Tag Archives: leadership

When to lead and when to manage

You lead people, yourself included. You manage situations.

Nobody worth their salt likes to be “managed”.  Trying to manage people, that is; using threats of punishment, promises of reward, passive aggressive comments, subtle (or not so subtle) hints, and sundry other insincere “techniques” designed to elicit a change in behavior, borders on sociopathic.  It’s disrespectful and condescending.

It will lose you the best people and the ones that put up with it will be with you for the wrong reasons, making high performance unlikely.

The people you want in your team, I call them thinking followers, are motivated by the opportunity of doing meaningful work that they enjoy, with other people they respect, in an environment that invites and fosters their creativity.

Your role as the boss is to inspire and challenge and support them.

Yes, management is required.  Processes, scheduling, logistics, supply lines, and administration all need to be well managed.  And there are “people situations” that need to be handled – interpersonal conflict, irrational behavior, emotional outbursts, even plain old mistakes.  Just remember that people are people, not things.  This post might help.

I can’t stress this enough:  people should not be managed.  Your job is to provide real leadership.

And above all, your people need to be inspired to take the lead themselves.  That will never happen if they suspect they’re being “managed”.

Why independence doesn’t mean being a lone wolf.

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Main Squeeze sent me this a few days ago; said it reminded her of me.  You see I don’t enjoy organizational politics at all (who does?) and I’ve never been much good at kow-towing.

I shared it with my friend and business partner, who wondered if “wolves”, being great at “lone”, might then not be good at playing on a team.  At the time I thought that’s maybe where the analogy breaks down, but in hindsight the comparison of a wolf to an independent man or woman is apt. (Doesn’t that always happen – you think of what to say, but way, way too late.)

Being of independent mind does not mean going it alone.  It means thinking for yourself and deciding when its good to work with others.

Working in a team, even one with a leader, doesn’t mean you need to bow, buckle under, or “perform”.  It means you acknowledge that your interests are aligned with the groups’; that cooperating will get you all further; that you’re hunting in a pack, as it were.

The thing is, if you’re the leader of the pack, remember that your goals, (your own, and the organizations’), will be better served if those on your team are “thinking followers“, not performing animals.  Interact with them accordingly and they’ll stay engaged and motivated.  Treat them like monkeys and the better ones will be gone, and those left will not move unless you say so, or promise them a treat.

Whether you lead only your self, or a team of one hundred, your foundational attribute has to be independence.  That is, you need to choose to stay switched on and focused; you must be willing to think, analyze, judge, and make decisions; and you need the courage, confidence and drive to initiate action.

Sometimes you’ll choose to follow the direction set by someone else, or to take advice, or to work collaboratively.  Never should you jump because your fear a whip or want shiny baubles.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Delivering Happiness

When I get time to read again, one of the first books on my list is “Delivering Happiness”, by Zappos founder, Tony Hsieh.  Also on that list will be several of the books in the presentation below.

Maybe there’s a few here for you too.  I’ve only read some of these, so can’t vouch for them all, but anyone who is as obsessed with team and customer happiness as Tony seems to be, must be at least a better-than-average judge of on-topic reading material.

Enjoy.

Stiffness is Death

Organizational leadership takes place in one of two contexts.

Either…

The organization is heading to new heights – it’s a start-up, or an existing organization that’s reached a plateau.  It needs a Visionary to take it to new and uncharted territory.

Or…

The organization is sinking in the depths; in the shit, as it were.  It needs a strong and resolute leader with experience and courage to save it.  It needs a Savior.

The expertise required may be different, and the motivation for each may vary, but each role still requires the same fundamental leadership attributes:   independence (to judge and make decisions); people skills (to engage, delegate, and motivate); expertise (to know what to do and how to do it); and passion (to care enough to make the effort and stay the course).

Some would argue that there is a third context, the organization that’s just humming along, neither growing, nor under threat.  I would counter that if an organization is not growing, it’s stagnating.  And if its stagnating, it’s dying.   It’s competitors will soon take its position.  If there are none, there soon will be.  Such an organization better be lead by a Visionary soon, or it will need a Savior soon.

Here’s the thing… it’s occurring to me now, as of course it would, that those two contexts, let’s call them “fighting to survive” and “scaling new heights” are mirrored in our own individual lives.  The vicissitudes of life are such that we are either overcoming challenges, emotional and/existential, that is, we’re working to save or preserve some value or values that we already possess, or; we’re working to create for ourselves and those we love some new values.  The in-between, the drifting along without significant challenge (time for R&R notwithstanding), is as dangerous for an individual as it is for an organization.  Don’t move and you’ll get stiff. And, as my Sifu is fond of saying, “stiffness is death”.

