Part I of II
Have you ever wondered what keeps people from stepping out into a more pronounced leadership role? Perhaps the following example will help you see an insidious killer at work. A few weeks ago I received a phone call from a fellow minister responsible for organizing funerals. This person was looking for a staff member to conduct a funeral the following Saturday afternoon but every eligible pastor on the list was not available due to previous calendar commitments. I was the last person on the call list, yet I too declined due to a conflict in schedule. This person, who was very qualified to do a funeral, was trying so hard to farm it out. I sensed a nervous tone in her voice. During our exchange I finally challenged this person to step out of the box per se. As I sensed the subtle panic in this person’s voice I advised, “There’s a first time for everything. And at one point in my ministry – I had to step out of my comfort zone and do my first funeral. You can do it.” The assignments we are summoned to do the first time around maybe overwhelming at times since we are treading upon unfamiliar ground. For most people, the thought of making a mistake, appearing incompetent or foolish in front of a crowd can impede a potential leader. While contemplating this scenario, the four insidious killers of leadership suddenly emerged before me. All four killers begin with the letter “I”, the first one is:
1. Inadequacy – A person feels the task is too big
Most of us with extensive workplace experience have been challenged more than once to step outside our comfort zone. Many times would be leaders fail to emerge because as soon as they are asked to stretch a little the feeling of inadequacy sets in. The reason for feelings of inadequacy is the overwhelming sense of being unequal to what is required at the moment. In our limited minds we see a huge gap between what we know and the task at hand. So how do we overcome the insidious killer of inadequacy? You start by building internal capacity. Capacity is the space we create within ourselves to hold and sustain something greater. Building capacity is accomplished by perceiving and taking advantage of learning opportunities. It’s a proactive-learner who perceives an area of possibility and takes the initiative to learn about it in advance. For example, a pastor in the opening paragrah should know that funerals are part of the job description. Sooner or later he or she will be called upon to conduct one. So how should a pastor prepare? During a funeral a pastor should listen attentively, take notes, and at the appropriate time interview the presiding pastor. So when the next funeral occurs one can assume a greater leadership role. The key to enlarging internal capacity is learning at every opportunity in an effort to diminish inadequacy.
2. Insecurity – The person feels too small
In one of the episodes of the sitcom King of Queens, Carrie Heffernan is preparing to leave the office but feels uneasy going home without first finding out how her boss felt about a report she turned in earlier in the day. As Carrie carefully approached the office she carefully brings up the matter. To Carrie’s surprise her boss loved and valued her input, and asked Carrie for more. A surprised Carrie responds, “Wow, I never had my input valued before.” Insecurity is the second insidious killer for leaders. Insecurity starts when we don’t feel secure about ourselves, eventually this attitude spills into our performance. So everything we produce has a glaze of insecurity sprinkled on it. Like Carrie Heffernan, when our work comes under scrutiny we get a sense it will be shot down or returned for a rewrite. We must learn to grow out of this mental game. So how do we do it? The key is to build up confidence to a level that overcomes insecurity. Confidence occurs when a person builds trust in his or her own ability to act or perform over a course of right actions and small wins. When Carrie left her supervisor’s office she felt more secure, and confident in her ability to perform slightly better in the future. Leadership plays a key role developing staff members by making a “small person” seem a lot bigger than they actually are. Confidence increases when leaders closely monitor work performance, provide regular feedback with positive reinforcement, and celebrate small wins.
Have you ever encountered these two insidious killers of leadership in your own life? How did you overcome them?
Leaders are responsible for many things; acquiring and shaping vision, personal and corporate communication, strategic planning, budgeting, training, supervision, executing the plan, and the plan’s results. These are basic functions that all leaders can identify with. But there’s a missing ingredient from this list. What is it? It’s the way leaders treat and relate with team members, a key indicator of one’s ability to lead effectively. This is why most people in leadership positions are not leaders; some are more focused on tasks but limited in people skills. Some in positions of leadership lead for selfish reasons, to achieve a personal goal or to advance themselves. Then there are those leaders who don’t know how to lead because they’ve never been trained properly. Leadership is not that complicated; it’s simply being a genuine person who connects well with others on a personal level, then leverages followers talents, skills and energy to achieve organizational goals.
