- Episode Focus: Looking at several leadership articles from around the world including topics such as:
- Leadership in crisis situations
- Command and Control leadership
- Building around your strengths
- Rallying a team behind you
- Praise and reprimand
- Earning the right to lead
- Some tips for ‘C’-level leadership
- Fun aspects of leadership – from LEGOs to computer games
- Currently in Ottawa, so you’re probably noticing that my voice sounds a little different
- Lining up more interviews
VOCL Resources and Articles
This week – a random selection of 10 articles on different aspects of leadership.
“8 Ways You Are Turning A Crisis into Catastrophe (And How to Stop)” by David Wimer at Fast Company
Many people can lead when everything is sailing along smoothly, but a real leader’s abilities become evident during crises. This article highlights the following potential leadership pitfalls and how to overcome them:
- Being overly optimistic
- Denying that the problem exists
- Dabbling in trial and error
- Abandoning common sense
- Going at it alone
- Relying solely on logic
- Blaming others
- Cracking the whip
For the first bullet (‘being overly optimistic’), a point could be made about being overly pessimistic as being equally damaging – you need to give some hope that the crisis can be solved. For the fourth point (‘abandoning common sense’), I think that this is a wasted bullet – people may make some decisions that seem illogical to others, but it made perfect sense to them at the time. At least this bullet mentions that you should consult others who have a ‘track record’ of common sense, but to me, that sounds a lot like the 5th bullet (‘going at it alone’)
“Leadership: A Solution to Bullying” by Gen. Tommy Franks, U.S. Army (Ret.) at Digital Journal
This article cuts straight to the issue of leadership and bullying in schools. Using the analogy of a hand saw (of which there is a proper technique to use), the author provides the following quote:
“Leadership is a lot like using that saw: first you pull people to you, lifting them up by showing them some of their own potential. Then you can push them to be the best individual they can be doing the best job they can do.”
The article goes on to talk about leaders having a responsibility to develop themselves in four areas: character, communication, a common vision and caring. By developing these skills in ourselves and our followers, we are less likely to have a culture of bullies – not only on the playground but within our organizations, too.
“‘Command and Control’ leadership doesn’t cut it anymore” by Jim Fisher and Rose Patter at The Globe and Mail
This article speaks to the need to adapt the leadership style for today’s reality – yesterday’s rigid hierarchy does not offer the necessary flexibility in a fast-changing world. The key principle that the authors give in making the change is to empower your followers and have them guide their actions in accordance with the ‘golden rule’ – treat others as you would want to be treated.
“The leader must engage and energize the work force through extensive local empowerment, while at the same time keeping close control of the direction and critical points of the enterprise’s competitive advantage.”
If you provide your followers with a clear vision, simple guidelines and empower them, it will be easier for them to take action appropriate with your organizational direction AND in line with the ‘golden rule’.
“Deliver Leadership Strengths by Building Around Them” by Scott Edinger at Forbes
Some articles state that you need to improve on your weaknesses to become a better leader; this one states that you need to build on your strengths. More specifically, you need to improve the complementary skills surrounding your strengths, with some thoughts being:
- You don’t build strength in the same way you fix weakness (you need a slightly different approach in how you use your strength)
- Use interaction effect to your advantage (leadership skills build on one another)
- Follow your passion (you are more likely to improve something when you are interested in it)
- You won’t overdo it (when it comes to leadership effectiveness, is there really such a thing as ‘too much’?
“Leadership with a Capital ‘L’” by Ty Kiisel at Forbes
Sometimes actions that you take as a leader have repercussions long after the moment is gone. In this case, the ‘public’ firing of an employee during a 1,000-strong conference call resulted in a leadership article that says that this kind of action can take away the very qualities that you strive to instil with your followers: motivation, dedication, loyalty, and ‘zeal’. The author provides three tips in building these qualities:
- Give them a reason to show up today (do they have something meaningful to do, or do they understand WHY a task is meaningful?)
- Give them a reason to show up tomorrow (have you created an environment that people want to come back to – this ties in with turnover rates)
- Be authentic (this would include concepts such as transparency, engagement, and caring)
The third bullet raises an interesting question – if the person conducting the firing was being authentic to his character, then wouldn’t that make his actions a good thing? Could you argue that caring (as part of authenticity) was still present, but it was caring for the company and not the individual?
“Leadership actions that are not an option for leaders” by Jeffrey Gitomer at Biztimes.com
Leaders are expected to do many things if they are to be effective leaders – this article provides 13 areas of concern. I almost skipped over this article, however, until I read the following:
Great leaders value and display tolerance and temperance. First in themselves – then from others. I’m not a fan of leaders who rant. Lots of successful ones do rant, but there are rules to follow if you’re one of them.
RULE 1 – Praise in public.
RULE 2 – Reprimand in private.
