Tanveer Naseer

Leadership Coach, Speaker, and Writer

Is Your Leadership Based On Influence Or Authority?

A look at authority and influence in leadership and why one of these is more critical than the other to succeed at leadership in today's organizations.

With a complex endeavour such as leadership, it’s only natural that there be different schools of thought and perspectives on what would be the best way to lead your team and organization forward. Of course, while there might be different approaches to leadership, there are still a few binary aspects to how we approach the role of leader in today’s organizations.

One example is the choice between the command-and-control style of leadership and one that’s more collaborative and inclusive in how we rally people around a common cause or goal. While most of us have come to appreciate the limitations and inefficiencies that come with a top-down style of leadership, one binary approach to leadership that’s not so clear is the one where we choose either to rely on our authority or on our influence to guide our team or organization.

Now to be clear, leaders by default do operate with some form of authority, usually as a result of their position within their organization. Where problems arise is when we think that all a person needs to lead others is a sense of authority without any consideration for the impact our actions have on those we have the responsibility to lead.

To help illustrate what I mean by this, I’d like to share the example of two people I worked with during my clinical-work days at the Royal Victoria Hospital in Montreal.

Irene was a member of the nurses team that the doctors and my fellow clinicians collaborated with in our work treating the various patients that came to our hospital-based clinic. Although this team of nurses didn’t have a head nurse, Irene liked to think of herself as being the head nurse and certainly liked to act like she had that weight to throw around in her interactions with both fellow staff and patients.

Now while there was no question that Irene was a competent and caring nurse, it was clear talking to her fellow nurses that if a head nurse job were to be created and Irene were to get it, the nurses would be lining up at the HR department with requests to transfer to another department.

The problem Irene had is that while she was certainly technically competent as a nurse, she had little to no influence in terms of people wanting to follow her advice and suggestions.

In fact, it was so bad that there were a few occasions where I saw Irene give some unsolicited advice about a particular case and her fellow nurses would outright ignore her. And if you asked the other nurses why they’d behave that way, they’d tell you about how they didn’t want to make Irene’s ego any bigger than it already was.

Now compare Irene’s example to Helen, another nurse who worked at this clinic. Helen was the nurse who everyone went to if they needed help with a particular problem or if you just needed a friendly ear to vent to about some difficult patient.

Helen was just as competent and caring a nurse as Irene, but the difference between these two professionals was that Helen made it all about the patient, while Irene was more interested in finding opportunities to showcase herself and her abilities.

While both nurses had the same level of authority in how they performed their jobs, time and time again when patients returned, it was Helen who received the most requests from patients to have her working on their case.

Now the reason why I wanted to use nurses who lack formal leadership titles to discuss this issue is in part because it’s a common adage that in today’s modern workplaces, anybody can be a leader; that we don’t need a title to wield influence within our team and organization.

But perhaps more importantly, Irene and Helen’s example also helps to illustrate a key finding from recent neuroscience studies that offer an important reality check for how effective we are in bringing out the best in those we lead.

Researchers have found that the relationship between Click here to continue reading »”Is Your Leadership Based On Influence Or Authority?”

Do Your Organization’s Values Reflect What It Stands For?

The recent scandal at Wells Fargo provides a unique backdrop to discuss the role organizational values should be playing in today's leadership.

Over the past several months, there has been a growing discussion and even discord in various parts of the world over the issue of reasserting what our values are as a society and country.

From the various debates in European countries about the sociological impact of rising refugee populations, to the polarizing political climate brewing within the current US election period, there’s been a growing unrest in certain countries to ‘protect their country’s values’ in light of changing demographics and the growing interdependence brought on by today’s global economy.

Ironically, in almost every one of these discussions regarding the importance of protecting a society’s or country’s values, there’s a noticeable absence of clarity about which values exactly are in need of protection, or are currently at risk of being washed away by the arrival of immigrants and refugees on their country’s proverbial shores (in most cases, when certain values are pointed out as being at risk, they tend to be those that are already enshrined in a country’s laws or are deeply entrenched in existing cultural norms).

That lack of clarity about what values these countries need to protect reflects a current affliction impacting many of today’s organizations. Specifically, of how the values an organization uses to define who they are and what they’re all about tend to be contradicted by the decisions and choices their leaders make regarding the best way to achieve their short term goals.

Consider, for example, Wells Fargo, the latest US financial organization to get caught up in a major scandal and subsequent public relations disaster. An examination of the text found on their company’s webpage simply titled “Our Values” reveals this telling statement:

“All team members should know our values so well that if our policy manuals didn’t exist, we would still make decisions based on our common understanding of our culture and what we stand for. … If we had to choose, we’d rather have a team member who lives by our values than one who just memorizes them.”

And then further down on this same page, Wells Fargo identifies “ethics” and “what’s right for our customers” as being among those values that they expect all of their employees to recognize and abide by in how they perform their duties within their organization.

Now, considering the recent revelation that this financial institution had created almost 2 million fraudulent bank and credit card accounts in order to increase fees they charged to their existing client base, it’s not surprising that this company has lost the confidence and trust of both their customer base and the public at large. The fact that their actions blatantly contradict the very values they espouse to hold dear only makes the hole in which they’ve dug themselves into even deeper and harder to get out of.

But the larger issue this situation exposes for other organizations is whether Click here to continue reading »”Do Your Organization’s Values Reflect What It Stands For?”

