On Leadership, Inspiration and Leading With a Modern Flair

Creative Problem Solving

Great leaders are always looking for ways to inspire their team, engage others in conversations and generate an exchange of ideas in new and creative ways.

There is a big difference between what people do out of compliance and what they do out of motivation and personal investment.

The goal is to move beyond compliance and provide a fresh approach to inspiring professional growth.

Inspiring Employees

In an article entitled, “10 Ways Not to Motivate Employees”,  the author writes:

“Employees are feeling unmotivated, uninspired, unconnected and just burned out with work. Part of that is possibly because management is not connecting with their employees, encouraging them and finding out how to inspire them and help with whatever they might be struggling with.”  – Conselium and Compliance Risk, July 17, 2013.

As a new Assistant Principal in an elementary school, I was searching for a way to inspire teachers and invest in their professional growth. What I did not want to do was add another time consuming meeting to their already full plates. My goal was to provide inspiration, thought provokers, and conversation starters in a unique and simple way.

I wanted to “break down the walls” of our organization and facilitate a more global perspective on what is important in our line of work.

Leading With A Modern Flair

In this age of digital tools and social media, I turned my attention to creating a platform that is engaging and quick, yet provides relevant content and timely information that is shared in a creative, fun, and motivational way.

Harnessing the power of the web-based platform S’More, social media site Twitter, and the curation tool Paper.Li, I designed a weekly professional development vehicle just for our staff which delivers relevant content and the sharing of ideas and latest trends in our profession-contributed by others from around the world.

I also provide a space for comments, questions and feedback from staff, which proves to be a great tool for collaboration and the back-and-forth exchange of ideas.

The weekly “S’More From The AP” is delivered to staff via email each Friday. This allows for the staff to access it on their own timetable and allows for conversations to develop and build throughout the upcoming week.

What Goes Into The Creation?

Throughout the week, I collect tweets, articles, blogs, and videos which I think would be of interest to my staff or that are important to our own ongoing growth.

Somewhere around mid week, a “big idea” either starts to develop from the material I have been collecting, or it is something that is more personal and tailored to our personal organization needs.

I start looking through my collection and seeing what ties in with the “big idea” for the week, and soon the S’More begins to take shape.

Format

I tinkered around with a few ideas, but here is what I finally settled on:

  • Mini blog post (big idea)
  • Worth Reading (blogs/articles related to idea)
  • Worth Watching (videos that go along with the idea and articles)
  • Tech Corner (A quick shout out to a favorite app, website, or platform that teachers may like)
  • Tweet of the Week (An idea captured in a tweet I have saved. Usually motivational).
  • Scenes From Our Week (pictures of teachers I have taken throughout the week as they are teaching).
  • Link to Staff Weekly Magazine. This is a paper.li that I publish every Thursday, and I include the link in the S’More. It contains articles contributed by members of my Professional Learning Network on Twitter which may or may not be “big idea” related. This platform is very user friendly; you can create a magazine in minutes and set your own publishing schedule. The free service does most of the work for you! You simply select the items you want to include from the pre-published version the website initially creates for you. All content for the magazine is pulled directly from your own Twitter feed, and you choose the contributors.

Keeping Focus

I do not include anything like upcoming dates, events, announcements, or anything of that nature because my principal communicates that information.

This is more of just a professional learning investment, for those who want to partake!

The final touches I usually do on Thursday night and I send it out through email at the end of the day on Friday. I have received very positive feedback on this from our staff!

Final Product

Here is a link to this week’s S’More:  https://www.smore.com/93jab

You can also look through my other weekly S’Mores to see the shape it has taken each week. With a little bit of initial set up, you can create your own personal vehicle for bringing inspiration and new ideas to your own team. This is the type of modern flair that you can bring to your team!

This helps in opening up a global perspective and moving your team beyond compliance into satisfying and rewarding professional growth in which they are truly invested.

What creative ways have you found for sharing motivational ideas or delivering meaningful resources to your employees? I would love to hear your suggestions!

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———————–
Traci Logue

Traci Logue is an educator at Northwest ISD
She has twice been named Teacher of the Year
Email| LinkedIn | Twitter | Blog | Web

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On Leadership and People, Process and Production

People Process Production

Regular readers know that I try to help both newcomers and experienced project management practitioners and other leaders to achieve above average results using what they have at their disposal.

