Free sample videos of the Authentic Speaking® Video Series and the Gifted Leadership™ videos have been added to my blog and websites. View them here at www.lamplighter.com.au/viewStory/Video+Seminars or here on the blog. Even if you don’t subscribe, you can still benefit from a few tips in these samples!
Here’s a new message regarding the Performance Power-Ups” video series. Subscribe at www.lamplighter.com.au if you’re serious about improving as a leader, a communicator and as a professional. We’re up to Episode 17 of each series this coming week!
Political leaders come and go. In Australian politics in fact, they come, get booted out, keep agitating, come back again by booting someone else out, possibly get booted out again and so it goes. But political leadership in our modern democracies is so often about pandering to the masses to gain that all-important election vote. Then one can, by and large, ignore the masses till one needs them once more for that election vote. Thus, attention to voters’ needs often becomes dictated by the perception of how one needs to curry favour until the next election cycle.
The Australian Labor Party has taken this to an art form by kicking out at the very last minute before an election any leaders who whiff of electoral massacre, in the hope that the electorate will forgive and forget and focus on the ‘new way’ presented by the new person (who, in our current case, happens to also be the old person – it’s like a tongue twister from Sir Humphrey Appleby).
In my state, a recent uproar over the state government’s renege on a contractual agreement regarding solar power energy payments, accompanied by threats to not vote for that party’s federal counterparts in our upcoming national election, led to an immediate about-face. The people roared, at election time, and the premier listened. (Some say he also listened to the rather direct phone call of the federal opposition leader, erstwhile prime-minister-to-be, saying that the state government should honour its commitments and think twice about the electoral damage.)
Leadership needs to be more than this. And gifted leaders needs to use their gifts to consistently, diligently serve those they are called and privileged to lead.
That would be a great ‘new way’, which would never get old.
One of the difficult things about leadership is when you feel like you are alone. I was working with a client this week who is starting a new venture. He commented that he feels like others are not as excited as he is and they are holding back.
“Well, that’s not surprising”, I said. “They are seeing all the organising from the outside and you have been running around for months getting everything prepared by yourself, but they have merely been waiting to get started.”
Unfortunately, a lot of leaders artificially create loneliness by maintaining sole effort. If you want to be alone, do everything alone. It seems so patently obvious, but it’s astonishing how frequently we do this. A husband keeps financial troubles from his wife and doesn’t work through it together, he lets the stress build up and then blows his stack. A stay at home mum tries to bear the burden of raising three kids alone, doesn’t get out and feels miserable and isolated. Professional mums try to run their departments or are busy with their work and then get frustrated when the kids don’t follow a pre-determined schedule or don’t eat x amount of grams at every meal, but don’t seek help because “they ought to be smart enough to do it by themselves”. The small business owner does everything – from marketing through to accounts through to sales through to delivery and wonders why he is exhausted and can’t seem to get traction with other people. A department head comes up with the “brilliant plan” of their own for moving everyone forward and wonders why no-one takes up the cause. A CEO sits in his office or his car and dreams up the big new Vision, Mission and Values Statements, announces it to everyone over Friday afternoon drinks and wonders why everyone is silent and ho-hum. These are all leadership positions. They all require active involvement of others to be truly successful. But people don’t involve others.
Why do people artificially construct this loneliness?
- The martyr complex. “Oh, I’m the great leader. It’s so tough being at the top. No one else shares my burden.” Yes, and no one else cares much either. Go figure.
- A crushingly great ego. “The problem is no one else could do this job as well as I. I’m just too talented and brilliant. That’s why I have to go it alone.” And yet, along comes someone who can do the job 10 times better than you in a heartbeat – others can see it, it’s just that you can’t. Brilliant commanders build up whole companies who can do their job – especially if they get knocked out of action.
- Equally crushing lack of self-esteem and estimation of your own worth. “If I let others help me do this, then what will I be worth? I’m not strong enough for that.” Well, it might be time to divorce your self-worth from your job/position. Find out who you are and gain some more contentment about life.
