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?”

A Lesson On How Successful People Achieve Their Goals

A simple exercise from Warren Buffett reveals a powerful lesson on how leaders can help their employees to successfully achieve their goals.

For many of us, the month of September presents the perfect opportunity to look back on the goals we set out for ourselves earlier this year and to assess how well we are doing in achieving those goals and more specifically, what should we be doing from this point forward to ensure that we successfully attain them.

But if we truly want to feel successful in what we do, there’s another question we should be asking ourselves: are we focusing on those goals that really matter? Are we putting our best efforts and initiatives towards measures that will help us to live the life we were meant to live?

To help illustrate what I mean by this, I’d like to share this story about a conversation between Warren Buffett – one of the most successful people in the world today – and his pilot, and how a simple exercise helped his employee to appreciate how to focus on what matters.

For 10 years, Mike Flint had served as the personal airplane pilot for Warren Buffett. One day Buffett goes up to his pilot and tells him “the fact that you’re still working for me tells me I’m not doing my job. You should be out there going after more of your goals and dreams”.

So Buffett asked Mike to write down a list of the 25 goals Mike wanted to accomplish over the course of his career, whether it be something Mike wanted to do in the next few years or sometime down the road.

After Mike created his list, Buffett then asked Mike to review his list of 25 goals and to circle the top 5 most important goals; the things that more than anything Mike wanted to know he’d achieve in his lifetime.

Not surprisingly, Mike admitted to Buffett that this was hard to do because he really wanted to achieve all of these 25 goals he’d written out in his list. But Buffett was adamant that Mike draw a circle around what he would consider to be his 5 most important goals from this list of 25 goals, and to write these down in a new list of his 5 most important goals.

So after much time and effort, Mike was able to pick out 5 goals from his original list and he found himself looking at two different lists – one that had what he chose as his 5 most important goals and another one which had the other 20 goals that Mike wanted to achieve.

At this point, Mike understood that he should start working on achieving those 5 goals in his important goal list and he told Buffett that he would start working on those right away.

Buffett then asked Mike about his second list with those 20 other goals and asked him what was he going to do about those goals.

Mike told Buffett that while they are not on his most important list of goals, they were things he still wanted to achieve and so he planned on working on those other goals when he had the time to do so. As Mike told Buffett, “they are not as urgent, but I still plan to give them a dedicated effort”.

Buffett then gave Mike a stern look and told him that he got it wrong. He went on to tell Mike how Click here to continue reading »”A Lesson On How Successful People Achieve Their Goals”

4 Important Leadership Lessons From The Final Frontier

In honour of the 50th anniversary of Star Trek, here are 4 important leadership lessons we can learn from the crew of the Starship Enterprise.

If you’re a Star Trek fan like myself, then you know this week marks a historic milestone for this science fiction cultural phenomenon. More specifically, how this Thursday, September 8th marks the 50th anniversary of the airing of the first episode in this iconic, internationally renowned television series.

Whether you’re a fan of the series, or sci-fi in general, or not, you have to admit it’s an impressive feat for a series made literally half a century ago to have given rise to four television spinoff series (with a fifth TV series now in the works), along with 13 movies, including the recent reboot series of which my daughter Alya is a big fan.

Now while I imagine much will be written and spoken this week regarding the enduring appeal of this show, there can be no doubt that a big factor behind its ability to continue to garner new fans decades after its series run is because of its earnest desire to showcase our collective humanity at its very best.

But there’s another aspect of this popular franchise that we can also appreciate and that is some of the lessons we can learn about how to be the kind of leader who not only inspires the best in others, but who also demonstrates a sense of clarity about who we are and what we’d like to achieve.

To that end, here are 4 important leadership lessons we can learn from Star Trek to improve the way we lead our team and organization.

1. You have to care about your people as much as you do about your mission
With a show as old as the original Star Trek series, it’s only natural that certain presumptions are made about the show and its characters that are not necessarily reflective of what was really shown on the series. One example of this was how in recent years, people began to think of Captain Kirk as being this action-oriented leader while his more recent, modern counterparts in subsequent TV sequel series were the more thoughtful, cerebral type.

While there certainly were more fight sequences in The Original Series as compared to the ones it gave rise to, the truth is that one thing that was ever-present in Kirk’s character was how his primary focus was on his crew. While the most obvious example of this can be seen in various episodes where Kirk faces a threatening adversary and barters his own life in exchange for the safety of his crew, the most evocative example of this is seen in those moments where he kneels over the body of a lost crewman.

Unlike his contemporaries who absorbed crew losses as new data to reformulate their strategy, Kirk never shied away from letting others see that he’s taking this loss personally, regardless of how well or how little he knew them.

But he also demonstrated that sense of care and concern in how he pushed his crew to do better; to challenge themselves to rise above the challenges before them because he believed in their potential to be more. That’s why the stories in this series remain timeless – it’s not about the technology, but about Click here to continue reading »”4 Important Leadership Lessons From The Final Frontier”

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”

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