Anamcgary's Blog

Leadership thoughts from PeopleFirst HR


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Speak Up and Take Action

In your leadership role have you ever witnessed a project or some other venture fail and thought “I knew this would happen”.  BUT, when the time came to speak up and give your opinion you shut down.  This was either because someone was adamant that this was right and it would work, or your manager was in the room and agreed or you simply didn’t want to make waves.  Well, as a leader taking action and communicating your ideas, thoughts and critique isn’t an option, it’s your responsibility.  Good leadership involves responsibility for the welfare of the organization or group.  Trying to get everyone to like you is a sign of mediocrity; you’ll avoid the tough decisions, you’ll avoid confronting the people who need to be confronted, and you’ll avoid offering differential rewards based on differential performance because some people might get upset.  Ironically, by procrastinating on the difficult choices, by trying not to get anyone mad, and by treating everyone equally “nicely” regardless of their contributions simply ensure that the only people you wind up angering are the most creative and productive people in the organization.  It’s inevitable, if you’re principled, some people will get angry at some decisions you make or direction you take.

Too often, change is stifled by people who cling to familiar turfs and job descriptions.  One reason that even large organizations decline is that managers won’t challenge old, comfortable ways of doing things.  Real leaders understand that our jobs change daily as our business and customer needs change. The proper response is to change our activities to meet those changes before someone else does.  Effective leaders create a climate where people’s worth is determined by their willingness to learn new skills and grab new responsibilities, thus perpetually reinventing their jobs.

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Showing Others How To Lead

When you move on to your next opportunity, who will you leave in your place? Will it be one successor who has been carefully groomed to fill your specific job title? Or will you depart having developed the capabilities of as many people as possible?

One definition of leading is “to show the way to by going in advance.” When you use this definition of leadership, you’ll see all sorts of opportunities to develop people, and far beyond just promoting them to a management title.

At some point in their lives, everyone has the chance to “show the way.” When you provide your team members with an opportunity to exercise their leadership muscles, you’re giving them a tremendous gift.

Leadership development is not just for those who aspire to an official job title. And, you don’t need to spend large amounts of money. The key is seeing leadership development opportunity in everyday situations.

Common workplace scenarios where development opportunities lie in wait:

Setbacks. Character is the foundation of leadership and nothing builds character like a project that fails. If you as the leader frame the failure as a learning opportunity, you will set in motion a powerful motivator to grow. I once led a high-visibility project that fell short of expectations. My leader adopted an approach of “get back up on that horse.” She expressed confidence that I could learn from my mistakes and that I would be a better leader on the next go-round. And I was.

Transition. Any time there is an imminent change, you have a prime opportunity to coach people to lean into leadership, either formally or informally. Possible opportunities: promotions, appointment to project leadership, department restructuring or procedural changes. Look for any situation that requires that others be “brought along” into a new territory. Then, identify someone on your team who has both the competence and enthusiasm about the change to act as a lead.

Technical expertise. Do you have a highly skilled “technician” on your staff — someone who excels in a particular skill that others would benefit learning about? Work with that individual to help him craft a series of “lunch and learns” for your team. You can also look for ways you can showcase your team members’ talents beyond your department — send them in your place to meetings or have them make presentations at all-company meetings.

Differing opinions. In the workplace, there’s an abundance of opinions. When those viewpoints clash, your team needs leadership to help bring the group to consensus. That person doesn’t always need to be you. When you help others in your team develop the skill of facilitating dialogue, there are multiple paybacks. Not only do your discussion leaders gain key business skills, but your team works together more smoothly.

Tom Peters has said, “Leaders don’t create followers; they create more leaders.” There are ample chances to grow leaders each and every day. When you know where to look, it’s surprising just how many “leadership development” opportunities there really are.