All of these situations would be pretty bad.
We are watching leaders that have the potential to be great that are doing the wrong thing when a crisis hits. They attempt to drive a needed change through their organization and they are unable to make it happen. Often they have the right raw material and yet are not able to get the results. They do not set the situation up for effective handling of the crisis and change. They instead focus directly on the crisis and change without regard to the people and resources in the situation.
There is what I call the “Hollywood” image of a leader. It is a clean image with jets and cars and money and power and fame and…you name it! An event occurs and then over the course of a few hours, with a loud bang at the end (at least if it is an action film), the leader/hero get the result. Along the way, they break all the rules. I love those movies, but too often, they do not explain how leadership really works, what it really is and how to be a great leader.
Sometimes we have clients with “Hollywood situations” and those around them say that their leadership worked because of surface observations. The reality is much deeper, more complex and more powerful. When done right, it avoids needing a big bang and can become market dominance without having to be high risk or dramatic.
The reality is that leadership gets a job done in the right way, and in many cases, it is not glamorous. It is also typically an evolving story and not a single amazing stroke of genius. It may look that way, but the 10,000 times that Thomas Edison failed with the light bulb was more of a study in methodical persistence instead of genius. Leadership is typically more about persistent methodology than a flash, smoke and fire.
One of our existing clients started with us 25 years ago. He was very quiet, sat in his office and asked many questions of his people. When we first met with him, his sole goal was to retain his core team of six people. Today, he has the original six people on a 9 person leadership team. The company is over 100 employees. Even with the current economic challenges of the construction trades, he is doing well.
Nothing about him is striking. He does not dominate a meeting or room. Even today with the success he has had, he is very quiet. His focus has been to build a true team that can run the business and his sole goal is to bring the best out in each one of them as well as to create a need for them to work together as a team. His relationships with employees, competitors in the industry and personal relationships are some of the best we have seen. However, he will never be a movie since there is no bang, no smoke and no fire. And yet, he has handled some very tough situations smoothly and with a quiet firmness and strong values.
General Definition of Leadership
In our above examples though, do not confuse leadership ability with style. Style really has little to do with leadership. We have some clients that are quiet and others that are loud. We have some that look Hollywood and some that look like beggars. Common characteristics among great leaders are seen in the two quotes below:
“Management is about persuading people to do things they do not want to do, while leadership is about inspiring people to do things they never thought they could.” Steve Jobs, Apple Computer
In The Servant, Jim Hunter defines leadership as “the skill of influencing people to enthusiastically accomplish common goals with character that inspires excellence”.
While these quotes are powerful, the challenge is that leading under a situation of crisis or great change is different. The time frames are shorter. The results needed are higher and more crucial. The emotions and true values of the people are more influential. Sometimes the leadership team individually handles the situation effectively, but the culture begins to fracture and the organization fails because the leadership team did not cohesively invest enough time in all areas of the organization. The carnage of these situations is traumatic.
The 18 Mistakes of Mediocre Leaders
As we have worked with top leaders over a quarter of a century, we have identified a number of mistakes that are critical to avoid. Even allowing one of these mistakes to creep into a leaders approach can turn championships results into a devastating unrecoverable disaster.
Mistakes With Strategy, Goals and Milestones
Mistakes In Teamwork
Mistakes Through Attitude and Values
Mistakes With Skill Sets
When the Going Gets Tough, What Do Great Leaders Do?
The best leaders were already in motion. The best leaders had their people already moving and preparing for the crisis and change. They were developing their people and challenging them. Rather than just teaching skills, they were teaching attitudes. For example, we have one client where he is teaching his people how to be flexible and to move quickly in an environment where flexibility and change have not been valued in the past.
There was already a need for the team to be a team and continually improve. It may be the leader created that need, but when the crisis or change appeared, it simply brought to bear attitudes, skills, capabilities and actions already being taken to a higher level.
A great leader keeps their purpose fresh which allows them to easily bring it into any situation, whether it is for social fun or a challenging tough scary problem. It can be a touchstone for them and their team to be reminded that it is “not about the money”, but about something deeper and more important in life.
Great leaders in crisis and change also make it interesting. They make it more like a game or being part of a bigger story. It is more interesting to be part of the story of about the forest than just being the story of a tree (which can be lonely at times). It is more interesting being part of a championship team focused on the same goal than just trying to survive as an individual.
There are many tools to being a great leader during crisis and change. Some tools, such as persuasion are very powerful and “pull” results. Positional tools, such as “I am your boss so you need to do this”, are weaker tools since they usually “push” results. How and when they are used is different in each situation. Great leaders are constantly adding to their toolbox and learn when and how to use the tools.
The Comprehensive Independence Builder
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