It’s hard to believe we’re about to tie a bow on 2014 and unwrap the present that will be 2015. This past year has seen a 29% growth in viewership for the Leading with Trust blog! I’m grateful for the community of people who take the time to read, comment on, and share the articles I write. My hope is they are beneficial to helping you lead in more authentic and genuine ways that build trust with those under your care. There is nothing more critical to the success of a leader than building trust with his/her followers. Leadership begins with trust!
As you reflect on your leadership lessons from this past year and contemplate areas for growth in 2015, these Top 10 articles from this year may provide some inspiration and guidance. Enjoy!
6th:8 Essentials of an Effective Apology – One of the most powerful ways to rebuild trust is to apologize when you make mistakes. But not all apologies are created equal and this post will help you learn how to do it the right way.
5th:Are You a Thermometer or Thermostat Leader? – Do you set the tone for your team or do you reflect it? This post from June 2013 will challenge you to be a leader that functions like a thermostat instead of a thermometer.
3 Reasons You Find it Hard to Trust People – Choosing to trust someone can be a difficult and risky situation. This post will help you understand three common reasons why you find it hard to trust people and what you can do about it.
“Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men.”
~ Lord Acton
Power accompanies leadership. No matter how lofty or humble your title, whether you manage 3 people or 3,000, if you lead a girl scout troop or you’re the CEO of a multi-million dollar company, you will be faced with choices on how to use your power.
You’re probably familiar with the above quote from Lord Acton. Unfortunately, there is much truth in his quote and one only has to look at the news headlines for the latest example of a leader who has misused power for his/her own personal gain.
A good friend of mine who has spent his entire career developing other leaders once shared a keen observation with me. He said that people who need to be in power probably shouldn’t be. His learning was that those people who craved power, who had an inordinate desire to be in control, were the ones most likely to use power in unhealthy ways.
Of course my friend’s statement caused me to wrestle with the concept of power. Do I need to be in power? If so, why? Is it because of ego, status, or enjoyment of the privileges it affords? Is it a bad thing to want to be in power? Would I be unhappy or unfulfilled if I wasn’t in power? One question begets the next.
As I’ve pondered this question, the following ideas have become clearer to me:
1. The best use of power is in service to others. Being a servant leader, rather than a self-serving leader, means giving away my power to help other people achieve their personal goals, the objectives of the organization, and to allow them to reach their full expression and potential as individuals. I love the servant leadership example of Jesus. When two of his disciples came to him seeking positions of power and authority, he chastised them and challenged them to remember that “Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must become your slave.” (Mt. 20:26-27) One of the paradoxes of leadership is that by placing others before ourselves, and using our power to serve, rather than dominate, actually brings us more power, respect, commitment and loyalty.
2. Followership is just as important, if not more so, than leadership. Learning to be a good follower is an essential component of being a wise leader who uses power appropriately. A person who learns to submit to the authority of others, collaborate with teammates, and sees first-hand the good and bad effects of the use of power, will have a greater appreciation for how power should be used in relationships. We can all probably think of examples of people who were bestowed leadership positions without ever being a follower, who then went on a “power trip” and showed just how ill-prepared they were to handle the power given them. Followership is the training ground for leadership.
3. The ego craves power. My leadership experiences have taught me that I need to be on guard to keep my ego in check. The ego views power as the nectar of the gods, and if leaders aren’t careful, their ego will intoxicate itself with power. In Ken Blanchard’s Servant Leadership program, he does an “Egos Anonymous” exercise that helps leaders come to grips with the power of the ego to make them self-serving leaders rather than servant leaders. Effective leadership starts on the inside and that means putting the ego in its proper place.
4. Power is held in trust. The power I have as a leader is something entrusted to me, both from my boss who put me in this position and by my followers who have consented to follow my lead. This power is not mine to keep. I’m a temporary steward of this power as long as I’m in my leadership role and it could be taken away at anytime should something drastic change in the relationship with my boss or followers. We’re all familiar with “consent of the governed,” the phrase that describes the political theory that a government’s legitimate and moral right to use state power over citizens can only be granted by the consent of the citizens themselves. The same concept applies to organizational leadership, and the minute our people no longer support our leadership, we have a serious problem.
So, do I need to be in power? I don’t think I need it to be fulfilled in my work, but it’s a question I haven’t yet fully answered. Do I like having power? Yes, I do. It allows me to help others in significant and positive ways. But if I’m being honest, I have to admit that I struggle with the shadow side of power and the temptation to use it to feed my ego.
Let me ask you the question: Do you need to be in power? Feel free to leave a comment and share your thoughts.
