When it comes to studying leadership, the natural tendency is to focus on those leaders whose successes and achievements continue to inspire us and drive so many to emulate them in the hopes of replicating their accomplishments.
Of course, as much as it’s important for us to see what we can learn from those who understand what it takes to succeed at leadership, it’s also valuable for us to examine and consider what causes others to fail in the role of leading people towards a common goal or shared purpose.
To that end, I’d like to share the story of one leader whose example I hope will help us to appreciate one of the key challenges leaders need to address if they are to succeed in this role in today’s fast-changing, global environment.
When Albert* was promoted to head the division he had spent the past few years working for, he naturally jumped into the opportunity with a lot of enthusiasm and ideas of how he’d like the department to operate under his leadership.
Given how Albert was career-driven and had his eyes on playing a bigger role in the organization, he was determined to not only prove his ability to lead this department, but to get his former colleagues to view him as ‘executive material’, in order to support his efforts to move up in the organization.
In no time, Albert was sending out memos detailing new approaches he wanted his former colleagues to employ in order to ‘make things more efficient’ or to ‘make efforts more aligned with corporate policy’ as a way to prove his technical prowess.
He used team meetings to inform his direct reports of his interactions with various groups of executives and VPs to highlight his growing familiarity with those at the executive level in order to prove his comfort level with ‘playing in the big leagues’.
Of course, in his zeal to prove his ability to lead and step up into the executive circle, Albert ended up making a number of missteps which Click here to continue reading »”Why We Fail At Leadership”
In my previous piece, I discussed why leadership should be hard in the context of how so many leaders I’ve work with are now struggling to find balance between the rising demands on their attention and resources, and having the time to assess their leadership and what they need to do going forward.
Given how that piece was based on my own reflections of this past year, I was delighted to see its message resonating with so many of my readers. Among the many comments I received regarding that piece were questions about some of the strategies I use for reflection and increasing my sense of self-awareness.
Now before I share the strategies I use for reflection and review, I’d like to first briefly point out the findings of a recent study for why it’s so important for leaders – in light of the growing demands for their time, attention, and resources – to use reflection in their leadership.
Dr. David Zes and Dr. Dana Landis analyzed self-assessments from almost 7 000 professionals in about 500 publicly traded companies looking for gaps in how individuals viewed their competencies as compared to how their colleagues viewed their performance. This data was then compared against the return on investment for the company’s stock over a period of almost two and a half years.
Through their analysis, the researchers found that the employees that worked at poorly performing companies had on average 20% more blind spots as compared to those who worked at financially strong companies. Also, employees at poor-performing companies were 79% more likely to demonstrate low levels of self-awareness as compared to employees who worked at companies that were delivering a strong return on investment.
What their study’s findings revealed is that self-awareness Click here to continue reading »”How To Increase Self-Awareness In Our Leadership”
With the arrival of this last month of the year, I’ve been finding myself in a mixed state of mental exhaustion and reflection, which considering the work involved in bringing my first leadership book out into the world alongside my regular workload is quite understandable.
What’s interesting, though, is how many of the leaders I’ve spoken and worked with over the past year are also in this dualistic state. Unfortunately, for most of them, the mental exhaustion is far outweighing any notions of making efforts for reflection and review.
Indeed, I’ve seen many leaders shake their heads and admit with some frustration how their job has become so much harder than it used to be. Although I sympathize with the challenges they face, and the complexities that now dot the landscape of operating in this 24/7 global environment, the reality that we all have to own up to is that leadership is hard. And it’s meant to be hard.
As I’ve written before, leadership is not about you – it’s about the people you lead and serve [Share on Twitter]. That alone makes this job a difficult one because you are taking on the responsibility of combining the hopes, dreams, and ambitions of a diverse group of people and connecting it to something bigger than yourself.
But this has always been the key function of leadership – of how to rally the collective talents, experiences, insights and creativity of a group of people around a common vision or shared purpose that others want to help transform into today’s reality. Our collective history is replete with individuals we admire and try to emulate thanks to their successes in achieving goals that in their time seemed unimaginable.
And yet, in light of today’s faster paced, ever-changing business environment, it can seem almost impossible for us to Click here to continue reading »”Why Leadership Should Be Hard”
In my previous piece, I shared three strategies used by two distinct organizations to help promote and support a sense of community and shared ownership in their respective workplaces – a mindset and approach that’s becoming increasingly critical for leaders to foster in order to support their organization’s adaptability and long-term success.
In this follow-up piece, I want to build on those three strategies by examining a process most leaders currently employ through their leadership and how we can better use this tactic to not only drive organizational success, but to strengthen the commitment our employees make to our shared purpose.
As the title of this piece points out, what I’m referring to here is the process of delegation.
When it comes to delegation in today’s organizations, the common tendency leaders have is to simply delegate those tasks or projects that we don’t want to do. Work that requires time and attention that we can’t be bothered to expend our limited resources on, and so we hand them off to our employees.
While this approach might help us to better manage our daily grind, the problem with this is that the act of delegation becomes a lost opportunity for us to connect what matters to our employees with what matters to our organization.
In order to improve and sustain employee morale over the long run, we need to understand what will help our employees feel like they are contributing meaningfully to our organization; that they understand the connection between their efforts and the shared purpose that defines why we do what we do.
Now this can be a challenge for many leaders because we instinctively want to make sure we maintain some form of control over things, not to mention that fear that if our employees fail, we not only have to do the work we assigned them, but we also have to address the mistakes they made.
And yet, we have to remind ourselves that our employees are not going to care about our vision if we only give them work that no one else wants to do.
So with this in mind, I’d like to discuss a strategy I’ve shared with my clients and with those who’ve attended some of my talks on how we can delegate not just tasks to our employees, but a sense of purpose and meaning, along with giving them that much-needed opportunity to learn and grow. Click here to continue reading »”How To Delegate Purpose In Your Organization”
Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve had the pleasure of being interviewed by various media outlets about my first book, “Leadership Vertigo”. What’s been interesting about this process is how in many of these conversations, there was much interest to discuss the point made in the book about the importance of leaders fostering a sense of community in their organizations.
As long-time readers of my writings on leadership know, this is something that’s been an underlying theme in many of my insights into how we can be a better leader to those we serve – where we ensure that we’re creating an environment where our employees understand the value of their contributions and why we collectively do what we do.
Of course, in these conversations about my book, the focus is not on the relevance of community-building in today’s organizations, but rather how do we go about doing this in light of the numerous demands on a leader’s time, attention and resources while operating in a doing-more-with-less environment.
It’s a great question and the answer to which is one that I want to share with my readers so that they too can understand how we can go about fostering that sense of community in our organizations despite the accelerated pace that we now have to operate in.
And to help illustrate these points, I’m going to use examples from two very diverse organizations – Pixar Animation Studios and the European Space Agency – in order to help demonstrate the value and importance of fostering a sense of belonging and purpose to helping your organization to succeed and thrive now and in the years ahead.
1. Create opportunities for employees to interact outside of formal roles
When Pixar began designing its new campus ground in Emeryville, California, then Chairman and CEO Steve Jobs wanted to create a common meeting space for the organization’s employees in order to facilitate sparks of creativity, inspiration, and “unplanned collaborations”.
The goal in establishing such an environment was simple – by creating an open space for people to meet and discuss, employees from different departments would be encouraged to Click here to continue reading »”How A Sense Of Community Can Help Us Achieve Greatness”