Originally posted September 30, 2013
One of the most important steps in the development of a leader is found in being able to become a leader of leaders. Years ago I learned that to make this important steps there are three vital principles that must be embraced.
The step from “leader” to “leader of leaders” is one that can be fraught with perils.
I discovered this first-hand when assigned with a relatively simple task during my first week as executive pastor of a large church in Canada.
My assignment? Lead an off-site retreat of our senior pastoral team.
This team of highly seasoned leaders were gathered around me, waiting for my opening words. I knew we should open in prayer, so I shrugged at this group of 20 or so leaders and said, “Why don’t you break into groups and spend time in prayer.”
My reasoning was sound, or so it seemed to me. “These are leaders; they don’t need me to tell them how to organize a time of prayer.”
Several awkward moments of shuffling about ensued, and eventually a few muffled words of half-hearted prayer could be heard being whispered about the room.
There was no energy. There was no unity. There was no momentum.
It was, to put it mildly, a less than auspicious debut of my season as a leader of leaders.
But as with any setback, there were leadership learnings to be gleaned. And in this case I came away with three vital principles that must be embraced in order to become a leader of leaders:
1. Leaders want, and expect, to be led.
Leaders more than anyone understand the value of good leadership. And they look for it in those who step forward to lead them.
2. Leaders respond to leadership language.
Instead of such a vague, meandering opening, I should have addressed them with leadership language like this: “Team, there are opportunities before us that will only be realized by the mighty hand of God.”
3. Leaders demand clarity.
Instead of “break into groups and spend time in prayer” I should have said, “Break into groups of 3 and spend 10 minutes praying for these 4 items…”
If you’ve been given the opportunity and responsibility to lead a group of leaders, don’t shrink back. Lift your leadership to the next level and lead them well.
You could be amazed at the passion of their response.
What have you learned about leading leaders?
Originally posted April 13, 2012
Want to see your leadership team reach better decisions?
Your first step might be in realizing that, in reality, there are no “team decisions”.
I wrote about this in a blog post back in April, 2012. In that post I built the case that every decision made in your church or organization must have someone’s name written next to it. Someone must own the outcome. Someone must pace around their office thinking through every ramification and potential hurdle.
In his Harvard Business Review blog post, If You Think Your Team Makes Decisions, Think Again, Bob Frisch wrote, “Executive teams may discuss issues, debate courses of action, and even give their stamps of approval, but they actually don’t decide anything of moment as a group… It is the leader, not the group, who ultimately allows that particular decision to go through.”
For this understanding to gain traction there are 3 important steps you must take;
1. Clarify roles and responsibilities at the outset.
Instead of saying, “Team, we have a decision to make today,” it should be, “Team, I have a decision to make today, (or “Susan has a decision to make today”) and your help is required.”
2. Set the decision-maker up for success.
If you have given Susan the responsibility for a decision, you must also confer on her the authority to make that decision. Let the team know that it’s her call. And it’s her responsibility to ensure its success.
3. Coach the team in how to support the decision.
Individual members of the team may, or may not, agree with the decision reached by you or Susan. Your job becomes coaching the team on how to support that decision even when they disagree.
One of the key members of our team will regularly consult with me when I’ve made a tough decision. If he doesn’t agree with me he will always say, “Scott, I see this differently. But I will support you 100%.”
That’s where you need to get your team.
Always make sure that every decision has a name written next to it.
Always make sure it is clear who has the responsibility and authority to make a call.
Always strive to coach your team toward honest feedback and support of decisions made.
The result will be tremendous traction for the entire organization.
How do you leverage your team in the decision making process?
Ever had someone say something like this to you? “You did a very poor job on that project. You missed the timeline, you over-spent the budget and you didn’t achieve the results.”
What about something like this? “You encountered some problems on this project. Let’s talk about the challenges you faced with the timeline and the budget. And let’s also see what we can learn to help you achieve better results next time.”
What’s the difference?
The first comment was criticism. The second was feedback.
If you want to grow in your leadership you need to live in the world of feedback and avoid the world of criticism.
In a blog post several years ago I outlined 3 principles that are vital to understand.
The principles are illustrated in a biblical example found in Acts 18, where Priscilla and Aquila listened to Apollos’ slightly off-base teaching. Verse 26 says that, “When Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they invited him to their home and explained to him the way of God more adequately.”