Because very few projects have the luxury of having the best of the best, the kingpins, or the people who make things happen on their teams, project managers need to be exceptional people managers and motivators. (Projects by nature are risky, so organizations usually keep the best people focused on the known, the proven and the established.)

The leadership method described here is not well documented – nor is it recognized as an “official” management or leadership strategy – but I can guarantee that it is a principle that will work in both management and leadership environments.

People, Process and Production

People

Most people have lives outside of work, ambitions, aspirations, hopes and dreams. If you follow one simple rule – EVERYBODY IS IMPORTANT – you will move mountains.

Acceptance, appreciation, interest and above all trust are the highest forms of recognition. If you expose your team members to these (genuine) affections, they will find ways to align themselves to your goals, they will search for ways to excel and I promise you that they will search for the plate to step up to.

If someone is wanted, regarded and trusted, they reward such positive treatment with the behavior that is suitable. If your team is made up of the “second-best” or even not that flattering groups, you will be able to show that their behavior, dedication and hard work is appreciated, recognized and NOTICED.

Superseding the once “best-of-the-best” has happened to many of the people who were on my teams. The moment they get used to the good behavior = good results programme, they are hard to stop…

What do you have to lose? Give it a go…

Process

In its narrowest form, a process describes how we move from one point (state) to another. If we think about the common understanding of a process, it can be likened to a roadmap.

What is hidden from view are:

  • Departure point – Known
  • People responsible for each action / task / node –Known
  • Information required to complete each action / task / node – Known
  • Input requirements for each action / task / node – Known
  • Output requirements for each action / task / node – Known
  • Success factors for each action / task / node – Known
  • Documentation for action / task / node – Known
  • Completion requirements for entire process – Known
  • Success factors for entire process – Known

If people know and understand what they are required to do, by when and to which standard, they will do whatever is required to achieve the result (successfully). If they understand who will take something forward, they humanize the situation, they treat others as clients, and your example (above) is sound, they will treat each other in the same way.

If you look inside you – you will be able to attribute each failure that you have had to the absence of clearly defined goals and objectives – internal or external.

Production

The sentence that people DO NOT want communicated inside an organization is this:

>>> IT IS ACCEPTABLE TO FAIL.

The reason organizations try and avoid this is because they have not learnt that the correct statement should be this:

>>> IT IS UNACCEPTABLE NOT TO TRY!!!

Bloopers, failures and whoopers can be repaired – with honesty and integrity.

If everybody is allowed to try their best, fail, learn, and move forward – progress in every sense will be staggering.

Fear is one of the most negative emotions that people can experience. If they are required to perform any function within a basis of fear you can predict the results.

Q: So if your team is motivated, know what they need to do, and they know that their best will be acceptable – what should the manager or leader do?

A: Stay out of their way!!

The only way that a leader or manager can enhance the performance would be through enablement – Make sure they have what they need, help where they need help, encourage when the day is dark and praise when the sun is shining.

THE ABSOLUTE PPP RULE:

Superior production (delivery of agreed results within time-frames, budget and materials consumption frameworks) is achieved by positively motivated people, doing what is expected of them, and working without fear.

GUARANTEE: If this does not work for you – Let me know!!! I will publicly renounce the statement!!!

Please feel free to comment, share and re-post this…

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———————–

Anton van den Berg is a Project Professional at Aveng Limited
He serves Organisations to Advance to the Next Market Level
Email | LinkedIn | Twitter | Web | Blog

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A Recipe For Failure: Focusing On Success

Great Recipe

When cooking food, a little too much or too little of an ingredient can ruin a dish. So if you are cooking from a great recipe, it is vital to focus on every aspect of building that recipe in a way that will yield success.

Great meals don’t come from great recipes; they come from great execution of a great recipe.

Great Recipes Do Not Equal Great Results

At first, I couldn’t understand how someone could have a great recipe for a great meal but still not be able to produce a great meal. With that reasoning, everyone should be master chefs (and we know that’s not the case). I have come to realize in my ignorance and oversimplification of cooking that the problem lies not so much in the recipe as it does in the placement of focus.

Let me explain, great chefs have great focus and an innate ability to place focus on the right things at the right time. A masterful meal is the byproduct of placing great focus on the details and the processes. The reason many fail at making great meals is because they are focusing too much on… making great meals.

