What does it take to create a motivated organization, one which feels charged with a mission to achieve something great? It takes a leader, someone who can verbally paint an image that people are attracted to and are willing to devote their efforts to achieve. It takes someone like yourself, but who has learned and mastered the skills of leadership through real life practice and experience, again and again.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was one such leader. He inspired an oppressed people to dream and aspire to a better life, one in which they were treated as equals by the ruling class: a life in which the ruling race lived up to its explicit promises. The US Civil Rights Movement of the 1950’s and ’60’s was not his alone – but in a 16 minute speech, Dr. King was able to capture the imagination and the heart of the majority of American citizens. How did he do that? Commitment to the vision was essential, but there are four critical elements that he successfully communicated to his followers.
Without clear and convincing leadership, there can not be effective management. That’s an important statement, so let’s say it again: without clear and convincing leadership, there can not be effective management.
Why is this true? Well, principally, management is about directing growth to support leadership. As we saw in the last episode, nature resists stability: there is only growth and decline. And who would willingly choose decline? I’m sure I wouldn’t and I doubt you would either. In fact, we have a huge medical establishment to which we pay enormous amounts of money, the sole purpose of which is to help us to resist the decline that will inevitably come as we age. So we want growth and we are willing to pay dearly to get it.
There is growth and there is decline. Staying the same is not an option. (Johnson & Johnson, pg. 208).
That is a very powerful thought from Joining Together, a widely used textbook on teams and leadership. Remember that you and your brain are changing every day: there is no staying the same. So, which do you choose, growth or decline? If you want growth, then you better find a leader to follow towards growth - or better yet, become a leader yourself. Otherwise, you are in the process of decline.
How often have you attended a meeting that was sabotaged by an elephant or sneak attack? By elephant, I mean that there was something that no one mentioned, but nearly everyone was thinking about. It was so big, so powerful in turning people’s focus from the meeting’s purpose, that there was no chance for the meeting to be a success. Or else, someone abruptly brought up a subject or issue that grabbed everyone’s attention, so the presenter might as well have been speaking to an empty room. How often have you experienced that feeling that this meeting has been derailed and nothing good is going to come from it?
Nearly any leader can succeed for a short period of time. Many CEOs look impressive for one or two years. But what differentiates leaders that succeed in achieving a vision that takes years or even decades to achieve?
In his 2001 book, “Good to Great”, Jim Collins gave us some great pointers on what is required to sustain great forward movement in the business world. Yet in the decade since his analysis, two of his featured eleven corporations are gone, a third is in conservatorship, one required a federal bailout and another has stumbled. I believe that even more emphasis is needed now on strong leadership than ever before. Not strong as in dictatorial, but strong as in creating stronger sense of vision, mission and purpose. Strong as in creating something that reflects the aspirations of the leader’s entire team and which will flex as unexpected change pounces upon the organization.
How much attention do you pay to your brand? Are you aware of the impact it has on your customers – and potential customers? Do you think through how small changes to your brand might affect their acceptance of your company?
Your brand is the image of your product or service in the marketplace. Your target audience looks to your brand to determine whether your offering is relevant to them and what expectations they have of your offering. Bottom-line, your brand determines whether or not the consumers want your offering. Brand management is an important leadership skill. Read More→
Where can you practice and develop leadership skills if you aren’t a manager? One excellent answer is your local Toastmasters Club. You thought it was only about standing up front and speaking? Well, it isn’t. You have the opportunity to practice and develop many crucial leadership skills through active participation in the Toastmasters process.
Far too often, I am introduced to executives who have talented teams, but fail to achieve their business objectives. Sometimes, a shortage of talent afflicts the team - and sometimes, the objectives are just set too high. But very often, it results from sub-optimal alignment of the team’s talent. That is a shame, because team alignment is usually is the most easily fixed of all problems.
How well do you pay attention to your environment? Especially to the people who depend on you? It is far too easy to assume that you know what is going on with them – and that assumption can cost you dearly. This was brought home to me in a personal way just hours after my last posting. I’ve always prided myself in looking beyond the obvious, because that is how I have helped many leaders save their organization from calamities. And yet….
I should have paid attention to Jack
On July 31, just a couple of hours after finishing my blog post, I was sitting in my office typing on my laptop when Jack, our orange prankster cat, dashed into my office. He glanced wildly around, jumped on top of the printer and dove behind my filing cabinet. I assumed this was one more nutty behavior by Jack and he would get stuck back there. So I focused on making sure he got out (he did, without my help).
It was another hour before I decided to go check for mail in our mailbox. When I opened the front door, I was shocked to see that a 24-inch diameter maple had fallen, just missing our master bedroom by about ten feet. I was shocked again when I walked up our driveway and saw the entrance was blocked by another fallen tree, a 16-inch diameter pine.
I’ve never been a Boy Scout, but I’ve always been fascinated by the motto, “Be Prepared”. It’s a motto that all leaders should heed. How can you expect to last long as a leader if you are not prepared?
Being prepared has several dimensions: knowing what may happen, having the tools to respond to what does happen – and having the right network (employees and advisors) to leverage your leadership on your path to success.
Victorinox® has made an entire business out of “Be Prepared”, using the innovative ideas of a Swiss cutlery maker 125 years ago to provide the tools to handle many physical situations. Victorinox® makes the well-known “Swiss Army knife.” The Huntsman model, illustrated here, is supposed to provide practical solutions to many needs that you might have out in the woods. It isn’t the perfect solution for most of those needs, but in a pinch, it is much better than nothing, especially when you don’t have time to drive to a hardware or camping supplies store – or can’t carry an additional cubic foot of ideal tools. Read More→