- Lack of faith. “I find your lack of faith disturbing”. (Actually, I just love saying that in a Darth Vader voice.) Seriously, faith in the ability of others to accomplish something is justified, by and large. It’s amazing how often others will step up to the plate and hit a home run. If they fail you repeatedly, then put your trust in some others. If you are spiritually inclined (as am I), then you can have faith that someone “higher up” is guiding the way and you don’t have to do this alone.
- Just plain lack of communication. “I feel the pain, but I can’t express it. Surely it would undermine people’s trust.” Oddly enough, it often doesn’t. I’m not saying you spend every day moaning and groaning, but going to trusted partners, advisors and staff and saying, “I need some help here”, or “I’m struggling with this” or (shock, horror), “I made a massive mistake”, can bring out the most unusual devotion and support of like-minded people.
Now, there are very real reasons when someone can become ostracised and isolated in leadership positions. This can be due to (amongst other things) a prevailing culture, unrealistic expectations of others, others’ God complexes or the shifting sands of the times. A leader does need to forge the path ahead and sometimes it is a matter of being exposed out in front, hopefully with reinforcements arriving soon. It’s just better not to make a lifestyle of it.
Don’t play the martyr and go it alone. Bring other people along for the ride. That’s what leadership’s about.
I would really like to hear your comments. Have you ever felt alone in leadership? Was it justified or not? How do you work with others to gain the support you need? Tell me more…
While preparing my Gifted Leadership™ Video Seminars, I was a little surprised to find that a couple of subscribers had not felt they had the time during the week to view a 5 minute video and would catch up much later. I happened to be recording a segment on how we can be overworked and ‘spent’ and thus how to manage priorities and create greater time and energy for ourselves as leaders. So I felt all the more assured on its importance and all the more on target as I recorded the segment.
One of the great challenges of leadership is how to manage the complexity and number of sometimes overwhelming tasks. One individual task that before seemed like a ‘piece of cake’ can suddenly become the most tiring and demanding of chores, because we lack the mental and physical energy to undertake it. This is particularly true when we also have unmet physiological and psychological needs, including those of security and success.
I won’t go into the process I provide in the video (that’s for subscribers), but from a cognitive and performance perspective, here are three principles that can greatly assist:
- Automaticity. Automating functions requires preparation, rehearsal and systematisation. But the payoffs are great. If it can happen without you thinking about it, great! But you must also put in place contingency actions in case something goes wrong. (The airbag explodes out for safety if you crash because you were on ‘autopilot’.)
- Cognitive Load. Reduce the load on your thinking. This may require compartmentalising information, blocking out time or delegating to someone else or another agency. But this allows you to …
- Focus. Focus on the task at hand. Examine it closely. Block out other distractions and muster the mental and physical energy to concentrate on the fine detail. Your greatest trouble is getting through today, not tomorrow, so examine each step carefully until it becomes automatic. Like a hawk in the sky, you want to be able to see the detail of the tiniest creature if you want to find the tastiest morsel.
Don’t be overwhelmed. Take control.
Here’s a light and fluffy piece for a Friday:
Leaders have to consider their own self-identity in the formation of their leadership. Too often their self-identity is shaped by being ‘a leader’, rather than their own identity shaping their leadership. Thus, the engineer becomes the ‘CEO’ and now identifies and congregates with CEOs, rather than engineers. The teacher becomes a ‘school administrator’ and identifies himself or herself as such. The lawyer becomes a ‘Managing Partner’ and considerations of self centre on their identification with ‘leadership’ roles, responsibilities and relationships.
A deeper level of consideration is that of the ontological expression of a leader. [Ontology is the study of the nature of being - originating in philosophy, metaphysics and particularly theology (and has been misappropriated by the IT world, which sometimes displays a fundamental misunderstanding of the English language. If you're in IT, feel free to write and I'll clarify where you went wrong.)] What is your being? How is it defined, shaped and externalised? How does this relate to, and how is it expressed – through actions, words and relationship – in and through, your leadership?
The fact that many people define their being in terms of their profession is an indication of how mixed up we are in terms of our own personhood. Are you a lawyer, or are you a human being? (They’re not always mutually exclusive.) Are you a shift worker, or a father? Are you a politician, or someone driven to help others? (Again, not necessarily mutually exclusive.)
