Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown. - Shakespeare's Henry IV
Often when you think of leadership, what comes to mind is a strong powerful person taking charge of a group. However, as more detailed studies have been done to understand leadership, the theory that leadership starts from self is gaining popularity and acceptance. If one can lead themselves, only then can they be capable enough to lead others.
What does it mean to lead self ?
Quite similar to what it may mean to lead a large organization or group.
As per a popular leadership style called Transformational Leadership, introduced by James McGregor Burns in his 1978 book, "Leadership", a leader is one who collaborates with employees to identify the needed change, creating a vision to guide the change through inspiration, and executing the change in tandem with committed members of the group.
Applying the above rule, to be able to lead self, one has to do the following :
One of the most important things a Leader needs to do is make decisions, and like how.... Day in day out, some easy, some hard and some on which lives may depend, including their own. As a leader you may find numerous things going against you at the same time, basically - shit flying through the roof in every direction, confusion galore. These are the times when true test of leadership surfaces. There could be several alternatives to a pressing situation or just two that could make or break the organization. How in such cases do you keep your wits about you and have the confidence to go with your choice ?
Yes, you look at all the data, you analyze, you speak to your most trusted people, but in the end : YOU USE YOUR GUT.
Believe it or not, most successful leaders will tell you this is true, and the others are lying if they say otherwise. Beyond all the data and analysis, lies that hunch that tells them which way to go and then also have the confidence to own their decision if it turns out to be a bad one and be ready to take the next steps with renewed energy and confidence.
Yes, it is possible to develop your intuition and your gut, which helps you to rely on it more and more. Never completely tangible ( that would not be exciting enough ) but just enough. And this my dears is the secret to Leadership... and this loneliness can be the good kind.
Executive Coaching helps you develop this aspect of yourself.
Talent Power Partners works with individuals and organizations in supporting their Leadership Training Initiatives, through workshops and lecturettes, group alignment and coaching and one on one Executive Coaching. Visit us atwww.talentpowerpartners.com
Stress is not always a bad thing. Feeling stressed is perfectly normal, especially when you have a deadline looming. You may notice that sometimes being stressed motivates you to focus on your work, yet other times you feel overwhelmed and cannot concentrate. While stress affects everyone in a different way, there are two major types of stress: stress that is beneficial and motivating, Eustress, and stress that can cause anxiety and even health problems, Distress. Everyone needs a little stress in their life in order to continue to be happy, motivated, challenged, and productive. It is when this stress is no longer tolerable or manageable that distress comes in.
According to experts, stress is a burst of energy and can have many advantages in small doses. For example, stress can help you meet daily challenges and motivate you to reach your goals. Stress can also help you to accomplish tasks more efficiently and even boost memory. In addition, there are various health benefits with a little bit of stress. Researchers believe that some stress can even help to fortify the immune system.
Stress can be helpful, but too much of it can be detrimental. Emotional stress that stays around for weeks or months can weaken the immune system and cause many health issues. When tension builds, there is no longer any fun in the challenge, there seems to be no relief, and no end in sight. This is the kind of stress most of us are familiar with and this kind of stress that leads to poor decision making.
You can not expect to completely eliminate stress; but you can manage the symptoms of stress. It all comes down to a few good skills you can learn and develop to become “distress” resistant.
If there is one thing that startup CEOs need to excel at that is managing the alignment of interests across many different people. Alignment means everyone is aiming for the same goals together. It is impossible for everyone to be perfectly, or even sort of well aligned all the time. That is why the role of startup CEO as Master of Alignment is so critical.
A startup CEO should align all of these people:
If there is misalignment with investors when it comes time to raise follow-on financing, you could very well crash and burn. Investors can push right to the brink with your company to test you, promote their key agenda items, and see if you can hit the necessary marks for them to re-invest. And when your existing investors pass (if they do end up passing), it sends a big negative signal to the rest of the marketplace.
A lack of co-founder alignment can kill a company before it even gets off the ground and is one of the top sources of anxiety and frustration for startup companies. The same is true with employees, especially when a startup first starts hiring. Those first few hires is critical, get that wrong and you can be set back for months.
The key for startup CEOs is to recognize themselves as those who focus on aligning everyone, to themselves and to each other. This does not mean a startup CEO is a conciliatory peacemaker. Nor is a startup CEO a pushover bending to everyone else’s will. Quite the opposite. A startup CEO needs to have the confidence and conviction to state their point, push the debate, and align everyone around their vision. They cannot assume that everyone will fall in line or that their vision and plan are perfect. This is where he or she must be a Master of Alignment.
