Bold Leaders and Stretchy Necks

In an organization that I worked in many years ago, I recall once taking an unpopular and controversial stand on a particular issue about which I felt very passionate.

My director at that time asked me if this was “the hill that I wanted to die on?” He did this while discreetly suggesting that I was perilously close to ending my career in this organization if I continued chasing this issue.

I did persist, and eventually found myself outside the circle of power.

To this day, I am not certain that my persistence made a big difference within the organization; however, I am confident that I made a bold (and correct) decision. I believe this even if my own interests were not well served in doing so.

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As I approach the point in my life that a colleague kindly refers to as “professional maturity,” I find that I possess greater clarity on the traits that I respect in a leader.  I admire leaders that make change happen by having the personal conviction and courage that I would associate with bold leadership.  I believe that the effectual leader is the one that is able to make the tough decision while willingly accepting some degree of personal risk, and do it all for the advancement of a cause greater than themselves.

There is no moral precept that does not have something inconvenient about it. ~Denis Diderot

Leadership involves sacrifice.
In an age of political self-serving and calculated risk-taking, I find it both inspiring and hopeful to see a leader stick their neck out for the benefit of others. This is the price of true transformational change.  Iconic leaders like Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks, and Nelson Mandela each took a bold and passionate stand for a cause that was known to be unpopular;  and each knew that they would pay a steep price (hatred, suffering, and humiliation) for their actions.  You probably have heard what they did to Jesus for taking a resolute and unpopular stand.

The true measure of ethical leadership lies in leaders doing the right thing, especially when it is unpopular and inconvenient. These decisions define not only who we are as leaders, but who we become as human beings.

As a leader, describe the last decision that you made that you knew to be the right thing that involved personal sacrifice. How did you come to that decision? How did it make you feel for doing it? Are you better off, or not? I would love to hear your story!

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Paul Short is an independent OD and Change Professional.
He can be reached at paul.short@live.ca

Image Source: 4.bp.blogspot.com

Human Connection: The Achilles Heel of Technology

Who would argue that technological advances have not profoundly changed our lives in a significant way?

Information that was previously unavailable to us, or at least inconvenient to access, is now a mere keystroke away. We are more knowledgeable, and  have become a global information society, with immediate and virtually unlimited access to information. In many ways, the wireless technology has drawn people, previously thousands of miles apart, closer together.

Consider how technological advances have altered how we interact with each other.

In the late 70s, AT&T used the slogan “Reach out and touch someone” as part of their Long Distance Telephone marketing campaign. The inferred message was that using (their) long distance service would facilitate a human and personal connection between two people who are miles apart. The ads attempted to humanize an impersonal and unfeeling technology. 

In today’s world of mass media and fast food, I wonder if what we consider technological advances, are really for the better?

Given our means of communicating more, we seem to be connecting less.  In the US, a staggering 2.5 billion text messages are sent every day.  Our ability to adapt to the sensory preferences  (visual, auditory, kinisthetic) of others is becoming neglected.The teenagers and young adults today are bright, engaging, and tech-savvy.

However, I wonder if the convenience of tools such as text messaging, has compromised the art of human connection? Is this the Achilles heel of technology? 

It seems somewhat paradoxical that as the technology narrows the distance between us, in some ways, we are being drawn farther apart. Perhaps the problem is that volume and availability of information are insufficient to create a human connection; believability is a function of how the information is exchanged.  

The impersonal nature of much of our new technology has negated the emotional risk and reward that exists in personal connection, and in so doing, has removed that which makes the human communication meaningful.

How has technology caused more distance with your personal relationships? Has the increasing ability to communicate electronically stalled meaning face-to-face-communications with anyone you know? I’d love to hear your thoughts and stories!

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Paul Short is an independent OD and Change Consultant.
He can be reached at paul.short@live.ca
Image Source: static.open.salon.com

Leaders as Patrons of Faith

Faith & Work
The idea of faith is often associated with theology. However, more broadly defined, faith means firmly believing in something that cannot be proved.

So how does faith play out in the workplace?

Merriam-Webster suggests that faith involves complete trust, without doubt or question. In viewing leadership from both a spiritual and secular perspective, perhaps the most powerful leaders today are those who convey confidence and inspire faith in those that they are responsible to.

To one who has faith, no explanation is necessary. To one without faith, no explanation is possible”.  ~ St. Thomas Aquinas

The leader/manager is accountable to satisfy many needs in an organization, and certainly in today’s challenging economy, business planning and execution would be near the top of any list of priorities. In part, organizational visioning processes create a foundation for strategic and tactical planning.

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Introducing  The Micro-Training™ Platform

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People achieve great things when they see meaningfulness in a cause and see an opportunity for success. The truly difficult part for leaders is to enlist commitment from employees once the direction or path has been determined. The challenge is to create faith in the followers; to create belief, without question, that success is possible.

Five faith-inspiring maxims for leaders:

  1. People function at a higher level when they have some skin in the game.  Strong leaders facilitate discovery of an internal connection (meaningfulness) to the vision – for themselves and others.
  2. Leaders are often seen as symbols of the organization. Integrity builds trust; trust confers believability. Leaders always function with unquestionable integrity.
  3. Celebrating the small successes can serve to reinforce belief in future larger successes. Faith and belief need to be ingrained in an organization’s culture.
  4. Stellar communication practices allow information to flow freely through an organization – in all directions. Leaders need to be exceptional communicators.
  5. Acknowledge concerns and encourage scepticism. Commitment to success is never well-served when disbelief and lack of faith are pushed underground.

It seems that we are increasingly becoming a faithless community. There is a pressing need to trade off belief for predictability and control. For example, consider the current popularity of quality control and improvement programs such as Six Sigma.  It could be argued that these programs are necessary to quantify current performance, but that future potential can best be determined through faith in the unproven, and yet undiscovered, capability within the individual.

Can an organization’s power be increased by inspiring greater faith in the employees?

In your experience, how can the leader/manager effectively inspire faith?

Please share you thoughts on how you are creating a sense of “belief without seeing” in what you are doing. What are some of the challenges? What are some of the benefits that you have experienced when you actually had to step out in faith at work?

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Paul Short is an independent OD and Change Professional.
He can be reached at paul.short@live.ca

Image Source christianitytoday.com
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