Sunday, September 25, 2011

Myths of Leadership

Martin Luther King, Jr has often been quoted that the measure of a man cannot be seen in times of comfort but where he stands in times of adversity. In difficult moments, the true values, convictions and beliefs of the leader surface. Sometimes the leader himself does not realize what the foundation of his or her life had been until adversity reveals it. Leaders must face the difficult realities of the influence he or she has the privilege of obtaining. One in pursuit of great leadership cannot deny these realities. Coming to grips with these realities, certain myths must be exposed.

Myth #1: Leadership is found in position. Many are in pursuit of certain positions in life believing lies that the position is what holds the success or influence. Many find as they "climb the ladder" certain compromises are made that go against his or her core values slowly decaying the foundation that makes great leaders great. Rather than being in pursuit of the position, pursue the character needed for the position and the promotions will occur at the appropriate times. Leadership is influence, period. Great leaders have influence with or without position.

Myth #2: Leadership is innate. In other words, many believe great leaders are born with the natural ability to lead. There may be some truth to this as innate personalities and temperaments certainly gift individuals with abilities and skills to lead. However, EVERYONE has the ability to develop the leader within them. The key is learning what defines leadership and the foundation of leadership is character. Everyone has the ability to develop character and as this character manifests itself through one's personality, skills and abilities the "uniqueness" of that person's leadership is revealed.

Myth #3: Leadership is easy. This is probably the most obvious myth of leadership and most widely accepted for those who have attempted leadership. Developing great leadership abilities and skills takes time and a lot of effort. More than just a lot of effort, this effort must be a focused effort. The type of effort needed must be rooted in purposeful leadership - a purpose higher than just self-fulfillment. When leaders have a purpose aimed at benefiting others, he or she finds additional strength to work through adversity and hindrances.

Count the cost. Knowing the challenges and costs ahead of time prepares one's expectations of the realities of leadership and helps avoid the pitfalls of falling prey to the myths of leadership.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Leading While Staying Connected

John Maxwell once said, "Leaders need to be close enough to people to lead them but far ahead enough to motivate them." This couldn't be more true. Think of your great, influential teachers in your life. They were not "buddies" but "mentors." Leaders look to stay one step ahead of those he or she is leading. What benefits arise as a result of such leadership?

1. Direction - The leader who steps out in front of others and pursues a vision first must chart the course for others. Charting this course gives direction and helps those following make the right decisions to help fulfill the vision.

2. Counsel - The leader who take the initiative must learn the troubleshooting solutions first and can provide advice for others before they face similar adversity. Furthermore, when receiving advice from someone who has "been there, done that" makes the advice more credible.

3. Connection - The leader who connects with his or her followers always keeps a hand out to help. When you feel "connected" to a leader, it's much easier to take risks to accomplish goals or the vision. Without the "connection" people are less likely to step out of their comfort zone and follow where the leader leads. Connection is the bridge that keeps the leader and followers working together as a team.

Discuss what ways a leader can do two things:
a) Stay Connected
b) Stay Ahead and Motivate

Sunday, September 11, 2011

No Results?

No Results? How frustrating when you carefully word a key word search using an online search engine and you are left with no results?! In a like manner, how frustrating is it when you create a plan to accomplish something and following a whole-hearted commitment to achieve it, you feel like the return message is, "No results...try again."

Defeating. Discouraging. Frustrating! What a leader responds with in these times reveals a lot about his or her outlook on leadership. What should a leader do when he or she feels the achievement is zero? Goals are not being met? His leadership is losing favor with others? Below are some tips on dealing with setbacks or the lack of results.

1. Regroup. Gather your team in and revisit the vision and mission. Remind yourself and your team why it is you are pursuing a particular achievement. Often, setbacks or hurdles serve as valuable times to refine your vision or renew your motivation.

2. Reflect. Reflect on your influence as a leader. Ask yourself the tough questions, "Am I putting in more time than others? Am I asking too much of others? What can I do different to inspire others to achieve?"

3. Renew. Sometimes, a sense of renewal is needed to re-energize the team to achieve. It's not a matter of working harder or re-planning anything. Sometimes, the leadership just needs a sense of inspiration. Revisiting the purpose and hope behind the vision often gives a sense of inspiration.

4. Refine. Set-backs and the lack of results may cause one to refine the goals or plan of action. The vision is fine, the leadership is fine and the team is fine. Problem? Wrong plan of action. As a team, collaborate on how a better "road map" could be established to achieve a vision.

Big Picture? Effective leaders are not content with "Sorry, your search led you to no results" messages or achievements. Leaders see these as opportunities to implement effective problem solving.

Don't like the results you get? Change what you do!

Monday, September 5, 2011

Conforming 101

I've been struck with the concept lately that conformity can be a good thing AND a bad thing. First of all, conformity happens. Period. You conform to whatever you give your heart to. Studies have now shown that spouses are more likely to adopt the "bad habits" of the other spouse. Studies also reveal we tend to conform to who we hang out with, what we listen to, what we watch, etc. HOWEVER, conformity can be a good thing....

My greatest compliment as a parent came to me recently. What was it? Realizing one of my kids wants to be just like me. Here, conformity is a good thing. My point? We need to be careful that we are conforming to right standards of character, communication and leadership. If for no other reason, so that those trusting in our leadership will also conform towards greatness as well. No greater compliment could be given than seeing those "followers" desiring to be like you.

What's key then? Focusing on what we should be conforming to helps us avoid conforming to what is negative in nature. When we purpose to conform to greatness and bear that greatness daily, we are that light bulb that reminds other light bulbs what our purpose is and what could be possible.

Leadership helps others conform to what we are currently trying to conform to also.