Welcome to the January 6, 2014 edition of the Leadership Development Carnival! One of the best ways to improve as a leader is to reflect upon your past experiences, catalog the lessons learned, and apply that information to your future leadership activities. Fortunately for you, 28 of the top thought leaders in the field of leadership have assembled their best blog posts for 2013, effectively serving as a world-class library of leadership wisdom for your benefit. Enjoy the best of the best!
Linda Fisher Thornton of Leading in Context – There is a trend toward considering our responsibilities broadly, beyond making profits to also making a difference. Here is Linda’s list of 16 Trends Shaping the Future of Ethical Leadership. As we head into the New Year, let’s help our leaders be ready for this positive, proactive, ethical leadership future.
Dr. Anne Perschel of Germane Consulting – In The One Thing Leaders Need to Know, Anne shares that some, but not all, who hold leadership titles are leaders. This post is about those leaders, the ones who are actually leading, which means you are evolving – and so are others.
Jennifer V. Miller of The People Equation – Jennifer offers an opportunity for women to step up and claim their leadership potential in the post 37 Women with Something Interesting to Say About Leadership. “This post resonated with both men and women. I heard from countless people, thanking me for giving voice to a frustration that has long existed in the blog world as it relates to women and leadership” says Jennifer.
Wally Bock’sThree Star Leadership Blog – Brutal honesty is supposed to be a good thing. Gentle honesty is better. In his post Gentle Honesty, Wally reminds leaders that their people should leave a conversation about performance or behavior thinking about what will change, not how they’ve been treated.
Lisa Kohn from Chatworth Consulting’s Thoughtful Leaders Blog – When we hold on to our misfortunes it’s as if we hand over our power to them. We give away our power, and then we feel powerless. In Don’t Give Your Power Away, Lisa shares that we have a choice as to whether or not we allow our misfortunes to have such power over us. We have a choice, as always, about what we focus on, what we notice, what we tell ourselves, and where we put our attention.
Jesse Lyn Stoner’s blog at the Seapoint Center for Collaborative Leadership – My friend and colleague, Jesse Stoner, says “The assumption that change has to start at the top is wrong. Stop waiting for senior leaders to provide leadership. You have the power to provide leadership within your own sphere of influence.” In her excellent article, Stop Waiting for Someone Else to Provide Leadership, Jesse give leaders four important questions to discuss with their teams.
Beth Miller at Executive Velocity – So often leaders don’t take time for themselves by getting good feedback, assessments, and coaching to develop themselves to their true leadership potential. In Leaders: Fight the Gremlins, Beth encourages leaders to make a New Year’s Resolution to create a personal development plan so they can avoid or resolve potential derailing behaviors.
Bill Treasurer of Giant Leap Consulting – In his post Leaders Are All Around Us, Bill shares the important truth that although role models like Steve Jobs can be helpful, we have leaders all around us, more accessible and ready to make a difference.
Jon Mertz of Thin Difference – Taking a mindful approach to challenging situations and conversations enables us to respond in better ways. In his post A Mindful Difference: Respond vs. React, my friend Jon highlights four steps leaders can take to be more mindful of how they respond to others.
I’ve been in formal leadership positions in various organizations for more than 25 years and I’ve come to learn that leadership isn’t for me. It’s not for you, either.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I lack leadership skills or don’t enjoy leading people—I do. I’ve had a fair amount of success (along with many failures) over the years and receive tremendous satisfaction from leading. I’m sure you’re probably a pretty good leader in your own right and you enjoy what you do as well.
But leadership isn’t for me. And it’s not for you, either.
Let me explain. I’ve learned that leadership is for:
1. The organizations we serve – Our job as leaders is to help carry out the mission of whatever organization we serve. No matter the organization – business, school, non-profit, government, or even sports team – leaders are required to place the needs of the organization ahead of their own. The only reason our role exists is to serve the organization and its purpose.
2. The people we serve – The primary way we accomplish our leadership objectives for the organization is to serve the people we lead. Huh? “Serve the people we lead?” Isn’t that an oxymoron? Leadership is not about what you get but what you give. Do you give your team the big picture so they know how their work contributes to the goals of the organization? Do you give your team members direction and support to help them develop their competence and commitment? Do you give your people the tools, resources, and information they need to succeed at their jobs?
3. The people our organizations serve – Customers, clients, patients, voters, stakeholders…whatever you call them, they are the people who buy, use, consume, or are served by our organizations. Our leadership flows through a chain of service when we serve our organization by serving our people who in turn serve our customers. Without our customers our organizations have no reason to exist, and it’s because of them that we have the opportunity to lead in the first place.
4. The communities we serve – Our leadership doesn’t exist in a vacuum. We aren’t only leaders at work, or school, or on the sports team. We are leaders in all areas of our lives, and since leadership is an influence process, any time we seek to influence the behavior of someone we are being a leader. The communities we serve range from our families, churches, and numerous volunteer organizations, all of which deserve the best of our time, talent, and treasure.
