The Right and Wrong Way to Lead

The quality of leadership is often the deciding factor between healthy or dysfunctional corporate cultures. When effective leadership is exercised, organizations leverage the very best performance from their people. This significantly increases their chances for gaining market advantage and maximizing profitability. We can usually spot ineffective leadership by observing a brief interaction between the leader and a team member. The short video below demonstrates precisely what I am talking about.

I made this little video to help us to be reminded of how important our language is in winning team performance. Effective leadership really boils down to adopting some very simple communication behaviors:

  1. Try not to let your frustration show. It is not only a sign of weakness but it often telegraphs your lack of confidence or control.
  2. Refrain from making judgments about your team members’ liabilities. As leaders it is our job to encourage them to reach for a higher level of performance not become fixated on their mistakes.
  3. As my good friend Dr. Mitchell Perry would say, “Speak in the language of inclusion.” That means we should be talking about what they can or should be doing rather than focus on what they are NOT doing. 
  4. Be aware of your facial expressions and body language. Words only account for just 7% of the meaning in our communication. Far more critical is our tone of voice, non-verbal cues and facial communication.
  5. Ask plenty of open-ended questions and LISTEN for what your people are REALLY trying to say.
  6. Assume that your people can and WILL perform above your expectations rather will assuming they cannot.
  7. Be willing to invest time with your people helping them through difficult situations or projects.

I hope this has been helpful to you in your quest for a higher level of leadership. I am interested in your ideas. Please give some feedback and I will share with all of our readers.

The Gap in “Learned Leadership” – America’s biggest impediment to organizational growth

Today business leaders are struggling with a number of impediments to organization growth. These are often identified as economic conditions such as a lack of capital, cash flow, increased regulations, softening demand, price erosion or predatory competition. While economic aspects do often hinder business success, it is the unwavering commitment and cohesive spirit of the people within the organization that enables the achievement of a competitive edge despite all economic conditions. This has been proven on numerous occasions. In fact we are seeing some of the most unlikely enterprises gain market dominance in the harshest of economic conditions. This is evident in observing the unprecedented entrepreneurial growth occurring in third world countries. Winning the collective and enthusiastic commitment of the entire organization is easier said than done. This must be accomplished by engaging team members in a way that they willingly volunteer their disposable time and discretionary effort to the enterprise on a continuing basis. This requires that business leaders overtly practice functional leadership as never before. Yet effectively modeled leadership is a rare commodity, particularly in America today. We need only look at the world of sports, politics, and global business to see that even our most revered leaders are disappointing us at every turn. They consistently display a lack of honesty, integrity and commitment, coupled with a pervasive self-interest. It is interesting to note that organizations can sustain themselves for years or even decades even with a “gap” in leadership due to sheer momentum or market force. Unlike adverse economic conditions a leadership gap can go unrecognized and unaddressed for many years. But it is difficult to cultivate growth and nearly impossible to sustain a functional corporate culture without effective leadership. The eventual symptoms are silo building, political infighting, accelerating employee turnover, stunted upward mobility, stymied succession planning and the eventual lack of market advantage. All of this paints a bleak picture for continued business dominance and innovation in America. But recognizing this challenge is the first step in defining a solution. Business leaders must stop focusing on just the economic or market conditions facing their organizations. They must first and foremost confront their own behavioral issues. We cannot teach, train or coach our people to bring about change if we are not modeling the necessary behaviors ourselves. Often times leaders are so involved in the day-to-day minutia of running the enterprise that they lose sight of the mirror of self-reflection. We must be deliberate in demonstrating the critical traits of leadership in everything we do. They are honesty, humility, vision, competence, inspiration, communication and being others-oriented. If we are to properly lead we must integrate these into our personal value-set in a genuine and transparent way. I don’t know about you but if I hold the mirror up-to-myself I often find that I too am lacking in one of more of these areas during daily interactions. It is not just what we SAY as leaders that win people to our way of thinking it is what we DO! Our actions define our intentions. Is leadership an inborn trait or can it be learned? While for some this may be inborn but the good news is YES, it can be learned! With a clear assessment of our leadership competencies, an open mind toward development, proven training, coaching and applied in a practical way with our daily interactions, leaders CAN be made! This will be a first in a series of discussions on “what makes leaders great.” Stay-tuned for more and I’d love to hear your feedback.