Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Be the Leader in your Life, and Your Team

Bounce Forward:  Be the Leader in your Life, and Your Team

When you hear the word “leadership”, do you think of a manager, a boss, a supervisor? Many people do, they equate the term leadership with business, and leading a group of people. While that stands true, I have discovered that to lead others, we must be effective at leading ourselves first.

I have spent the past twenty five years studying and learning about human behaviour, the human mind, high performance, and success. From my first job as a Correctional Officer, to working in mental health services in a hospital, to being a mediator and dispute resolution expert, and now as a professional speaker and corporate trainer/facilitator, I have learned a great deal about how people lead and follow. 

One common trait that I see in leaders that are successful in their role is that they are also leaders in their own life.
“What does that mean?” you may be asking.
Let’s look at the example of Sam, a leader who worked his way up the corporate ladder. He is a “seasoned” leader. The term “walk the talk” was perhaps written with Sam in mind. You may have worked for a Sam. What he says he’ll do, he does. What Sam expects of others, is what he expects of himself. He models leadership in his own life, and those same values, are the foundation of how he leads his team. He is congruent. He holds himself, and others accountable. A great example of Sam’s high level congruence is about accountability, and owning your actions. At a staff meeting, Sam began by apologizing to his team for “dropping the ball” on a project task he had committed to. His apology was clear, clean, integral, and free of drama (no excuses, no passing the buck, just a clean apology).
Knowing when to lead and when to let others lead
Jim on the other hand has also worked his way up to high level manager positions, however, he is not a leader in his life. While he maintains the position of leadership, his message and actions are not congruent. He stresses to his team that work life balance and stress management are critical, and an expectation for the team. The team constantly complains about his incongruence in that he preaches work life balance yet, the team begins their day surfing through many emails that have been sent by Jim at the wee hours in the morning, they receive texts and calls in the evenings and weekends, and have often been asked to change their vacation plans to meet workplace demands. The team feels this incongruence. They see the incongruence and it becomes a source of complaint, and lost faith in their leader. Jim also stresses that his team manage their stress, be in control and exhibit professionalism at all times. However, on a regular basis, Jim has been known to “lose it’ at a meeting, blurts out inappropriate comments, and is easily frustrated- he gets quite reactionary with his team. And, does not own his actions or apologize. The team has come to learn that Jim’s red face, loud sighs, tapping his fingers loudly on the desk is the dress rehearsal for the drama yet to unfold.

A funny example of incongruence happened while sitting at the gate waiting for the plane leaving Texas for Canada. It had been a day of delayed planes, gate transfers and then a cancelled flight. The overhead announcement mentioned that those passengers needing seat assignments were to watch the green screens then reference their name to the airline representative, who would be happy to serve us. 

Challenge one.  There were no green screens.  Mass confusion for tired hungry passengers looking for the green screen. Big deal you may be thinking. Just ask the representative. There were none. they all left the area when the passengers deplaned. When I finally found someone to ask she said "are you on the Edmonton bound flight?" I smiled and said "yes"  She looked up, pointed a finger and said "there's the news" and walked away. After two hours in line, a meal voucher that was not accepted by any of the restaurants, I decided to reflect on the learnings....

Leadership is not just a position, it is a way of being. Sam was an example of a great leader, who encourages and empowers others to follow, and take the lead.  The airline's message about being happy to serve was not congruent that day.

The leaders I love to follow are like Sam, and have these qualities:
  • Congruence
  • Compassion
  • Communication
  • Collaboration
  • Commitment
  • Courage
  • Champions others
  • Clarity
 They are also the essential qualities and attributes that I talk about in Bounce Forward.  These qualities not only build leaders, they build teams.

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