8 Trends for Leaders in 2015

Over the past year, I had the opportunity to interview a number of executives, managers, directors, and specialists to gain measured insight and share trending practices facing leaders in the New Year.

8 Trends for Leaders in 2015

These amazing thought leaders represent our schools, businesses, and agencies and span widely across geography, gender, and generation. I believe their straightforward responses will resonate appropriately to the challenges each of us faces in the transition of Becoming. Read more

A Quick Thought on Leadership Challenges

“I’m on the skids”
“I don’t believe I have what it takes”
“I’m frustrated and discouraged”
“They don’t seem to understand me”
“I’m bored and going through the motions”
“I am weary and don’t believe I have much left in the tank”
“No one seems to value or appreciate me”
“I’m stuck and don’t know how to move forward”
“It seems like I am only appreciated as much as last quarter’s numbers”
“My home life is a mess”

These are the familiar refrains of pain-points lurking behind the walls preserving masses of limping leaders today. Each of these expressions embodies the struggle to make sense of the dizzying context of complexities in present day leadership. The ache is personal and intense. You may personally resonate with a number of the statements above.

A Quick Thought on Leadership Challenges

Without sounding too drab, let’s enhance the lighting with the fact that healthy organizations from across varying sectors ARE lead by energized, engaged, and empowered leaders. The raw reality however is that this once sturdy and well-populated raft is beginning to swamp with much of its cargo falling adrift. Read more

4 Demands of Heroic Leadership

“Now is not a time for sadness and despair, but a time for heroes, champions, in great deeds” -anonymous

When we think about heroes–we all have certain images come to mind. It might be an image of Superman, a soldier, a police officer, a doctor, a firefighter—but the definition of a hero is really pretty simple: someone who is known for courage, outstanding achievement, and high moral character.

4 Demands of Heroic Leadership

So, can we all be heroes? Certainly.

The more important question is… do we want to be heroes? I hope so, as we certainly need more. Read more

What is the First Step of Empowerment and Opportunity?

Answer? Becoming.

Once one moves beyond the lore and the hype behind leadership, what really remains? For most, it is another book on the shelf or a keynote in annals of your organization’s memory. Why is understanding leadership that important? What does it actually mean to Become a leader worthy of followers?

What is the First Step of Empowerment and Opportunity

It is a widely studied fact that effective leadership is the differentiating factor between the good, better, and best organizations. Why? Because most people, families, teams, and organizations are so preoccupied externally on tasks and service, they simply fall inattentive to the needs of Becoming, Building and Leading. Read more

Get In There and Grit it Out

Social science has taught us that in order to perform well, complete tasks and succeed at reaching your goals you have to believe you are capable of succeeding.  This fundamental core belief will impact the way you make decisions, your motivation, and your ability to persevere.  A low-level belief in your capacity to succeed at whatever you are going after may result in stress and depression.

Get in there and Grit It Out

Give yourself a percentage number: How much do you really believe you are going to succeed at the dream, vision, or plan you are working?  ______

Here are three lessons that will help you increase your percentage:

1. Practice until you have breakthrough.

Breakdown the learning into manageable phases & practice until you have breakthrough.  Practice until if I were to bump into you in the hallway and ask you about whatever it is you are working on, you could on the spot talk to me for an hour out of the overflow of your heart.  That is one evidence that you are moving toward mastery.  Practice in the mirror, in the car, and solicit feedback from someone who has mastery of the competency or area of growth.

2. Find someone to imitate.

No substitute here.  If you want to raise your belief that you can succeed, you have got to find a master craftsman and imitate them.  Not mimic them, but imitate their patterns and practices.

3. Get in there and grit it out.

The very things that will take you to the next level are likely the things you are resisting or procrastinating right now.  If you want to grow in self-confidence, you must banish your hesitance.  You can’t wait until you are feeling it, neither can you stay put until your nerves are all calm and you’ve got it all together. You have got to get in there and grit it out. Action will create the desire and inspiration you now lack and long for. Stop trying to ready yourself for the very thing that will make you ready.

5 Myths of Leadership

Leadership

What makes a great leader?

