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Posts Tagged ‘leader qualities’

In two recent postings on this blog on micromanagement, I pointed out that a micromanager either does not delegate or delegates ineffectively, which illustrate the micromanager’s fear of losing control of the process and outcome.  These prior posts also described the problems that micromanagement create in the organization, not only to the employees and micromanager.

Delegation is perhaps the hardest skill for a new supervisor and manager to learn. However, it is one of the most important competencies of successful supervision and management.  The sign of successful leadership is when the team can function effectively without the leader’s presence.  Delegation is one of the tools to achieve successful leadership and successful teams.

In Why Aren’t You Delegating?, Amy Gallo in an HBR Blog Network article notes that delegation is one of the most underutilized management skills.  She cites Jeffrey Pfeffer of Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business,

Your most important task as a leader is to teach people how to think and ask the right questions so that the world doesn’t go to hell if you take a day off.

Gallo describes the warning signs of nondelegation:

  • Working long hours
  • Feeling indispensable
  • Feeling that your team doesn’t take ownership and you’re the only one who cares

Gallo proposes possible reasons for a manager’s reluctance to delegate:

  • You’re a perfectionist
  • You think it’s easier to do everything yourself
  • You think your work is better than everyone else’s
  • Passing work detracts from your importance
  • Lack of self-confidence and not wanting to be upstaged

How do you begin to add delegation to your management style?  Gallo suggests,

  • “Delegation shouldn’t be yet another task.  Make it part of your process for creating staff development plans.”
  • “Give your direct reports permission to call you out when you haven’t delegated something you should.”

Gallo clearly points out that “[a]fter you delegate, your job as a manager is to observe and support your direct reports, not dictate what they do.”

Finally, Gallo provides six principles to remember, three Do’s and three Don’ts, as well as two case studies.

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If you want to be a powerful leader, you have to become familiar with the sweat-inducing, anxiety-producing, adrenaline-generating emotions of being lost while people are following you. Because that is, as often as not, the emotion of leadership.

The Emotional Adventure of Leadership, by Peter Bregman on the HBR Blog Network, addresses an oft unspoken side of leadership, the emotional aspect.

One of the defining characteristics of strong leaders is their ability to endure uncertainty and ambiguity. … It takes tremendous confidence to lead. Not the confidence of having all the answers — that’s arrogance — but the confidence to move forward even without the answers. You have to be capable of feeling awkward and uncertain without giving up. You have to believe that you and your team have what it takes to see yourselves through — or, if need be, to pick yourselves up and start again.

This is when you make the best decision that you can with the information that you have.  Part of that decision making process is determining whether or not to make a decision.  Do you have enough information to ensure that you would do no harm or at least not make the situation worse?

Bregman is absolutely correct that arrogance does not belong with leadership.  I have always said that when you meet others, in leadership roles, consultants, or whatever role, who indicate that they have the answer for you, then just say no thank you and walk away.

One of the key qualities I look for in leaders or future leaders is the courage to ask questions, particularly the tough questions.  Asking questions is not a sign of weakness, it is a sign of strength and courage – to minimize uncertainty and ambiguity by having an understanding of the situation.  By having a better understanding of the situation, you can assess the impact, both positive and negative, of alternative courses of action.

In some situations, there is more time to gather information before making a decision.  In other situations, leaders have to be capable of accepting uncertainty and ambiguity.  Leadership is knowing the difference and being able to adjust smoothly and confidently.

 

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Got Boring?

Continuing in my periodic theme of leadership secrets and Got something, the latest ingredient is boringness – Boringness: The Secret to Great Leadership by Joel Stein was published today in the Harvard Business Review blog.

The author interviewed several leaders in researching his book, Man Made:  A Stupid Quest for Masculinity.  He states,

To my surprise, the best of them tended to be quiet listeners who let other people make most of the decisions. They weren’t particularly charismatic. Or funny. They weren’t the toughest guys in the pack. They didn’t have a Clintonian need to be liked, or a Patton-like intensity. They were, on the whole, a little boring.

Stein concludes,

[I]nspiring people through your personality is a risky, exhausting endeavor. But if you make people feel like you’re going to help them accomplish something far bigger than you — not just saving lives, but living by a system that provides dignity and pride — you can let your belief do the work for you.

I agree.  Leaders who are quiet listeners are secure in themselves, do not need to be the center of attention, and know that influence and inspiration does not require perspiration.

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Staying on the topic of leadership and influencing others, do you need charisma to be an effective leader?

My hardcover dictionary defines charisma as “A rare personal quality attributed to leaders who arouse fervent popular devotion and enthusiasm.”  Does fervent popular devotion and enthusiasm produce results?  Devotion and enthusiasm by themselves don’t produce results, but perhaps understanding how to develop charisma and using it appropriately to influence others to action might lead to results.

I saw an article on the Fast Company site, Cultivating Charisma:  How Personal Magnetism Can Help (Or Hurt) You At Work.  “Olivia Fox Cabane, author of The Charisma Myth, talks with Fast Company about why charisma is so critical to business and how special Jedi mind tricks can help get you there.”

