Posts Tagged ‘leadership skill’

toolKitPeter Bregman (“Why So Many Leadership Programs Ultimately Fail,” Forbes, 7/11/2013) wrote, “I have never seen a leader fail because he or she didn’t know enough about leadership. … What makes leadership hard isn’t the theoretical, it’s the practical. … There is a massive difference between what we know about leadership and what we do as leaders.

The goal of any leadership development program is to change behavior. After a successful program, participants should show up differently, saying and doing things in new ways that produce better results.

What Peter Bregman wrote about the goal of leadership development applies to all training and development, and it’s the major weakness of non-technical training and development programs. That is, how does an organization ensure that the training and development is applied and whether it makes a difference in the organization? Not merely whether the participant has gained the skill or knowledge, has the participant applied it and is the skill or knowledge appropriate for the organization? The lack of post-training and -development  assessment particularly irks me because the typical response to program failures is – they need more training. But, I digress.

A couple of blog posts ago, I wrote that there is no such thing as a generic leadership development program or plan since each person brings unique experience, skills, and knowledge to the position. In addition, each leadership position, within core competencies, has unique requirements. For example, the organization’s structure, culture, and current situation may contribute to making certain developmental priorities over others.

A first step in creating an individual leadership development plan is an assessment of the leader based on core competencies. [I provided a composite of leadership core competencies in my prior blog post.] It’s important to begin with a 360° assessment: feedback from self-assessment, subordinates, peers, and higher management. Which competencies produce positive results, which are weak, which result in negative effects? It’s important that the assessment address each vector; for example, communication with subordinates and higher management may be weak while communication with peers is not.

An individual leadership development plan would be prepared based on the results of the 360° competency evaluation. Developmental activities to improve a competency may be based on factors such as preferred learning styles, availability, cost, and priority.

In addition, it may be worth considering complementary developmental activities for subordinates, peers, and higher level management. For example, if the the leader needs further development in planning and organizing, it might be beneficial to address complementary planning and coordination development for all levels of the organization.


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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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I’ve been meaning to write a blog post  about situational leadership, Robyn Benincasa’s article, Six Leadership Styles, And When You Should Use Them on the Fast Company website provides such an opportunity.  Benincasa’s article is an excerpt from her book, HOW WINNING WORKS:  8 Essential Leadership Lessons from the Toughest Teams on Earth. Benincasa’s article follows well after my most recent posting about the emotional side of leadership, dealing with uncertainty and ambiguity.

The best managers consistently allow different leaders to emerge and inspire their teammates (and themselves!) to the next level. … When you’re dealing with ongoing challenges and changes, and you’re in uncharted territory with no means of knowing what comes next, no one can be expected to have all the answers or rule the team with an iron fist based solely on the title on their business card. It just doesn’t work for day-to-day operations. … I truly believe in Tom Peters’s observation that the best leaders don’t create followers; they create more leaders. When we share leadership, we’re all a heck of a lot smarter, more nimble and more capable in the long run, especially when that long run is fraught with unknown and unforeseen challenges.

With respect to situational leadership, Benincasa states,

Not only do the greatest teammates allow different leaders to consistently emerge based on their strengths, but also they realize that leadership can and should be situational, depending on the needs of the team. Sometimes a teammate needs a warm hug. Sometimes the team needs a visionary, a new style of coaching, someone to lead the way or even, on occasion, a kick in the bike shorts. For that reason, great leaders choose their leadership style like a golfer chooses his or her club, with a calculated analysis of the matter at hand, the end goal and the best tool for the job.

Rather than refer to Hersey and Blanchard on situational leadership, Benincasa cites six leadership styles from Daniel Goleman’s Leadership That Gets Results, which is one way of looking at the different leadership styles to carry in your golf bag.

I’ve played golf off and on, besides knowing which club suits your lie the best, you also need to know how to hit the stroke.  You don’t use a putting stroke at the tee.  What stance do you use on an uphill lie versus a downhill?  On the other hand, you can use a club other than a putter to putt the ball. What does this all mean?

Practice – practice – practice.  There is no one club that is the right club in any situation.  While someone else might be able use an 8-iron to hit 130 yards to the green, you might have to use a 5-iron.  Know your own abilities.

