Archive for the ‘Leadership’ Category

6 Leadership Lessons from the 2016 Election

Tuesday, January 31st, 2017

Regardless of your political leanings, the United States and the world had the opportunity in 2016 to observe the behaviors of about 20 leaders vying for the highest leadership post in this country.  We read and saw some of the top leaders in the US make the case for why we should choose them.  From these months of media exposure, here are six leadership lessons that can be applied to any leader:

Clarity trumps style.  Think back to when the election primaries started, and there were 18 Republican and 3 Democrat candidates in the presidential race.  What were the slogans for each of these 21 candidates?  Okay, easier question: can you still name everyone who entered the race?

It is clear that very few candidates distinguished themselves by their styles or the clarity of their message. Their slogans or themes were equally hard to remember.   In the end, Hillary Clinton landed on ‘Stronger Together’ as her campaign theme, having cycled through half a dozen others.  Donald Trump started and ended with ‘Make America Great Again.’ Even though his style offended, angered, and worried a large percentage of the voting population, the clarity of his message apparently resonated with disaffected voters desiring change.

Whatever your natural style is as a leader, your people understand that everyone is unique.  They may not find your style to be the most warm, engaging, or witty, but they will follow you, if your vision, strategy, and direction are clear to them.  Clarity trumps style.

Words have consequences. Throughout the campaign, we heard and read the words (and actions) of the candidates on both sides.  Some of those words inspired us to vote in the primaries or the general election, while others convinced us not to ever consider supporting a candidate.  Many believe that James Comey’s words that opened and closed and re-opened and closed the FBI investigation of Hillary Clinton had a major impact on the election outcome.  Others felt that the words in John Podesta’s hacked emails had a dramatic impact on the election.  Donald Trump’s words, communicated in a dated Access Hollywood video, various tweets, and debates made some conclude that he was not presidential.  Hillary Clinton’s phrase that Trump supporters fell into “a basket of deplorables ” became the rallying cry for ads, T-shirts, and placards for the other side. Words have consequences.

You may not have the same number of cameras, cell phones, microphones, and other electronic equipment around you to capture your intended and unintended words, but your words matter to those in your employ. They listen to what you say and the manner in which you say it.  Your words matter; choose them carefully to be your audience, and be aware of the potential consequences.

Passion inspires action. From my vantage point, there were two candidates whose passion inspired the most action by their supporters–Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump.  Sanders inspired waves of young, energized supporters to show up at rallies across the country, as well as to protest at Trump rallies. 

Trump saw thousands attending his rallies, particularly in swing states.  In fact, I was trying to meet with a coaching client in Sanford, FL in October and got caught in a traffic jam about a mile from the airport.  When I finally got to the officer directing traffic, he asked, “going to see Trump?” That was my first clue that all these cars were headed to a Trump rally.  His passion inspired their action.

Your passion can do the same as a leader.  You don’t need to be outrageous, gesticulate wildly, or yell into a microphone to convey passion.  Just tap into your core as a leader, into those beliefs and philosophies about which you are most passionate, and then convey these to those you lead.  Whether it is through ideas, vision, or energy, if it is genuinely you, your passion will inspire action.

All stakeholders matter.  With the electorate in the US evenly split, it is clear that all voters count in elections.  We know the founding fathers set up a Democratic Republic, not a pure democracy, to make sure that election victories would be the result of the most people voting across the most states and towns, large and small, urban and rural.  Typically, the presidential winner takes the popular vote and the Electoral College, but not this year.  In the end, it became clear that Trump’s strategy of ‘rally blitzkrieg’ during the final weeks of the campaign was a winning strategy to connect with the swing voters.  Trump’s campaign seems to have more clearly recognized that all stakeholders matter.

As a leader, you must identify your stakeholders and get to know them.  Your team members, manager, internal/external customers, peers, senior leaders, family, and perhaps others hold a stake in your success–and you in theirs.  Regularly communicate with them, keep them informed, ask for feedback and suggestions, leverage their talents, and help them develop successfully.  All stakeholders matter. 