So, you can see why leadership isn’t really for me…or you. Leadership is for others, and it’s meant to be used in service for the betterment of our organizations, team members, customers, and communities.
We tend to over-complicate things in life, and when it comes to defining what successful leadership looks like, we really, really, over-complicate it. Much of what constitutes leadership success comes down to common sense, but unfortunately it’s not common practice.
Searching the shelves of your local bookstore (do those still exist?) or doing a search on Amazon.com would lead you to believe that in order to be a successful leader you’ll need to find some keys, take the right steps, follow the proper laws, figure out the dysfunctions, embrace the challenge, ascend the levels, look within yourself, look outside yourself, form a tribe, develop the right habits, know the rules, break the rules, be obsessed, learn the new science, or discover the ancient wisdom. Did I say we like to over-complicate things?
I don’t think leadership should be that complicated. If you’re looking for leadership success, consider these seven simple truths (argh…I did it myself!):
1. There aren’t any shortcuts – Leadership is hard work and most of it is on the job training. Formal education and ongoing development are essential parts of developing your leadership competency, but don’t think you can transform yourself into a great leader by reading a certain book or taking a particular training course. Great leaders are built by being in the game, not by standing on the sidelines or sitting in the classroom.
2. Great leaders started by being great followers – Most successful leaders were successful followers at some point. They learned how to be part of a team, put the needs of others ahead of their own, and work toward a goal bigger than themselves. In our hero-worshiping culture we tend to place the spotlight on the individual achievements of leaders and not pay much attention to how they cultivated those winning ways earlier in their career. Learn to be a good follower and you’ll learn what it takes to be a good leader.
3. There’s no mysterious secret to leadership – Contrary to the titles of popular leadership books, there is no single, mysterious secret to unlocking leadership success (see truth #1). All those books that I lovingly needled offer valuable insights about various aspects of leadership, but most of them tell you what you already know to be true…which brings me to the next point.
4. You already know what it takes to be a good leader – Not to plagiarise Robert Fulghum, but you probably learned in kindergarten most of what it takes to be a good leader. Be nice. Play well with others. Say please and thank you. Do what you can to help others. Of course you have to mature and apply those fundamentals in adult ways like being transparent and authentic with others, challenging them to strive for their goals, holding people accountable, and having difficult conversations when needed.
5. The difference between management and leadership is overrated – Tons of books and blogs have been written debating the differences between these two concepts. Yes, each has its own unique characteristics, and yes, each of them overlap significantly in the practice of leadership and management. Leaders have to manage and managers have to lead. Learn to do them both well because they are much more similar than they are different.
6. Leaders aren’t special – We’re all bozos on the same bus. Leaders aren’t any more special than individual contributors and everyone is needed to have a successful team. If you view leadership as service, which I happen to do, you should consider your team members more important than yourself. Get your ego out of the way and you’ll be on your way to success.
7. Leadership is much more about who you are than what you do – This is probably the most important truth I’ve learned about leadership over my career. I view leadership as a calling, not a job. As a calling, leadership is about who I am—my values, beliefs, attitudes—and my actions are the visible manifestation of those inner ideals. If you want to be a successful leader, your primary focus should be on the inner work that is required, not on behavioral tricks or techniques.
So there you go, those are my seven simple truths. What do you think? What would you add, delete, or change? Feel free to leave a comment with your thoughts. Just don’t make it too complicated.
The wind was against me and I was struggling to make headway.
A stronger rider passed on my left and I figured I would try to draft behind him to see if I could take advantage of him cutting through the wind ahead of me. It worked. My ride was noticeably easier.
After a short distance he noticed what I was doing, motioned for me to ride up alongside him, and suggested that we take turns drafting. Over the next 5 miles we took turns leading and drafting, sharing the work of riding against the wind and reaping the benefit of drafting in each other’s wake.
As a leader, have you ever felt like you were the only one riding into the wind? It seems like you’re always the one in front absorbing the full impact of everything the workplace throws against you and your team. You wish you had someone to cut the wind ahead of you, but you don’t, and it leaves you feeling battered, demoralized, and exhausted.
It doesn’t have to be that way.
My recent bike ride reminded me that leadership, just like biking, doesn’t have to be an individual sport and often works better in a shared context. Here’s five reasons why you shouldn’t lead alone:
1. Share the burden – Sharing leadership can be more efficient and productive than leading alone. By drafting with the other rider, I increased my speed and lowered my time around the 5 mile course. You don’t have to be the only one in charge of everything, so leverage the skills and abilities of those around you to make your job a little bit easier. Many hands make the burden light.