Apollos went on to become one of the most effective teachers of the early church.
The key was that, rather than merely criticizing him, Priscilla and Aquila provided leadership feedback.
In doing so they demonstrated the three key distinctions between criticism and feedback…
1. Their mindset was to gather the facts, not rush to judgment.
Priscilla and Aquila listened to Apollos. There’s no evidence that that they did anything beyond sitting quietly and respectfully paid attention to what Apollos was saying.
2. Their approach was grace-filled, not mean-spirited.
They invited him to their home. There was no public embarrassment. The setting was private. It was respectful.
3. Their goal was improvement, not discouragement.
They explained to him. They wanted him to grow through this. They didn’t simply blog “3 Signs of Heresy in Apollos’ Teachings.”
As a leader you will constantly be evaluating performance, and your performance will also be evaluated.
If you want these evaluations to translate into improvement start by looking at how these evaluations typically take place.
And do whatever it takes to move from a culture of criticism towards one of genuine feedback.
How do you ensure genuine feedback instead of criticism?
Most leaders thrive in what I call “Destination Leadership”.
That’s the emphasis on leading from the head of the conference table, from the white board in front of the leadership team, or from the podium at the front of the room.
In other words, these and other similar destinations are where many leaders focus their preparation and anticipate delivering their greatest leadership results.
But effective leaders achieve great leadership results in the most unlikely of places.
I call this “On the Way Leadership”.
It is uncanny how much of what Jesus accomplished he did while “on the way” to someplace else.
It seems that for Jesus there were no throw-away moments. Whether it was a teaching moment, a chance to bless someone, or indeed an opportunity to perform a miracle, Jesus consistently did some of his most profound ministry not just at his destination, but while he was still on the way.
Effective leaders can learn something from this.
On the way leadership takes place when you seize a coaching moment to help a team mate learn from a mistake. It takes place when you provide a timely word of encouragement to someone whose shoulders are sagging. It takes place when you ask for feedback from staff members who happen to be walking by your office door.
How does it work? On the Way Leadership has four key components:
On the Way leaders are always on the lookout for leadership moments where ever they are.
Leaders who frantically operate at Mach 10 speed rarely have the time or bandwidth to take advantage of On the Way moments.
You need to be able to take a detour in your carefully planned day if you’re going to take advantage of these moments.
Not every on the way moment will present itself in an obvious way. You also need the creativity to look at a routine situation with a view to uncovering a leadership moment.
None of this is to downplay or diminish the importance of leadership at the destination.
Just remember that for effective leaders your best contribution might just happen on your way there.
What would you add to the list?
Originally posted October 21, 2013
As a leader are you supposed to be an optimistic, a pessimist, an idealist, or a realist?
The answer is “yes”.
The key is knowing when to be which.
This is not about being inauthentic.
The reality is, in some circumstances a leader must be a grim-faced pessimist, while in others it requires being a cheery-faced optimist.
How do you know? Here’s a basic guideline to help you navigate this.
1. A leader must be a PESSIMIST when…
…making financial forecasts in a challenging season.
When the financial fortunes of the organization are at stake it’s time for the leader to put on the demeanor of a pessimist.
Perhaps a better word than pessimistic is “cautious”. Any leader who has led a turnaround will tell you that the first step is to stop the bleeding by taking a worst-case scenario approach to budgeting.
2. A leader must be a REALIST when…
…developing the team.
A leader must not only be committed to the development of the team, the leader must also be ruthlessly realistic when it comes to the potential of each team member.
Nothing will crush the spirit of a rising leader quite like giving them too much responsibility too soon. Instead, effective leaders must be realistic when it comes to each one’s potential, and then design their development plan accordingly.
3. A leader must be an IDEALIST when…
Ideals have gone out of fashion in our culture. But effective leaders must embrace the ideals of their organization’s mission and vision and describe them with authentic passion.
Why does the organization exist? What difference will it make in the world? These are the organization’s ideals, and the leader must espouse them eloquently and proudly.
4. A leader must be an OPTIMIST when…
…building a healthy culture.
When the going gets hard, the team wants to know essentially one thing: “Is all of this work worth it?”
The leader’s job is to remind the team that, together under God, things are going to get better…That the mission is worth pursuing…and that success will come.