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Empathy Is The Most Powerful Leadership Tool was published on the Fast Company blog on April 30 by Ginny Whitelaw.

Anything we’re trying to make happen as a leader involves other people, and the fact is, most people don’t have to follow us.  …  The pull of connecting to others and their interests is far more powerful than the push of control, especially when we find the intersection between their interests and our goals.

“Become the other person and go from there.” It’s the best piece of coaching advice I ever received, coming from Tanouye Roshi, and it applies equally to influence, negotiation, conflict, sales, teaching, and communication of all kinds.

Once we become the other, we can sense what’s in her interests, and influence becomes a matter of showing how our idea connects with those interests.

This advice is consistent with situational leadership.  In applicable situations, the goal is to determine where there is an intersection in your desired outcomes as the leader and the other person’s wants and interests.  As I wrote in an earlier blog post, “To be effective at influencing others is to assess the audience and determine which influencing style best fits the situation: the desired outcome and audience.”

Whitelaw is the author of The Zen Leader, 10 Ways to Go from Barely Managing to Leading Fearlessly.  Information about her book as available at the book website and blog.

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An article in today’s HBR Blog Network naturally caught my eye: Why Women Leaders Need Self-Confidence.  Leslie Pratch,the author, references an article in the New York Times about Virginia Rometty, who will be IBM’s first female CEO.

Early in her career, Virginia M. Rometty, I.B.M.’s next chief executive, was offered a big job, but she felt she did not have enough experience.  So she told the recruiter she needed time to think about it.

That night, her husband asked her, “Do you think a man would have ever answered that questions that way?”

“What it taught me was you have to be very confident, even though you’re so self-critical inside about what it is you may or may not know,” she said at Fortune’s Most Powerful Women Summit this month.

I don’t know how many times I have posed the same question to women I have mentored. Perhaps it’s because my leadership training was in the military.  A military woman would never question herself publicly.

Applied to leadership, gender role stereotypes suggest that female-stereotypical forms of leadership are interpersonally oriented and collaborative, whereas male-stereotypical forms of leadership are task oriented and dominating.

In my experience in the 1970s through 1990s, women who displayed self-confidence in leadership positions in the civilian sector were not “respected” by either their male or female subordinates.  Unfortunately, they were referred to by derogatory, sexist terms.  This may continue to be generally true since the author notes that “[t]o the extent that women who are leaders exhibit a masculine style, they amplify their role conflict and increase the chances of receiving unfairly negative evaluations.”

The author notes that for women, the “[c]orrelation between self-confidence and leadership effectiveness was also overwhelmingly statistically significant.”  To me this doesn’t mean that female leaders should consistently exhibit male-stereotypical leadership behaviors of being task-oriented and dominating.  What seems most appropriate to me is to be a situational leader, to apply the leadership style most appropriate to the situation.

Self-confidence is an important attribute in a leader, regardless of leadership style and gender.  I’m sure that you have felt it easier to have confidence in the leader’s vision if the leader is self-confident.

However, self-confidence in female leaders is a broader issue than just leadership. We have to look at developing self-confidence in women in all roles.

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There are as many lists of leadership skills as there are management consultants.

When we think of “leadership” each of us probably has someone come to mind as we remember either a “good” leader or a “horrid” leader.  We wonder whether leadership is something you’re born with – a personality trait – or a set of skills that can be taught.

I found a recent article, which discusses a key factor about leadership.  Daniel Goleman has an excellent blog posting, “The Must-Have Leadership Skill,” on the HBR (Harvard Business Review) Blog Network on October 14.

As I think of small, grassroots nonprofits, we ask a lot of the leader, the executive director (ED).  We want the ED to have a broad range of competencies: budgeting, bookkeeping, fundraising, manage computer networks, public relations, supervise employees, manage volunteers, manage the program, and so on and so on.

However, we can’t expect an executive director to be a master in all of the skills that we desire.  The technical competencies; e.g., bookkeeping, fundraising, etc., can learned on the job.  The must-have leadership skill of “accomplishing goals through other people” is as valid for small, grassroots nonprofits as it is in for-profit businesses.  Perhaps it is even more important for local, grassroots non-profits where relationships with the local community are vital in fundraising and collaboration.

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