The Power of Quiet Leadership

The Power of Quiet Leadership

We come into our work lives with notions about leadership. We experience being led all our lives – by parents, teachers, coaches, etc. – and from these experiences we draw conclusions about what a leader does or does not do. Of course, not all of our experiences as followers are positive, so, in some cases, our notions may be formed based on those more negative experiences, Regardless of how we get them, we have ideas about what a leader should look like. Often our image of a good leader is of someone who commands a room, speaks authoritatively and is comfortable delivering speeches in front of groups small and large. Some leaders are like that. There are plenty of great leaders, however, who are not that “in-the-front-of-the-room, larger-than-life” persona. There are effective leaders who are unobtrusive, speak thoughtfully and are more comfortable in small groups than large ones. I had a colleague who was very well respected and quite effective in her role at a Director level. She was a reserved, thoughtful person who hired great people and was not threatened by them. She listened intently to everyone and was a bit cautious in her approach but flexible. Nearly everyone

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The Courage to Give Feedback

Leadership is not for the faint of heart. There are many rewards, for sure. But there are also a lot of moments when you must ramp up your courage to do what you would rather not do. Most staff are well intentioned and hard working. Some, however, struggle and need a push or an occasional wake-up call. Unfortunately, those who need these interventions do not always welcome them – which is why it takes courage to provide them. I have worked with too many teams and too many managers who are suffering in silence because someone who needed significant feedback and course correction is not getting it. We can’t expect people to change if we don’t let them know change is necessary or required. When we avoid difficult conversations and don’t provide the tough feedback, we indirectly give support to behavior that is a drag on the team and, worse yet, may be destroying the team. Hoping the behavior will just change on its own is easier but never what happens. So the question becomes – How do we find the courage to do the hard things? It was helpful to me many years ago when my manager suggested to

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The Courage to Seek Help

Whenever someone presents a staff situation to me for advice when the staff person is chronically underperforming, one of the first questions I tend to ask is, “Do you think it is a problem of skill or will?” Effectiveness takes both skill and will. Ineffectiveness results when one or both are lacking. As leaders we must be diligent about ensuring that we have both the skill and will that we need. We must be learning continuously the skills of leadership – decision making, giving feedback, political savvy, engaging others, etc. We must also be soul searching to ensure that we have the will to tackle each day with a commitment to do the hard things leaders must sometimes do. In last week’s blog, I was talking about the need to courageously give feedback to those who report to us. That’s only one area where courage and commitment are needed. Leaders must also be willing to make tough decisions. We must be willing to decide to do what is necessary when others are resisting. We must be willing to do what is right when something else would be easier. We must be willing to decide and move forward even when there

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Judged by the Success of Others

Ben Zander, conductor of the Boston Philharmonic, tells the story of having an epiphany in the mid-point of his career. He says it suddenly occurred to him that “the conductor of an orchestra doesn’t make a sound. He depends for his power on his ability to awaken possibilities in others.” That is the essence of a critical truth of leadership: The success of those who report to you is now the litmus test of your success.You are not a leader if not one follows you. You are not a successful leader if those who follow you are ineffective. I have never really understood the tendency some managers have to chronically complain about the performance of a direct report without realizing that chronic underperformance is as much a comment on the success of that manager as it is about the staff person. Just as you are not a perfectly developed and self-actualized human, neither are those who work for you. They need to be guided and developed, which is why they have you. So to respond to their areas of weakness or needed growth with passive complaint makes no sense. The development of your staff is a full-time job. It ranks

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Leadership Lessons

It’s Always “Show Time” Leaders learn many of their important lessons through trial and error. I was no exception to that. And while learning from mistakes gets a lot of good press, the truth is that much of the time it would be preferable to learn from the experience of someone else instead. So for what it could be worth to you, here is one of the many lessons I learned the hard way: When you are in a leadership role, it is always “show time”.

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Keep It Simple

Have you ever wanted to improve something at your office only to give up on it because it was too much hassle? Have you ever tried to collaborate on a project but found that it was not worth the time and effort? Have you ever listened intently to a colleague who sounded really smart only to realize you have no idea what she is saying? Most of us can answer “yes” to all of those questions. Let’s face it. We have a propensity to make things overly complicated at work and it is exhausting. In fairness, of course, plenty of work situations are complicated. And even when a problem is not complex in and of itself, the involvement of many parties creates complication. As leaders, we have to meet that challenge effectively. One skill that sets truly effective leaders apart from average ones is that the most effective leaders can understand the complexity of a situation but address it and communicate about it in a way that is simple and straight forward. I have had a few coaching clients who needed to learn this skill. These folks had plenty to offer their teams and organizations, but they frustrated colleagues who were often

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When Enough is Enough

Sometimes you have done your best to hire well, your have coached, your have tried to motivate, you have done the things one should do around retention and still, in spite of it all, your staff person simply does not perform well. It happens to all of us – even the best leaders and managers. What makes this problem a REAL PROBLEM is not dealing with that employee in an efficient and effective way.

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Motivating Your Staff – How to Encourage Star Performance

Here’s the good news and the bad news: 100% of the staff you hire will be human beings. That’s right. Human beings. As such, these staff have the ability to contribute significantly to the success of your business. They also have the ability to make you wonder why in the world you would ever have chosen to run a business that requires staff!

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Hiring the Right People

A colleague of mine used to be fond of saying “I’d love being a manager if it weren’t for the people!” It was a joke…mostly. What usually prompted his quasi-serious complaint was some staff problem that he would rather not have had to face. I always laughed along because I was a manager, too, and I knew exactly what he was saying.

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