Saturday, April 28, 2007

Leadership - Uncommon Roles in a Flat World

Stop, Think, Reflect…

Whose responsibility is it to lead?

Who are your leadership models?

Do you think there is a leadership shortage?

Are leaders born or can leadership be learned?

What is the best way to develop leaders?

What would you wish in a leader?

Why is it so hard to lead yourself?

Leadership – Uncommon Roles in the Flat World

Warren Bennis writes in American Psychologist, January 2007 (Vol. 62 (1) pages 2-5), “there are four major threats to world stability: 1.) nuclear/biological catastrophe, 2.) a world-wide pandemic, 3.) tribalism, 4.) leadership of human institutions. Without exemplary leadership, solving the problems stemming from the first three threats will be impossible.” Ram Charan, Steve Drodder and Jim Noel authors of The Leadership Pipeline: How to Build the Leadership Powered Company, warn that there is a serious lack of leadership in organizations.

When I ask people what comes to mind when they hear the word leader, I hear: expert, hero, boss, intelligent, over people, arrogant and aspiration.

In today’s “flat world” I believe there are three critical roles of leadership that are not mentioned above. Today, an effective leader must be a role model, relational and a change-agent.

I’m reminded of Gandhi’s quote, “You must be the change you want to see in the world.” In other words, leaders must be clear on his/her values and core beliefs and must walk-the-talk. Think of your leadership as a brand. A brand is a promise, a guarantee, an experience and accountable. How is your leadership brand? Do you have a leadership philosophy? Is your philosophy written down? Is your philosophy clear? Have you shared your leadership philosophy with your followers? Are you being accountable to your leadership philosophy?

Today’s leader must be relational. The cornerstone of any relation is trust. Leaders build trust by empowering others. Think of a leader as a coach. An effective coach is trustworthy and not only teaches skills, but supports and challenges those he/she is coaching. Successful coaching leads to creating bonds between leader and follower. Being relational also means being a cheerleader. Today’s leaders celebrate not just the big victories, but the small wins as well, because what gets celebrated gets repeated!

Finally, today’s leader must be a change-agent. General Eric Shinseki said it best, “If you don’t like change, you’re going to like irrelevance even less.” The role of change-agent requires curiosity, a continuous desire to learn, and adaptability. Charles Darwin wrote, “It’s not the strongest that survive, but those most adaptable to change.” Unfortunately, we are not good at change. Dr. Raphael Levey, founder of the Global Medical Forum has noted that 80% of the U.S. health-care budget is affected by five behavioral issues – smoking, eating, stress, drinking responsibly and not getting enough exercise. (Fast Company: Change or Die by Alan Deutschman, Issue 94, May 2005, Page 53) These are all behaviors that could be changed!

Bottom line, if you accept these three uncommon roles of leadership in today’s world, leadership is everybody’s responsibility.

Experience Leadership

Within a large group of people, break into small groups of 4 to 5 around a table with a piece of flip chart paper and several different colored markers. For ten minutes discuss, “What would you wish in a leader?” Capture those key wishes on the flip chart paper using pictures – no words! At the end of ten minutes, each table present and explain their flip chart pictures.

Leadership shows up in several ways during this activity. Think about the following questions and see how leadership was or was not demonstrated. What was your process in capturing the wishes on paper? Who suggested or lead this process? Did someone lead the conversation at the table? Why? Who drew the pictures? How did you decide who would draw? Was there a moan “I can’t draw” at your table? Did anyone challenge this thinking? Why or why not? Did you have any disagreement on what the wishes should be or how they should be represented on paper? How was that handled? Did the group collaborate well and reach agreement on the outcome? Who lead the presentation to the large group describing the pictures on the flip chart? How was that person(s) selected?

Are you being that leader for which you wish? How are you able to “walk-the-talk?” If you are not being the leader you for which you wish, why not? What do you need to change to become that inspiring leader? From whom can you get support? What deadline will you create to help you achieve being a better leader? What possible obstacles will keep you from becoming a better leader?

Suggested Reading

Movies for Leaders by Shaun O’L. Higgins & Colleen Striegel, New Media Ventures, 1999, ISBN-0-923910-17-4

The Way of the Shepherd by Dr. Kevin Leman and William Pentak, Zondervan, 2004, ISBN-13: 978-0-310-25097-5

Mastery: The Keys to Success and Long-Term Fulfillment by George Leonard, Plume, 1992, ISBN 0-452-26756-0

The Leadership Moment: Nine True Stories of Triumph and Disaster and Their Lessons for Us All by Michael Useem, Three Rivers Press, 1998, ISBN 0-8129-3230-7

The Leadership Challenge, (Fourth Edition) by James Kouzes and Barry Posner, Jossey –Bass, 2007 ISBN 978-0-7879-8491-5

Check out

Suggested Movies

Shackleton - See“I'm the leader of this expedition, and your contract is with me, not the bloody ship! Now you do what I say and I will keep you alive.”

The Wizard of Oz – See “You, my friend, are a victim of disorganized thinking. You are under the unfortunate impression that just because you run away you have no courage; you're confusing courage with wisdom.”

Leadership: An Art of Possibilities - See “The art of leadership is about a new way of being.”

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