Notice Your Focus

As a youth football player I tried being a kicker (kickers are cool in little league). I couldn’t make the cut and had to settle for a skill position. Who knew playing a position other than kicker could be a demotion! The reason I kept failing as a kicker was because I was focusing too much on trying to make successful kicks rather than the actual process of kicking.

Q: So what does a successful kicker, cook, and company have in common (if only “kicker” was spelled with a “c,” my alliteration would be classic)?

A: The answer is, they all do well when they focus on the details and not the results.

They don’t focus on success because they recognize you can’t place focus on results; you place the focus on the details and processes it takes to produce results. Great kickers have an incredible ability to avoid the temptation of wanting to look up and see if their kick in going to be a successful kick or not.

Similarly when it comes to organizations, I have seen where leaders really wanted to be successful but were not able to stay focused on the details and processes it took to produce success.

Recipe for Disaster

Here are a few examples of how recipes for success can come up short:

1. Missing Ingredients

A team wants to be successful, yet no one brings the focus down to the real issues that preventing or hindering its success. Take the time to find what’s missing; could very well be the key ingredient to your success.

2. Half-Baked Plans

An example of a half-baked plan would be having a long-term strategy that you abandon when the early results are not what you hoped for. If this is a long-term process, then stop assessing it by short-term indicators.

Indicators are important, but they are not results.

That’s like pulling the chicken out the oven half-baked and tossing it in the trash because it’s taste was not what you had hoped for. News flash, don’t expect half-baked chicken to taste like anything other that half-baked chicken! You don’t pull out half-baked chicken to taste it, you pull it out to see if it’s cooking according to plan.

Leaders can feel the pressure to show immediate returns on their work that they fall into taste testing their approach and not merely assessing it. This can lead to constant abandoning of incomplete plans and approaches. This can also lead to high turnover and instability within an organization or group. Be sure to keep checking on you plan, just remember that it’s still not finished yet.

3. Wannabe Master Chefs

Don’t try to get creative until you’ve mastered the basics.  People often view creativity as if it is the opposite of order and discipline. Creativity should actually be an expression of high level mastery of the fundamentals. Many try to go out and start with this new creative, out of the box approach only to fall well short of all expectations. Before we become creative, let become competent. Once you’ve mastered your understanding you can begin to apply it in unique, and innovative ways.

What’s your recipe for success? Once you have your unique ingredients, turn your attention to the details and process of following your plan, strategy, or approach. This will help you have the success you’re looking for. My wife (who’s a wonderful cook) at times would ask me how I would make such wonderful dishes on the rare occasions that I do cook? My reply is usually the same,  “I followed the directions from the recipe, Sweetie.”

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Dr. Tommy Shavers

Dr. Tommy Shavers is President of Tommy Speak LLC. and Unus Solutions Inc.
His lenses are Teamwork, Leadership, and Communication
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Empathic Leadership Is Not Doormat Leadership

Doormat

Does this describe your leadership?

  • Inherently, you’re always able to tell how others are feeling on any given day.
  • You don’t need to “walk a mile in someone else’s shoes” because you naturally imagine yourself in others’ lives or situations.
  • You are often referred to as intuitive and conscientious. In fact, you’re ability to understand where someone is coming from, sense their concerns, and give voice to their emotional concerns can make it feel as though you’re reading their mind.
  • You always weigh the feelings and perspectives of others before taking action, which people tend to notice. Even if someone on your team hasn’t voiced a question or concern, you are aware it is lingering in their mind.
  • Though everyone is capable of being empathetic, you have a natural talent for knowing the right things to say in the moment, and understand where people are sitting even without any personal connection.

That is because you are talented in the strength of Empathy.

Soft Does Not Empathy Make

Make no mistake, just because someone has the strength of Empathy does not mean they are weak, a push-over, emotional, or any other barrier label you can think of. If unsophisticated, it is very likely they could show up that way; however, a sophisticated Empathic leader will leverage their strength to build relationships and trust that allows their team to feel heard and important.

People want to follow a leader who recognizes they are people and is able to take their perspective into account. NOTE: that does not mean a leader with Empathy cares or will act on that information. This strength simply allows them to be aware and see the human element innately.

Leading With Empathy

If you are a leader with Empathy, it’s important for you to recognize where your boundaries are. While people’s personal lives and opinions are important, you cannot submit to, or accommodate all of their woes.

Being a good leader means taking into account what is relevant and important to their engagement at work, otherwise, you’ll be easily taken advantage of.