How do we do this, you might ask. We can become a Master of Alignment by communicating, communicating, and then, communicating some more. Transparency and openness are key. Communication has to be structured, organized, and with purpose as well. Most importantly the communication has to be strategic.
Startup CEOs should be keen observers of people’s moods and the master interpreter of language. Being a Master of Alignment takes practice and experience. It is not easy and is not always obvious with how important it is to keep alignment front-and-center as you build your startup. Alignment is an issue that quickly and unfortunately gets pushed to the side, often only reappearing when it is too late.
Co-founding a company by two or more co-founders is like getting married; the early days are the honeymoon period. During those first, exciting days of startup bliss, you may not think it’s necessary to sit down with your co-founder to hash out possible potential concerns.
But it is important.
Right from the beginning, it is essential for the co-founders to align their visions and ensure that they are in sync in what they hope to achieve.
Talking through the issues and documenting the agreements can help avoid disputes,lawsuits, and possibly the unwanted dissolution of your start-up. A start-up is a living entity which changes everyday, so this will be more of a working document than a binding contract, but it will still serve as a good starting point. It will represent a shared foundation for your business that you can refer back to in days ahead when your goals may get cloudy and convoluted and your partnership may be tested.
I. Goals and vision. This is the nitty gritty of your company make-up. The big questions. Why are you creating this startup? What need will it fill? What will your initial product/service offering be? And what is your strategy for growing the company? But your goals and vision go beyond your starting position. How will you handle events down the road that will impact your company such as acquisition, taking on new partners, and/or going public?
II. Company values and philosophy. Your company success will depend on vision alignment. Alignment between you and your investors, your employees, and your customers. But this alignment starts, first and foremost, with you and your co-founder. You should share the same priorities and agree on what’s most important to you both personally and for the future of your company.
III. Measurement of success. This question is often overlooked, but really gets at the heart of your business. What do you and your co-founder hope to get out of this business? How will you know if you’ve achieved your goals? For one founder, success may be measured qualitatively in terms of revenue earned, while for another it may be in global reach and influence. If you’re not shooting for the same target, how can you agree when you get there?
IV. Founder roles. Work out the division of labor for the co-founders. What will be your specific responsibilities and what will be under their charge ? Add a provision specifying what action you will take in the case that a founder who is not adequately managing their individual responsibilities.
V. Decision-making process. Since it’s impossible to think through every aspect of the business from day one, it would be unrealistic to expect to make every important decision from the outset. Hence it is very important to have a decision-making process in place. The co-founders need to agree on how decisions will be made and who will be in charge of making which kinds of decisions. What steps will they take if they don’t agree on a decision.
VI. Equity and ownership. This is often the most common cause of conflict amongst co-founders so it warrants a serious discussion. Each co-founder needs to negotiate their way to an equity split that feels right for them based on their individual role, responsibilities, and contributions.
VII. Target audience and market. Assuming yo ou and your co-founders are clear on your product and/or service offering, but that’s only part of the equation. Once you know what you’re selling, you need to be clear on who you are selling to and how you are going to reach this audience.
VIII. Thoughts on exit. It may seem odd to start a business thinking about its end, but not for entrepreneurs. What is the exit plan if a founder leaves the company either voluntarily or not? It is a good exercise to think through every potential scenario.
Discussing these issues with your co-founder could get uncomfortable, may create rifts, or uncover some deal-breakers. It would be preferable to find that out sooner than somewhere down the road. If you can successfully have these difficult conversations, it is a testament to your partnership and to the strength of your alliance and will serve as a solid foundation from which to grow your business.
The primary benefits of Executive Coaching are : continuous one-on-one attention, increased self-awareness - including blind spots, expanded thinking through dialogue with a curious and non judging outsider, personal accountability for development and learning.
However there are certain things that need to be in place for the coaching assignment to be labelled successful. The factors that play a significant role in creating a successful coaching initiative are: an eager and willing executive, a skilled coach and realistic expectations on both ends.
I. Willing and Eager Executive : A willing executive is someone who enters into coaching voluntarily, with enthusiasm and commitment and the desire to examine their gaps as well as their assets. This implies that willing executives are those who are open to self awareness and discovery and personal growth, and who want to be coached - otherwise, coaching is not a viable option.
II. Skilled and Vested Coach : A skilled coach can make all the difference in the coaching experience that you have.The importance of the coach’s ability to build relationships, ask challenging questions, listen effectively, create accountability and motivate the executives towards their objectives cannot be stressed enough.
III. Realistic Expectations : Some people seem to think that coaching can solve everything. Coaching is neither a magic bullet nor a quick fix. It is unnerving when people opt for coaching with a kind of magic wand that will fix everything. You are expecting so much from it, and I think it’s going to let you down. Too much loving and too much hating is not a good thing in leadership.