In terms of your leadership: Are you the CEO, or are you a person with a family, beliefs, preferences; someone who was brought up as a hard worker devoted to seeing things work well and to service within and without the family, who now works to ensure that people within your company and clients without are provided for and can enjoy the fruits of your collective labours?
Two of the fundamental questions of ontology are: 1) What is the fundamental essence of a thing? and 2) What is that thing’s relationship to other things?
Thus, for leaders, the question is: 1) What is your fundamental essence? and 2) What is your relationship to the world, people, concepts, systems and things around you?
The problem with identifying oneself solely as a leader is that you are a ‘leader’ in only one context, limited by time and space and by definition. Hence: Barack Obama is President – of the federal government of the United States of America, for a few years, in a limited fashion. He’s not my president. He’s not the President for billions of people around the world. If he thinks of himself – of his being – merely as “The President” his own self-identity becomes shallow and is limited to a particular narrow set of circumstances and relationships. However, if he considers himself as a product of his mother and of his father’s predilections, if he considers himself as a person in relation to others, if he considers himself as an agent setting about completing a personal agenda in relation to the rest of the world, as a father himself and so on, then he has a better perspective that will ultimately produce more rounded and more effective leadership.
Under the former situation, when someone ceases to be a ‘leader’, suddenly their world drops around them. They are lost and have a complete lack of fulfilment in their lives, because their very concept of their being so revolved around their position that they no longer understand their own fundamental essence.
This is one of the reasons why when teaching people to communicate, I created ‘Authentic Speaking’. One must be genuinely oneself, expressing towards and with other persons in relation to oneself. I created ‘Gifted Leadership’ with the same underlying principle: leadership is the expression of oneself – one’s gifts, talents, skills, values, history, baggage, everything – in relation to others in order to draw out their gifts and accomplish together a predetermined and determined goal. Business becomes the intersection of people, process and product in relation with one another and an external environment.
One must consider the vital essence, relation and attenuation of a ‘thing’ in order to truly understand it. How does it act in and of itself and how does it act in relation to other things? For the ancient Greeks, the perfection of this lay in their concept of divinity as something totally unchanging that must therefore, by definition, be removed from interaction with corrupt physical reality – it is ‘above’ the ‘physis’, which is that which changes in nature. That is why the study of the divine was ‘metaphysics’ = above nature.
Unfortunately, this is many a person’s view of leadership: leadership is ‘above’ the changing, rather dirty masses. The ‘leader’ is unchanging in his or her resoluteness and directs from afar. It’s an abysmal model, for it denies the reality of those people as human beings acting in their environment, according to their driving internal needs to be in relation to the world around them.
Being a leader should, rather, be about the expression of yourself in and through the actions you take, ideas you communicate, and communities you create, expressed through the individuals, teams and groups through whom and with whom you interact, that seek to achieve a shared and ultimately rewarding and praiseworthy goal.
Untangling your self-identity, deconstructing and then reconstructing your being – that is, conducting an ontological study of you – is necessary to see how and why you react in response to the world around you, why you do what you do, why you feel what you feel. It is vital in order to truly see how you may have been misdirected and may be walking on a path that leads you away from your integrity and personhood to being something that you do not want. It is also vital to acting in a way that more genuinely creates the results, the leadership and the life you desire.
Your leadership is only a part of your being, not the sum total. Don’t be defined by it, define it.
Who, and what, are you?
I’m announcing a new development opportunity that I believe will benefit anyone and everyone. I don’t harangue people with endless sales pitches on useless products. I provide high level consulting, coaching and development opportunities for clients and have no intention of turning away from the integrity and “class” that I’ve demonstrated through the years, but this announcement is about an addition to our services that will be available around the world 24/7 via the internet.
I’ve created several online video seminar series to help people grow as leaders, as communicators and as individuals. These are based on my original doctoral research, my years of consulting and executive coaching and my studies and business experiences across more than two and half decades on three continents.