This was a question I pitched recently to classroom filled with ambitious adults pursing administrative certification. Here is a sampler of words and phrases highlighting what they had to say:

  • Inspiring others
  • Shared vision
  • Harnessing the potential of others
  • A verb – A decision to act
  • Transform people and performance for greatness
  • One who drives change
  • Brokering the success of others

Arguably, Leadership is one of the most talked and written about subjects in the 21st Century but unarguably, the most misunderstood. Simply put, leadership is building healthy culture that accelerates high performance.

My experience as an organizational leader and coach has consistently pointed to the unfortunate realities that many organizations, while greatly focused on bottom line operational needs, do a pitiful job helping people reach their potential.

A primary reason for this is archaic leadership techniques, or what I call, “leadership mythology.”

A myth is something that is untrue, but believed by many to be valid. As is the case for most of us leading in large and complicated systems, there are several myths surrounding the concepts and practices of leadership. Sadly, the misaligned principles of these myths prevent well-intentioned people from rising to success.

By identifying these leadership myths we can eliminate the “blight within the orchard” and protect our best apples of potential from being spoiled.

“Simply put, leadership is building healthy culture that accelerates high performance.”

Myths about leadership date back to the turn of the 20th century when psychologist and sociologists first formally studied the practices of influence. For example, in ancient Greece, only men with potbellies were thought to be great leaders. In Celtic lands, birds were thought to bestow leadership powers. Historically, some believe that only people with captivating and charismatic personalities make powerful leaders. The myths of leadership are omni-focused including:

  • Leadership is Granted  – The Title and Position Myth
  • Leadership is Achieved – The Standard Approach Myth
  • Leadership is Intelligence – The Common Sense Myth
  • Leaders is Genetic – The Born, Not Made Myth
  • Leadership is Motivation – The Myth of Charisma

The Five Truths of Leadership

Debunking the Myths

Collective research and years of pragmatic application have yielded a clearer reality of leadership truth for those aspiring to influence.

1. In today’s multi-faceted organizations, leadership must occur at high levels and across multiple levels of each department and sector. High capacity organizations are motivated to flatten hierarchies by empowering teams and creating leadership empowerment for individuals across the organization. People find meaning from the feeling of belonging in life and in work. This feeling is amplified through common experiences and a sense of being empowered to make positive and purpose filled contributions.

Leadership Truth – Leadership is Everyone’s Responsibility 

2. Diversity proliferates across personality, cultures, nurture, gender, faith, and the like. In agreement to the kaleidoscope of human difference upon the planet is the multiplicity of best leadership approaches for success. Different types of leadership styles exist for varying work environments. Advantages and disadvantages exist within each leadership style. The culture, goals and initiatives of the organization determine when a particular leadership style is to be deployed and for what purpose (i.e. Participative, Transactional, Transformational, Laissez-Faire etc.).

Leadership Truth – Leadership is Variable to Meet the Needs of That and Those Being Serve

3. Leaders are made and quite honestly, I have never met a leader who was not born… Many people have the capacity to lead themselves, their family, team, organization, and community at high levels without a solid grip in acknowledging their unique gift of influence. I have met a number of dynamic leaders who would be the last in the room to own their impact as influencers. In many respects, our culture honors the assumptions of the structural aspects of rank, file, position, and title over the actual intelligence of talent, connectivity, and self-awareness found serving across the organization. Each of us holds the gift of a unique leadership voice shaped by the trio of nature, nurture, and the choices we make. A person’s natural wiring coupled with their environment and experiences over time shape the “becoming” of every leader.

Leadership Truth – Leadership is a Process of Becoming

4. Leadership is a discipline. Anyone with a desire to lead or to assume leadership responsibilities can be taught certain skills and processes. Common sense is the foundation of leadership, but not enough. Gandhi, John F. Kennedy, Abraham Lincoln, Sitting Bull, Harriet Tubman, and a raft of other leaders worth following never achieved greatness serendipitously. Each had a purpose and meaningful life experiences that shaped and sharpened their character and values. Learning to influence as a leader is a lifework involving study, experience, failure, self-awareness, and a will to build healthy cultures to endure well beyond our time.