The point is, effective leadership requires knowing when to be pessimistic, realistic, idealistic or optimistic.
Can you learn this skill?
I’d be optimistic about that.
What have you learned about being an optimistic, idealistic, realistic or pessimistic leader?
“A lot can happen when you have an insecure leader. None of it very good.”
That wisdom from a church leader with whom I served in Canada has stayed with me for years.
He was pointing out that an insecure leader will inevitably speak or act in ways that ultimately will do harm to the people or organization.
Ever since then I’ve learned to keep a watchful eye out for signs of insecurity in my own leadership, and those around me.
Here are what I’ve found are 5 of the most common indicators of an insecure leader:
Me-ism is a particularly destructive trait among insecure leaders. It frequently shows up as an undeserved demand for esteem. Rather than focusing their energies on the needs of the organization, the me-ist leader sees everyone and everything as revolving around themselves.
The stubbornist is the leader who pushes an idea regardless of input being provided by the rest of the team. Even when an idea has been demonstrated as being unwise, the stubbornist will cling to it and push it even if only to save face.
All of this flows out of insecurity.
The insecure leader can often be spotted merely by the volume of words they feel compelled to spew. Talk-ists seem to justify their leadership by the word count; the more they talk, the more important they must be.
Insecurity often leads to people-pleasing, and one of the first indicators of this is an uncontrollable desire to agree with just about everyone.
Eventually of course, this gets the leader into trouble, when they realize they are agreeing with opposing views on the same topic. Such leadership will grind forward movement to a halt.
The insecure leader will often respond very negatively to opposing views. Even when those views are presented with respect, the insecure leader will sometimes lash out, feeling that their tenuous position of authority has been threatened.
The reason? The insecure leader can’t separate the idea from their own identity. And the result is a team unwilling or unable to present genuinely fresh, innovative ideas of their own.
So keep on guard for these indicators of an insecure leader and learn to develop grow through these various “isms”.
Because as my friend said, as an insecure leader you can still accomplish a lot. But none of it very good.
What other indicators of insecure leaders have you seen?
“Imagine if I could give you a newsflash, that the person you’ve been trying to invite to church for the last 3 years is coming this Sunday.”
With those opening words, Willow Creek Community Church senior pastor Bill Hybels grabbed the attention of the 1000 leaders gathered at the Church Leadership Conference in Riga, Latvia.
But Bill would then ask, and answer, a question that every church leader must come to terms with:
“What are you hoping will happen to that woman or that man during that one hour church service?”
Here’s how he answered that question.
“I think all of us would hope and pray that at some point during that church service, that your friend would in some way be supernaturally touched by God…That heaven would breakthrough and somehow touch the heart of that person you invited. If they’re totally non-Christian that a seed of faith would be planted in their heart that day.
If they came with a heavy heart, that maybe that day a burden would be lifted.
If they came with a broken heart, that maybe that day some mending would occur.
If they came as a cynic, that maybe that day a little bit of faith would be instilled.
If they came discouraged, that maybe that day God would give them a little hope.
But wouldn’t you want to be able, after church, to sit down at a restaurant and have that person say to you, “I don’t know how to explain it, I don’t have language for it, excuse me if I’m not using the right words, but something happened in there. It felt like something, or someone, touched my life during that church service.”
I think that’s what all of us would hope and pray for.
That’s what gives us that sense of nervous anticipation when a friend comes to church with us for the first time.
“They might just be touched by God.”
Many church services flounder because they haven’t figured out what they hope will happen in the life of a person who actually attends the service.
So take time with your leadership team and wrestle with Bill’s question.
How you answer it will have a huge impact on what happens next weekend.
How would you answer that question today?
Originally posted May 29, 2012
Bill Hybels has accurately described the local church as the most leadership-intensive organization on planet earth.
Therefore, for prevailing churches, leadership development is not a function of filling empty slots in an organization; rather it’s an ongoing process of identifying, equipping and releasing leaders to live out their call.
But how do you know where to invest your leadership development time and energy?
That’s more an art than a science, but at the very least I’ve learned three indicators that I could be developing the wrong person.
• Indicator #1: The person is an agenda-driver
I’ve had conversations with people whom I thought had the potential to be a church elder, only to find out that they viewed the position merely as an opportunity to advance a personal agenda.