Each series is centred on the themes of leadership, communication and performance. Up to 50 five-minute videos will be delivered straight to your inbox every week throughout the year. That’s just enough length for the modern attention span and our busy schedules. View them anywhere, any time, on any device, until the internet expires.
The Different Series Are:
- Gifted Leadership: Bring out your gifts and talents and those of the people around you to create extraordinary performance – all while actually enjoying what you do. Lead in your business, family and community. Topics include: Your Driving Leadership Purpose™. What are your Deepest Gifts? Developing High Performance. Strategic use of your gifts. Leading the ‘Unleadable’. Learning from great leaders. Being ‘in the zone’. Collaboration. Communication. And much more…
- Authentic Speaking: Be a persuasive and inspiring communicator who leads others to great results. Communicate in a genuine way that truly connects with people, in all kinds of situations. Topics include: The 3 Cs of Authentic Speaking®. Connecting with your audience. Speaking to persuade. Building Confidence. Overcoming fears. Building Presence. Using powerful narratives. Avoiding ‘Death by PowerPoint’. Object Lessons. Great speaking models. Commanding the room. Integrity. The heart of the message. Power vocabulary. And much more…
- Professional Service and Sales: What do clients really need and want? How do you connect with your clients to build greater professional relationships and more business for the both of you? Topics include: What clients want. What you have to offer. Being proactive. Nurturing clients. First impressions. Power questions. The Commitment Matrix™. Negotiation. Marketing analyses. Time management. And more…
These will be relaxed, enjoyable and informative videos, set in my home office. No fancy graphics. No fluff or fads. Just pure content that will actually make a difference.
Why am I doing this? We are all so busy these days. I often talk with people who say, “I’d love to come to a workshop or have you come to my firm, but there just isn’t time.” Well, this is as flexible as you can get and presents a low level of investment for great return. If you’ve already been a client of mine, or have been to one of my workshops, you will still find great value and new ideas, or old gems that you had forgotten. If you’re new to my services, this will provide you with a wealth of practical ideas and insights that will help you. Don’t worry: you can still hire me or attend a workshop to gain more value.
Your Investment: Each series only costs $250. To be frank, just ONE idea that helps you would be worth 20-1000 times that. I’ll give you hundreds. There’s no excuse not to sign up.
Early Bird Discounts: Pay only $200 (get $50 off) if you buy by April 25, 2013 (Australian ANZAC Day). If you can claim your expense on your taxes, it may cost you as little as $108 dollars over the year – that’s less than 30 cents a day. You couldn’t buy water with that money, or even air! (Make sure you choose ‘early bird’ in the course option while the offer lasts.)
Further Discounts: If you refer a friend or colleague who subscribes before June 1, I’ll give you $25 credit per referral, for use towards other video series, workshops or consultations. Sign up 10 or more friends or colleagues and I’ll give you $350 credit towards any video series, workplace profiling, workshop or consultation. Just make sure they mention your name when registering.
Fair Use: I am happy for you to personally show a sample of a video to others and of course you should use the ideas in your own work and development, but note that this is all my original IP. I am trusting you to keep your video links private and to respect copyright. They cannot be shared, tweeted, facebooked, or otherwise published in any way to other people. I don’t want to have to restrict your access. Besides, the lawyers in my family would have a field day and they have enough work already.
When: The videos will commence broadcasting in early May. They will arrive at the start of the day (West Australian time) once per week. Each series will be broadcast on a different day of the week.
Make A Request: The first set of video series will start in May of 2013 (further series will follow in time). Although each series is fully planned out, I want to provide some flexibility and responsiveness, so the episodes will not all be filmed right away. As a founding subscriber, if you have a request for specific topics or questions you’d like addressed or answered under the series’ theme, then send it through. If I think many of the subscribers will be interested, I’ll include an episode on your topic.
To buy, simply visit our website now at http://www.lamplighter.com.au/viewStory/Video+Seminars and click on ‘Buy Now’ for the relevant series.
If you would like to sign up for more than one series, simply return to the website after buying and order more.
