Audio Tidbit Leadership

When Leaders Do What Leaders Have To Do

Leaders have many responsibilities, but there is one responsibility that shapes everything else. That is how they use the power and control that comes with leadership. This in turn relates to many areas of responsibility, but none is as important as decision making.

In this episode of Audio Tidbits, I explore leadership and decision making. Included here are levels of decision making. Within this range, there is what we may think of as the decision-making bottom line. That is the decision that few expected and even fewer think is the right decision. How do skilled leaders handle the decision-making bottom line? That is where our discussion leads. Please join me on the journey.

How To Matter Leadership

Nothing Personal — It’s Just Business

Thanks for giving me a few minutes to share a couple of thoughts about leadership and taking care of business. I found an interesting book that has some ideas worth consideration.

In Leadership and Self-Deception: Getting Out of the Box, produced by the Arbinger Institute and published by Berrett-Koehler Publishers in 2002, I discovered what I think is an important truth for everyone but especially for leaders. It starts with a simple but rather strange proposition.

Self-deception determines my experience in every aspect of life.

There you go. Let me share it again. I don’t know for sure about you but I personally find the assertion very strange.

Self-deception determines my experience in every aspect of life.

Okay, I’ll move on. The arguement works like this.

1. An act contrary to what I feel I should do for another is an act of “self-betrayal.”

2. When I betray myself, I begin to see the world in a way that justifies my self-betrayal.

3. When I see a self-justifying world, my view of reality becomes distorted.

4. When I betray myself, I enter the box.

5. Over time, certain boxes become characteristic of me, and I carry them with me.

6. By being in the box, I provoke others to be in the box with me.

7. In the box, we invite mutual mistreatment and obtain mutual justification. We collude in giving each other reason to stay in the box.


Too Many Chiefs…

Not everyone can be in charge. We certainly know that too many cooks…, too many chiefs…, and the old sayings could be continued. It’s a principle that we have all heard and even sometimes take to heart. There are times though, when we seem to forget. Consider this example from my past. Perhaps you have an example of your own.


The Leader Quiz

Are you a leader or striving to become a leader? If so, it is important to identify your leadership style and to be aware of why you prefer a particular style. As becomes clear, there are alternative and distinct styles and each has its strengths and limitations. The better you understand your style, the more effective you are as you exploit the strengths of your style while compensating for its limitations.

Top dog leadership: If this is your style, you value a high level of personal control over and direct management of your followers. You work best with very cooperative followers and have low tolerance for non-compliance. You run a tight ship. Your followers typically defer to your perspective and are eager to do things your way. They tend to compete for your approval and may prioritize getting your blessing over getting the job done.

Lead dog leadership: You are a visionary who sets the organizational course. You reject use of power and control, placing your faith in the good will and principled behavior of your followers. You favor followers who function well with minimal supervision and direction and who naturally see the validity of and value in following your vision. Your style is an excellent fit for kindred spirits but is less compatible for those who may occasionally question your vision or who desire more structure and guidance. Your followers may tend to separate into the consonant majority and the small but dissonant minority.

Task leadership: Your strength is in getting the job done and depends on having qualified followers who are ready to work. Your followers are expected to bring the necessary expertise to each task and efficiently handle their piece of the project. This works especially well for followers who are expert at what they do and neither need or want direct supervision or involvement beyond their immediate tasks. It works less well for followers whose expertise may not be an exact fit with the current requirement, who value understanding how what they do fits in with the success of the larger organization, or who value social contact and interaction. It also may be less effective in the event the various elements of the enterprise experience minor to major disruption or variance from expectation. …


Leaders Are Never Pushy

Where and When are Leadership Connections Initiated

As Figure 3 in Ecological Human Services Management shows, leadership connections can be planned or unplanned, as represented in the left column of the figure. Additionally, they can be Leadership Team member initiated or stakeholder initiated, as represented in the middle and right columns of the figure. The result is leadership connections that are planned and member initiated, planned and stakeholder initiated, unplanned and member initiated, and unplanned and stakeholder initiated. If the Leadership Team restricts its membership to people who do well on the earlier Leadership Team membership assessment, the four types of connection initiations shown in Figure Three are manageable for the members. They are comfortable with all four types.

Let’s expand on the four initiation types. Planned initiations are those where either the member or the stakeholder decides ahead of time to initiate a connection and then pursues the connection. This may start with a letter or phone call, but may as commonly start with either the member or stakeholder planning ahead of time to introduce himself or herself at a meeting or other gathering.

A few cautions are in order when considering planned connections. The Leadership Team member should initiate the connection personally. If possible, do not have someone else make the arrangements. For example, do not have a secretary, co-worker, or another stakeholder arrange for the first meeting. If initiating the connection by letter or phone, do not ask the stakeholder to contact you. For example, if you leave a message on voice mail, let the person know who you are, briefly why you are calling, and that you will try again at another time. You can leave your number at the end, letting the person know returning the call is fine if they prefer. Just do not give any hint you expect them to call you. €“ When calling anyone, take a minute to decide before you place the call exactly what you will say, if you need to leave a voice message. Do not wait until you hear the beep to think about what you want to say.