If you’re developing a leader, be very wary when you hear things like, “If I were on the board there’s a couple of issues I’d want to push really hard.”
Nothing wrong with strong opinions, but when they’re focused on side-issues you have a problem.
• Indicator #2: The person is enamoured by “prestige”
I was having coffee with a rising leader in the church about future roles. But he kept veering the conversation back to questions of his own profile.
Be cautious when a leader’s primary concern seems to be how much platform time they will have or how it is that they will be identified or profiled in the church.
• Indicator #3: The person tries to wedge church leadership into a crowded daytimer
If you’re developing a leader for broader church responsibilities, be careful if they begin to ask things like, “How much time do I need to devote to this?”
That can be a very legitimate, reasonable question. But it can also point to someone who is living life at Mach 10, and who is looking to figure out the bare minimum investment of time and energy.
Look instead for someone so captivated by the call of God on their lives and the vision of the church that they will move “heaven and earth” to be a part of it.
Keep your eyes and ears open for where God is at work in the lives of rising leaders.
And keep your discernment on “full alert” for these warning indicators.
They could save you, and your church, a lot of grief.
How can you tell if you’re developing the wrong person?
Can the character of your leadership be measured?
Character is at the core of effective leadership. Without a deep sense of integrity, honesty, trustworthiness, and so on, nothing else in leadership really matters.
But if this is so important it raises important questions such as:
- What does character in leadership really look like?
- How can a leader know they are growing in the area of character?
- What are the essential ingredients of a high-character leader?
Well, a recent conversation I had in Australia provides some great insights.
I spent some time with one of the Willow Creek Association founding leaders of the ministry in Australia, Phillip Mutzelburg.
I asked Phillip these questions, and he immediately took me to a resource that might be the definitive word on the subject.
In Matthew 5, Jesus taught on a series of characteristics we now call the Beatitudes.
“These qualities,” Phillip explained, “provide the best picture I think you’ll find anywhere of what a high-character leader looks like.”
Check out this abbreviated version of the text and you’ll see what he means.
- Blessed are the poor in spirit
- Blessed are those who mourn
- Blessed are the meek
- Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness
- Blessed are the merciful
- Blessed are the pure in heart
- Blessed are the peacemakers
- Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness
Imagine if more and more leaders were so authentically humble that their demeanor could be described as poor in spirit, even mournful. (Which is not to say they can’t be fun-loving, positive people, they simply don’t exude arrogance and showmanship)
Imagine if more and more leaders led in a way that could be described as merciful, pure in heart, and peacemaking.
Imagine if more and more leaders were genuinely meek, (which is not to be confused with “weak”; meekness flows out of strength)
Imagine if more and more leaders stood out in the crowd because of their inherent sense of rightness.
The point is that Jesus’ teaching on the Beatitudes serves as an ideal template for what leaders should strive for in their character.
So why not adopt this template as your own leadership-character metric.
And imagine what this could mean in your own leadership.
What do you think of this approach?
Originally posted July 18, 2013
Comedian Jerry Seinfeld has a hilarious routine about being given a Superman costume for a Halloween present.
Reading the box, he was surprised to read the disclaimer, “Do not attempt to fly!”
“I love the idea of the kid who’s stupid enough to think he really is Superman,” Seinfeld muses, “but smart enough to check that box before he goes off the roof.”
Thinking that by merely putting on the right costume it could somehow magically transform you.
And yet some people think that’s how leadership works.
They’ve seen the costume and believe that if they simply put it on then they too will be magically transformed into a leader.
These fake leadership costumes come in a variety of forms. Here are five of the most common:
Simply barking out orders doesn’t make you a leader.
Usually it just makes a person a bit obnoxious.
This is a common one. Some people actually believe that by darting frantically from one disjointed activity to another, it must mean they are a great leader.
Often it means only that the person is either unfocused or a poor time manager.
This costume is easy to spot.
It’s worn by the person who keeps their smart phone on ready alert, even when they’re in a conversation with you. At the slightest vibration their attention is immediately diverted away from you and onto their device.
That’s no indication of leadership. Really, it’s just poor manners.
This one is a personal favorite. Some people actually believe that simply by taking on a frustrated disposition it indicates that they must be carrying huge leadership responsibilities.
Actually, it just means they’re not much fun to be around.