2. Tame the ego – Power has an intoxicating influence that can easily ruin your integrity as a leader. All you have to do is examine the news headlines to see this happening everyday. Sharing the power and responsibility of leadership builds an accountability structure around you that keeps your ego in check and your leadership on course.
3. Better leadership – Sharing leadership can allow you to maximize complementary skill sets among people that leads to more effective leadership overall for your team, department, or organization. Some organizations intentionally pursue a Co-CEO model for this very reason. In today’s fast-paced, ever-changing business climate, combining the efforts of leaders can result in powerful gains for the organization.
4. Camaraderie and support – I was alone and struggling on my bike ride, but when I started working together with a fellow rider, I immediately felt the camaraderie and support that encouraged me to keep going. Leadership can be a lonely trek, but sharing the journey with others allows for mutual support and encouragement that keeps everyone’s spirit and morale high.
5. Keep pace – Partnering with the other rider allowed me to maintain a faster pace than riding alone. When he was in the lead I fed off the challenge of keeping up with him so I could reap the benefits of riding in his slipstream. When it was my turn to lead, I didn’t want to disappoint him by slowing down the pace so I worked even harder than I would have if riding on my own. Sharing leadership can help everyone up their game and perform at higher levels than they would individually.
Before you string me up as a leadership heretic, let me say I’m talking more about the process of leadership rather than the actual position. In most situations there needs to be someone with the final responsibility to make the “go/no-go” decision, but the process – the way in which leadership is manifested in an organization – often works better when it’s shared among individuals.
What are your thoughts? Do you have experience with shared leadership models? Feel free to leave a comment.
This past week I was interviewed by David Witt for the December edition of Blanchard’s Ignite! newsletter. The article appears below.
Trust as a managerial competency? Yes, says Randy Conley, Trust Practice Leader at The Ken Blanchard Companies®, but only as an outward extension of core beliefs held deeply inside. Otherwise you are just going through the motions, attempting to appear trustworthy instead of being trustworthy.
As Conley explains, “People know who they can trust and it’s based on a variety of signals that they pick up. Managers demonstrate trust in their people by the small things they do on a day-to-day basis. It can range from offering praise, increasing responsibility by giving additional tasks, or increasing an employee’s level of autonomy in their role.
“That’s why any skill development has to be built upon a foundation of authenticity. You have to have it right on the inside first. That’s when these tools work best. They help you identify blind spots that might be holding you back as a leader. But it should never be a substitute for genuinely trusting other people.
“This means the person I am with you in the office and at work is the person that I am at home. It’s an alignment of your values. Basically it’s being who you really are. John Wooden, the famous UCLA basketball coach described it best, ‘Character is what you do when no one is watching.’ There needs to be alignment between who you are at work and who you are outside of work.
“There is a fine line between manipulation and authenticity. That’s the shadow aspect of any model or behavioral prescription. For example, if you just approach it as a set of behaviors to influence people, you’re not going to get the traction and results you want. You have to be careful and not treat it from a public relations or spin perspective.”
How do managers get off track?
Everyone knows that trust is important, so how do so many well-meaning managers get off-track when it comes to building trusting relationships?
According to Conley, trust gets off-track when we forget about people and focus only on the product or the result. We get so wrapped up in meeting deadlines, hitting the numbers, or whatever goals we are pursuing that we forget about the relationship aspect.
Of course, goal accomplishment is vital, Conley reminds us, but it’s important to pursue it as a common goal. It’s a “give to get” process. If we neglect that relationship and the human element of it, trust suffers. That results in direct reports thinking to themselves, “All my boss really cares about is whether I get the work done.” That sets up a transactional relationship where everyone is focused on meeting their own needs. You’ll never get the level of performance that a deep commitment to a common goal will produce.
To reverse the process, Conley recommends asking yourself a key leadership question: “Are you here to serve—or be served?” Trusting relationships begin with leaders who are “others focused” instead of “self focused.”
“You can put whatever label you want on it, but it comes from a deeply held belief that my value and role as a leader is to bring out the best in you. It’s not about me, it’s about you. I think that’s the first and foremost core value that people recognize and respond to.” It’s seeing leadership as a higher calling. It’s a lofty aspiration, but that’s a good thing, according to Conley.
“Leaders would be well served to tap into a greater vision of what leadership is, or could be. It’s a noble profession. When you see it that way you recognize that you have to be a trustworthy individual. There’s no room for not being up-front with people, not being competent, or not being dependable and following through on your commitments. It is about having a different vision about what leadership is and what a leader does.”
The benefits of trust
When trust is present in a work relationship there are several benefits. Both sides understand the relationship and are committed to it. Good trustful relationships also create freedom for failure—within limits of course. We’re not talking about permission to fail continuously without consequences, but you are permitted and have a freedom for risk-taking. There’s a level of maturity and acceptance among the manager and direct report that it’s okay to make mistakes because they’ll be viewed as learning opportunities and a chance for us to grow and deepen our relationship.
