Looking at several leadership articles from around the world including topics such as:
- Identifying and developing leadership potential
- Leadership branding, training and myths
- Vision through storytelling
- Military leadership lessons
- Leadership in the moment of decision
- The importance of listening to your followers
It’s been over a month since the last episode, but I’ve been looking forward to putting out another episode that puts you a little further down the path of fulfilling your potential as a leader. More details are available after the Articles section.
VOCL Resources and Articles
This week – a random selection of 10 articles on different aspects of leadership.
“Identifying and developing leadership potential” by Dame Mary Marsh at The Guardian
Many leadership articles focus on what it takes to be a leader – in this article, the focus shifts slightly to what a current leader looks for in future leaders. Additionally, this is an article that focuses on leadership in social and community enterprises – so many others focus strictly on business. The author looks for people who are:
- Committed to change
- Curious – about themselves, about others, about their community
- Recognize diversity as a positive thing
- Able to positively interact with others
There is one quote that bothers me:
“A gap for many people in the social sector is a significant lack of feedback from peers, managers and those they seek to help, support and manage. It has become evident that we would open up and develop much more leadership potential if such feedback was actively part of the way in which we work together.”
True leaders provide feedback to their followers – that is evident. True leaders should also create a culture where peer feedback (done in a positive fashion) is encouraged. Finally, true leaders should be seeking feedback from those that they are trying to help – this allows you to focus on aspects that will have the most significant impact and to tailor your service to your target audience.
“Viral Leadership Branding – Inject A Positive Perception” by Cindy Wahler, PhD at Forbes
This article will be of interest to many, especially those who aspire to higher levels of responsibility within their organizations and groups. It speaks to the importance of perception – how others perceive you can have a significant impact on your goals. Even little things that shouldn’t be more important than your work and your abilities (scuffed shoes, speech mannerisms) can hold you back.
What I like about the article is that it says that leaders should be proactive in asking for feedback from peers. Where it stops short is in not creating a call to action in seeking feedback from your own leaders – even if the latter “…lack the courage to have difficult conversations and be upfront.” Finally, the hard part will be getting objective reviews from your subordinates – anonymous 360-degree reviews can help with this aspect.
“Be Your Own Brand of Leader” by Susan Mazza at Randomactsofleadership.com
Sometimes the greatest challenge in becoming a leader is that you think you will need to change. You may have seen leaders in your past, and you think that this is what you are supposed to look like. This article makes the point that you can still be yourself, while simultaneously being a leader, thus making your own ‘brand’ of leadership. Although the article is an interesting read, I would caution you on this – while being authentic is important, you still need to develop your skills to be an effective leader.
“Using Storytelling To Craft And Communicate Your Strategic Vision” by Jeremy Donovan at tanveernaseer.com
This article speaks to the challenges that leaders sometimes face in creating a (compelling) vision. The top three obstacles include:
- Thinking that the leader alone is the only person that can create a vision (you have worked hard to create a high-performing team – they can perform well in this role, too!)
- The misconception that showing emotion is unbecoming of being a leader (for me, a leader should be passionate about what they do! Think of two presentations – one done in a calm manner and the other delivered with passion – which would impact you more?)
- Not being able to tell a compelling story (this is a natural follow-on to the second point)
Get your team together, build upon the initial grain of the vision that you have in mind, then go out and passionately tell your story on the why and the how of achieving your vision will make a significant difference in the world. Then, go out and drive towards that vision – you’ll likely get many followers along the way.
“10 Leadership Lessons From U.S. Commanding General John E. Michel” by Vala Afshar at Huffington Post
Another military-themed article on leadership, this one has cross-organizational lessons from Brigadier General John E. Michel as found in the book ‘Mediocre Me’:
- Be a strong leader (focus on people, smart risks and be willing to fail)
- Co-create and collaborate with individuals (helps remove the fear of failure)
- Include stakeholders throughout the process (keep people informed)
- The customer is the common ground (have everyone in the team focus on your customer – this will help break down silos and disputes)
- Demonstrate clear intent (provide an unambiguous expectation of what you expect from each of your followers)
- Use technology tied to metrics to enable transformation (you can’t improve what you don’t measure and be careful of scope creep)
- Break projects down into smaller components (the tasks aren’t as daunting, and you can start achieving early success, leading to future success)
- Push the boundaries of your potential (help your people become all that they can be)
- Be morally courageous (you have to be willing to make hard choices, even if they are unpopular)
- Invest in lifelong learning (this is where a shared responsibility lies between the person and the organization).
“Leaders lacking” by Barbara Bowes at Winnipeg Free Press
This article speaks to the need for getting the right leadership training for key individuals within an organization. There are no leadership nuggets here, but the author does provide five things that you should look for when getting leadership training:
- Individual or small-group coaching conducted over several months may be more effective than leadership courses done over a few consecutive days.
- Look for courses that feature a greater amount of scenario-based and instructor-led facilitation and discussion rather than simple presentations.
- Look for training that is better aligned with the current workplace reality – autocratic leadership has largely given way to influential and collaborative leadership.
- Look for training that helps you develop your skills in effectively motivating your team to achieve their highest potential.
- Be diligent when looking at certifications and designations.