What It Takes To Overcome Distractions In The Workplace

A lesson from Olympic rowers reveals a powerful message for leaders on how they can help their employees to overcome workplace distractions.

As the final week of the summer period slowly comes to an end, I have to admit to feeling a mix bag of emotions. As much I as enjoy summer and all the activities and beautiful weather it brings, I’m looking forward to returning to a more regular routine both at work and at home.

After all, given the blue skies seen outside the office window and the ease with which family activities can be planned with children being on summer vacation break, the summer months do present quite a number of distractions that can impede one’s productivity and drive to push ahead.

Of course, in today’s modern, digital workspace, there are far more and at times, far greater distractions than the sight of a sunny blue sky outside your window.

In most cases, when it comes to things that impact the overall productivity of employees, the common tendency is to view meetings and emails as the biggest impediments.

And yet, according to a recent CareerBuilder survey of over 2 000 managers, the biggest distractions employees face in today’s workplaces are text messaging/using their smartphones, followed by surfing the web.

And the impact of these distractions on workplace productivity is quite significant, as 75% of employers state that their organizations lose two or more hours of productivity every day because their employees are distracted.

To make matters worse, the leaders surveyed in this study noted that this loss in productivity leads to a compromised quality of work, missed deadlines, and even negative repercussions in employer-employee relationships and as well customer relationships.

Now the typical response in light of such findings is to limit the usage of smartphones at work or to restrict access to what sites employees can surf while on the job.

While this might solve the issue of employees using their smartphones and the internet for non-work related matters, it overlooks the underlying issue behind these behaviours and what leaders should really be doing to help their employees develop the means to overcome the distractions they’ll inevitably face while at work.

And as with most things in life, the best way for us to appreciate what we should be doing is by looking at the lessons learned by others about what it takes to succeed in the face of various obstacles. Click here to continue reading »”What It Takes To Overcome Distractions In The Workplace”

Why Leaders Need To Show Humility

JetBlue Chairman Joel Peterson on why humility is critical to leadership success in today's work environment.

The following is a guest piece by Joel Peterson, Chairman of JetBlue, with David A. Kaplan.

Self-promoting divas and power-hoarding executives destroy organizational trust. High-trust leaders, on the other hand, see their role as a stewardship, guiding people, assets, and decision-making—protecting the values and vision that make an organization what it is. And that requires humility.

French President Charles de Gaulle—not exactly a shrinking violet himself—used to remind people that “cemeteries are full of indispensable men.” Diva-style leaders who ignore that mordant reminder of humility are unlikely to build anything that lasts longer than they do. Only those interested in leadership as more than mere ego gratification have a chance to build something that outlasts them.

When a CEO becomes a household name, that CEO may well need to get his own house in order. In “Good to Great”, Jim Collins lamented the trend of boards that become “enamored with charismatic CEOs,” a tendency that, he concluded, was “most damaging” for “the long-term health of companies.” Indeed, his research showed that “good-to-great” CEOs generally received very little attention, whether in the mainstream press or in his interviews for the book.

It’s natural for strong leaders to feel they make a vital difference to everything—and everyone—in an organization. They often believe that the firm’s legacy and their own are one and the same. But that kind of arrogance (après moi, le déluge) can be deadly to trust.

Leaders with a me-first attitude are often Click here to continue reading »”Why Leaders Need To Show Humility”

How Summer Vacation Can Drive Us To Succeed

A study on motivation and perception reveals a powerful truth for how leaders can use summer vacation breaks to motivate the best in their employees.

Of all the seasons of the year, summer is without question my favourite and no month encapsulates that summertime feeling more than the month of July. Not only is this the first full month where my girls are officially off-school, but this month also marks the return of one of my favourite summer festivals here in Montreal, the Festival International de Jazz de Montréal (if you haven’t attended this festival, this is definitely something to experience, whether you’re a Jazz fan or not).

Of course, the month of July also marks the beginning of the summer vacation period, and so it’s only natural that there’s much interest right now in exploring the topic of leadership and summer vacation.

While I’ve written in the past about why it’s important for leaders to make time for a vacation break, I wanted to shift the focus in this piece to look at the findings of a recent study that offers some valuable insights into how we can increase our motivation to achieve our shared goals when we return back to work following a vacation break.

Researchers from The Wharton School have been studying what they call the “fresh-start effect” and the impact this has on our motivational drive to achieve the goals we set up for ourselves. As part of their study published in “Psychological Science”, Dr. Katherine Milkman and her team of researchers conducted an experiment where they asked study participants to describe a personal goal they haven’t yet achieved but would like to attain later in the year.

The researchers then divided the participants into two groups and gave each one a different scenario to imagine. For the first group, the researchers asked them to imagine that they had moved into a new apartment after living in the same place for the past nine years.

For the second group, they also asked them to imagine moving into a new apartment, but in their case the scenario was that they had moved every year over the past nine years.

The participants in both groups were then asked to describe how motivated they were to begin work on achieving their goal after moving into this new apartment. What the researchers found was that the study participants who had moved into a new apartment after staying in the same place for nine years were far more motivated to achieve their goal than those who had moved every year.

The researchers concluded that study participants “would be more motivated to start tackling their personal goal after a psychologically meaningful relocation than they would be after a relocation that was less psychologically meaningful.”

So what does this study’s findings have to do with increasing our motivation to achieve our goals after returning from a vacation break? Well, as the researchers pointed out, while all of us are driven to Click here to continue reading »”How Summer Vacation Can Drive Us To Succeed”

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