Where is your organization at?  And how about you?  Struggling to remain a going concern or pursuing exciting new challenges?

Remember, the status-quo is dangerous, because the Universe never stands still.  So, neither should you, and neither should the organization(s) you’re a part of.

If you think leadership is about having followers – about influencing others – you’re wrong.

I’M HAVING A continuing problem with what I call “The Cult of Leadership”.  Take five minutes to look around the web and you’ll note how almost all material on leadership focuses on having followers, on leading others, on “influence”.

This not only mis-characterizes good leadership, it’s just plain bad advice.   You cultivate the attributes of good leadership not in a quest to lead others, but because the fundamentals of good leadership are vital to success and happiness, whether an organization’s or your own.

Here’s a pretty representative sampling:

Peter Drucker (Management Guru): “The only definition of a leader is someone who has followers.”

Rubbish.  Hitler had lots of followers and look how that turned out.

John Maxwell (Leadership Guru): “Leadership is influence – nothing more, nothing less.”

Bollocks.  Mao influenced hundreds of millions.  All dead.

Kevin Kruse (Forbes):  Leadership is a process of social influence, which maximizes the efforts of others, towards the achievement of a goal.

Better, but still wrong.  What if the goal is a bad one?  And what about all those innovators and entrepreneurs who work on great things all on their own?

So, here’s a proper definition:

Good leadership means choosing the right objective, the best way to reach it, and inspiring others to join you.

Vision first and always as the primary.

Then strategy and tactics.

No “influence”, because you can influence by force, by fraud, by intimidation, or by blackmail;  none of which makes for thinking, value-adding followers.  Others should “follow” because they’re inspired by what you’ve set-out to achieve and how you’re going about it.  Period.

Getting others to follow your lead may be important, but NEVER let it become your primary focus.  Your primary focus is, and should always be,  to achieve a Vision, to create value.  The means of achieving that Vision, which is where engaging other people comes in, are secondary (not unimportant – just not primary).

The moment you lose sight of the Vision, or it becomes blurred, and you act primarily to keep or attract followers, to lead other people, you risk taking yourself, and those who follow you, in the wrong direction.

Then there’s the fact that along with your responsibility to be accountable for your own life, you need to allow (and encourage), others to be accountable for theirs. Good leadership means thinking for yourself, developing an understanding of the human condition, (how people think, feel, and behave), constantly seeking to expand your horizons, and pursuing value for all you’re worth.

The element of leadership that entails others following is a byproduct.

Thinking people choose to engage with you in achieving your Vision because they’re inspired by the picture you paint and by the way you go about achieving it; by how you go about creating value, and because you engage with them justly.

Yes, some people enjoy the act of leading other people, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Unless it’s the primary. Anyone motivated to lead by the desire to have followers, to have power over others, is likely going in the wrong direction. You don’t achieve a vision by looking back (at those that are following), but by keeping your eye on the goal and moving forward. You have to be driven by what’s in front, not by those that are following behind.

The focus on “leading”, rather than on achieving (and continuously refining and evolving) a vision, is perhaps the biggest cause of organizational failure.

It’s the trap new supervisors often fall into when they take on their first management role.

It’s why middle-managers can stumble when they take on a new department or division.

It’s the quicksand entrepreneurs often wade into when their venture gains momentum.

It’s the failing of many a “career CEO” who moves into an unknown field.

It’s the reason so many NGOs become navel-gazing, self-serving, resource-consuming bureaucracies with no clear, focused, and defining mission.

And it’s caused untold death and misery as militaristic despots throughout history sought political power for self-aggrandization.

Don’t worry about leading others.

Foster your independence by thinking well, work on your people skills so that you engage with others well and fairly, be proactive in expanding your knowledge and skills, and work to stay passionate about all that you undertake.

And if you don’t have a compelling vision, or the vision of the organization you work for leaves you cold, the last thing you should be focusing on is leading others. If you don’t know what you want to achieve, or can’t get behind what your employer is trying to achieve, it’s time to re-assess your life’s direction. Do not, I repeat, DO NOT, flog a dead horse. I guarantee you that the pain of changing will be less than the pain of stagnation.  And don’t, EVER, lead for the sake of leading.  Lead only when you’ve got some good place to go.

4 Indispensable Principles for Good Leadership

PEOPLE TALK ABOUT having “principles”, but few seem to be guided by their principles consistently, because it’s just too easy to make exceptions.  The thing is, if you don’t follow your principles in every case, they’re not principles.

Understood and accepted as non-violable, your principles become your “rock” – a steadfast guide to action even when circumstances are difficult, conflicting, or hard to discern.  Good leaders, and good people, understand this; they know that sticking to the right principles is indispensable to success, and therefore also to happiness.