Here is the series information if you don’t want to visit the website yet:
THE ONLINE VIDEO SEMINAR SERIES – Starting May 2013
|Gifted Leadership Video Seminar Series I. 40 online videos on the most important skill you can build: your leadership. Learn how to use your gifts to bring out the gifts of others for high performance.Topics include: Your Driving Leadership Purpose™. What are your Deepest Gifts? Developing High Performance. Strategic use of your gifts. Leading the ‘Unleadable’. Learning from great leaders. Being ‘in the zone’. Collaboration. Communication. And much more…
EARLY BIRD deadline: April 25, 2013
|Authentic Speaking Video Seminar Series I. 50 online videos delivered straight to your inbox every week throughout the year. Each video has 5 minutes of great information, tips and boosts to your speaking and communication – just enough for the modern attention span! Become a more powerful and authentic speaker.Topics include: The 3 Cs of Authentic Speaking®. Connecting with your audience. Speaking to persuade. Building Confidence. Overcoming fears. Building Presence. Using powerful narratives. Avoiding ‘Death by PowerPoint’. Object Lessons. Great speaking models. Commanding the room. Integrity. The heart of the message. Power vocabulary. And much more…
EARLY BIRD deadline: April 25, 2013
|Professional Services Client Relationships & Sales. 40 videos for professional services providers, based on our research and work improving customer service and sales for professional services firms: what clients really want, how to connect with your clients, how to provide great services, keeping up with fees.Topics include: What clients want. What you have to offer. Being proactive. Nurturing clients. First impressions. Power questions. The Commitment Matrix™. Negotiation. Marketing analyses. Time management. And more…
EARLY BIRD deadline: April 25, 2013
Don’t wait. Buy now and be part of the founding subscribers. You won’t regret it.
Visit at http://www.lamplighter.com.au/viewStory/Video+Seminars, scroll down the page and click on ‘Buy Now’ to make your choice(s).
Please note: There are NO refunds, but we will happily resend any lost links.
All material Copyright 2013 Peter J. McLean
Email me or contact me through the blog if you have any queries .
I am running our Gifted Leadership(TM) Workshop and Retreat in Perth from February 13-15, 2013.
Gifted Leadership™ is our unique model for uncovering your personal gifts in order to be a high performing leader. The Workshop and Retreat has been created based on our success in creating transformative leadership experiences for organisations and individuals. It has been based on years of our own original research and experience, plus some of the best leadership research on the planet. No kitschy activities, but plenty of discovery, unique feedback and profiling, original IP and peer-level interaction to create great leadership.
You will be coached through a process that will provide you with tremendous insight into yourself and how to be a more powerful leader. Build on your deep strengths and leadership talents. Develop your ability to engage, motivate and inspire your followers.
This is a 2.5 day workshop followed by sumptuous lunch and an afternoon of peer-level relationship building and relaxation during leisure activities at beautiful Joondalup Resort.
- A powerful positive feedback process to guide your future actions
- The brilliant Harrison Assessments Profile of your Work-based Strengths and Weaknesses
- Defining Your Driving Leadership Purpose
- Developing Your Deep Gifts and Talents
- Private Observational Feedback
- Learning From the Greats
- Growing as a Leader – Your ‘First 100 Days’ Action Plan
DATES: FEBRUARY 13-15, 2013
VENUE: JOONDALUP RESORT
(Discounted Accommodation is available to attendees who wish to stay for the duration or after the workshop.)
Download the brochure and registration form: GIFTED LEADERSHIP RETREAT(TM) 2013 – BROCHURE AND REGISTRATION FORM
The early bird discount expires in mid-December.
Join me for a fantastic leadership experience.
My wife, Mary, recently finished an amazing feat. She voluntarily adapted, directed, produced and managed several performances of “The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe” with a horde of Years 1-6 students at our daughters’ primary (elementary) school. This was an entirely volunteer production, run by my wife and an army of parent volunteers, with all original costumes, sets, props, etc. etc. etc.
Here are just a few of the stats:
- 35 actors, many of whom played multiple roles (my wife gives all the kids air time and rotates them through roles – there were 5 children playing the one character of Susan at different points – and had 5 adults with stage roles and 1 as the voice of Aslan)
- A total of 75 individuals whom Mary directly managed.