Trust also builds an atmosphere of open communication that leads to better and more frequent checking in with each other. There’s also a level of confidence in each other’s ability and dependability.
Become a better leader
Conley believes that building trust is the number one leadership competency of the 21st century. But it’s important to remember that it starts on the inside first. In some ways, trust is just an extension of other good management skills and should be woven together with the other things a leader does on a day-to-day basis.
“Trust is a byproduct of all of the other managerial and leadership aspects and activities, duties, and responsibilities that you employ on a day-to-day basis. You become a more trustworthy leader by becoming a better leader.”
Would you like to learn more about trust and its impact on leadership? Then join us for a free webinar!
Building Trust: 3 Keys to Becoming a More Trustworthy Leader
Wednesday, December 12, 2012 9:00–10:00 a.m. Pacific, 12:00–1:00 p.m. Eastern, 5:00–6:00 p.m. UK & GMT
Trust continues to be identified as a missing ingredient in today’s workplace. Surveys show that only a small percentage of today’s workers agree that they truly trust their leaders. To ensure high levels of organizational performance, leaders need to tackle trust head-on. The key is to learn how to build trusting relationships that bring out the best in people.
In this webinar, Blanchard Trust Practice Leader Randy Conley will show you how leaders can improve the levels of trust in their organization by identifying potential gaps that trip up even the best of leaders.
Participants will learn how to:
Get it right on the inside. Becoming a more trustful person.
The four leadership behaviors that build or destroy trust.
Three keys to creating trusting relationships.
Don’t miss this opportunity to learn how to raise the level of trust in your organization by increasing the “trust-ability” of your leaders.
On Tuesday, November 6th, those of us in the United States get to participate in the great American experiment of democratic self-government when we go to the polls to cast our ballot in the presidential election. One of the key roles of the President of the United States, and for any leader in general, is to inspire trust in his or her followers. Few have done it better than Ronald Reagan, the “Great Communicator.”
The first time I was old enough to vote in a presidential election was in 1984 when Reagan defeated Walter Mondale in a landslide, earning 525 of the 538 electoral votes, the highest total in history. Reagan communicated in such a way that allowed most Americans to trust and follow him and to believe in the direction he wanted to take the country. Far from being an exhaustive treatise on the Reagan presidency, here’s four ways that Reagan built trust through his communications. Leaders in any organization at any level can benefit from applying these principles:
He had clear values – Whether you agreed with him or not, Reagan had very clear values that drove his actions. His view on the supremacy of individual freedom and the limited role of government was clearly articulated when he said, “I hope we once again have reminded people that man is not free unless government is limited. There’s a clear cause and effect here that is as neat and predictable as a law of physics: As government expands, liberty contracts.” Trusted leaders have a keen sense of their own personal values and are not hesitant to communicate them to their people and make decisions in alignment with those values.
He helped people believe in themselves – Reagan’s belief in the capabilities of individual Americans inspired a sense of confidence in people. When he used phrases such as “It’s morning again in America” or “America is back and standing tall,” he communicated a sense of belief in Americans that had been lacking in prior years. Leaders build trust with their people when they express their belief and confidence in them. Don’t ever let an opportunity go by to build someone up.
He had an authentic sense of humor – One of Reagan’s most endearing qualities was his sense of humor. He, along with other successful leaders, knew how to take his work seriously but himself lightly. Reagan frequently took heat for being one of America’s oldest presidents yet he didn’t become bitter about the criticism. He said “Thomas Jefferson once said, ‘We should never judge a president by his age, only by his works.’ And ever since he told me that, I stopped worrying.” Leaders will always be successful when they focus on being a first-rate version of themselves rather than a second-rate version of someone else.
He had a clear vision – Reagan frequently talked about America becoming the “shining city on a hill,” a vision of American exceptionalism, a vision of America reaching its full potential in all aspects of its existence and being an example for the world to model. In his farewell address in January 1989, Reagan said. “I’ve spoken of the shining city all my political life, but I don’t know if I ever quite communicated what I saw when I said it. But in my mind it was a tall proud city built on rocks stronger than oceans, wind-swept, God-blessed, and teeming with people of all kinds living in harmony and peace, a city with free ports that hummed with commerce and creativity, and if there had to be city walls, the walls had doors and the doors were open to anyone with the will and the heart to get here. That’s how I saw it and see it still…”
Regan’s vision for America captured the hearts and minds of its citizens and tapped into an innate need that every one of us has; the need to be part of something bigger than ourselves. One of a leader’s primary responsibilities is to clearly articulate the vision of his or her team. Why does your team exist? What is your mission? What are you trying to accomplish? Answer those questions and clearly communicate them to your team and you’ll take a big step toward creating a trusted and loyal followership.
