Leadership Insights

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Leadership Questions

Leadership has historically caused much debate and raised many questions:

  • Are leaders born or made?
  • What makes a leader?
  • Do different environments require different leaders.?
  • Is a leader, a leader all of the time?

The good news is that we all can be leaders. It requires the right circumstances. It requires practice.

We will not be leaders all of the time but we need only be leaders for enough time to get the job done.

The following will explore these questions in more detail.

What is leadership?

Aristotle defined leadership as requiring Knowledge,Skills and Practical Wisdom – the ability to see the good and realize it in a specific situation. All three are necessary and mutually supportive.

In The Art of War, Sun Tzu characterized leadership as a mix of five traits: Intelligence, Credibility, Humaneness, Courage, and Discipline.

Montgomery defined leadership as:
“The capacity and will to rally men and women to a common purpose and the character which inspires confidence”.

The Arbinger Institute talks about self deception & “being in the box”. Being “in the box” means being being boxed in by your fears, doubts, uncertainties and limiting beliefs such that you do not connect with others and do not focus on that you care about. Good leaders are honest with themselves and are ” in the box” much less of the time.

Peter Drucker states “Your first and foremost job as a leader is to manage your own energy, and help manage the energy of those around you”.

Steven Radcliffe talks about a leader:

  1. Creating a vision of a better future
  2. Engaging a team to commit their energy to deliver such a future
  3. Delivering results
This he summarised as Future-Engage-Deliver.
My own view of leadership is that fundamentally it is about creating the environment such that the team can be successful. This involves setting objectives, about engaging and about delivering….but also it is about removing obstacles such that the team can deliver as fast and as far as they can and the environment will allow.

As a leader, you must care for a better future

Leadership is not just about competencies, skills and personality. It’s first and foremost about being in touch with what you care about and then going for it. You won’t be a great leader for things you don’t care about!

By its nature a better future involves working in areas that are new and where you are instigating change to achieve this better future. Managers normally focus on delivery within defined parameters and deal with much less uncertainty.

A better future requires strategy and planning once the idea has been conceived. This will ensure that it is indeed a better future.

You must be at your best more of the time

Peter Drucker states “Your first and foremost job as a leader is to manage your own energy…..and then help manage the energy of those around you”.

It does all start with you, how you manage yourself to be at your best more of the time.

If you are at your best, you are focussed on the future and not held back by the present. You are more engaging and this creates a powerful platform to help others to be at their best.

The Arbinger Institute talks about “being in the box”. Being in the box means not being being boxed in by your fears, doubts uncertainties and limiting beliefs such that you do not connect with others and do not focus on that you care about. Good leaders are in the box much less of the time.

All of us have the capability to be leaders but we need to believe in ourselves as a leader and get into the right frame of mind. An effective leader is “Playing to Win” and is not just “Trying not to Lose”. As an effective leader you are “At Your Best” and not “Just Surviving” . An effective leader will exhibit high energy or low energy at different times for different tasks. These are not fixed states. We all are in all of these some of the time. We will not be leaders all of the time. But the best leaders manage to be in “Play to Win” and “At Your Best” states most of time.

You must help others be at their best more of the time

Leaders must make big requests so they must have relationships that are big enough to get the job done.

They must help people be at their best. They must help them overcome their limitations – their fears, doubts, uncertainties and limiting beliefs and to focus on what they care about.

Leaders must look for and  remove obstacles in the environment that are hindering team progress.

You must engage others to care about your vision of the future.

Engage people so they want to work with you and build a future with you.

Crucially engagement is absolutely distinct from ‘communicating to’, ‘presenting at’ or telling.

It is about how you connect with people, how you stimulate their thinking and impact their energy.

Engaging others is a two-way interaction and its something that happens inside your relationships. It is about your ability to build relationships big enough to get the job done.

Engagement is about taking people through resistance, apathy, grudging compliance, willing compliance, to enrolled and finally to committed.

Engagement is:

  • supported by building Relationships big enough to get the job done
  • fuelled by Possibilities that others can see for themselves linked to the Future they want
  • sharpened by agreement on specific Opportunities and Priorities
  • creating a bridge to Deliver by making Big Requests of others to elicit Promises to take Action.

You must deliver results

Delivery is not standalone

Delivery is where we are all judged, is the most visible part of leadership but is not standalone. Without a compelling Future and without engaging in that future delivery of the right results will not happen.

Delivery requires you to mean it

To get great delivery you have to mean it when you make big requests. Meaning it means that your team is in no doubt of your expectations from what you say and from what you do.

For instance…making too many requests may well mean that none are done well. Not following up may mean that your team becomes distracted. Remember the maxim ” people do what you inspect, not what you expect”. There are no avoiding some difficult converstations when performance falls below that required or expected.

In delivery a leader is expected to exhibit fierce resolve, emotional fortitude, focus, discipline and resilience to ensure that the team remains focussed, acts with high energy and delivers results.

Deliver today but grow people to deliver even more tomorrow

Get the best from yourself and others today but commit to growing yourself and others so that the capability to deliver increases into the future.

How do we become leaders?

We become leaders through 1. Conscious Practice, 2. Using a Personal Support Team 3. Knowing and Going beyond our limits and 4. Being in the right State of Mind.

Conscious Practice.

Conscious Practice. You do most of your learning in real-life situations and the more you practice the better you get. Consciously use situations and challenges as opportunities to learn and grow.

  • Be guided by the future you want
  • Embrace the big picture
  • Engage rather than transmitting/communicating
  • Build Big Relationships
  • Manage your Shadow (Don’t be “in the box”, manage yourself such that your uncertainties or anxieties do not cast a shadow on your team. Be in a position to help your team be at their best)
  • Make Big Requests
  • Maximise Probability of Delivery
  • Acknowledge acceptable Delivery
  • Fix Delivery that has problems
  • Wrap Up

Use a Personal Support Team

Use a personal Support Team for feedback. Identify the specific ways you want to grow as a leader, tell selected colleagues and ask them to rate you now. Then ask them if they’ll watch out for you in these areas to help you make progress.

Know and go beyond your limits.

  • Get beyond the present
  • Embrace the big picture
  • Accept that you will not know how to achieve your Future
  • Believe you are a leader
  • Be in leader mode (rather than operator/manager mode)
  • Overcome: I’m only….I’m not….I’m just…

Be in the right state of mind

Recognise your state of mind and work out how to ensure you are “At Your Best” and “Playing To Win”.

Recognise the triggers that push you into “Just Surviving” mode and ensure you manage or avoid them to spend more time “Playing to Win”.

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