- 42 adults and 3 high school students running the production
- 3 weeks of intense all day (morning and night) work in the final lead up
- Over 35 pages of script
- Several pages of sound, light and running notes
- 1 year of active preparation
- At least 50 rehearsal times (my wife would visit the school during lunch times to run kids through their scenes, as well as their participation in an after school drama club once a week).
- 1 tech rehearsal
- 1 dress rehearsal
- 3 evening performances
- Oodles of pizza and sandwiches consumed
- 2 full-sized covered trucks’ worth of props, backdrops, costumes and the wardrobe!
All of this, and much, much more, was run by a volunteer team pouring their hearts and creative energies into making this a great show for the kids and the school community. Dads created a sleigh for the witches, a heavy table that would separate and crack for the stone table execution scene, researched sound and designed lighting, built metal frames for backdrops and more. Mums created beautiful panelling for the wardrobe, painted gorgeous backdrops and made fireplaces for the winter settings. Scores of costumes were created and sewn. Sculptors helped create the lion’s head for Aslan. Mary, amongst her many other inventions, created bodies that the children could wear for the horses.
And not one person was paid a cent!
Besides this, there was coordination with the school and performance venue, liaison with the CS Lewis estate for script approval, marketing, venue management, the actual management of the shows and so on.
When my wife puts on a play, it’s like Peter Jackson at work on The Lord of the Rings or The Hobbit – it’s bigger than Ben Hur. This is not a little thing where the students fluff a couple of lines, one badly painted poster is the only thing on stage and it falls down as the parents have a little giggle. This is her second grand play for these kids and we had many compliments on it being the best stage production of this story people had ever seen.
Managing such a diverse volunteer workforce, over an extended period of time, with minimal resources, minimal time, and a very high vision for what was to be created required some exceptional leadership and enviable project management skills. It wasn’t like everyone showed up at 8 or 9 am asking what they had to do for the day. This was an elaborate orchestration of talents, needs, deadlines and outcomes. If you don’t think it requires a lot of work, try it.
When we were talking about the production the day after the final performance a couple of weekends ago, Mary commented to me on a number of the elements that she felt were important to the success of this undertaking. Here are a few of the things she did and that I also observed:
- She found talented people who loved the idea and were committed to it
- She set the vision of what she wanted in each area and then worked with her people’s own ideas, accepting and helping refine and shape them – allowing them to influence and shape the final outcome
- She checked in with people and supported them, but trusted them to do the work
- She was always hands on and was the leader, but collaborated creatively
- She problem solved with people – “How can we work this out? What if we did this? Yes, that’s a great idea because then we could …” – and built on their conclusions and decisions and tied them into the bigger picture
- When people got discouraged or distracted, she pointed them to their successes and to their aim for putting on the play
- She led by example
- She built great credibility as a creator, planner, problem solver and manager
- She let other able assistants support and encourage her when she was worried about anything
- She let the talents of others be used to build the show and its form
- She was relentless about finding new and better ways to do things
- She kept inventing right up till the final performance
- She helped the kids find talents they never knew they had in them
- She pushed and encouraged the kids to do more, be bigger, than they thought they could or acted as though they could
- She celebrated all along as each new piece came into existence – she was so excited when parents showed what they had made, or when the children performed to expectations
- She didn’t settle for mediocre. All the kids had to put in their best at all times, or they heard about it
- She didn’t let ego rule – hers or others’
- If someone flagged or was unreliable, she gave them a chance but would turn to someone else to fill or complement that role so that they all could achieve the goal
- She had seconds in place for key roles – my daughter, Mikhayla, learned several roles (she has a great memory) and is adaptable as a little actress, “just in case”
- She was good-humoured about little problems on the nights, but worked hard to avoid or fix them
- She made it possible for everyone to succeed and to have a voice if they wanted to be part of the production
- She was stubborn about high standards, but flexible about realities
- When people had problems or upsets happened, they came to her and she explained the context and situation – including them on the details – and more often than not they relaxed after gaining some understanding and got on with the job
- She constantly reinforced and imagined the vision with everyone – she had them picture what it would be like as she enthusiastically described each element
- She pointed to deeper meanings in everything they were doing
- She and everyone around her had a blast all along the way
- She worked unceasingly so that the kids would have an incredible experience and that they would shine. As the parents said in a kind thank you note, “Thank you for making our kids stars”
Those are more than enough leadership lessons for today, or even the next few years!