While it’s true that effective leaders are good communicators, some people get this one all wrong. They believe that they can be a leader simply by being able to talk…and talk…and talk…and talk…and talk…
But anyone can talk. Leaders, on the other hand, communicate. Huge difference.
Bill Hybels has provided what I believe is one of the best definitions of leadership ever given. “Leadership,” he explains, “is being able to move people from here to there.”
In other words, the measurement of leadership is, “Are you taking people with you to a goal?”
If not, you might just be wearing the costume.
What other forms of leadership costumes have you seen?
What qualities define great leaders?
A good argument can be made for each of the following:
But in this list I would venture that a less common but equally important quality should be included.
By kindness, I’m not referring to “niceness”. Niceness is a personality trait, (which also has a place in the world of leadership).
No, kindness is different. Kindness is a core leadership value that places the well-being of others ahead of yourself.
Kind leaders get the job done by ensuring that those they lead are well served, supported and understood.
Now, some leaders shy away from exhibiting this leadership value because they have come to believe four myths of kind leadership. If you’re going to excel in your leadership you must understand and dispel these myths.
Myth #1: If you’re kind people will take advantage of you
Being kind doesn’t mean being weak. Kind leaders are strong and hold people to account. But they do so in a way that doesn’t diminish people.
Myth #2: If you’re kind people will not be motivated to excel
People can respond to kindness with a deep desire to do their very best. Don’t be misled into thinking that motivation is the exclusive purview of the tough boss.
Myth #3: If you’re kind the organization will move too slowly
Quick decisions can be important in any organization. And being kind is absolutely no handicap when it comes to sizing up a situation, seeking input, and then making and communicating a fast decision.
Myth #4: If you’re kind you can’t make hard decisions
Perhaps no myth is more wide spread than this one. But there is no connection between being kind and the ability to make the tough call. The advantage to kind leadership is that you can communicate the tough call with sensitivity.
So as you develop your leadership, continue to be bold, daring, decisive and resilient.
But don’t forget a little kindness along the way too.
And if you find yourself thinking that kindness doesn’t belong in leadership, remember that’s just a myth.
How myths would you add to this list?
Is your strategic plan an abandoned after-thought or an energizing engine?
A well-executed plan can be the engine that drives your organization forward, creating energy, focus and momentum.
But often it can simply become a forgotten after-thought, just collecting dust on a shelf.
So how do you turn your plan from an after-thought into an engine?
Years ago a leadership mentor taught me a simple yet profoundly effective tool to keep an organization aligned with its plan.
It’s a matrix that looks at each opportunity or idea and asks two basic questions:
Is this on plan?
Does this add value?
Take every proposed strategy or opportunity and see where it fits in this grid.
Box 1: Not on Plan and Adds no Value
It’s amazing how many organizations entertain ideas that are neither on plan nor which add any relevant value.
An example might be an opportunity for you to do a series of lectures for an outside organization.
Opportunities like this can be tempting, but leaders need the discipline to give them a wide berth.
Box 2: Not on Plan but Adds Value
This is a seductive box.
This represents opportunities that seem to be a good thing for the organization, but you didn’t plan for them. Unrestrained pursuit of such opportunities can leave the organization feeling rudderless and unfocused.
Leaders need the discernment to know when to leap at such an opportunity and the discipline not to abandon the plan each time such an opportunity comes along.
Box 3: On Plan but Adds no Value
Sometimes you’ll find that even an opportunity that fits under the umbrella of your plan turns out to be of limited value.
Have the discernment and courage to recognize elements of the plan that just aren’t pushing the ball down the field.
Box 4: On Plan and Adds Value
This is the sweet spot.
Relentlessly pursue opportunities that are in the center of your plan and which add tremendous value to what you’re trying to accomplish.
Bottom line; if an opportunity or idea is on plan and adds value, go for it. Otherwise, have the discipline to set it aside.
In doing so your plan can indeed shift from being an after-thought to being a powerful engine.
How do you keep focused on the plan?
Do you remember the tv ads for the knives that could cut through a tin can and a leather shoe, and still be sharp enough to slice a tomato?
Pretty impressive stuff!
The point of course, was that this knife’s edge was so sharp it could cut through just about anything.
The same is true for your leadership edge. If you keep it sharp.