Remember, everyone has bad days and everyone has parts of their job they dislike; your people do not need to be over the moon 100% of the time! Utilize one or two of your other strengths (Analytical, Deliberative, Focus, etc.) to determine when to bend and when to acknowledge, draw the line, and move on.

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“So what’s MOST important to your Team?”

Signature ShowcaseFind out & Learn to Lead with Empathy with
Recalibrate Values Sorting Exercise!

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Building Effective Relationships

You are able to build relationships with emotional depth which will make you approachable and safe. That will help you when you have to deliver the tough messages – you’ll be able to deliver the information in a way that your people feel accounted for. If they feel they are invested in and you actually understand their situation, they will be more likely to invest the time and attention required to improve their performance.

You’ll also have the advantage of insight into those others might find “difficult” to work with.

All people seek to be understood, whether they are consciously seeking understanding or not. Your ability to connect in a real way will help people who have built up walls trust you and begin to open up.

While some people will never be “open books” or want to discuss every issue they have, you will still be able to establish a trust that will allow them to let you support them when they actually need it.

Overly Emotional vs. Emotional Awareness

Attributes related to emotion often get a bad rap in the business world because being emotional is seen as a weakness. While most people would agree constantly getting upset or frazzled by every little thing would impede performance, being aware of your emotions and those of others is actually an asset.

Depending on the other strengths are wrapped around an individual’s Empathy, it could be used in a very strategic way; if they are aware how their boss is feeling, or what makes them happy, or what time of the day they are most approachable, those with Empathy would know when to make requests on behalf of their team or themselves.

There is also a possibility, depending on their intentions and other strengths, that they could manipulate others to achieve their own ends. So, don’t discount someone with Empathy – that may end up being a big tactical error on your part!

If you’re a leader that has the talent theme of Empathy, how do you leverage it to lead? Have you ever been called emotional? How did you respond? Do you lead someone with Empathy? How do they display it? Are they unsophisticated? How would you coach them to become more sophisticated inside this strength?

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Alexsys "Lexy" Thompson HCS, SWP

Alexsys “Lexy” Thompson is Managing Partner at Fokal Fusion
She helps building Strong Leaders through Strong People Strategy
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Leadership and Truth Found in a Comma

Commas

I just lost thousands of dollars because of a punctuation mark. A comma, of course.

Yes, a simple comma cost me much in a legal case.

The Little Stuff Counts

The Story of a Comma

Excited to move my business practice ahead, a contract was on my desk to sign. The agreement to hire and gain more sales was attractive. I was thinking this was a legitimate proposal and was not thinking that it might be a scam.

I looked over the contract and read the expectations that the service would be rendered without any hitches. I was eager to move the business forward. The contract was simple, just a couple of pages, and did not seem to need any more proof reading.

Flash Forward

Now, three months later, I am listening to the voice of the court clerk asking me to read the name of the business that had not kept its agreement and had been over paid for services not rendered.

  • I read the name.
  • Again, I read the business name.
  • A little confused, I read the business name once more.
  • The court clerk, asked me again to read the name of the business.
  • Again, I read the name.
  • What was I missing?
  • The court clerk then asked me if I could see the comma?

I looked carefully at the corporate register’s search document and saw that a small comma in the business name was visible.

What Did That Comma Mean?

A Stupid, Stupid Comma

The comma was a part of the business legal name and when the comma was left out of the Affidavit of Service it would cause the case I was filing nullified. A little item like a comma could play a significant part in the outcome of the complaint I had. A little object, like a comma could cost me thousands of dollars.

Few businesses use a comma in their name and surprised I  learned the comma was a ‘red flag’ to the court clerk. For me, it was not something I had expected. This made me realize that lies are often subtle and rarely expected.

A small comma is like a small lie. It can seem insignificant but have multiple impacts. The comma could have stopped the legal process. The comma could have prevented justice. The comma could have …blah, blah, blah…

A Comma in a Business Name

The legal name of the parties involved in a contract is a very important consideration. A small oversight such as a comma in the legal business name can nullify a court proceeding. To make sure that the document is correctly written, a corporate profile search undertaken at a registry office.

This double-checks that the legal name matches the contractual agreement. If a civil court case ensues this documentation is helpful. Some companies know a case loses because of this small oversight, so do the research before going to court.

How Prepared are You When Signing Contracts?