Confidence is an important part of leadership, but it can be overstated – literally.
Listening to Ms Julia Gillard’s continuous statements that “As the Prime Minister, I will be making that decision …” smacks of insecurity. Her need to continually remind the Australian people, media and, indeed, her own party, that she is Prime Minister reminds me of Shakespeare’s line that she “doth protest too much.”
A person’s protestations that they will start “making the hard decisions …” or frequent reassurances that they are “working hard” as leader are often indications that they are not achieving much of importance to their organisation or those whom they serve (or, in the case of politics, whom they represent). You may have experienced it this way in your organisation when people continually say, “I’m the manager, so I’m going to decide that” or “As the CEO, I will be re-forming a team that will be focused on the strategic implementation of initiatives that will…blah blah blah.” Stop talking about how you’re the leader and actually…well, lead!
A long time ago, when I was in education, I was setting up a series of exams for our final year students. Things were slow and the person supposedly in charge had not started on the project in the block I was working in, so I took the initiative on the “all-important and oh-so-complicated” matter of setting up screening between examination areas (please note the sarcasm there :)), organised other staff and started catching up. The person nominally in charge of the examinations then came by, saw that I had got things underway, was initially pleased, started to follow along and then – I am not making this up – stopped suddenly, turned to me and said, “No, I’m in charge. I should make that decision.” Of course, the only way she could distinguish her decision from mine was to make the opposite decision, tear away the people who had been working on the job, change things around, slow everything down and do things all over again so that she could stamp her authority on such a monumental task.
“As the Prime Minister, I’ll be making that decision…” The department head’s little ego trip instantly struck me as both ludicrous and smacking of someone incredibly new to leadership. I had to quietly laugh. It also reminded me of a mistake I had made when I was all of 18/19 years old and in charge of a volunteer work crew at a summer camp. I had realised my mistake back then (I’ll write about it another time, I suppose) and carried it with me throughout my leadership experiences: Leadership is about getting results from people, not about being “the” decision-maker at all times. Nor is it about your ego. Leadership is often about letting other people lead in the moment so that you get the best results.
This difference is often analysed as the deployment of positional power (power by virtue of your position), versus support-based, expert, coercive, reward-based and referent/interpersonal power. Positional power is absolutely valid, but is not the most powerful position. Relying on it is insane.
If someone is continually having to state that they are the leader, it betrays a real crisis of confidence and over-reliance on position. And confidence proceeds from results that matter.
Don’t gab about how good you are as the leader, because anyone with a dose of sense will see right through it. Instead, build leadership predicated on powerful principles:
- Use your gifts and talents to see that a meaningful outcome is produced for you and others.
- Believe in the product you are creating. As Howard Schultz, CEO of Starbucks, says, something worthwhile requires your passion and energy to accomplish. This can only happen when there is an interaction between need, opportunity, your talents and resources – human and otherwise.
- Aim to bring out the gifts and talents of others. Don’t let your ego prevent others around you from shining. When you are surrounded by stars who want to follow you, you’re leading a galaxy that shines brightest, instead of a dull system ready to go nova.
- Excellence doesn’t come through achieving one great thing: it comes through continuing to do things that are great. Perfection is not possible, and action is preferable to endless analysis and invention, but creating something that is perfect for people now sure is great to aim for.
- Lastly, build your confidence on real achievement. If you actually accomplish something worthwhile as a leader, then talk about what you have achieved with others and people will see you as the legitimate leader you are.
If your leadership is all about reinforcing your status, then you’re on the wrong boat. In fact, it’s probably left without you. The ship that’s sailing over the horizon is the one that will be exploring new ports and ventures while you’re stamping your foot on the harbour decking crying that you’re the leader, so they should have waited for you.
Don’t protest too much. Get on with the job.