When your leadership edge is sharp you make better decisions, you build stronger teams, you cast more compelling visions and you get more done.
But if you’re not careful, your leadership edge can become dull, especially when you’re under a lot of stress, when you’re battling to meet a deadline and when you’re leading through a crisis.
But effective leaders know that during these seasons there are ways to keep your edge sharp. These are three of the most important edge-sharpening strategies for leaders:
1. Maintaining physical health
When the pressure is on there can be a tremendous temptation to abandon exercise, to cut corners on sleep and to sacrifice healthy food for fast food.
Resist these temptations at all cost.
When the pressure is on you need to be at your physical best.
2. Nurturing spiritual vitality
“I’ll pray later.”
“I’ll catch up on bible reading later.”
“I’ll worship later.”
The times when you’re under pressure are the very times you need to lean into God, not withdraw further from him.
3. Deepening relational roots
Effective leaders are always focused on adding value to others. But when the pressure is on there can be a huge temptation to make it all about one’s self.
Don’t let this happen.
When the heat is on, that’s the time to go the extra relational mile. That’s the time to discipline yourself to continue pouring yourself into others in your relational world.
It’s counter-intuitive, but the payoff is huge.
The point is that many leaders under estimate the critical importance of their physical, spiritual and relational worlds. Then, when the pressure is on, these vital edge-sharpening dynamics can be quickly abandoned.
Don’t let that happen.
When the heat is on, ramp up these vital sharpening tools.
Because when your leadership edge is sharp you can cut through just about anything.
How do you keep your leadership edge sharp?
Have you noticed how much is being written these days about the need to do away with so many time-wasting meetings?
Let’s face it, to the delight of Type-A introverted leaders everywhere, dull, ineffective meetings are on the way out.
Unfortunately, what is often emerging in their place is “cocooning”; an environment where human interaction is kept to a bare minimum.
But there is a better way.
I call them “Power Conversations”.
You can reduce and even eliminate the “too many meetings” culture without creating a stifling environment of cocooning.
It begins by replacing meetings not with isolation, but with a Culture of Conversation.
Power conversations are not idle times of chit-chat.
These are not coffee-room sessions where last night’s episode of the Big Bang Theory is discussed.
Instead, power conversations are highly charged, dynamic interactions among team mates. They take place when team members actively engage with rigorous, sometimes intense interactions designed to solve problems and advance projects.
When you get this right, you end up with an energetic culture of highly engaged, solution-focused team members.
To transition either a meetings-dominated culture or a cocooning culture into a Culture of Conversation, it begins with the leader making 6 essential declarations:
- Around here we primarily solve problems together, not alone in your office.
- Around here we go and talk to people; we don’t rely on inter-office email.
- Around here you don’t need a department head to schedule a meeting in the board room in order for you to gather with your team mates.
- Around here power conversations can involve anybody who has something to contribute; you don’t have to have a particular title.
- Around here power conversations take place in hallways, offices, common spaces and coffee shops. There’s not set place.
- Around here a power conversation can last 10 minutes or it can take all day.
The idea is not to eliminate every single organized meeting, nor is it to forbid all solitary work.
Rather, it’s to reduce these work habits in order to create an environment where power conversations can flourish.
Try it. You may well discover a more dynamic environment than you’d ever thought possible.
How have you unleashed the power of conversations?
“The water should be deep enough here.”
Many a ship’s captain has believed that lie, and many of their ships have ended up stranded on a sandbar or dashed against a reef.
In the same way, there are lies that leaders are tempted to tell themselves every day. And some of these can shipwreck their leadership too.
In my experience these are some of the most dangerous lies a leader can ever tell themselves. Start believing these and you could easily find your leadership dashed on the shore.
- “I got away with it last time. I can get away with it this time.”
There might be nothing worse for a leader than to have once cut a corner and gotten away with it. Because the next time an opportunity presents itself to shave the truth or to take a financial short cut, the temptation can be almost irresistible.
“After all,” a leader can think, “Borrowing that money from petty cash last time was ok. I returned it before getting caught. I can get away with it again this time.”
Eventually, this will shipwreck a leader’s integrity.
- “It’s just a one-time thing.”
The idea that an off-side action can be justified “just this once” is one of the worst lies of all.
Because leaders who believe this once can begin to believe it repeatedly.