Your Ethical Journey

Business leadership is an ethical journey but sometimes unethical people lay snares that entangle and cause serious disruptions in the day-to-day operations. Therefore, contracts are an important source of truth and writing one carefully can save future misunderstandings, reduce operational headaches and risk.

All written contracts should make sure that both parties are evenly and fairly represented. The contract is a binding document that is easily to interpret and to follow.

Leadership and Truth in a Legal Agreement

Legal clauses are crucial in interpretation from what the contract states to meaning from the words written. The contract states and clarifies short and long-term commitments. The legal clause are found in change in control agreements, publishing agreements, speaking contracts, etc.

Legal clauses are disclaimers, non-disclosure statements and business-marketing strategy agreements.

Understanding detailed legal statements requires expertise beyond the scope of this blog; however the point that legal jargon is relevant and important for leaders is critical.

Truth in a legal contract is a trust that extends to both parties of the agreement. The buyer and the seller in a contract want to gain from the relationship. Neither expects the other to defraud. However, fraud results as the outcome of side-stepped truth.

So, just like the comma is a ‘red flag’ to keep in mind to prevent possible snares documentation is also important.

Solidify Your Business Contract

Documentation is the single biggest reason projects succeed. To write successful contracts include statements that are meaningful and understandable.

The following sentence will show a good deliverable.

Target decision makers called without allowing no downtime in the campaign.

The following sentence will show a better way to write a good deliverable.

Target decision makers have a website that is under performing with a page rank of 0-3; and furthermore allowing no downtime in the campaign hours between 8:00 AM to 1:00 PM on weekdays.”

Good Leadership Documents Outcomes

The best way to decide if the contractual agreement works is to document outcomes.

Create a spreadsheet to track the obligations of the buyer and the seller; such as, the date, name and deliverable in the contract on the spreadsheet.  Documentation of calls, emails, personal and business meetings recorded give evidence.

In the following contract, three key questions see whether excessive downtime caused problems in the campaign.

“Target decision makers have a website that is under performing with a page rank of 0-3; and furthermore allowing no downtime in the campaign hours between 8:00 AM to 1:00 PM on weekdays.”

  • Were the decision makers called?
  • Did the campaign run on the expected hours?
  • If a website was under performing did they get help?

This documentation of outcomes reduces anxiety and measures expectations realistically.

Truth is justified when seen with evidence. For example, get the evidence that your website is not under performing with critical web analytics today. Gain confidence knowing your management and leadership performance with executive video assessments. Documented outcomes are how leaders can solidify their businesses.

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Q: So then, what documented outcomes do you value?

A: Please post your comment below. I would love to hear your thoughts!

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——————–
Loreen Sherman

Loreen Sherman is CEO of Star-Ting Inc | Executive Coach | Sr. Mgmt. Consultant
She serves clients with a 3-D Analytic Assessments and Succession Planning
Email | LinkedIn | Twitter | Web | Corporate | Booking | ☎ 
403.289.2292

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On Leadership, Fear and The Under Use of Power

Power Button

Years ago I shared an office in a house that had been converted to offices for independent practitioners. One day, in a session with a client, things admittedly got a little noisy.

The next day, I found a typewritten letter under my door, addressed to “The Occupants of Room 4.”

It read:

“On Wednesday April 16th, at approximately 10 am, there was an excessive amount of noise from Room 4 that disturbed the other tenants. Please be reminded this is a shared building, and noise should be kept to a minimum.”

It was signed by Greg, the physical therapist upstairs. I saw this guy every day on my coffee break.

So What’s Up?

Since I know this guy and saw him every day, I wondered why didn’t he simply knock on my door and ask me to keep it down? Or why didn’t he just leave a note in my box, asking me to be more sensitive next time? So in response, I wrote him a note of apology and agreed to keep it down.

But his method of notifying me really bothered me. Why did Greg have to act so bureaucratic when we had a friendly, collegial relationship. I thought about it for weeks, and then it struck me. Greg felt weak.

He was afraid to approach me directly, so he relied on rules, on legalese, rather than on our relationship.

The Under Use of Power

When we think of the misuse of power, our thoughts inevitably fly to the headline grabbers: the tyrants and bullies, schemers and scammers, or our first boss or sixth grade teacher.

Yet surprisingly, some of the biggest power problems stem from under use, not overuse of power.

Like Greg, not being comfortable with power, not identifying with one’s authority, whether it stems from a formal position, or an informal personal power, can cause just as much conflict and mayhem as does the overuse and abuse of power.