Regardless of the training that you choose, the greatest development will come through the repeated practical application of the concepts that you have learned. Much like the 12x table in math becomes easier with greater repetition, applying leadership skills repeatedly helps them to become ‘automatic’ for instant recall.
“The Leadership Myth That’s Holding You Back” by Dorie Clark at Forbes
Many articles are written about successful leaders and how they seem to leap from success to success. This can be very daunting for those who are just starting on their leadership journey. Guess what – these successful people have had many failures along the way. You are certainly going to have circumstances in your life that you won’t know how to handle, and you will choose the wrong option. What makes you a true leader is dusting yourself off and learning from your mistake.
This reminds me of a quote (author unknown),
“Good decisions come from experience, and experience comes from bad decisions.”
“Great Leadership Breeds Great Leadership” by David Lykken at National Mortgage Professional
This article provides a case for greater leadership, done within the context of independent mortgage bankers. The first seven paragraphs, although not leadership specific, are used to set the stage for the author’s idea of greater leadership in his sector (it is interesting reading even if you’re not in the mortgage business). The rest of the article provides some interesting thoughts as the author communicates his vision. There are examples of leadership in sports, in business, and even a paragraph about how helping a competitor can help everyone in the long run. He highlights the importance of creating masterminds or central hubs for discussing topics of interest, as well as greater use of social media to get everyone talking.
I don’t want you to focus on this article for the mortgage aspects – rather, I want you to take this thought piece and consider if and how you would carry out similar solutions in your business, group, or organization.
“Leadership in the Moment of Decision” by Narayan Pant at INSEAD Knowledge
Even when surrounded by loads of data, it can be difficult for leaders to make the right decision (or even simply make a decision due to ‘paralysis by analysis’). This article provides some background on how you are never likely to get all the answers – the answer simply does not magically appear like a yellow brick road. Instead, you have to go with a mixture of the data, your advisors and your own intuition. How do you develop intuition? The author provides four aspects:
- Practice (simulations help you do this without exposing yourself to real-world risks – be careful about using your customers as guinea pigs…)
- Feedback (this comes from many angles including consultants, advisors, your followers and your customers)
- Reflection (this can be tough – people tend to not like bad news. Thinking about what just happened, however, will help you make you aware of the various factors at play and will help you in the future)
- Coaching (not only should you get a coach for yourself, but you should be a coach for your followers).
What a great article! I love how the process loops back to the beginning. As you begin coaching your followers, you start implementing your own practice strategy, leading to better decision-making abilities for all! I normally don’t like longer quotes, but I’m including it here so you can see how well this article is crafted:
“Have you ever felt flattered because a successful CEO seemed to be very interested in your conclusions on some subject? Did you get the impression that she was probing your assumptions, trying to really understand how you came to your conclusions? Well, she was probably practicing how she would make the very decision that you had just made. Try it yourself. Get into conversations with people you think know something about their subjects. Probe their beliefs. Understand how they draw conclusions and ask yourself whether you would make similar decisions.”
“If you’re a leader with all the answers, that means you don’t listen to your staff” by Hugh Arnold at Globe & Mail
As a leader, you want to make sure that your followers are engaged throughout the entire undertaking. This article cautions that leaders should not come in with all the answers – people will switch off if they don’t have to think or feel that they have an impact on the project. Instead, leaders should come in with a plan on how the team can meet the aim and will need to align people in their respective roles as part of that team.
The article is careful to point out that this strategy is useful when there is lots of time; in crises, leaders must think, decide, and act quickly – time for consultation may not be available or advisable.
VOCL Closing Thoughts / Future Episodes / Call to Action
What’s been happening:
I’m now also ‘Competition – Introduction’ trained in ringette. I liked the fact that, in addition to core skills, there was significant emphasis placed on ethics – an important aspect of leadership.
Last several weekends have been very busy – visiting my father, going to Baddeck for a 50th wedding anniversary (Renaissance Edmonton Airport Executive Chef Andrew Ihasz) and having visitors from Australia.
I’ve been working on website design for my new business (Bluenose Leadership Solutions) – I may be incorporating that theme here (unless I get objections that people really like the current design).
I’m composing a list of “Tweetable” leadership attributes, and I would love your help and feedback. The first three that I want you to focus on are:
- Vision – The desired end-state that focuses your actions and provides guidance to others (even in your absence).
- Communication – The ability to make yourself understood AND understand others in the exchange of ideas.
- Teamwork – The ability for people to effectively work together to achieve a common vision or task.
Takeaways and introspection:
- Several articles have looked at the importance of feedback and communication in general. How much feedback are you getting, and is this something that you are encouraging as a leader?
- People like stories – have you been communicating your key points as a story? If not, is this something you can do?
- Do not be afraid to try new things and fail. I’m reminded of a quote by William G.T. Shedd, “A ship is safe in harbour, but that’s not what ships are for.” Although the quote is not always correct (I won’t go into a seamanship discussion here), the spirit is very valid.
Call to action:
I want to spread the leadership message to as many people as possible, and I need your help. Please provide a (hopefully 5-star) review in iTunes – I’ll make sure to mention your name in a future show. Please send me an email if you do leave a review in a country other than Canada – I’ll need to change my iTunes store to look at your comments.