership (socyberty.com)
- 7 Ways to Correct Team Members Correctly (linked2leadership.com)
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