Organizations today are in desperate need of good leaders who prioritize relationships. There are times when leaders get so busy in the daily grind of work schedules that they fail to build relational value with their followers. As a result relationships wane, even dissolve substantively because the mission becomes more important than developing community. Leaders cannot allow relationships to suffer; they must learn to be intentional and diligent to work on their people skills continuously. In the thirty years of my workplace experience I have personally seen leaders, default in many areas but these two stand out the most. This article addresses two significant gaffes leaders make. As leaders try not to make the mistake of being…
Long on Vision, Short on Relationship
A leader who has a lot of vision but lacks the skills or time to build solid relationships will eventually live alone in the future. Leaders need to have a vision for where they’re taking a project or organization, this much is true, but they also need relationships to bring the vision to fruition. Leaders who “drive” hard tend to make this mistake; they don’t take the time to value and build meaningful relationships, which empower the vision for the long haul. In turn, the vision suffers a dose of malnutrition because the synergy required to build and sustain momentum becomes sluggish, in some cases nonexistent. It is not good to toss out idea after idea without building meaningful relationships nor is it wise to hurry people to get things done quickly and miss what’s truly important; relationship.
Neglect: Love Gathers – Inattention Scatters
A second default is when leaders fall short in loving their followers unconditionally. When this happens people become disengaged and eventually “scatter.” Employees and followers will leave your organization, and find an alternate place where they can be nurtured, developed, appreciated and celebrated. People will tolerate a leader to a certain point, especially when the relationship never seems to advance from superficial to deeper levels.
There is nothing worse than a neglected employee who carries his or her workload everyday but is relationally deprived. You cannot neglect your team members for too long. In The Way of the Shepherd, authors Dr. Kevin Leman and William Pentak offer this advice:
You have to really care about your people. You can go through all the right mechanics but if you don’t genuinely care about the people who report to you, you’ll never be the kind of leader they’ll drop everything to follow. If they’re nothing but stinking sheep to you, they’ll never do their best work for you and they don’t stay in your fold for long.”
As a leader you have to take time for your people, and at times deal with their problems if you’re going to be respected and followed. Love is the relational tonic that soothes, heals and restores, at the same time, possesses the potency able to increase relational capacity. Neglect, on the other hand, causes relationships to become lean. In time people will look somewhere else for a leader who will lead them with love.
What can you do as a leader to avoid the two pitfalls mentioned in this blog?
Stay Connected to Your Business Web
Your business operates among a web of networks within and without the organization. Your internal web consists of various departments, a system of reporting and accountability, and employees with varying degrees of experience, knowledge and education. Your external web is made up of vendors, shareholders and consumers who also may interact with your competitors and other related enterprises. As you become more intimate and connected to the entire web you begin to sense the slightest changes within your field of relationships. According to author Mary Beth O’Neil,
When anything comes in contact with a spider web, anywhere on its surface, the whole web moves… so it is with an interactional force field established between two or more people. It has its own anchor points, resiliency, and breaking point, and it is most often invisible to the members within it. When anyone in the field moves, all members feel the effect, though differently based on their positions.”
When you become more familiar with your internal and external business webs you become more sensitive to slight movements, and their effects upon your business.
In the opening story in this article at what point should Bob have felt change in his environment? Could it have been the moment he sensed the missing river? Remember he had been there several times before with his father. At this point he should have stopped and asked himself, “Something isn’t right here. Let’s regroup.”