Additionally, never initiate a connection by email. In general, avoid emails with stakeholders all together, unless the other person sends an email to you. Even then, a phone call is better and a face-to-face contact is better yet. Email is just too impersonal for leadership connections. Also, do not stop by someone’s home or office without an appointment, expecting the person to meet with you. This is both rude and inconsiderate. …


Personality and the Fate of Organizations

Hogan, Robert. Personality and the Fate of Organizations. New York: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc., 2007.

…all managerial jobs have one important feature in common: They help accomplish the work of an organization through other people. This means that managers are responsible for the performance of their staffs.

The word leadership has two meanings. On the one hand, leadership refers to a certain kind of position in an organization–a leadership position. On the other hand, leadership refers to a kind of performance–behaving in a leader-like way.

By definition, managers are in positions of leadership; whether they exercise it appropriately is another question.

The published literature on leadership is immense–actually overwhelming–and growing daily.

Effective leaders tend to be resilient and handle stress well, they promote a vision and develop strategies to translate the vision into reality, they solve tactical and strategic problems, they set high goals and work hard to achieve them, they project a sense of self-confidence, they build relationships, they build teams, they follow through on their commitments and treat people fairly, and they plan and organize work. These attributes are no guarantee of success, but they improve the odds of a person being able to build a high-performing team that achieves results.

…bad management is the primary cause of employee dissatisfaction–the best predictor of employee dissatisfaction is poor leadership.

…bad managers create turnover–people do not quit organizations, they quit bad bosses. …


On Mission and Leadership

Hesselbein, Frances and Rob Johnston. On Mission and Leadership: A Leader to Leader Guide. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2002.

Intellectual capital is an organization’s primary asset. Knowledge workers seek meaning and purpose in their work, a climate of trust and optimism, and results.

Technical competence: business literacy and grasp of one’s field

Conceptual skill: a facility for abstract or strategic thinking

Track record: a history of achieving results

People skills: an ability to communicate, motivate, and delegate

Taste: an ability to identify and cultivate talent

Judgment: making difficult decisions in a short time frame with imperfect data

Character: the qualities that define who we are

… constituents seek four things: meaning or direction, trust in and from the leader, a sense of hope and optimism, and results. …


Collaborative Intelligence

Hackman, Richard J. Collaborative Intelligence: Using Teams to Solve Hard Problems. San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc., 2011.

A team is akin to an audio amplifier: whatever comes in, be it Mozart or ear-grating static, comes out louder.

To perform well, any team must include members who have the knowledge and skill that the task requires; it must recognize which members have which capabilities; and it must properly weight members’ inputs–avoiding the trap of being more influenced by those who have high status or who are highly vocal than by those who actually know what they are talking about.

The benefits of teamwork come only when capable people work together interdependently to achieve some collective purpose.

Face-to-face teams are indicated when creating a high-quality product requires coordinated contributions in real time from a diversity of members who have complementary expertise, experience, and perspectives.

We have seen that the five common types of teams discussed–surgical, coacting, face-to-face, distributed, and sand dune–are appropriate in some task and organizational circumstances, but not in others.

The social processes the team uses in carrying out the work enhance members’ capability to work together interdependently in the future.

An effective team is a more capable performing unit when it has finished a piece of work than it was when the work began. …


On Leadership

Gardner, John W. On Leadership. First Free Press Paperback Edition. New York: The Free Press, 1993.

Leadership is the process of persuasion or example by which an individual induces a group to pursue objectives held by the leader or shared by the leader and his or her followers.

In any established group, individuals fill different roles, and one of the roles is that of leader.

Leaders are almost never as much in charge as they are pictured to be, followers almost never as submissive as one might imagine.

The ablest and most effective leaders do not hold to a single style; they may be highly supportive in personal relations when that is needed, yet capable of a quick, authoritative decision when the situation requires it.

Among other things, a leader must recognize the needs of followers or constituents, help them see how those needs can be met, and give them confidence that they can accomplish that result through their own efforts. Sometimes the leader helps to remove constraints or inhibitions that had been impeding the full play of motivation. …


A Failure of Nerve

Friedman, Edwin H. A Failure of Nerve: Leadership in the Age of the Quick Fix. New York: Seabury Books, 2007.

The more my perspective broadened, the more confirmed I became in my view that contemporary leadership dilemmas have less to do with the specificity of given problems, the nature of a particular technique, or the makeup of a given group than with the way everyone is framing the issues.