Leadership Truth – Leadership is a Lifework of Discipline and Purpose

5. Charisma is charming, but may not be a fixed prerequisite for high performance. Charismatic leaders are often described as bold visionaries who have a strong desire for power and influence. These leaders are managers of impression who have a keen acumen to motivate and set examples for others to follow. What often separates genuine and effective leadership from “Woo” is the ability to operationalize the strategies and tactics needed to reach the promise land so elegantly illustrated by high visionary leaders. To inspire others, it is essential to convey a clear, exciting, and compelling vision of the future. The golden moment for every leader is the convergence of the dream and a well-articulated plan of action.

Leadership Truth – Leadership is Organized Inspiration

We are living in remarkably challenging times requiring all leaders to be unusually skilled and artful influencers. The key distinction is the leader’s ability to craft a commonly understood leadership language displayed in commonly illustrated tools. These leaders accelerate the spread of healthy culture through the modeling of relational apprenticeship and shared values representing respect, responsibility, and service. Now more than ever we need great leadership in our government, schools, businesses, hospitals and organizations. The mythical leadership practices of our past won’t suffice. Today’s complex organizations require higher order leadership behaviors focused on creating healthy culture, empowerment, and opportunities for growth and breakthrough performance.

There is a difference

Take Home

  1. What is the difference between good and great leadership?
  2. What is the difference in language between good leaders and great leaders?
  3. What is the difference in action between good leaders and great leaders?
  4. What is the difference in organizational culture led by good leaders and great leaders?

6 Key Leadership Principles: Healthy Cultures and Conflict

Day One

You have finally arrived! After years of college preparatory planning, you are officially on campus for college orientation with great anticipation of the best year ever! Your dorm mate matched your “roomie” profile and from what you could pull from exploration on the social network, he appears to be a great fit. You prep your room-“Neat as a pin.” Your roommate arrives. You are fired up!

Leadership Principles

Day Two

You and your new room buddy are now officially moved in and enjoying first encounters of dorm life, cafeteria food, and the liberating feelings of independence.

Day Five

You are building disciplined routines to study with little distraction, come to class early and prepared, staying to your exercise routine, keeping a tidy living space, and flossing before bed. Your roommate however is the exact opposite. He plays obnoxious noise at all hours, wakes up late for class, carelessly litters the room, and takes delight in nearly everything that is appalling to you. You are no longer excited about sharing your space with your new pal. He drives you mad!

Every Day

If you think about it, there is conflict across the messiness of human system every day. In life and leadership we interact with individuals who have completely different working styles, personality types and irritating tendencies. If we pause briefly between stimulus and response to know this about ourselves, we can more effectively lead ourselves and consequently, better reflect grace and understanding in the broad distinctions of others.

The Tap Root of Conflict

Conflict is a pervasive feature common to all levels of social organizations, including teams and departments. Organizational conflict can be described as a state of discord between individuals or groups of individuals interacting together and driven by a variety of relational or external factors stemming from the actual or perceived opposition of needs, values, and interest.

Relational Conflict

The reality for most is that we spend most of our waking hours at work. The social points of contacts we engage throughout the day are numerous and frequent. Invariably, misunderstanding and miscommunication caused by language and social variances lead to ill will among teams. In addition, office politic, gossip and the persistence of drama lead to internal culture clashes. As such, leaders must stand at attention to recognize interpersonal conflict swiftly to confront and crush the potential of accelerated organizational dysfunction.

External Conflict

Sources outside the organization can equally cause conflict. Positive vendor, customer and client interaction is essential to meet bottom line operational expectations. It is not uncommon for a breakdown in communication to occur as fast paced transactions are produced. A hot head and temper will only provoke and deepen misunderstanding and mistrust with those served. Likewise, organizational leaders must quickly identify and remedy these trials to salvage trust and any financial implications in the balance.

When conflict is not handled effectively, the results can be quite damaging. Manifest conflict can quickly turn into personal animosity and fractured relationships. Teamwork ultimately breaks down. Talent is wasted as people disengage from their work and the vicious downward spiral of negativity, blame, and passive aggressive culture becomes the norm.