Direct messages get through. I’ve been observing presidential elections for many decades, since the Nixon-Kennedy debates on black and white TV. Always in the past, politicians have conveyed messages primarily through the news media.  This is the first year I can remember where a candidate, Donald Trump, got his message across mostly by directly talking to people through in-person rallies and Twitter.   People said he spoke what they were thinking.  His direct messages got through and resonated.

Similarly, in your role as a leader, you need to speak directly to people and make sure they understand your message.  Assert your point of view clearly. Make sure that all those involved receive the communication at the same time, and that you do not nuance the message for different audiences to avoid conflict or adverse reactions.  Direct messages get through.

Integrity matters. We saw a number of examples of lack of integrity by candidates.  Kasich, Cruz, and Bush promised they would support the eventual Republican candidate, and then publicly pulled their support when Trump won.  The DNC’s Wasserman Schultz publicly indicated support for both Clinton and Sanders, but  Wikileaks hacked emails showed that she was supported Clinton and undermined Sanders.  When Trump’s vulgar comments were shared in an 11-year old video, he quickly apologized to his wife, family, and the public for these abhorrent comments.  Trump then focused on lack of integrity in Washington with the phrase, “drain the swamp!” People suspected that politicians were corrupt; this phrase supported them in the belief that integrity matters, and that Trump would help restore it.

When you as a leader are confronted with a problem you created, admit it quickly and completely, apologize, and make necessary reparations.  People do not expect you to be perfect, but they absolutely need to trust you.  Trust is built in consistent installments of honest, sincere, open interactions over time.  Speak the truth.  Integrity matters.

Feeling Like a Fraud: The Dynamics of Learning

Tuesday, February 9th, 2016

Welcome to the second of six installments about the phenomenon of feeling like a fraud in your leadership role. These installments come directly from my new book, The Fraud Factor, to be published by Leader Press in April, 2016. This is less than three months away! Following this current article, the four remaining installments in this series include these topics:

  • Feeling like a fraud: everything I know seems wrong!
  • Feeling like a fraud: the big fat lie
  • Feeling like a fraud: who am I at the core?
  • Feeling like a fraud: getting real again!

Learning comes through change, but change can be difficult for anyone. Depending on the enormity and abruptness of the change, some of us get pushed back on our heels and struggle to respond effectively. We start to feel like a fraud, inadequate to meet the challenge of the change.

A participant in one of our Great Leaders workshop series, Diane experienced this when her job changed from supervising others in the parts department to managing an entire function. When she had worked the parts supervisor job, she could clearly measure her progress and track her success with her team at the end of the day. In her new leadership role, however, the impact of her work was much more intangible. She indicated she had felt like a fraud in the new role for months.

At first, she felt alone in these emotions and was convinced that her peers did not suffer from feeling like frauds. She finally found enough courage one day to mention her feelings of inadequacy to others. To her surprise, all of them, both male and female peers, indicated that they also had moments where they felt like frauds. Despite finding out that this feeling was shared by most others around her, she kept beating up on herself every day. She also lived in fear that her boss would come into her office, shut the door, and say, “you’re fired!”

After experiencing a high degree of upset for several months in the new supervisory role, Diane’s thoughts began to shift in a healthier direction. She thought about the attributes that had earned her this role in the first place. She realized that, having started her career in customer service rather than operations, she actually was quite gifted at taking care of people’s needs and using her common sense to solve problems. She also recognized that at previous jobs in her career, she had stepped into roles for which she was not fully qualified, but she had handled them very well. Using logic and perspective helped her overcome the fear associated with being found out as a fraud.

In this new role, however, she also sat at the senior leadership table for the first time. This intimidated her, because she was now sitting with men and women she had admired and felt were “way beyond” where she was at that point. They were more educated and more experienced at the company; consequently she hesitated to speak up in these meetings. Diane’s story illustrates what happens when individuals feel pushed outside their confidence zone far enough that they become destabilized, at least for a time.