In any type of institution whatsoever, when a self-directed, imaginative, energetic, or creative member is being consistently frustrated and sabotaged rather than encouraged and supported, what will turn out to be true one hundred percent of the time, regardless of whether the disrupters are supervisors, subordinates, or peers, is that the person at the very top of that institution is a peace-monger. By that I mean a highly anxious risk-avoider, someone who is more concerned with good feelings than with progress, someone whose life revolves around the axis of consensus, a “middler,” someone who is so incapable of taking well-defined stands that his “disability” seems to be genetic, someone who functions as if she had been filleted of her backbone, someone who treats conflict or anxiety like ## mustard gas–one whiff, on goes the emotional gas mask, and he flits. Such leaders are often “nice,” if not charming.

What counts is the leader’s presence and being, not technique and know-how. …


Let The Pilot Fly The Plane, Please

None but a certifiable power junky would go with his own ideas and skills when someone more competent is readily available. Nonetheless, power junkies are more prevalent than you might think. You can find them mostly in the middle ranks but rarely at the top. Leaders do not get there by ignoring or overlooking expertise in others and especially not in people whose knowledge, skills, and resources can increase their chances for success. Skilled leaders take full advantage of whatever may give them the winning edge.

a proactive leader’s reason for deferring to the expertise of others goes a little farther though. He truly values differing styles and opinions. Each person on the team has know-how, skills, and resources unlike those of anyone else. They all have their special areas of expertise. They also have their individual approaches, ways of thinking, and perspectives. This gives fullness and flavor to the team. Not to take advantage of this richness would be like ignoring the pilot when she suggests that you let her fly the plain this time. …


Smart Trust

Covey, Stephen M. R., Greg Link, with Rebecca R. Merrill. Smart Trust: Creating Prosperity, Energy and Joy in a Low Trust World. New York: Free Press, 2012.

… people innately know that the benefits of high-trust relationships, teams, and organizations are incomparably more productive and satisfying.

This is how we each can become part of the renaissance of trust. … We can choose to believe in trust. … We can start with ourselves. … We can declare our intent and assume positive intent in others. … We can do what we say we’re going to do. … We can lead out in extending Smart Trust to others.


Monday Morning Motivation

Cottrell, David. Monday Morning Motivation: Five Steps to Energize your Team, Customers, and Profits. New York: Harper Business, 2009.

The single greatest influence on your organization’s energy is the leader…you are the ultimate energizer. The energy you create can be positive or negative, and that energy is multiplied in the organization because of your impact on every member of your team.

Your organizational energy is not the sum of your individuals. It is dependent upon the ratio of energizers to sappers. If you have more sappers than energizers, the energy will be drained, and in fact the energizers may eventually become sappers. As unfortunate as it is, a negative, cynical person has a far greater impact on the energy of the team than a positive person. He or she will deplete far more energy than a positive person will add.

Consider the effect on a team if their leader speaks negatively about her boss’s decision to change a particular process or policy. Will the members of that team be energized about and supportive of the change? Not likely, because they see leadership chaos above them. On the other hand, when employees see that everyone in their line of leadership is on the same page, they are motivated to get on board also.

With respect to your team, are your organization’s values actually practiced or merely posted?

When conflicts are ignored, tremendous organizational energy is diverted from moving forward to dealing with the conflict. The rule illustrates how a small issue can grow exponentially if left unchecked. The longer it persists, the more difficult and time consuming it is to fix–and the more of your organization’s energy it will waste.


The Other 90%

Cooper, Robert K. The Other 90%: How to Unlock Your Vast Untapped Potential for Leadership and Life. New York: Three Rivers Press, 2001.

Although studies indicate that people who regularly think ahead tend to experience more frequent leadership opportunities and career advancement, this mechanism is about something deeper than the external trappings of success. It keeps overriding the don’t-grow-or-change instincts of the amygdala and clarifies what makes you original and sets you apart from the crowd.

It’s no wonder that when people don’t feel cared about and uniquely valued, they do not put their hearts into their life or work. After an extensive three-year study of the critical variables for leadership success, the Center for Creative Leadership recently concluded that the only statistically significant factor differentiating the very best leaders from the mediocre ones is caring about people.

Here’s what we know: zero-sum competition–that is, competition in which one person must lose in order for another to win–tends to undermine the best in most of us. It makes us wary and distrustful of others, causes us to withhold and distort information, inspires us to negatively caricature others, makes us intolerant of uncertainty and change, and it so narrows our focus that constructive creativity is practically shut down. …


The Talent Masters

Conaty, Bill and Ram Charan. The Talent Masters: Why Smart Leaders Put People Before Numbers. New York: Crown Business, 2010.

Any time two or more people work together there’s a social process in which they exchange information and ideas, exercise power, and express their values through what they say and do.

Coaching and feedback are constant, direct, and substantive.

Dialogue is candid and ongoing throughout the year.

…if you’re going to have a performance culture, there’s got to be a very well understood set of company values to keep people from going off the rails ethically or behaviorally.

Charisma and talking well are useful leadership qualities, but they are not enough if a person cannot connect authentically with others to build consensus and teamwork.

…the four major components of talent: personal traits, skill mix, relationship building, and judgment about people and business.

…judgment is required to know which old rules of thumb to discard and which new ones to develop.