Leadership – addressing the current VOID

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Addressing the Leadership Void

I was fortunate enough to work with a retired Col. early in my career. There are a number of statements Chuck made that have stuck with me over my career.

The first – “Be Bright, Be Brief, Be Gone” – when briefing others. This was likely borrowed from President Woodrow Wilson’s “Be Brilliant, Be Brief, Be Gone”.

Guidance, Direction, and Motivation

The second – “Leaders provide Guidance, Direction, and Motivation” – Col. Charles Schluter

My personal leadership journey has gone from Theory X to Theory Y, to people follow charismatic folks, to do as I say, not as I do, to my way or the highway to… I think you get the point.

I’ve evolved, we all evolve.

Throughout my work and life, I’ve been fortunate enough to work with and be around some amazing leaders, work for amazing leaders, and work with some really bad leaders. Fortunately, I have learned something from each of these experiences.

Back when I was at UPS, in my first “supervisor” role, I was focused more on the operation than on the people. It was so bad that someone on the leadership team felt compelled to give me a book “Managing from the HEART.” It was a good read, and timely for me.

Today, we have a void in leadership. This is felt inside some early stage companies, it’s felt in some really large companies, among teams, and it’s felt across our country. It’s a global challenge. So – how do we address the challenge. As usual, let’s break the problem down into a smaller set of items, and focus on a couple of key words.

Some Context and Expectation Setting

There are many ways to look at leadership. “Thought Leadership” is a term that is thrown around often these days. Regardless of whether we are talking about thought leadership, leading people, leading yourself, leading teams, leading your dog, leading your community, leading with technology, the following words and concepts will apply to each.

The weighted impact of each word may vary depending on your focus. Ultimately when you put each of these words together – you can create your own Leadership Equation.

This is a carry over from the series started on LinkedIn earlier this week.

Let’s Start with a Definition

Leadership

Leadership is a topic that is very important to me. So much so that we have covered it multiple times, through many lenses, with many people on the Catalyst Sale Podcast.

What is Leadership?

According to the Oxford Dictionary – Leadership is…

  1. the action of leading a group of people or an organization
  2. the state or position of being a leader.
  3. the leaders of an organization, country, etc.

Let’s break that down a little further.

  • Leader (Noun) “the person who leads or commands a group, organization, or country.”
  • Lead (Verb) “be in charge or command of.” (organize and direct.)

Let’s agree – for the purpose of this blog post – that leadership is an action, an action of leading self (1:1), leading other people (1:1), and leading teams (1:many).

Communication

When you hear the word communication, what comes to mind?

For me, it is the act of conveying information. This information can be conveyed (moved from one place/person to another) via a number of different formats. Voice (think podcast, phone calls, radio), Visual (video, animation, images, whiteboards, body language), or Written (blog post, email, books, articles).

There are a number of ways to communicate (think non-verbal vs verbal) – we communicate with ourselves, our family, our pets, our teams, yet as Jody Maberry states in the following podcast – one of the most common mistakes in communication is “believing it happened”.

What checks can you put in place to help make sure that communication has actually happened?

Guidance

Oxford Dictionary Definition

When you think of the word Guidance, what comes to mind? There are three core ideas that come to mind for me.

  • Guide – to provide some type of advice or direction (see next definition)
  • Guidance Systems – mechanical processes/technology – such as the ones used in GPS systems
  • Help – provide some level of assistance based on your understanding – this is not doing – it is more like showing.

I think it is critical to repeat and highlight that guidance is not doing. It is showing, it is nudging, it may even be as deliberate and direct as providing guardrails that help guide something in a given positive direction.

Imagine the gutter-rails that you can put up in a bowling alley.

How are you applying guide rails when you provide guidance to yourself, individuals, or your team?

Direction

So, if we are providing some level of guidance – it’s important that we know which way we are going – right?

If you are at the helm of a boat, and you want to go both east and west – how likely are you going to get where you want to go? How much progress will you make if you alternate between east and west?

What happens if folks inside your organization think you are going one way – i.e. all in on enterprise sales, but you continue to develop product that meets the needs of the SMB maket, because it is easier or faster to develop?

Is it a stretch to think that this might happen? I don’t think so, imagine a situation where the development team is measured on the number of tickets that are closed or features that are developed.

  • Will they invest more time, energy, resources, in features that ship fast?
  • Or, will they invest more time, energy, resources, in features that might take longer to develop, but will have a greater impact on success in the enterprise space?

What type of direction are you providing to yourself, the individuals in your organization, the teams within your organization?

Motivation

What is the catalyst that creates movement in your life, the individuals you work with, or the teams within your organization?

Why do they do something different today, than they did last week? Why do they continue to work on hard things?

Does this motivation to move, to progress, come from within them, within the team, within the org?

Clarity

2020 has been a year of Clarity and Focus for me – well, and another word that starts with C that has highlighted the void in leadership we are all witnessing.

Clarity is the quality of being easily understood.

When you think of the words “Clarity” or “Clear”, what comes to mind for you? Do you think about a crystal glass that you can see through, or a window that is covered in mud & dirt?

When you communicate with your team – is your message crystal clear, or clear as mud?

Flexibility

Bruce Lee has famously said “Be Like Water” – water is flexible, it can adapt to any shape when it is in it’s liquid state. It can be extremely rigid when it is in its frozen state, it can be extremely powerful when under pressure.

Flexibility – as defined by Oxford is “the quality of bending easily without breaking.” This is further clarified with the following two clauses.

  • the ability to be easily modified.
  • willingness to change or compromise.

A leader – a good leader – is flexible in their thoughts, approach, ideas. They “learn”. Learn from experience, learn from others – and adapt as necessary.

  • How do you apply learning to your approach to leadership?
  • Do you seek to learn what you already know (confirmation bias)?
  • Does this learning help you adjust or adapt or be flexible in your approach?

Impact

We have covered a number of words in this post. So what? Why does it matter? It doesn’t if you do not apply the words in your thinking and approach, and ultimately change.

Impact is defined in the post below. Impact requires two things, these can be objects, these can be ideas, these can be people.

If you want to lead, you need to make an impact. It’s up to you on whether or not that impact is positive or negative.

Bringing It All Together

As Chuck shared with me, and now with us – Leaders provide Guidance, Direction, and Motivation. For me, this starts with Communication, to communicate well there must be Clarity and Impact. To do this well over time we must be flexible (Flexibility).

What is your Leadership Equation?

When you think of leading yourself, leading other individuals, or leading teams – how does this change?

How often are you asking yourself these questions?