Here’s four principles that all good leaders, (and good people, for that matter,) stick to.

#1 My Judgement Rules
Good leaders (and good people) know that they are always fully accountable for what they do, so they never relinquish judgement to others.  Sure, they listen, take advice, learn from others, and consult.  What they don’t do, however, is take another’s word, opinion, dictate, or judgement as given.  Never.  To put it another way:  “The buck stops here, so you better @#$%-well know the real buck inside and out”.

Example:  Steve Jobs in any number or situations springs to mind.

#2 Good Relationships Depend on Justice
Good leaders (and good people) understand that only relationships based on justice will thrive.  To deal with people justly means to always and only give (and accept) what is deserved.  To withhold praise and reward from those who add value is just as bad as bestowing the same on those who do not, or on those who, even worse, destroy value.

The latter is called “spoiling”, and as Rand once pointed out, there’s no quicker and surer way to destroy a human soul than to give it more than it deserves.  Conversely, withhold  reward from those who’ve rightly earned it, and they’ll not be around for long.  They’ll go where their talent is recognized and valued, and righty so.

Example:  The “brain drain” from any number of politically stifling (and unjust) nations to the freer countries in “The West”.

And while we’re on the subject, let’s dispel a couple of widely held (and very unjust) bromides (anti-principles, if you will):  “Unconditional Love” and “Universal Forgiveness“.

Good leaders (and good people) understand that those who demand “unconditional love” are asking you to commit fraud.  Love is simply one end of the scale that measures how you value something or someone (hate → dislike → ambivalence → like → love).  Your emotional response to anything or anyone needs to be just, that is, needs to be in keeping with how much you value (or disvalue) the thing or person.  To give love “unconditionally”, is to disregard justice.  Do so at your own peril.

Forgiveness has it’s place, of course, but also needs to be just.  The guilty must earn forgiveness.  How?  Three things:  They must show sincere contrition (simply saying “sorry” is not enough), they need to make good on the damage they did, and they should make a binding commitment to doing better from now on.  Forgiving someone, “just because”, is unfair on, and bad for, both of you.

Now, back to organizational leadership…

Organizations, by definition, rely on relationships, so its critical that justice is the principle that drives the relationships.  So many organizations founder because dysfunctional (unjust) relationships tie them in knots.  Jealousy, envy, favoritism, obsequiousness, sociopathy, and a host of other organization ills thrive because justice is absent.  Incompetents with connections wield power, talent languishes or leaves, obsequious sycophants who look good in a suit keep the corner offices warm, and fraudsters with acting skills line their pockets.  Absent justice, relationships are based on all manner of pretense.  In that kind of culture, all sorts of crap can grow.

Example:  Too many to mention.  How about Enron?  Bear Stearns?  Penn State?

#3 Learning Never Stops and Comes From Anywhere and Everywhere
With this principle firmly understood and integrated, you’re open to expanding your horizons every day, every hour, every minute.Learning is Joy

Yet, how many managers, bosses, parents, or acquaintances do you know who seem to think that they know everything already?  Ugh, the dreaded “know it all”….deal with that kind as little as you can, they’re a vexation to your soul!

Example?  I bet you have a dozen such people in your life.  Name one.

#4 Be Passionate
Whatever you do, give it 100% of your attention and effort.  If you can’t, or worse, won’t, don’t do it.

Passion does not mean “loving” what you do.  It means “valuing” what you do.  Hopefully, most of the time it is about love and enjoyment, but don’t forget that some things that are not fun still need 100% or your focus and your best effort; because they’re worth it.  George Washington no doubt hated that winter at Valley Forge, but his passion for the fledgling America held strong, guiding him through times and circumstances that would have driven a non-principled, dispassionate man to give up.

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Principles are not for “now and then”.  And they are not just for titled-leaders.  It is not a coincidence that the fundamental principles that make for good organizational leaders also make for good human beings.  That’s why Method Leadership is based on them, and why they’re on our masthead.

Think.  Engage.  Learn.  Value.

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Michael Paul Jährling

The coach’s primary focus IS NOT the players.

SOME COACHES FOCUS on the players, worrying about them, working to develop them, admonishing them, praising them, and working to get them “on side”.  All of that is important, but should never be the leader’s primary focus.

The primary is the objective, not the means.

The coach needs first and foremost to be driven by the objective.  That guides everything.  Structures, process, strategies, tactics, and more are all informed by how they add value to the achievement of the objective.  Players are tools.  You need the right ones in the right places doing the right things, and that means they need to be worried about, developed, admonished, and praised.  Just not as a primary.  The moment the players become the coach’s primary focus, the objective, and the means employed to reach it, become blurry.  Worst case, they fade from view altogether.