As John Adams said:

“It is weakness, rather than wickedness, which renders men unfit to be trusted with unlimited power.”

Immature Understanding of Power

The cliché, “I won’t be like my mother (or father)” holds especially true when it comes to power. We grow up in a context where power was used on us: by parents, siblings, on the playground, by teachers, and other adults. If we’re lucky, we were the beneficiaries of good, healthy uses of power. Chances are we weren’t entirely lucky.

A common response we develop is to blame power and to determine never to misuse it. But, here’s the thing: The more you hate it, the worse you’ll use it. You can’t enact authority simply by vowing “never to be like others.”

Hating power is the worst preparation you can have for occupying a position of authority.

The challenges I see in my coaching practice more often are the “Greg variety,” more often stem from avoiding using our authority, and trying to minimize our power footprint.

But these following behaviors wreak just as much havoc – albeit a different kind of havoc.

4 Misuses of Power

1) Avoiding Difficult Conversations

Trying to avoid one difficult conversation quickly spirals into a department wide mess.

  • A boss who refuses to deal with the conflict on her team, hoping it’ll just “work itself out,” is at risk of losing valuable team members.
  • Teachers who don’t take control of classroom dynamics let unsafe atmospheres detract from learning.
  • Team leaders who won’t intervene when someone dominates the meeting allow projects to degenerate into frustrating and pointless endeavors.
  • Parents who don’t set limits inadvertently teach their children that they’ll always get their way in relationships, and never develop the self-discipline and frustration tolerance necessary to work towards goals.  

Maybe we’re afraid of conflict, or just want to side step the awkwardness, but if things aren’t already ‘working themselves out,’ chances are they will just get worse without some kind of intervention.

2)  Not Making the Tough Call

Discussion airs issues and is good for creative problem solving, and an egalitarian atmosphere is critical for open discussion. But at some point, decisions have to be made. Too much discussion inevitably plunges a group into conflict. If a leader is vague, uncertain, or hesitant to make decisions, it creates chaos, confusion and conflict for others.

People don’t know what to do, outcomes are uncertain, work is often done for naught. And in the leadership void created by uncertainty, people jump in and fight for the reins.

The group can spend a lot of time sorting through conflicts about direction and inevitably get mired in power struggles. When power is not directly inhabited, it doesn’t just disappear but seeps into the interactional field, and is contested there, without awareness and without facilitation.

It’s an extremely exhausting and taxing process for organizations.

3) Using Too Much Ammo

Feeling like you have too little power often leads to the opposite: using more firepower than the situation calls for. If you underestimate your own rank, and are convinced you’re the weaker party, you tend to increase your fire power.

You use too much ammo out of fear you’ll be defeated, or not getting your point across. Whenever we feel one-down, we use extra force. We don’t see that we come across as an aggressor, and then we interpret the other’s defensive response as proof that they are the aggressor.

We then increase our firepower yet again, and suddenly we’re in a runaway escalation of our own making.

4) Relying On rules

Like Greg, who wrote me the officious letter about noise, reaching for a rule before trying to address things through relationship can create rather than resolve conflict. It stems from feeling weak. Unable to represent our side without an ally, we cc the boss, HR, or others onto the email.

Or, we threaten indirectly, by sounding legal or referring to procedures.

But reaching for rules, guidelines, or procedures when things go awry, or as a way to influence someone, should be a last resort, not a first step.

Just because power can be used poorly, and often is used poorly, doesn’t mean we need to avoid it. We need power. We need strength to be direct, to have tough conversations, to take responsibility, to minimize conflict, and most importantly, as leaders, to develop those around us.

So, are you guilty of misusing power by not using it wisely? Or are you subject to this in your workplace, home, or recreational life? How can you improve your understand of power and use it more effectively as you lead others? I would love to hear your thoughts!

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——————–
Julie Diamond

Julie Diamond is a Leadership Consultant, Coach, and Trainer
She specializes in Designing and Delivering Leadership Development Programs
Email | LinkedIn | Twitter | Facebook | Web | Blog | Skype: juliediamond8559

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On Ice Cream, Mushrooms, and the Three Ages of Leadership

Alexander the Great

Almost daily I see an article or post telling me leadership is situational. One size does not fit all, they say; we must adapt our leadership behavior to suit the context. Ken Blanchard is the original proponent of situational leadership, but the idea has been adopted by businesspeople everywhere.

