When you lead people it is important to be true to who you are as a person. Employees will quickly pick up on it if you try to be something you are not. There is no perfect personality profile of a leader despite what many books of the topic would like to portray. I’ve seen all types of individuals thrive under the mantle of leadership. I’ve also seen others who look impressive on paper struggle when they attempt to step up and lead. When you are true to yourself you are more likely to be effective in whatever you do.
Month: February 2012
I’ve met many business owners through the years who admit that if something happened to them the business would have a hard time continuing operations for any period of time. This always makes me nervous. Leadership isn’t about building dependency upon any one person. It is about getting a group of people working interdependently towards a common goal. Of course it’s much harder to do this when you are relatively small, but as you begin to grow and add staff, you should be constantly thinking about building operational redundancy and minimizing personnel/performance risk.
Quite a few people bemoan the length of our presidential primaries and other election campaigns these days – I don’t. People can keep up an act or tell you what you want to hear for a short period of time, but when they get exhausted by the rigors of a long campaign and tired of answering the same old questions the same old way, the eventually will slip up and say what they truly feel or believe. In addition, when you are speaking to a niche audience with a particular ideology or playing to the base, it takes a strong personality to say what you believe they need to hear rather than what they want to hear. Whether you agree with him or not, Ron Paul (who has no chance of winning) has been fairly consistent on this front while the others seem to adjust their rhetoric to fit the moment and forget their own checkered past. The good news is that when people get tired and consistently challenged they usually end up telling the truth. Rick Santorum is a case in point this past week.
No one likes to work in a company run by a leader with a dictator’s mindset. Just like in countries run by despots, there is always simmering discontent bubbling under the surface. Fear can be an effective motivator especially in the short-term, but you will never get someone’s best effort. And, in the long run, revolutionaries will start to emerge and people will find small ways to sabotage your efforts. Organizational energy ends up being channeled in increasingly dysfunctional ways. Moreover, the people that dictators put in leadership positions tend to be more sinister and less capable than themselves creating even more problems. It is all a recipe for disaster.
We all know the danger of rushing to quick judgments or making false assumptions about things, but we continue to do it anyway. I’ve heard many speakers talk about the reptilian portion of our brain that is focused solely on survival and keeping us out of harms way. In essence, we are hardwired for self-protection. However, in a world where our day to day survival is rarely in question, we need to be careful about allowing the most primal part of our thought process to have too much control. A knee jerk or gut reaction to stimuli is often not a wise strategy and can actually end up being problematic.
The most successful people I know do what they say they are going to do when they say they are going to do it. They are also good at being “present” in the moment and fully engaged in whatever they are doing. They avoid distractions and abhor excuses. High performance isn’t optional but instead a way of life. To them, hyper-performance and multi-tasking is for amateurs.
Fear can be a destabilizing emotion in organizations. It limits risk taking, inhibits action and worst of all creates a cover your a** (CYA) mentality which results in countless hours of wasted energy. One the biggest fears we all grapple with is the fear of being wrong and/or making mistakes. Far too many employees would rather do nothing or rigorously defend the status quo instead of going out a limb and trying something new or different. As a result of these fears, most organizations are stuck in a survival mode because success almost always involves having courage and taking risks.
I often meet business owners/leaders who think they have it all figured out. Whenever this happens a red flag goes up for me right away. The best leaders I know are in a constant learning mode. They are very aware of what they don’t know and need to learn. They soak up information like a sponge and are energized by new thoughts and ideas. Leaders who are unwilling to admit their own shortcomings or lack of knowledge are eventually confronted with the very reality they are ignoring. It may take time, but it always happens. It’s even worse if they are completely unaware of where they fall short and end up getting blindsided. In leadership positions, ignorance is not bliss.
When in doubt ask good questions and leverage the knowledge and experience of other people. There are few things less attractive about a leader than someone who acts like they know the answer when they don’t. Confidence can be a good attribute but hubris is not. People ultimately see through your words and pick up pretty quickly if you simply make it up as you go along. More importantly, those around you who do have the answers lose respect for you and begin to question everything you say.
Sometimes life is heavy. There is just no way around it. We lose people we love; our own bodies break down; and other personal or professional challenges appear unexpectedly. When this happens it’s easy to become overwhelmed by the adversity of the moment(s) and wallow in despair. You can sometimes feel like the famous statue of Atlas who carries around the weight of the world on his shoulders. When this happens you need to count your many blessings and seek out opportunities for joy, love and support.
Everyone is too quick to jump on the popular opinion bandwagon these days. Instead of taking the time to understand the facts and make an educated decision about something, it is much easier for most people to just go along with the crowd and follow whatever the media or their particular brand of talking heads tells them to think. Just because something or someone resonates with you doesn’t mean this is an accurate reflection of reality.
am back from a week long business trip to theBahamasat the Atlantis Resort. It is a very impressive venue. I cannot imagine how much money was invested to create the experience. It literally is one of those rare “spare no expense” properties. There was a TV show you could watch that documented the attention to detail in the construction process and I was blown away by the vision and commitment of the main developer. You don’t get to stay in many places like this in your lifetime. In addition, I haven’t met many people as nice as the local Bahamians.
All the above being said, I was very disappointed by how poorly the operational side of the business was run.
I often worry about people who read too many self-help books and/or set lofty expectations for themselves based on what others think or espouse. Many of these books or speakers attempt to create and communicate a common definition of success and/or happiness that resonates with everyone and is applicable in all situations. They also tend to engender flawed comparisons of reality and potential. It’s almost as if who you are doesn’t matter and that everyone is equally capable in all situations and that there is a proven recipe for managing all life has in store for you.
This will be a rare post on politics. It’s hard not to attention the Republican race for presidential nominee (even if it isn’t typically your party of choice). We are bombarded with news stories, debates and advertising spots that keep the issue constantly top of mind. After you receive a certain amount of information you start to block out the noise and become skeptical of anything any candidate has to say including the political commentators. It is the textbook definition of overkill. The campaign season for either party lasts ways too long for my liking. It’s a long hard slog to the convention and ultimately Election Day. And, just a thought, if your party is in power, shouldn’t it be spending its time governing rather than talking about what should be happening…