Leaders Go First. The First Steps on Learning Leadership.

Leadership: You Have to Go First.

I love this little Dilbert storyline from Scott Adams:

Employee: “I find it rather demotivating that you never praise me for a job well done.”
Boss: “You’ve never done a job well.”
Employee: “That’s because I’m demotivated.”
Boss: “You have to go first.”
Employee: “Wouldn’t that make me the Leader?”

The 1-minute Leader

Ken Blanchard’s popular and accesible book The One Minute Manager suggests that a leader does 3 things, in the following order:

  1. 1-Minute Praising: Hunt for something the person does well, and publicly praise them – immediate and specific positive praising on actions.  Praise the Person.
  2. 1-Minute Goal-Setting: Agree on goals (no more than 5) with staff. Make sure each goal is clearly written on a separate piece of paper and kept visible daily. Keep Goals limited and focussed.
  3. 1-Minute Reprimand: If the person has the skills to do something right, and it is not done right – in private let them know “I know you are a great person, but this behaviour/result is not up to your talent. Reprimand the Behaviour.

The 4 Most Important Traits of Leaders

Jim Kouzes has spent over 30 years asking millions of people “what do you admire in the leaders that inspire you?”.  He has compiled the information over many years into his bestselling book: The Leadership Challenge.

The top 4 traits that followers seek in leaders are:

  1. Honesty
  2. Competence
  3. Inspiring
  4. Forward Looking

Work harder on honesty

Honesty is 3 times more important than the rest of the top 4 traits combined.  There is no point in working on competence, inspiration or forward looking if people don’t now perceive you as honest, as trustworthy (Read: What is Trust?).  People hate it when a leader doesn’t play it straight with them.  People hate it when a leader doesn’t have the courage to speak the honest truth about their performance, about the state of the organization, about what is going on in the team.

Credibility is the Base

The traits honesty, competence and inspiring are really about perception more than any absolute.  It is not enough to just be honest, you need to be perceived as honesty by the group.  It is not enough to be competent, you need to be perceived as competent by the group.  It is not enough to spray out messages that you think are inspiring, you really need to be perceived as inspiring by others.

Forward Looking is the Leadership Differentiator

Credibility gives you the permission, but that alone does not make the leader.  You need to build an ability to create a shared vision of the future, a forward looking but real-feeling sense of direction for the group.  How can you do this?

There are 3 aspects to being able to share a forward looking vision.

  1. WIIFM: I show others how their long term interests can be realised
  2. Connect: I appeal to others to share an exciting dream
  3. Storytelling: I describe a compelling image of what our future could be like

The key here is not the ability to see the future, it is the ability to communicate it meaningfully and tangibly to the people around you.  The crystal ball is not as valuable as the ability to communicate persuasively.   (My free online course “Speak as A Leader” can help http://bit.ly/practicespeak )

Getting Started on Vision

How can you get started on the path to a better visionary leader?  If you do nothing more than go around you asking people these 4 questions you will become clear on what you can do to contribute.

4 questions for people around you:

  1. What’s working?
  2. What’s not working?
  3. What can be done?
  4. What else is on your mind?

If you do nothing more than ask these 4 questions repeatedly and reflect the answers back to the group, you will be leading.

Further Reading:

4 Great Posts on Communication and Leadership

How to Give a Killer Presentation

Chris Anderson, Owner of TED
Presentations rise or fall on the quality of the idea, the narrative, and the passion of the speaker. It’s about substance, not speaking style or multimedia pyrotechnics. It’s fairly easy to “coach out” the problems in a talk, but there’s no way to “coach in” the basic story—the presenter has to have the raw material. If you have something to say, you can build a great talk. But if the central theme isn’t there, you’re better off not speaking. Decline the invitation. Go back to work, and wait until you have a compelling idea that’s really worth sharing.  Read More

 

The Inconvienient Truth about Change Management –

McKinsey & Company
Conventional change management approaches have done little to change the fact that most change  programs fail. The odds can be greatly improved by a number of counterintuitive insights that take into account the irrational but predictable nature of how employees interpret their environment and choose to act.  Read More

 

11 Simple Concepts to Become a Better Leader

Dave Kerpen
All 11 concepts are simple, and yet, perhaps in the name of revenues or the bottom line, we often lose sight of the simple things – things that not only make us human, but can actually help us become more successful. Read More

 

5 Models for Leading Change

Tristan Wember
In this article we introduce five models for leading change. No single model isright. However, they all have something valuable on offer and can help us to navigate our way through complex organisational situations or circumstances.  Read More

3 Leadership Lessons from Carlos Ghosn

In the last issue of IESE Insight magazine, Carlos Ghosn offered three key lessons he has learned during his career.

Carlos Ghosn at IESE
  1. First, he said, “Every problem has a solution,” but business leaders have to be prepared to pay the personal or collective price that will come with a given solution.
  2. Second, things have to get worse before they get better. “It’s easier to improve a company in trouble than a company with an average performance,” he said.
  3. His third lesson was that “you learn management by doing” and nothing is as instructive as highly stressful situations. When faced with adversity, often “you cannot sleep, you cannot eat,” he said, but in the end, such situations are often what teach managers the most.

What lessons have you learnt?

What would you share?

Thanks to Sergio C. for alerting me to these wise words from Carlos Ghosn.