Left mostly unexplored, however, is one of the most important contexts for a leader:  their age.

The Leadership Career

I’m not talking about chronological age, but rather the stage we’ve reached in our leadership career. Are we just starting out, perhaps a first-time project manager? Climbing through the ranks, seeking to build our influence across the organization? Or sitting at the peak of our powers (however defined), secure in the fact that at least a few bucks stop at our desk? Each stage has its requirements.

In the March 17, 2008, issue of Fortune, there’s an article by Stanley Bing called “The Seven Ages of Business.” It’s a parody of a Shakespearean soliloquy. In it, Bing scans the seven stages of a leader’s life, from “the tiny associate” all the way up to “the chairman, the bee at the center of the hive.”

It’s a terrific article, but I believe the ages of leadership can be compressed to just three: the New Leader, the Rising Leader, and the Tenured Leader. To understand these stages, let’s look at three great leaders of ancient times: their traits, their mottoes, and the foods they might have Instagrammed were they alive today.

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The New Leader: Alexander the Great (356-323 BC)

  • Peak decade: His twenties
  • Famous for: Setting off at age twenty to overthrow the Persian Empire, and succeeding; being one of the first leaders to think strategically about military campaigns and utilize inventive battle formations; gaining the fanatical loyalty of his troops by fighting alongside them and sharing their hardships.
  • Food he’d Instagram: Ice cream. Legend says he invented it. According to Plutarch, while on the march through cold countries Alexander would have his cook mix snow with wine and honey, thereby creating the first iced dessert. If the story is true, we have him to thank for a good chunk of the world’s happiness over the past two thousand years.
  • Character traits: Boldness, creativity, good humor
  • New Leader’s Motto: “Lean in.” For a new leader, Sheryl Sandberg’s advice is spot on. But don’t be a pushy jerk. Instead, be like Alexander: go first, think creatively, and lead by example. If you have an idea for color-changing ice cream, now’s the time to put it out there.

The Rising Leader: Julius Caesar (100-44 BC)

  • Peak decade: His forties
  • Famous for: Working his way up from obscurity; conquering Gaul and a few other regions; using a combination of military prowess, astute alliances, and self-promotional tactics to topple the Roman Republic and become the first supreme leader of Rome and all its territories.
  • Food he’d Instagram: Asparagus. At a banquet at the home of one of his allies, Caesar was served a dish of asparagus that had been mistakenly dressed with ointment instead of oil. He swallowed it with no sign of disgust and later chastised one of his retinue who complained. “He who reflects on another man’s breeding shows he wants it as much himself,” he said.
  • Character traits: Diplomacy, generosity, political savvy
  • Rising Leader’s Motto: “People first.” Caesar was a master of alliances and saw his supporters as his best and surest guard. Like him, rising leaders must take care to build coalitions at all levels and avoid ticking people off. Be prepared to eat some messed-up asparagus rather than insult your dinner host.

The Tenured Leader: Emperor Claudius (10 BC – 54 AD)

  • Peak decade: His fifties
  • Famous for: Being considered an embarrassment due to his limp, mild deafness, and stammer; surviving the purges of Tiberius and Caligula’s reigns; becoming Emperor of Rome at age 51; building roads, harbors, and aqueducts; conquering Britain.
  • Food he’d Instagram: Mushrooms. Canny and careful, Claudius managed to survive the murders and executions that decimated his extended family after the death of Augustus Caesar. Once he became emperor, however, it wasn’t so easy to fly under the radar. A dish of mushrooms—one of his favorite foods—was his undoing. Most accounts say they were poisoned by his wife, Agrippina, who wanted to ensure her son Nero’s succession to the throne.
  • Character traits: Integrity, judgment, circumspection
  • Tenured Leader’s Motto: “Look before leaping.” The biggest trap for a tenured leader is over-confidence. It doesn’t occur to us that our long-time favorite strategies might stop working or that our flatterers might not have our interests at heart. So, proceed with caution. Snarfing down that tasty dish of mushrooms could be a fatal error.

What stories do you have that illustrate the ages of leadership? What other mottoes would you propose for each stage? And which would you rather eat: ice cream, asparagus, or mushrooms?

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Jocelyn Davis

 Jocelyn Davis is Founder and CEO of Seven Learning
She is an Author, Speaker, and Consultant on Leadership Issues
Email | LinkedIn | Twitter | Facebook | Blog | Web

Image Sources: romandudes.com

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