And when that happens, a leadership shipwreck isn’t far behind.
- “It’s okay. No one will notice.”
This lie is a doozy.
It happens when a leader has dropped a leadership ball and, rather than coming clean and owning up, the leader instead pins hope against hope that no one was watching.
Instead of accountability, this leader is counting on being able to fly below the radar. “After all,” they’ll reason, “If no one picked up on the financial blunders, I’m in the clear.”
No leader ever starts out wanting to abandon their impeccable character. Leadership shipwrecks happen one little lie at a time.
So keep your radar on full alert for lies like these.
Because if you can identify and resist these kinds of lies, your leadership can sail strong for years to come.
What are some other lies leaders are tempted to believe?
Every leader might be a boss, but not every boss is necessarily a leader.
There are a unique and distinctive set of qualities that leaders possess that mere bosses simply don’t share.
And effective leaders regularly take personal stock to make sure they are indeed operating as a leader, and not merely as a boss.
What are the qualities that distinguish true leaders from mere bosses?
There are many distinguishing characteristics, but these are 15 of the most important signs you’re a leader, not just a boss.
- You care more about your people than you do your position
- You don’t just CAST the vision, you EMBODY the vision
- You don’t criticize, you coach
- You don’t bark orders, you inspire passion
- You listen more than you talk
- You’re more interested in sharing the credit than seeking the limelight
- You build teams, not just committees
- You’re driven to solve problems, not just assign blame
- You’re more interested in people’s gifts than their job description
- You don’t quit at 5:00 pm, but when the job is done
- You stand for what is right, not just what is expedient
- You speak the truth as a matter of principle, not just policy
- You seek organizational success more than personal achievement
- You seek honest feedback, not empty compliments
- You celebrate your teammates’ success more than your own
Another important distinctive is that while being a boss is about self-preservation, being a leader is about self-assessment and growth.
So keep this list handy and take a personal leadership inventory on a regular basis.
Because while every leader might be a boss, not every boss is necessarily a leader.
What marks of leadership would you add to this list?
Having a mentor is the desire of a growing number of leaders.
And with good reason. Leveraged effectively, a mentor can add tremendous value to the development of a leader. But if you’re not careful you might not realize the full potential of a mentor.
You might fall victim to one of these 6 common leadership mentoring myths…
1. Confusing a mentor with Yoda
Believing that a leadership mentor is imbued with transcendent wisdom is a recipe for disaster. Right-size your expectations. A mentor may be experienced, but they are not all-knowing.
2. Limiting your mentorship to one person
Wise leaders seek the counsel of a variety of voices, from a variety of disciplines and areas of expertise. Seek organizational insights from an expert in organizational leadership, team-building insights from an expert in team building, and so on.
3. Creating an overly structured mentoring relationship
It’s usually a bad idea to ask someone “Will you be my mentor?”. This isn’t a marriage proposal, and may lead to an inappropriately formal relationship. Simply draw on wisdom and insight from leaders you respect and trust. They need not even know they are your mentor.
4. Believing that mentoring must take place at Starbucks…
…or in any restaurant or diner. Having an in-person chat is the idealized picture of a mentoring relationship, but it can be a very limiting, restrictive, and even unrealistic. Your mentors can be speakers, experts and authors whose views you can regularly access and absorb. Starbucks is optional.
5. Expecting that a mentor is responsible for your growth.
No. They’re not.
6. Thinking that a mentor’s advice is infallible.
A good mentor can provide advice and insight. And their ideas can frequently propel you towards advances in your leadership. But they can be wrong too. Your job is to keep your discernment dial turned way up so you can weigh the value of their counsel.
The very term “mentor” has a lot of baggage attached to it. I’m not opposed to the term, and certainly not to the concept. But I personally prefer to think of a group of “advisors”; people whose opinions I especially value in a variety of areas of leadership.
Look for such advice from leaders whose track record warrants your attention.
Yoda need not apply.
How have mentors helped your leadership?
Originally posted November 9, 2009
Can nice people be effective leaders? The short answer is “yes”, but we must vigilantly be on guard against certain temptations.
Let’s be honest. In our culture being labeled as ‘nice’ has become the kiss of leadership death. I can still remember comments on my report cards going back as far as first grade, where my teachers would note, “Scott is very conscientious, and he’s a very nice boy.”
