Aug 27, 2013

Following the Leader: Clarity is the Key

When we were kids, most of us played “Follow the Leader”.  The idea was that you would take turns being the “Leader“.  In fact, the one who followed the best was to become the next leader.  Sometimes that didn’t happen.  Sometimes the “Leader” wanted to stay being the leader and the followers wanted that person to continue on being the leader.  Sometimes the “Leader” wanted to continue on being the leader and those following didn’t want him to continue on, they may have felt the person that had led wasn’t a good leader.  So, there was discord; some quit caring if they followed, others purposely quit following, some became confused as to who were they supposed to be following, and some broke off into their own game of “Follow the Leader”.  Aren’t we glad that, as adults, these things don’t happen in Corporate America?!

But, they do.

A Harris Interactive poll was taken to find out how well organizations function under current leadership.  Here are the results which involved interviewing 23,000 working Americans and interpreted by the late Stephen Covey as if these organizations were 11-member sports teams:

  • Only 4 of 11 players would know which goal was theirs
  • Only 2 of 11 would care
  • Only 2 of 11 would know what position they play and what their role is
  • 9 of 11 would, in some way, be competing against their own team, instead of the opponent

With the wealth of leadership training available, why is the leadership in Corporate America and American Politics so lacking?  With all of the Leadership training on the market, why do organizations ask for new Leadership training?  I want to borrow a comment that Tony Robbins recently made about Leadership.  Robbins said, ‘A leader is someone who creates breakthroughs.  We’re living in the most disappointing time in leadership in my history of being here.  Why are we disappointed?  Because the people we are calling leaders are really followers.  Most politicians and even corporate leaders are trying to keep their jobs so they do what’s popular.  There’s no leadership in following what’s popular. Leadership is your capacity to step in when you know it’s unpopular, but you know in your soul that it’s right and to influence others.  In my mind, here’s my definition of a Leader: A person of real influence.  A person that will not stand for something if they know in their soul that it’s not right.  And, they may even be wrong, because there all types of ideologies are out there.’

Here’s my challenge to you;  How will you show yourself to be a true Leader?  What legacy will you leave that will have an impact on the people you touch and beyond?  What are you going to do to change the stats shown above?

I want to look at four areas of life and business to give you some guidance.  And, I believe you have to start with your own psychological, convictional, and behavioral systems.

1) Are you congruent in your life?  Here’s a great test to find out if you are, or not.  Are you happy?  If you’re not happy, then how you see yourself (psychological) isn’t congruent with who you are being.  If you’re incongruent and not happy, then how can you have a positive impact on those you lead?

2) What do you believe (convictional)?  Do you believe you aren’t worthy? Not good enough?  Not confident enough?  Not good-looking enough? Tall enough?  Short enough?  Skinny enough?  Do you believe that other people are only out for a paycheck?  Aren’t honest?  Are lazy?  Are stupid?  That they will always have more than you?  That others are “lucky” when they find success…and you don’t?

3) What does your lifestyle (behaviors) show about you? Do you display anger?  Treat other people with disrespect?  Give up when things get tough?  Look for excuses, instead of solutions?  Find someone else to blame things on when a project fails?  Always are asking for more resources, rather than being resourceful?

4) How do you see yourself (psychological)? It has been stated that 80% of the chokehold on companies is the psychology of the top leadership.  How do you see yourself?  In fact, a better question is do you really know who you are?  If you were to take off all the roles you play in life, how would you define who you are?  There is an exercise I take my clients through that allows them to find out who they are in their Identity, which means they can then become who they really are versus the roles they play.  The result is a much happier, more satisfying life.

Once a Leader brings these areas into focus, they then have an opportunity to be a real benefit to the people they lead.

The next area I believe that a real Leader will create is a culture that fosters the outcomes they desire and that fits their vision, mission, and values.  This may be, or not be, the same as the organization with whom they belong.  I’ll give you a personal example:  I was once a Sales Leader in a company that was led by a CEO that was in a constant rush.  The feeling of the top-level executives was that if you aren’t in a frenzy, then you must not be working.  After just a short time with the company, I had the sales team running at a smooth, even pace.  We had time to enjoy our work and receive extra training, while exceeding sales quota.  I remember being called into the office for a meeting with the CEO and CFO because they felt the sales team was slacking off and wouldn’t hit an important deadline.  I was told that the CFO, a few other executives, and I would need to get on the phones right away and work long hours for several weeks.  This was in addition to the sales team that was ‘slacking off’.  I told the CEO and CFO that I had it under control and not to worry.  That made them worry even more, because I didn’t go into “Emergency” mode.  Without any extra hours, without a frantic pace, not only did the sales team exceed the quota, they exceeded it by 500%!  They created more sales that month than had ever been created for that company in a single month!  I led the sales team against the frantic-style ‘culture’ of the overall company to heights that had never been achieved.

So, what will you do to create the culture around you that drives extraordinary outcomes?  You must first have a vision that you are passionate about and that is bigger than yourself.  It must be something that others want to contribute to and be a part of, something that will change something else for the better.  What’s your mission for the people you’re leading, the reason for them being gathered together?  What values do you and the people you lead value?  When you create this culture, it brings a great deal of clarity.  Let me give you a few examples:

  • You will know what projects you will take and which ones you won’t
  • You will know which people you will hire and bring on the team and which ones you won’t
  • You will know which people will stay on the team and which ones will need to find somewhere else to work
  • You will know what behaviors will be promoted and cultivated…and what behaviors won’t be tolerated
  • There are many more areas, but you get the idea

As you fully consider all of this information, you discover that clarity is the key.  Clarity about yourself (psychological, convictional, and behavioral), clarity about you purpose, and clarity about your desired outcomes and the culture that will make them achievable.  With this clarity, here are what your stats will look like from the previously mentioned poll:

  • Only 11 of 11 players will know which goal was theirs
  • Only 11 of 11 will care
  • Only 11 of 11 will know what position they play and what their role is
  • 0 of 11 will, in some way, be competing against their own team, instead of the opponent

Creating life in forward motion,

Dr. Edward Lewellen