“Man must evolve for all human conflict a method which rejects revenge, aggression and retaliation. The foundation of such a method is love.” Martin Luther King, Jr.

Managing Conflict – Flight, Fight, or Right

Individuals have diverse views, approaches, goals, and values. Conflict, therefore is extremely common. How we manage the conflict determines whether our differences lead to hostility and relationship damage or result in better ideas, improved understanding and greater commitment.

 

Flight

  • Avoid the problem
  • View others’ rights as superior to yours
  • Established patterns allowing others to take advantage of you
  • Let others guess how you think and feel
  • Build anger, resentment and protection
  • Respect for others above self
  • Insecure Hope

Right

  • Attack the problem
  • Recognize others’ rights as equal to yours
  • Establish patterns of self advocacy and respect
  • Let others know how you think and feel
  • Restrain anger and seek to empower others
  • Respect for others and self
  • Secure Request

Fight

  • Attack the person
  • View your rights as superior to others’
  • Establish patterns of others fearing and avoiding you
  • Let others know what you think
  • Act out in anger and aggressive behavior
  • Respect self only
  • Hostile and manipulative
  • Demand

 

Conflict can be useful, since it can push opposing parties to grow and communicate beyond our natural tendencies driven by the forces of nature, nurture, and the intentional choices we make in the mix.

Good News – Healthy Culture Moderates Conflict

Leaders who are skilled in successfully resolving conflict can prevent the spread of negative culture while promoting additional workplace benefits including:

  • Increased understanding – The open communication required to resolve conflict expands everyone’s awareness of the situation, giving all insight into how goals might be gained without undermining or manipulating others.
  • Increased group cohesion – When conflict is resolved in healthy cultures embedding “others first” values, team members can establish strong lines of mutual respect, and a renewed faith in their willingness and ability to work together.
  • Improved self-awareness – Conflict pushes individuals to examine their natural tendencies and preferences in close detail. This heightened awareness awakens the values and issues that are most important to them, sharpening their focus, and ultimately enhancing their personal effectiveness.

“Our natural tendencies are driven by the forces of nature, nurture and the intentional choices we make in the mix.”

6 Key Leadership Principles – Healthy Cultures and Conflict 

Leaders worth following respect individual differences while helping team members avoid becoming entrenched in myopic positions of “self.” Leaders of high caliber consistently exercise the following principles of high support and high challenge:

  • Ensure Relationship is the First Priority – Make sure that others are treated with fairness while building mutual respect. Be courteous to one-another and remain constructive under pressure.
  • Keep People and Problems Separate – Recognize that in many cases, the other person is not just “being difficult.” Real and valid differences can lie behind conflictive positions. By separating the problem from the person, real issues can be debated without damaging working relationships.
  • Engage in the Interests Presented – By listening empathically, healthy leaders can likely understand why others are choosing their positions.
  • Pull Before Push- To solve a problem effectively secure leaders must understand where the other person is coming from before defending one’s own position.
  • Set the Facts – Agree and establish the objective, observable elements that will have an impact on the decision.
  • Seek Common Ground – Be open to the idea that a third position may exist, and might possibly lead to a jointly celebrated  “win/win.”

By following these principles of empowerment and opportunity, leaders keep contentious discussions positive and constructive. Effective conflict management is emblematic of a leader worthy of following and a key measure in the secret sauce of healthy organizational culture.

The Gratitude Attitude of Leadership

Hands down…Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday of the year! I am a huge fan of all of the accouterments of this season and a fanatic admirer of those who lead their families, teams, organizations, and communities from a heart of encouragement, empowerment, and gratitude.

“Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all others.” Marcus Tullius Cicero

The Gratitude Attitude

In his best selling book, Authentic Happiness: Using the New Positive Psychology to Realize Your Potential for Lasting Fulfillment, Martin Seligman describes a particularly profound assignment that he has his students carry out called a “Gratitude Visit.” Seligman regularly cherishes the mounds of feedback he receives from this very simple, yet life impacting experiment with his learners; many who express the experience as a life-altering event. Seligman explains the following instructions to his students that I believe are quite transferrable to you and I today. Bonus – This task is free and transferrable across all sectors:

  • Select one important person from your past who has made a major positive difference in your life and to whom you have never fully expressed your thanks. (Do not confound this selection with newfound romantic love, or with the possibility of a future gain.)
  • Write a testimonial just long enough to cover one laminated page. Take your time composing this.
  • Invite that person to your home, or travel to that person’s home. It is important you do this face to face, not just in writing or on the phone.
  • Do not tell the person the purpose of the visit in advance; a simple “I just want to see you” will suffice.
  • Bring a laminated version of your tribute with you as a gift. Read your testimonial aloud slowly, with expression, and with eye contact. Then let the other person react unhurriedly.
  • Reminisce together about the concrete events that make this person so important to you.

Appreciative Leadership

The offering of gratitude comes easily for the secure leader grounded in wisdom and maturity. Healthy organizational culture infused with gratitude widely manifest behaviors of civility, compassion, respect, and courtesy. Gratitude based cultures are not weighed down by the toxicity of complaint and manipulation, but rather empowerment and opportunity.

At GiANT Worldwide, we are so very grateful and blessed to work with some of the finest; most humble, and sharp leaders across the globe. Our esteemed clients are also genuine friends who have profoundly influenced us to raise our game of Becoming, Building and Leading.

So, if you were looking for a leadership lesson, realize you have been. Remarkably observed is the fact that the great leaders we serve show their gratitude freely and genuinely. If you wanted a motivational spark, know that your modeling of liberated leadership is making a difference and spurring others to become leaders worth following.

To the valiant taking on the “Gratitude Visit Challenge,” we would be gratefully encouraged to hear from you.

Stay thoughtful in your thankfulness. Continue to be gracious in your giving. Abound in your plentiful praise of others.

Best wishes to all and a Blessed Thanksgiving to our GiANT Worldwide family and friends!

How to Work on Genuine Humility Part 2

This is the final post in a series of 3. Check out post 1 (link), and post 2 (link) if you’d like.

“You have so much to be proud of!” That may be true.

But so is this:

You have a lot to be humble about.

If you’re new around here, we use the language of liberating leadership. Liberators fight for the highest possible good in the lives of those around them and they are genuinely for other people as opposed to being for themselves. To be for other people, we must embrace the journey of humility.

How do you do that?

Here are the top two lessons I’ve learned about growing in humility:

1. You will find the road to humility when you cross the bridge of gratitude.

If there is a secret, this is it: Gratitude.

Pride leads us to compare ourselves with others at the expense of denying our own unique contributions. Pride leads us to say life is not fair (which it is not), I deserve more! Gratitude makes space for humility. Gratitude banishes the “If I only did ____.” and the “Why am I not as far along as _____?” and replaces those lies with new perspectives: “What a privilege to get to do what I do” “You know on second thought, I do like my co-workers” “My boss is not as big of an $&*%* as I thought he was”.

Here’s a sticky thought I heard years ago; Gratitude is the attitude that sets the altitude for living. If you want to soar, start being thankful now. Gratitude will shift the direction of your heart upward instead of downward.

The flipside is that if you have complaining and bitterness in your heart, you will continue down the road of pride which leads to destruction. Pride destroys your reputation and will harm others. The bridge of gratitude is in front of you right now. Take the step.

2. Humility is developed in the shade.

You’ve got to start right where you are, where no one is watching. In your home office. In your cubicle. In your car (stop reading and driving!).

Here’s the thing: If you become thankful in the shade, you won’t ever care if you get into the spotlight. You’ll be so flooded with contentment that it won’t matter who notices. Then ironically, much like the impact of cross-training, you’ll find yourself with new opportunities. Your life has become attractive not repulsive like the impact of pride. When others are drawn to you, you’ll be surprised. You’ll wonder…seriously, me?

Yes, it is you. Don’t ever lose that wonder.

10+ Attributes of Transformers

Hard to believe, but Tis the Season…I am finding my mailbox filling with ads pushing retail therapy just in time for the fast approaching Holidays. The kid in me is having a hard time coming to grip the reality that my grown children’s Christmas wish list has vaporized rendering my visits to the local toy store as a distant memory. I no longer own this zone, but still hold fond memories as I paged through the local inserts highlighting the new designs by the likes of Mattel, Disney, Hasbro, and LEGO.