Great. Why not just say, “Scott is destined to a life of obscurity.”
But I’ve since learned that nice people can and do lead with just as much effectiveness as our tough-as-nails counterparts. It’s just that we have to pay particular attention to a few temptations. Here are four temptations of nice leaders.
1. The temptation to avoid hard conversations.
Every leader needs to be able to tackle tough issues with those whom they are leading. As nice leaders we need to recognize our aversion to these conversations and compensate by being disciplined and focused.
2. The temptation to avoid clarity.
Nice leaders can be so afraid of hurting someone’s feelings that we’ll shroud our comments in vague euphemisms. Every time you walk away from a conversation ask yourself, “Did I get my message across with crystal clarity?”
3. The temptation to seek popularity over respect.
Can you say ‘Michael Scott’? The branch manager from TV’s ‘The Office’ is the poster child for seeking being ‘liked’ over being respected.
4. The temptation to expect too little from people.
Nice leaders will sometimes lower the bar so low for their people that the organization flounders in a sea of mediocrity. Our people will accomplish more if we set the bar high and show them how to get there.
Avoiding these temptations doesn’t mean becoming someone you’re not. Don’t fake tough.
Instead, if you’re a fellow nice person trying to make it as a leader, start by being aware of these temptations.
You may well find that being nice doesn’t disqualify you from effective leadership.
What have you learned about being “nice” in your leadership?
Originally posted February 15, 2013
These are some of the power words of leadership.
But effective leaders know there are also other words that must be part of their communication repertoire as well. They tend to be counter intuitive, and they may not seem to have the same sense of drive.
Yes, there are many times when leaders must use the “power words” to drive organizations and movements to achieve goals and to hit targets.
But if you’re going to lead a healthy organization, and more importantly, if you’re going to lead healthy people, these words are essential.
What are these surprising leadership words?
Sometimes leaders just get things wrong. And when they do it’s a mark of a leaders’ character when they can authentically stand before their people and simply apologize.
Effective leaders call the best out of their people by challenging them to engage their most important skill; their mind.
From time to time the best way to improve performance is to recognize when it’s time for people to simply take a break.
In healthy organizations a leader will easily and comfortably ask for assistance from his team mates, and will be just as quick to offer help.
When is it time for your people to stop tinkering on a project? Sometimes your job is to let them know the project is fine as it is.
Usually this word is expressed far more informally, such as “Come on in” or “My door’s open.” Effective leaders create an atmosphere of trust and understanding by keeping the lines of communication open. And one of the best ways they do that is by encouraging personal interaction.
Pay attention to the words you use.
Do they convey urgency and a drive towards achieving goals?
Good. Leaders’ words should do that.
But remember, they should also create the environment in which healthy teams can flourish.
And while that might require a whole new set of words to master, the results will be worth it.
What would you add to this list?
I’m a believer in setting new goals in a new year.
But there are hundreds of posts readily available today to help you set new leadership targets for 2014.
Today, I want to ask you a very different leadership question: “Is my soul in a better place today than it was a year ago?”
For 365 days you’ve been doing the hard work of leadership. You’ve been:
- Making tough decisions,
- Relieving people of their positions,
- Disappointing people for a greater purpose,
- Saying “no”,
- Driving people to achieve objectives,
All of these necessary tasks can take a toll on the leader’s soul.
The writer of Proverbs states emphatically, “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” (Proverbs 4:23). For leaders, this means taking time at the end of a full year to examine the condition of your inner being.
So before you tackle another year, before you set down another list of goals and resolutions, take time to wrestle through these questions. At the end of this year of leadership:
- Is my heart towards people more, or less, compassionate than a year ago?
- Am I growing more, or less, irritable than I was a year ago?
- Does laughter come to me more or less easily than it did a year ago?
- Is my appreciation of natural beauty more, or less, heightened than it was a year ago?
- Would people describe me as more, or less, “winsome” than I was a year ago?
- Is my walk with God more, or less, fulfilling today than it was a year ago?
This list is far from exhaustive, but I would urge you to reflect on these kinds of questions before you even think about tackling a new hill in 2014.
Because while resolutions and goals really ARE important, a healthy soul trumps everything.
As the Proverb says, “everything flows from it”.
How would you assess your own soul at the end of this year of leadership?