Frankenboss – noun; 1. A mean boss that terrorizes his or her employees; 2. A boss whose behavior closely resembles that of a half-brained monster; 3. A jerk.
With Halloween just three days away, I told my wife that I wanted to write an article about the bad, clueless behaviors that make a leader a “Frankenboss” (see definition above). Sadly enough, it only took us about 3 minutes to brainstorm the following list. If any of these describe your leadership style, you might want to take a look in the mirror and examine the face that’s peering back at you…you might have bolts growing out the sides of your neck.
You might be a Frankenboss if you…
1. Lose your temper – Some leaders think by yelling or cursing at employees they are motivating them. Baloney! Losing your temper only shows a lack of maturity and self-control. There’s no room for yelling and screaming in today’s workplace. Our society has finally awoken to the damaging effects of bullying in our school system so why should it be any different at work? No one should have to go to work and fear getting reamed out by their boss. If you have troubles controlling your temper then do something to fix it.
2. Don’t follow through on your commitments – One of the quickest ways to erode trust with your followers is to not follow through on commitments. As a leader, your people look to you to see what behavior is acceptable, and if you have a habit of not following through on your commitments, it sends an unspoken message to your team that it’s ok for them to not follow through on their commitments either.
3. Don’t pay attention, multi-task, or aren’t “present” in meetings – Some studies say that body language accounts for 50-70% of communication. Multi-tasking on your phone, being preoccupied with other thoughts and priorities, or simply exhibiting an attitude of boredom or impatience in meetings all send the message to your team that you’d rather be any place else than meeting with them. It’s rude and disrespectful to your team to act that way. If you can’t be fully engaged and devote the time and energy needed to meet with your team, then be honest with them and work to arrange your schedule so that you can give them 100% of your focus. They deserve it.
4. Are driven by your Ego – The heart of leadership is about giving, not receiving. Self-serving leaders may be successful in the short-term, but they won’t be able to create a sustainable followership over time. I’m not saying it’s not important for leaders to have a healthy self-esteem because it’s very important. If you don’t feel good about yourself, it’s going to be hard to generate the self-confidence needed to lead assertively, but there is a difference between self-confidence and egoism. Ken Blanchard likes to say that selfless leaders don’t think less of themselves, they just think about themselves less.
5. Avoid conflict – Successful leaders know how to effectively manage conflict in their teams. Conflict in and of itself is not a bad thing, but our culture tends to have a negative view of conflict and neglect the benefits of creativity, better decision-making, and innovation that it can bring. Frankenbosses tend to either completely avoid conflict by sweeping issues under the rug or they go to the extreme by choosing to make a mountain out of every molehill. Good leaders learn how to diagnose the situation at hand and use the appropriate conflict management style.
6. Don’t give feedback – Your people need to know how they’re performing, both good and bad. A hallmark of trusted leaders is their open communication style. They share information about themselves, the organization, and they keep their employees apprised of how they’re performing. Meeting on a quarterly basis to review the employee’s goals and their progress towards attaining those goals is a good performance management practice. It’s not fair to your employees to give them an assignment, never check on how they’re doing, and then blast them with negative feedback when they fail to deliver exactly what you wanted. It’s Leadership 101 – set clear goals, provide the direction and support the person needs, provide coaching and feedback along the way, and then celebrate with them when they achieve the goal.
7. Micromanage – Ugh…even saying the word conjures up stress and anxiety. Micromanaging bosses are like dirty diapers – full of crap and all over your a**. The source of micromanagement comes from several places. The micromanager tends to think their way is the best and only way to do the task, they have control issues, they don’t trust others, and generally are not good at training, delegating, and letting go of work. Then they spend their time re-doing the work of their subordinates until it meets their unrealistic standards and they go around complaining about how overworked and stressed-out they are! Knock it off! A sign of a good leader is what happens in the office when you’re not there. Are people fully competent in the work? Is it meeting quality standards? Are they behaving like good corporate citizens? Micromanagers have to learn to hire the right folks, train them to do the job the right way, monitor their performance, and then get out of their way and let them do their jobs.
8. Throw your team members under the bus – When great bosses experience success, they give the credit to their team. When they encounter failure, they take personal responsibility. Blaming, accusing, or making excuses is a sign of being a weak, insecure leader. Trusted leaders own up to their mistakes, don’t blame others, and work to fix the problem. If you’re prone to throwing your team members under the bus whenever you or they mess up, you’ll find that they will start to withdraw, take less risk, and engage in more CYA behavior. No one likes to be called out in front of others, especially when it’s not justified. Man up and take responsibility.