It must be understood that the primary purpose of executive coaching is to help executives learn. Coaching is not a complete solution for a host of business ailments. It is the responsibility of coaches to clarify the purpose of coaching at the beginning of the process, to ensure all expectations are realistic. It is also important for executives to realize that they can slip into old habits during stressful times at work. But, if coaching is ongoing, there are plenty of opportunities to get back on track.
To help prepare the millennial generation to become comfortable with the idea of having leadership positions in a company, there is a process called mentoring up, or reverse mentoring. This mentoring process shifts the responsibility from the seasoned professional to the millennial professional, which is an effective way to give the junior employees a look into the higher levels of the organization. This arrangement gives these millennials the opportunity to engage in conversations about moving forward, not in a collaborative or passive capacity, but as an individual leader in charge of guiding a project forward. So when the older professionals retire, the younger generation has a better understanding of the business.
By having the millennial professionals exposed to these activities in a safe and controlled environment, they can become comfortable and begin to see themselves in a leadership role. Reverse mentoring also helps these young professionals gain confidence by proving that becoming a leader is not unattainable and leaders are not “super humans”, they are real people who practice skills that are developed and improved over time.
Senior mentees also benefit from this mentoring style program as well. Instead of being the ones who guide and lead a project, the senior mentee must listen and grow comfortable working with, and being lead by, a younger professional.
The career-altering benefits that can result from a program similar to reverse mentoring are numerous. Leadership is something all younger professionals need to consider sooner rather than later.
Organizations are moving towards becoming flatter and more matrixed. Employees are assigned to work on different project teams and report to multiple managers. The advantages can be tremendous : innovations, increased sharing of information and greater capacity to solve complex problems. As the organizations become bigger and more connected the greater the challenges in making lines of authority and accountability transparent. Decisions may take longer and it may become expensive to bring people together. The skills needed for successful collaboration are different than knowing how to work effectively in a functional team. Employees still need development in key leadership competencies such as inspiring, casting a shadow, mentoring, coaching, emotional intelligence and self-awareness.
Organizations typically get the behaviour that is rewarded, and they have historically rewarded achievement-oriented leaders that drive short-term results. Due to this, they have ended up with leaders who excel at the achievement orientation, teamwork and organizational competencies that are aligned with strong functional leadership.
"They have developed a strong base of operational leaders that perform well when they have direct control over a specific set of resources that they can deploy to achieve accountable results. Unfortunately, the cross functional, global structure that is becoming the norm for many organizations requires leaders who can subordinate their agenda, yield power and give up resources for the greater good. These concepts are foreign to many leaders who attempt to lead collaborative efforts by applying their usual functional skill-set – and that predictably lead to poor results. Even leaders who possess some of the necessary competencies find themselves working at cross-purposes with an organizational structure and rewards system that discourages collaboration."
Collaborating in the matrixDespite popular belief, collaboration is not the same as teamwork. Traditional functional leaders in hierarchical organizations may excel at “teamwork” in the sense of motivating their business unit or division toward collective action and consensus around a common goal.
But matrixed organizations are different. Flatter companies group employees by both function and product. Matrixed organizations typically have moved away from hierarchy toward a much flatter structure in which employees operate with less direct supervision from functional leaders. Leaders in the flat organization need to know how to promote collaboration across business units and functional areas, and to coordinate and motivate employees, over whom they may have no direct authority, to achieve a goal whose value may not be immediately apparent to all team members.
In flat organizations, effective collaboration can result in launching of next-generation, cutting edge products. On the other hand, poor collaboration can end up wasting time and money on a slow, non-productive path toward failure.
If you’re a manager in a knowledge-driven industry, chances are you’re an expert in the area you manage. Try to imagine a leader without this expertise doing your job. You’ll probably conclude it couldn’t be done. But as your career advances, at some point you will be promoted into a job which includes responsibility for areas outside your specialty. Your subordinates will ask questions that you cannot answer and may not even understand. How can you lead them when they know a lot more about their work than you do? Welcome to reality: You are now the leader without expertise—and this is where you, possibly for the first time in your career, find yourself failing. You feel frustrated, tired and disoriented, even angry. This is the point where careers can derail. If you get to this point, or see yourself headed in this direction, what can you do?
First, you need to resist your natural inclination, which is to put your head down and work harder to master the situation. Leaders who come up an expertise track almost always derail here because they react to the challenge by relying on their core strengths: high intelligence and the capacity for hard work. They frame the challenge this way: “I need to master this subject. Okay, no problem, I’m smart. I can learn.” And so they buckle down, and dive into the mastering the details so they can be an expert again. This is the road to disaster.
