Where Are You On Your Leadership Journey?

It isn’t everyday that you come across an author who you feel gets it. In fact in the area of leadership, I find that i tend to disagree with more writers, than those with which I agree. Over the last few years, I have enjoyed Mark Miller. Mark and I have some differences in our paradigm of leadership and organizations, but I value his work on leadership, values, and development highly. He is certainly a strong voice for well-grounded leadership!

If you don’t know him already, here is a little bit of info about Mark and the 10th Anniversary edition of his book The Secret that is going to be released on September 2, 2014.

Mark Miller, Vice President of Organizational Effectiveness for Chick-fil-A, believes that leadership is not something that’s exclusive; within the grasp of an elite few, but beyond the reach of everyone else.  In the tenth anniversary edition of The Secret, Miller reminds readers of a seemingly contradictory concept: to lead is to serve. With more than 600,000 books in print, Mark has been surprised by the response and delighted to serve leaders through his writing.

Here is a post that Mark previously shared with his audience on Monday, November 4, 2013 at www.greatleadersserve.org. I think the metaphor Mark shares in this post is very useful for each of us to bear in mind on our own journey!

Enjoy!

TG

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Leadership as a journey is probably a tired metaphor. I’m as guilty as the next guy for wearing this out. I not only say it – I believe it! And as with any journey, there are stages or phases you and I consciously consider when planning a family vacation that we often overlook when we think about our leadership.

This is a topic I’ve not given much thought to recently. However, with some restructuring at the office, this responsibility falls squarely back to my team. Therefore, I’ve reengaged on this critical topic.

My thoughts are still in a very rough form, but since I’ve been encouraged to be transparent in the posts I write, I thought I’d share some “work in progress,” not polished ideas.

I think a leader’s journey has at least four phases:

Preparing for the trip = Emerging Leaders

Before you take a trip, most people I know pick a destination. Before the route is planned and hotels are booked, you decide where you want to go. Emerging leaders have a choice to make: do they want to lead? If so, they can begin the preparation in earnest. The best preparation involves both the heart and the hands.

Leaving the house = New Leaders

Who are the men and women in your organization who become leaders? For many the answer is, those from the emerging leader ranks who appear to be the most prepared or hold the most promise. These are the men and women you actually give a position of leadership. Once “in charge,” the real adventure begins.

Are we there yet? = Mid-Career Leaders

For many leaders in mid-career, there is often a sense of unfulfilled potential – a desire to do more and be more and contribute more. During this mid-career season, this desire either becomes productive or poison. Those who channel this desire for greater contribution and lead beyond their assignment are often rewarded with more responsibility. Those who whine and wait are done. The answer to, “Are we there yet?” is, you are always in a place to add more value – the best leaders seize it all along their career journey.

You’ve arrived! = Seasoned Leaders

This is probably not the best label for this stage in a leader’s career because the best leaders never arrive. However, they do reach a point where they realize their success is inextricably linked to those they lead. The successful seasoned leader has gotten self out of the way and is focused on helping others win. As a result, he or she wins too! They also know, their continued contribution is contingent on their growth.

So, what’s the point? I think there are several…

  • Increased influence is a choice – independent of where you are on the journey.
  • Expanded leadership opportunity is not contingent on your title or stage on the journey.
  • The fuel for advancement and increased contribution is growth, not time.
  • A focus on others will make the journey a lot more fun!

I know we’re all on the journey, my challenge and yours is to navigate the road ahead successfully and take as many people with us as possible!

What travel advice do you have for others on their leadership journey?

 -Mark

Culture Eats Strategy For Breakfast

BreakfastThis famous statement attributed to Peter Drucker, the leadership/management guru (though there is no proof he ever said that) is one of my favorites! This doesn’t make strategy un-important, but it does dig down to the reality that undergirds successful organizations – PEOPLE and PRACTICES!
Adam Bryant, in the first chapter of book Quick and Nimble describes culture like this:
 
“A successful culture is like a greenhouse where people and ideas can flourish – where everybody in the organization, regardless of rank or role, feels encouraged to speak frankly and openly and is rewarded for sharing ideas about new products, more efficient processes, and better ways to serve customers” (p. 11)
 
Both visuals are important culture. In both images, when culture eats strategy for breakfast and when culture is a greenhouse, you might say that culture is what continually forms an environment for the strategy to flourish. You can have a great strategy and terrible culture and you ultimately will fail. But try to find a place with a great culture (not just a fun culture) that doesn’t thrive?
 
People will go the extra mile in an organization with a great culture, they will personally bring their best, because they realize that they are valued as an active shaper of the organization as a whole. When that isn’t true…you hate getting up for work.
 
So if you lead…remember it starts with culture. If you are not a leader, by position, lead by example…set the tone for the organizational culture that you want to see, if this is rejected…keep your eyes open for other places that do get it!

Be up front, even when it hurts!

One of the most important lessons I have learned in relationships and organizational life is that things that bother you, don’t stop – unless addressed. There is something innate in most of us that drives us to avoid confrontations (though I admit, there are a small percentage who seem to thrive off them). We don’t like the idea of addressing things because we fear what could happen, yet we willingly let the problems reside inside of our head, our emotions, and our bodies.

STOP!!!!!!! I know that it sounds easy, but that is what must be done in productive relationships and organizations. In both settings, it is important to create a safe space where we can be up front with one another in a caring and sensitive way, to state the frustrations, challenges, and/or needs that we have in moving forward.

The flip side to this is, we have to provide this space for others as well. There will be times that we unknowingly have offended, annoyed, overworked, or under-appreciated someone that is important to our daily life. When that happens, we need them to tell us…hurt as it will! This is how we grow!

We daily function with an image of both our self and our functioning that is developed from our internal viewpoint – meaning it lacks the depth and clarity of what we would see if we examined ourselves from a 360 degree perspective – but when we give others accepted space to be able to engage with us, the opportunity for real growth begins!

Today, make a plan for being upfront when your team, friends, or family do things that overwhelm, under-perform, or just plain grate at your nerves. Use “I” statements (e.g. “I feel overwhelmed when this happens”) as opposed to “you” statements (e.g. “You are overwhelming me when you do this…”) *We need to be certain that trust has been established in these relationships  prior to addressing issues.

Life is too short and too amazing for each of us to carry things in our baggage that could be remedied by addressing them gently with those that are important to us!