9. Always play by the book – Leadership is not always black and white. There are a lot of gray areas when it comes to being a leader and the best ones learn to use good judgment and intuition to handle each situation uniquely. There are some instances where you need to treat everyone the same when it comes to critical policies and procedures, but there are also lots of times when you need to weigh the variables involved and make tough decisions. Too many leaders rely upon the organizational policy manual so they don’t have to make tough decisions. It’s much easier to say “Sorry, that’s the policy” than it is to jump into the fray and come up with creative solutions to the problems at hand.
10. You practice “seagull” management – A seagull manager is one who periodically flies in, makes a lot of noise, craps all over everyone, and then flies away. Good leaders are engaged with their team members and have the pulse of what’s going on in the organization. That is much harder work than it is to be a seagull manager, but it also earns you much more respect and trust from your team members because they know you understand what they’re dealing with on a day-to-day basis and you have their best interests in mind.
I’m sure you’ve had your own personal experiences with a Frankenboss. What other behaviors would you add to this list? Feel free to leave a comment and share your thoughts.
I was recently talking with a friend about the critical importance of teaching the fundamentals when coaching baseball. Baseball is a game built on basic, fundamental skills. No matter the level at which the game is played — Tee Ball, Little League, High School, College, or Professionally — players continuously work on learning and refining the fundamental aspects of the game. From the proper way to field ground balls, the basics of a good batting swing, correct pitching mechanics, or smart base running techniques, there are certain skills and competencies that must be practiced and mastered for a player to achieve success.
The same is true for being a successful and trusted leader; you have to focus on the fundamentals. Perusing a list of book titles in search of the keys to effective leadership can leave you feeling overwhelmed and hopeless as to where to start. We’re encouraged to do so much: Lead with heart, lead with soul, get out of the box, find the leader within, follow the irrefutable laws, adhere to the timeless principles, leverage your strengths, eliminate your weaknesses, develop the right habits, start with ‘why’, start with ‘how’, lead with vision, lead from the trenches, etc., etc., etc.
Yet beyond all the hyperbole, fluff, clichés, and modern-day snake oil leadership remedies, the most basic fundamental of becoming a successful leader is leading with trust. What does it mean to lead with trust? It means:
Lead competently — A fundamental of being a trusted leader is to be good at what you do, both in terms of developing your competence as a leader as well as being a high performer in your technical role. There are no shortcuts to success. It takes hard work, discipline, and constant growth and learning.
Lead authentically — Successful leaders embrace and build upon their uniqueness and don’t try to be someone they’re not. It’s wise to glean knowledge about what makes other leaders successful and to incorporate those practices into your own leadership philosophy, but don’t be a copycat. You’re not Abraham Lincoln, Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, General Patton, Mark Zuckenberg, or any other host of people who may be held up as different leadership models. It sounds simplistic, but it’s true what our parents have always told us – Just be yourself, there’s no one else like you.
Lead with integrity — Successful leaders know that at the end of the day the only thing they have left is their integrity. The fundamentals of successful leadership start here: Be honest, don’t lie, behave ethically and legally, keep your word, follow-through on commitments, be dependable. Get this wrong and it’s impossible to lead with trust.
Be other focused — To borrow Rick Warren’s opening line of his book, The Purpose Driven Life, “It’s not about you.” Leadership is about other people, not about yourself. Leading with trust means you realize that leadership is about influencing and developing the people around you. You invest your time and energy in helping them succeed, and when that happens, you succeed. Self-focused leaders erode trust and lose the commitment and loyalty of their people.
Leading with trust is a lifelong journey that plays out in the simple, everyday interactions leaders have with their people. Through practice and refinement of these leadership fundamentals, leaders will enjoy successful, strong, and lasting relationships built on trust.
I’ll be exploring this topic in more detail when I co-host the #LeadFromWithin TweetChat with @LollyDaskal on Tuesday, April 24 at 5:00 p.m. Pacific/8:00 p.m. Eastern. Feel free to join me, Lolly, and hundreds of other leadership practioners and teachers as we discuss what it means to lead with trust.
After finishing his whirlwind trip around the globe delivering presents, I had the opportunity to sit down with Santa for a one-on-one interview. I was interested in gleaning some wisdom from one of the most legendary leaders of all time and what appears below is an excerpt from our time together.
Me: Thank you, Santa, for taking the time to meet with me. You must be exhausted after your long night of work.
Santa: Ho, ho, ho! It’s my pleasure Randy! I’m not exhausted, I’m energized! I love the work I do and consider myself blessed to be able to bring happiness and joy to so many people.
Me: You are one of the most trusted and revered leaders in history. Why do you think that is so?
