Anamcgary's Blog

Leadership thoughts from PeopleFirst HR


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Are you climbing the right wall?

We need both, but if you’re a manager you can strive to be a great leader through your actions.  If you’re a “leader” do you demonstrate your leadership through your actions.  Lots of people spend their lives climbing a ladder — and then they get to the top of the wrong wall. Most weak organizations are over-managed and under-led. Their managers accomplish the wrong things beautifully and efficiently. They climb the wrong wall.

Both a manager and a leader may know the business well. But the leader must know it better and in a different way.  He/She must grasp the essential facts and the underlying forces that determine the past and present trends in the business, so that he/she can generate a vision and a strategy to bring about its future. One telling sign of a good leader is an honest attitude towards the facts, towards objective truth. A subjective leader obscures the facts for the sake of narrow self-interest, biased interest or prejudice.

Effective leaders continually ask questions, probing all levels of the organization for information, testing their own perceptions, and rechecking the facts. They talk to their constituents. They want to know what is working and what is not. They keep an open mind for serendipity to bring them the knowledge they need to know what is true. An important source of information for this sort of leader is knowledge of the failures and mistakes that are being made in their organization.

To survive in the twenty-first century, we need a new generation of leaders — leaders, not managers. The distinction is an important one. Leaders conquer the context — the turbulent, ambiguous surroundings that sometimes seem to conspire against us and will surely suffocate us if we let them — while managers surrender to it.

Leaders investigate reality, taking in the pertinent factors and analyzing them carefully. On this basis they produce visions, concepts, plans, and programs. Managers adopt the truth from others and implement it without probing for the facts that reveal reality.

There is profound difference — a gap — between leaders and managers. A good manager does things right. A leader does the right things. Doing the right things implies a goal, a direction, an objective, a vision, a dream, a path, a reach and sometimes not very popular.

Managing is about efficiency. Leading is about effectiveness. Managing is about how. Leading is about what and why. Management is about systems, controls, procedures, policies, and structure. Leadership is about trust — about people.

Leadership is about innovating and initiating. Management is about copying, about managing the status quo. Leadership is creative, adaptive, and agile. Leadership looks at the horizon, not just the bottom line.

Leaders base their vision, their appeal to others, and their integrity on reality, on the facts, on a careful estimate of the forces at play, and on the trends and contradictions. They develop the means for changing the original balance of forces so that their vision can be realized.

 

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10 Reasons why you are a better leader today

  1. You are generous with information. You know it enables and values others.
  2. You avoid the trappings of power. You respect your position too much to let yourself become self-absorbed and disconnected from those you serve.
  3. You know leadership isn’t about how well you are appreciated, but it’s about endlessly showing your appreciation of others. Leadership isn’t about how you feel, but how you make others feel.
  4. You are honored to lead, you genuinely respect and care for the people you serve.
  5. You avoid the trivial and stay focused on your core values and the vision they enable. You will always pay attention to what matters most and you communicate it tirelessly and with clarity.
  6. You are driven to produce and are accountable for it and expect the same from others.
  7. You take time to reflect to keep yourself aligned and to continually evaluate your impact.
  8. Because you are humble enough to know that you don’t have all the answers and it doesn’t have to be your way and it is in fact, unhealthy for you to insist on it.
  9. Because you are committed to building others greater than yourself. You are validated not by your own knowledge and accomplishments but by those you help succeed. You are passionate about and energized by the people you serve.
  10. Because you know that you are setting an example for others to follow. Everything you do matters. You know it’s not about you.


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Learning to Channel Anger for Good

Martin Luther King Jr. was a great leader, but like many great leaders he had to learn how to channel his anger productively.  Average leaders focus on results, and that’s it. Good leaders focus also on the behaviors that will get the results. And Great leaders focus, in addition, on the emotions that will drive these behaviors.

Hitendra Wadhwa, a professor at Columbia Business School writes about how Martin Luther King Jr. knew of the power that came packed in this emotion.

In his autobiography, King wrote about an incident that occurred in 1943: When I was 14, I traveled from Atlanta to Dublin, Georgia with a dear teacher of mine, Mrs. Bradley (to) participate in an oratorical contest. We were on a bus returning to Atlanta. Along the way, some white passengers boarded the bus, and the white driver ordered us to get up and give the whites our seats. We didn’t move quickly enough to suit him, so he began cursing us. I intended to stay right in that seat, but Mrs. Bradley urged me up, saying we had to obey the law. We stood up in the aisle for 90 miles to Atlanta. That night will never leave my memory. It was the angriest I have ever been in my life.”

Great leaders often have a strong capacity to experience anger. It wakes them up and makes them pay attention to what is wrong in their environment, or in themselves. Without anger, they would not have the awareness or the drive to fix what is wrong.

But they also know the downside of anger, and wage a firm battle to tame it within themselves. One such moment for King came when, in December 1955, he led talks with the authorities in Montgomery, Alabama on negotiating the end of the bus boycott that was hurting both whites and African-Americans. He realized that the whites were not ready to give up their segregation privileges, the talks were heading for a stalemate, and, what was more, the other party was trying to portray King as the sole stumbling block to an agreement.

“That Monday I went home with a heavy heart,” he wrote in his autobiography. “I was weighed down by a terrible sense of guilt, remembering that on two or three occasions I had allowed myself to become angry and indignant. I had spoken hastily and resentfully. Yet I knew that this was no way to solve a problem. ‘You must not harbor anger,’ I admonished myself. ‘You must be willing to suffer the anger of the opponent, and yet not return anger. You must not become bitter. No matter how emotional your opponents are, you must be calm.'”

Only by taming his own anger did King earn the right to become a messenger of peaceful struggle to the people of the nation. An acid test came his way on a night in 1956 when his home in Birmingham, Alabama was bombed by white extremists. In his autobiography, he wrote: “While I lay in that quiet front bedroom, I began to think of the viciousness of people who would bomb my home. I could feel the anger rising when I realized that my wife and baby could have been killed. I was once more on the verge of corroding hatred. And once more I caught myself and said: ‘You must not allow yourself to become bitter’.”

In September 1962, as King sat on the stage during a Southern Christian Leadership Convention, a white member of the Nazi party jumped up to the podium and punched him several times in the face. As the security guards rushed to his help and pulled away the hate-filled youth, King responded, calmly, that he would not press charges. In response, he said in Martin Luther King on Leadership: “The system that we live under creates people such as this youth. I am not interested in pressing charges. I’m interested in changing the kind of system that produces this kind of man.”

In these moments, he wasn’t trying to crush his anger, or that of the people. He was trying to channel it into a higher purpose.

Great leaders do not ignore their anger, nor do they allow themselves to get consumed by it. Instead, they channel the emotion into energy, commitment, sacrifice, and purpose. They use it to step up their game. And they infuse people around them with this form of constructive anger so they, too, can be infused with energy commitment, sacrifice and purpose. In the words of King in Freedom ways magazine in 1968, “The supreme task of a leader is to organize and unite people so that their anger becomes a transforming force.”

Wouldn’t it be great if the politicians “our so called” leaders in the United States would take some of these examples to heart today.  I bet they would accomplish a whole lot more than they do today, with less money I might add.