It is a disaster because if it took ten or twenty years to master your specialty you are not going to achieve a similar mastery in a new domain in the first 90 days—and 90 days may be all you have before you have to show results. Your staff, who know a lot more about their domain than you do, won’t respect you, your lack of confidence in the details will show when you talk to top management, and your attempt to work twice as hard as you already are will wear you down.
So what should you do instead? To succeed in this situation, you must learn and practice a new leadership style. Your old style of management, which I call “specialist management”, depended on expertise. You need to put that behind you and adopt a new style of management: the generalist style. Based on my work with leaders who have successfully made the transition, here are the four key skills to develop and practice:
1) Focus on relationships, not facts
One of the profound differences between the two managerial styles is that the specialist leader focuses on facts, whereas the generalist leader focuses on relationships. A specialist manager knows what to do; the generalist manager knows who to call. The specialist leader tells her staff the answer, the generalist brings them together to collectively find the answer.
How to focus on relationships: The single best tip for building relationships is to think about how you build relationships with clients and apply those same skills to colleagues. Spend a lot of time, face to face, getting to know people as individuals. In the generalist style you are constantly adapting your approach to the individual and the situation and that means knowing people very, very well. Flying overseas just to have dinner with an important colleague is not a waste of time—any more than it would be a waste of time to do so for a key client.
2) Add value by enabling things to happen, not by doing the work
As the expert leader it was easy to see your contribution: you were making decisions based on your unique knowledge. As a generalist you cannot do the work directly, but you can enable things to happen. A big part of enabling things to happen when you are not the expert involves knowing when to leave things alone and when to intervene. This isn’t easy because you have a broad array of responsibilities and you need to be able to tell at a glance where trouble lurks.
How to know where to intervene: How do you know where trouble lurks? One useful tactic is to sit in on a meeting between a direct report and his subordinates. If the conversation is two-way, that’s a good sign. If the manager does all the talking and the subordinates are passive, that’s a bad sign and you need to dig more deeply. Notice that you don’t need any expertise on the subject they are discussing; you just need to decide if the conversation is healthy.
Another tactic is to get feedback from your network—a network which exists because in the generalist style you focus on relationships. If your network says one of your teams isn’t delivering, but the team leader insists everything is on track, then you know there is a problem. Notice that if both the team leader and your network agree things are on track then you probably don’t need to intervene—the team leader will ask for your help if she needs it.
3) Practice seeing the bigger picture, not mastering the details
As a generalist leader much of your value comes from your ability to see the big picture better than others around you. You might think of the specialist leader as heads-down, deep in concentration, plotting a detailed course on a map, while the generalist is heads-up, looking around and noticing what is going on.
How to develop a generalist perspective: A useful tactic from consultant Rob Kaiser is to take the problem you are focusing on and see how it is affecting the people two levels below you. Then think how the problem is affecting people two levels above you. It’s a simple tactic to describe, but it really challenges you to think deeply, and you can develop a perspective that will make a real difference to the organization. Having a perspective that makes a difference is the value generalist leaders bring to the organization and one that may be noticeably absent in heads-down specialist leaders.
4) Rely on “executive presence” to project confidence, not on having all the facts or answers
When you make a presentation in your area of expertise you are confident in the facts and the facts speak for themselves. But what is it that “speaks” when the facts can’t do it for themselves? Where does the confidence come from when you are outside your area of expertise? As a generalist you must draw on that elusive quality of “executive presence” to inspire confidence in others.
How to develop executive presence: Executive presence isn’t a mystery any more than project planning is; it is a skill you develop. The most useful thing you can do is pay attention to presence. When someone who has presence walks into a meeting notice how they dress, how they speak, how they stand—these are not personality traits, they are skills. Watch some videos of world leaders on theWorld Economic Forum website. The specialist manager in you will want to pay attention to what they are saying, but the generalist should want to see how they are creating executive presence. Notice the relaxed body stance, the calmness in their voice, how their sentences are crisp and to the point. Notice how they connect to the audience through sincere emotion. Notice the behaviors, practice them, and get feedback—that’s the path to executive presence.
The transition to generalist management can signal the end for successful specialist managers. But if you realize that you no longer have to be, or even should be, the expert, this can be the most fulfilling and satisfying moment in your career. Your role as a leader is to bring out the best in others, even when they know more than you. The good news is that the tactics described above have helped many leaders across this treacherous gap, and they can work for you too.
Dr. Wanda Wallace is President and CEO of Leadership Forum, Inc., and author of Reaching the Top: Factors that Impact the Careers and Retention of Senior Women Leaders. Follow her on Twitter @AskWanda.
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