Santa: Well, I’m humbled by that compliment. I believe a large part of it has to do with my dependability. In all my years I’ve never missed a Christmas delivery. I know that millions of young boys and girls are relying on me to bring them gifts and I never want to disappoint them. If you want people to trust you, you have to be reliable and follow through on your commitments.
Me: How in the world do you manage to make all your deliveries in a single night?
Santa: I can’t reveal all my secrets, otherwise FedEx and UPS might give me a run for my money! Let’s just say that I have to be extremely organized. Any successful leader knows that you must have a clear plan of action. It’s a cliché, but it’s true: People don’t plan to fail, they just fail to plan. I maintain trust with kids and parents by being organized and methodical in my approach to work. It helps me stay on track.
Me: I’ve heard that you keep a list, you check it twice, and you know who’s been naughty or nice. Is that true? Why do you do that?
Santa: Of course it’s true! In leadership terms I consider it my way of “managing performance.” I like to stay in touch with how all the girls and boys are behaving and I think it helps them stay on their best behavior if they know there are consequences for their actions. The parents are the front-line “supervisors” in charge of their kids, so they send me regular reports about how things are going. I partner with the parents to help them set clear goals for their children so the kids know exactly what’s expected of them. It’s not fair to evaluate someone’s performance if they didn’t have defined goals in the first place.
Me: How do you keep all the elves motivated to work throughout the year?
Santa: I have the best team in the world! I’ve always tried to help the elves realize the importance of the work they do. They aren’t robots who work on an assembly line. They are fine craftsmen who are bringing the dreams of kids to life and that’s a very meaningful job. I also look for opportunities to praise their performance and encourage them to praise each other’s performance as well. It’s creates an environment in our workshop where we cheer each other on to greater success. Finally, I put them in charge of achieving the goal. I make sure they are sufficiently trained to do their particular job and then I get out of their way. The elves have a great degree of autonomy to do their work as they see fit.
Me: Santa, I know you’re tired and eager to get back to the North Pole and Mrs. Claus, so I’ll ask this one final question. If you could give one piece of advice to leaders reading this article, what would it be?
Santa: I would encourage leaders to remember the purpose of their position – to serve those they lead. Leaders set the vision and direction for their team, provide the necessary resources and training, and then look for ways to support their team members in achieving their goals. Successful leaders remember that the most important thing they have is their integrity and the trust they hold with their followers, and they continually look for ways to build and maintain trust with others. If they focus on that, they’ll be successful in the long run.
Organizations around the world are reporting their leaders are turning into zombies at an alarming rate. Formerly healthy, productive, and capable leaders are falling victim to the Zombie Plague, the deadly disease that has spread uncontrollably during the global economic recession the past three years.
Leadership development experts recommend that leaders be on alert for the symptoms listed below. If any of these are present in your current leadership practices, please consult a professional immediately.
1. You’re running on autopilot – Zombie’s are empty vessels with no willpower or mind of their own. They wander about aimlessly with no clear purpose other than to satisfy their basic needs for survival (mainly terrorizing and eating humans!). Zombie leaders have become complacent and stopped investing in their own growth and learning. They do the minimum amount of work required to keep the ship afloat and they’ve stopped pushing the boundaries to innovate and adapt to new realities in the marketplace. If you’re content with doing the same ‘ol, same ‘ol, you might be infected. Get it checked out.
2. You’re a doomsdayist – Healthy leaders are purveyors of hope and positive energy. They cast a compelling vision of the future that inspires their followers to commit to the goal, team, or organization. Zombie leaders tend to have a sense of doom and failure. They waste their energy focusing on all the reasons why something can’t be done rather than working to find new solutions. They’re often heard saying “Why change? That’s the way we’ve always done things around here.”
3. Your relationships are strained and difficult – Zombie leaders tend to have a low EQ (emotional quotient) that makes them ill-prepared to develop strong interpersonal relationships. They fail to build rapport with their followers, don’t collaborate well with colleagues, and have a low self-awareness about how they “show up” with other people. In fact, zombie leaders reading this right now probably fail to identify with any of these qualities and instead are muttering to themselves “I wish my boss was reading this article.”
4. You’re in a “trust-deficit” – Leaders infected with the zombie virus are notorious for breaking trust with their followers. Failing to follow through on commitments, taking credit for other people’s work, not “walking the talk,” and withholding recognition and praise from others are all ways that zombies erode trust. The low-trust relationships that zombie leaders have with their followers results in reduced productivity, gossiping, questioning of decisions, and low levels of employee morale and engagement.
Various remedies are available to prevent leaders from contracting the Zombie Plague or to treat those already infected. The therapy plan extends over the course of a leader’s lifetime and requires constant diligence to ensure the disease stays in remission. Treatments include ongoing learning and self-improvement, building trust in relationships, and adopting a servant-leader philosophy.