As I reminisced and pored over the “Hot Toys for 2014,” I found most of to be strangely unfamiliar. What’s a Paw Patrol Lookout or a LeapFrog Leap Video Gaming System? The list was extensive and personally, a bit uninspiring as I reflect upon the toys of my age. I did spy, however, with my very little eyes a vestige of my kids’ past still in circulation. Yes! Transformers… More than meet the eye… Transformers (sing it with me)…Robots in disguise.

What has sparked my interest in the Transformer Collection is that each is equipped with a unique technical specification (tech specs) printed on the back of the box. These ratings represent a numerical value of attributes ranked by a score of one to ten. Interestingly and over time, these values have become increasingly leveled toward flawlessness. Recently, Hasbro even invented a “10+” rating in an attempt to keep increasing the power levels. In the same way, they even created a few characters with the designation “Unknown” and “Infinity” ratings.

10+ Specs for Transformational Leaders

Much of modern day leadership thinking is based around the theory of Transformational Leadership, of which MacGregor Burns first introduced in his book called, ‘Leadership’ (1978). Burns was one of the first to identify that true leadership not only creates change and achieves high performance, but is fundamental in lifting the potential and hope of people as well.

Think back to a time when you were truly inspired by someone of influence at work. Perhaps you would describe this person as one who created opportunity and a culture of empowerment. You probably felt that this leader brought just the right blend of support and challenge with a commitment to ensuring your enduring success.

Transformational Leaders are characterized by creating the conditions and healthy cultures quite attractive to others. Transformational Leadership is the remarkable calibration of team support and organizational challenge. When this dynamic is tuned properly, liberating cultures abound.

The Trifecta of Transformation

Transformational Leadership is an integrated dimension of influence with focus on three primary factors:

  1. Increasing Organizational Awareness – Mission, Vision, Values and Strategies
  2. Collective Commitments to Team and Shared Goals
  3. Action Planning for Results

Transformational Leaders seek to lead and drive high performance through positive modeling, motivation, and values honoring deeply rooted relationships. Transformational Leaders also embrace the importance of knowing the unique personalities, strengths, and talents of self and the teams they lead. Transformers in the leadership space are aptly skilled in the art of coaching and skills of apprenticeship. Thus, great leaders build the capacity of other leaders through liberating ethos of opportunity and empowerment.

Attributes of Transformers

What are the behavioral characteristics of those serving as Transformational Leaders? Those leading as Transformers consistently deploy the following attributes:

  • Idealized Influence –The leader serves as a role model that followers seek to emulate. Through relational apprenticeship, the Transformational Leader wins trust and respect from their team. These leaders also place the needs of others a car length ahead of their own.
  • Intellectual Stimulation – The leader facilitates learning and capacity building for each member of his/her team deploying the apprenticeship method of “I do, you watch,” “I do, you help,” “You do, I help,” and ultimately, “you do, I watch.” This learning is a gradual release sequencing of information transfer, imitation, and innovation whereby the leader encourages followers to be imaginative and creative problem solvers.
  • Inspirational Motivation – The leader inspires a culture calibrating both support and challenge. Transformational leaders guide followers by providing them with a sense of personal value to the organization while also pulling a taut tether of challenge to ensure continuous individual growth and development.
  • Individualized Consideration – The role of the leader is to act as a coach and confidant to fight for the highest good of those they serve. Transformational Leaders are driven to encourage, equip, and empower the success of others while uniquely rewarding their followers for skill, creativity, innovation, and contribution to high performance.

Questions to Advance

  1. How inspired are you in your current role of leadership? How is this excitement shared genuinely across your organization?
  2. On a scale of 1-10, how well are you relationally connected to those you serve?
  3. What are your goals for increasing your capacity of Emotional Intelligence? What intentions do you have to elevate this capacity for others within your organization?
  4. How clear is your organizational vision and purpose? In what ways have you engaged your team in the design and development of the organization’s direction?