RULE 2.5 – Record yourself doing both praise and reprimand. See how you sound to others by listening to yourself. You may not like it.
I agree with Rules 1 and 2, but I paused at Rule 2.5 – it’s an interesting concept. Some organizations may have a policy about recording performance reviews, but I doubt that any would have a policy about recording all conversations. I know that I have been on the giving and receiving side of countless presentations, but it was not until I started the VOCL podcast that I truly started to get an understanding of my voice and my presentation style. In the situations provided by 1 and 2, I would be tempted to hit the Record button and ensuring that I deleted the recording after the review was complete, but I really don’t know what the potential legal liabilities would be (especially for a reprimand)… Plus, even if it was legally okay, what would be the impact on my ‘stature’ as a leader if my followers found out? Hmmm… I see more potential downsides than upsides on this one.
(Original article has been deleted)
“Leadership is earned, not a right” by Bill Richardson at The Lawyers Weekly
Although aimed at lawyers, this article (which uses the word IMPACT as an acronym for leadership qualities) has a broad range of applications. It speaks to the point that leadership is something that you must continuously strive to earn instead of simply assuming positional power within your organization. IMPACT is broken down into six main areas:
- Influence – “aligning people with a shared purpose and a vision on how to get there”
- Meaning – communicating in a fashion to which people can relate
- Purpose – although labelled as “purpose”, this section more accurately focuses on providing a reason for a change.
- Attention – being self-aware of all aspects of who we are and what we represent
- Character – “…establishes principles that connect our actions to our values…”
- Teaching – helping your followers develop to their maximal potential, including being a role model for them
I’m mentally wired to look for patterns, and I expected to see paragraphs that started with each of the letters of the word impact. Instead, additional thoughts are tossed in so it looks more like IMPFARCWT. As well, as previously pointed out, “purpose” is really “change”, but that would spell IMCACT and thus be rather silly… Nevertheless, there are some good points made that make it worth the read.
(Original article has been deleted)
“3 Secrets of C Level Leadership” by Neil Steggall at LinkedIn
In this article the author focuses on the three aspects of leadership that he assesses as being critical for senior-level management:
- Say ‘No’ – A small word, a huge difference (you have to be able to make tough decisions, and you need to teach that ability to your followers)
- Trust & respect – power words (they are the foundation of positive relationships)
- Look, listen, learn – do your homework (taking a bit more time to get more facts can lead to better decisions)
The last point can be very difficult to carry out – sometimes we can delay a decision to the point that we experience ‘paralysis by analysis’. Personally, I believe that we should attempt to make the best decision that we can, using all the facts that we can reasonably find within the time allotted. In this case, I believe that Gen. George S. Patton, Jr. was correct,
“A good plan, violently executed now, is better than a perfect plan next week.”
If you wait too long, your enemy (or your competition) will have the opportunity to find your vulnerabilities, get to market before you do, etc.
(Original article has been deleted)
“Leadership lessons from LEGO” by Ken Perlman at Forbes
Can leadership be child’s play? In this article, the author constructs several leadership lessons that he gleaned from playing LEGOs with his daughters:
- Start with what success looks like (the box provides your vision of the desired end state)
- Consider interchangeable parts (what lessons learned can we draw from)
- Instructions are only so helpful (the path to success does not come with a comprehensive checklist)
- It’s more fun when people are working together (get your team involved)
- The quality of the final product relies upon the input of the imagination (be flexible in modifying your product, especially if you come across a better idea along the way)
“Gamification in Leadership Development: How Companies Use Gaming To Build Their Leader Pipeline” by Jeanne Meister at Forbes
Can playing a game make you a better leader? This article features two companies that are investing money and getting desired results. Playing Candy Crush won’t make you a better leader (darn!) but getting your employees to play a leadership game specifically aligned to your organization’s core values has shown some very interesting results, plus it has the potential to increase job satisfaction – a win-win situation. Although the cost of developing such a program is not discussed, some of the metrics attributed to this program make it seem highly likely that these initiatives made money for their organizations. Finally, the article offers some lessons on implementing gamification in the workplace:
- Think strategy first (why are you doing this?)
- Creating the right environment (you need to understand your followers and tailor the games to them)
- Use design thinking before you build or buy (make sure that you get what you need)
VOCL Closing Thoughts / Future Episodes / Call to Action
Takeaways and introspection
- Several articles spoke to the use of various leadership styles, at various times, to achieve different effects. Think about your leadership style – do you tend to use only one? If so, chances are you’re missing out on two opportunities – developing your abilities as a leader and getting the best performance from your team. This week, make a conscious effort to try some other leadership styles that you have heard about in VOCL and see how they work for you (and for your team!)
- Leadership can be fun – try to incorporate a fun element in your leadership style this week. WARNING – you must be authentic in your approach! If you have been a Scrooge for two decades, then having a party with colourful balloons and clowns will likely scare your followers…