In this article we learn that:

  • Charisma is a learned social skill.
  • There isn’t just one type of charisma, “There’s only the right form of charisma for the particular situation.”
  • There are at least four forms of charisma.
  • Introversion is an asset for several of the forms of charisma.
  • “Charisma makes people want to trust you and follow you.”
  • “It’s charisma that helps determine which ideas get adopted and how effectively your projects are implemented.”

In her book, Cabane discusses body language and its impact on charisma.  She indicates that while you can’t consciously control body language, you can learn to control your subconscious.  “The secret is to get you into the right charismatic mind to teach you to get a charismatic brain so you then exhibit the right charismatic body language so that then you are charismatic.”

Returning back to the dictionary definition of charisma, the Cabane would say that it is not a rare personal quality and that it’s not limited to leaders.  If it’s a skill, you can learn it.

It does sound a bit like magic or sleight of hand, learning to turn certain “personality traits” off or on.  However, like the recent articles on influencing style, I think it’s worthwhile for a leader to be aware of different forms of charisma and the appropriate application of each in different situations.

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Alex Knapp, on his Forbes magazine blog, has written two articles with leadership lessons from James T. Kirk (3/5/2012) and Jean-Luc Picard (3/13/2012). Where are the leadership lessons from Benjamin Sisko (Deep Space Nine) and  Kathryn Janeway (Voyager)?  If Knapp doesn’t do five leadership lessons from Sisko and Janeway, I may have to do it.

While I’m waiting for these additional lessons, it might be interesting to compare Kirk and Picard.  These are the five lessons; for a description of each, you’ll have to read the original post on the Forbes website.

James T. Kirk

  1. Never stop learning
  2. Have advisors with different worldviews
  3. Be part of the away team
  4. Play poker, not chess
  5. Blow up the Enterprise

Jean-Luc Picard

  1. Speak to people in the language they understand. (Or, it’s okay to threaten a Klingon.)
  2. When you’re overwhelmed, ask for help.
  3. Always value ethical actions over expedient ones.
  4. Challenge your team to help them grow.
  5. Don’t play it safe – seize opportunities in front of you.

Between Kirk and Picard, I much prefer Picard’s leadership style.  Knapp’s last paragraph states it better than I could,

Final Takeaway:

Like James T. Kirk, Captain Jean-Luc Picard embodied several leadership lessons that we can use in our own lives. We need to learn to empathize with others so we can communicate with them effectively. We need to have the confidence to ask for help when we’re overwhelmed without feeling humiliated. When faced with the choice a famous wizard offered, between “what is right and what is easy,” we have to do what is right. We need to challenge our teams to grow and change so they can adapt to any situation. We need to seize opportunities as they come so that we don’t coast through our lives. Follow these lessons, and they’ll take us on the next stage of exploration. Which, in the words of Q on the show, is “not mapping stars and studying nebulae, but charting the unknown possibilities of existence.”

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When you’re the leader people will always look to you for assurance that “we’re really going to get there.”

Learning the Softer Side of Leadership by Gary Burnison at the Fast Company website, spells out the nuances of leadership.  It’s a well-written article that describes what it’s like to be a leader rather than list leadership qualities and characteristics.  I strongly recommend this article, particularly for those aspiring to be leaders as well those new in a leadership role.

The author offers real-life insights that are not found in most literature on leadership.  For example, “People perceived me differently because of the position and institution I represented.”  Two of the author’s six tips are:

  • Leaders are the mirrors for the entire organization
  • Leadership is taking charge to help others execute

“As a leader, you rise above ‘me’ to embrace ‘we.”  The article is an excellent and motivating reminder that leadership is not about you, but it’s about the team.

What real life leadership insights do you have to share?  Leave comments here.

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Again the HBR Blog site provides an invigorating article, How to Turn an Obstacle into an Asset by Leonard A. Schlesinger, Charles F. Keifer, and Paul B. Brown posted on February 23, 2012.  They state something I truly believe,

Successful people habitually turn obstacles into assets.

They provide three reasons for reacting to a problem with gratitude.

1.  “First, you were going to find out eventually what people did and did not like about your idea.”

2.  “Second, the feedback could take you in another direction[.]”

3.  “Third, you got evidence. … You know something they don’t, and that is an asset.”

They provide a paper-and-pencil exercise to show you that it’s easier than you think to treat an obstacle as an asset.

These are some of the reason why I have never wanted to be surrounded by “yes” people.  It’s better to address different opinions and points of view at the onset of any decision making situation.  Even after considering and incorporating other viewpoints, it’s possible to encounter additional obstacles.  This doesn’t mean that you should continue to “walk into walls” and be grateful – there is a point at which you decide whether to cease or defer a course of action.

The bottom line is that

Successful people work with what they have at hand — whatever comes along — and try to use everything at their disposal in achieving their goals. And that is why they are grateful for surprises, obstacles, and even disappointments. It gives them more information and resources to draw upon.

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