Back to Bob
If Bob had detected and thought through the changes in his environment early and learned to use this information, he probably would have made better decisions and avoided an embarrassing trip. Some environments do not stay the same within time; they change, while others stay the same. Therefore, we must remain on constant vigil or else learn life’s lessons the hard way. What could Bob and his companions have done differently? It’s easier to gain insight from hindsight but it’s even better to develop foresight; insight fostered by perception and knowledge. Therefore, learning how to learn is the key to increasing intelligence capacity, which must become a priority for every organization. A “winging it” approach simply won’t help you survive through the unexpected changes in your business environment.
What can you learn about Bob’s story? Go to link>>> (See Part I of III)
The better question is – Are you Bob?
 O’Neil, Mary Beth. Executive Coaching with Backbone and Heart. John Wiley & Sons; San Francisco, CA. 2007, pg. 49.
Part II of III
According to Professor William E. Halal, “Organizational intelligence is the capacity of an organization to create knowledge and use it to strategically adapt to its environment or marketplace. It is similar to I.Q., but framed at an organizational level.” Author Verna Allee defines it as “the cognitive capacities and capabilities of an organization.” In sum, organizational intelligence is tapping into your organization’s collective knowledge quotient, and then applying new learning capabilities to seize opportunities to gain advantages in the marketplace. Utilizing organizational intelligence does more for you than just help you stay afloat; it’s about perceiving and taking advantage of new trends and shifts in the marketplace, then creating strategies to stay competitive in unstable environments. Organization’s who place a high value on learning and accessing new knowledge increase in strength and are better prepared to absorb fast changing environments. How can organizational and business leaders prepare themselves and their teams to become more aware of the environmental changes in their sphere of business? This article addresses a few ingredients essential to help you, the organizational leader, access new knowledge, and use this knowledge to adjust organizational strategy to meet the changes emerging in your environment. First, we must look to our living systems to get our queues.
Learn from Living Organisms
One way organization’s can make the adjustment is to think like living organisms, which learn to live in, adapt and survive in changing environments such as seasons of drought or when imminent danger looms. Animals have built-in systems of awareness and networks that alert them to apparent changes emerging in their environment. Do you remember the tsunami that hit Thailand’s beaches unrepentantly on Christmas Day 2006? It was noted that birds and animals were seen taking flight away from the ocean to higher ground moments before the tide hit the beach. In other words, these animals sensed atmospheric changes in their ecosystem, which triggered an internal “flight” mechanism. The world of living organisms can teach us many things. For one, a feeling or sense that something is out of alignment in your environment, and with a little intuition and foresight, one can make the needed changes to sustain oneself, even thrive, through what’s looming ahead.
Second, you’ll need to depend on your team and learn to optimize their collective intelligence.
Optimize Team Intelligence
Organizational intelligence requires a constant conversation with your team, not just at the executive level but also throughout the organization, including the shop floor. It’s a top to bottom conversation. Therefore, as you gather your team members’ mine for their collective insights and knowledge, which are crucial for navigational purposes. You should not underestimate the wisdom of your team members regardless of their background, experience or education. Pure wisdom often comes from the simple-minded. Certain employees in your organization interact with suppliers, customers and others vital to your existence. Many times the information shared in these exchanges don’t make it to the top, and organizations miss vital intelligence data required to lead masterfully.
In the story you read, Bob’s two companions had no experience neither as campers nor hiking, however, a conversation would have been better than none at all. In this respect, community learning is essential for acquiring new knowledge. Rapid changes in the environment must include speedy discussions. One leader can’t have all the right answers all the time but a team’s collective insights, knowledge and intuition can be the deal breaker in situations like Bob’s excursion.
How well do you tap into your team’s intelligence?
 William E. Halal. Organizational Intelligence: What is it, and how can managers use it? Strategy and Business, Fourth Quarter, 1997. http://www.strategybusiness.com/press/16635507/12644?tid=230&pg=all.
 Allee, Verna. The Future of Knowledge, Increasing Prosperity through Value Networks. Butterworth-Heinemann, 2003.