Dissonance versus destabilization. When things change in your role or responsibilities, you need to learn quickly and grow into the new expectations. This typically creates a degree of dissonancea temporary lack of consistency or compatibility between your actions and beliefs in a particular situation. It is a short-term instability that feels unpleasant and motivates you toward resolution. A temporary dissonance brought about by challenging circumstances is usually a healthy road to learning and developing new skills, and often the catalyst for thinking in a new way, or approaching people in a different, more effective manner.

By contrast, destabilization is a deep and lasting instability that undermines and overwhelms your ability to function with consistent actions and beliefs. It disrupts and weakens your capacity to fulfill your role over time.

This dissonance/destabilization distinction forms the basis for a seeming paradox as it applies to creating sustainable growth in people. That is, to show evidence of true growth (like Diane), you must accommodate to new circumstances and demands by changing some of your core beliefs and shifting your behavior. However, to sustain this growth, you must not stray too far from who you genuinely are at the core.

Sustainable learning. To create sustainable growth, then, new learning must occur within the context of your existing personality, abilities, motivators, and thinking—your core. At the same time, true growth seldom occurs unless events or circumstances challenge the basis upon which you think and respond. This is the paradox! You feel dissonance in this kind of situation, and then respond by either finding ways to incorporate new learning, or ignoring the circumstances and continuing in your old paradigm.

However, when you encounter dramatic and discontinuous learning situations, you might begin to feel inadequate inside your existing internal framework (like Diane did, for a while). Instead of just a bit of dissonance, you might feel a much stronger level of destabilization that threatens to undermine your very sense of self. When you become destabilized–feeling upset, losing confidence, or being overwhelmed by the challenges in your environment–you start to feel and act like a fraud. This dynamic tension is a learning dance that takes place throughout your life. It started when you first went off to school, and then continued every time you entered a new school or class. Each one of these experiences probably stretched you, shifted the way you thought or felt about things, and forced you to generate new approaches.

Feeling dissonance is a natural part of the growth process, but it can become immobilizing if this feeling turns into destabilization and threatens the very core of who you are as a person and a leader. Recognizing the feelings you have of being a fraud and how these have changed your behaviors into much less effective ones is the first step in becoming real again as a leader and a person.

Feeling Like a Fraud: The Symptoms

Wednesday, January 27th, 2016

Welcome to the first of six installments about the phenomenon of feeling like a fraud in your leadership role. These installments come directly from my new book, The Fraud Factor, to be published by Leader Press in April, 2016. This is only three months away! The six installments include these topics:

  • Feeling like a fraud: the symptoms
  • Feeling like a fraud: the dynamics of learning
  • Feeling like a fraud: everything I know seems wrong!
  • Feeling like a fraud: the big fat lie
  • Feeling like a fraud: who am I at the core?
  • Feeling like a fraud: getting real again!

Several years ago, as I began to build the chapters of The Fraud Factor and talk to various people about the main focus, the thought began to creep into my mind that I was not the best person to handle this fraud topic. Certainly, there must be an author and speaker who had spent more time in this area, who had better stories, and who would be a much more powerful presenter on the topic than I would. I began to feel like a fraud about being the one writing and speaking on the topic of being a fraud!

This reaction on my part illustrated to me how pervasive and insidious this fraud feeling can be, and how quickly it can surface. It reminded me how fragile genuineness often is, and how events and circumstances can undermine even the most confident and competent leaders.

When I use the word “fraud,” I mean feeling inauthentic, like a phony or charlatan in a particular situation that, in your mind, requires you to pretend to be someone very different from the person you really are.

In this first installment in our Leadersynth series, my hope is that you will come to recognize how the fraud factor undermines your success and that of the people you lead. I hope you will see that, while it is important to build new skills and perspectives throughout your life, you will be most effective when you stay true to who you are at the core. In fact, it is impossible to be highly effective if you stray too far from the nucleus of who you are.

On some level, in certain situations, every leader feels like a fraud. Even the most successful and confident leaders find themselves in settings where they begin to think that someone else would have been a much better choice to handle their duties. This is often the result of circumstances where they are placed in a new role with very challenging expectations, are given unanticipated critical feedback on a 360-degree instrument, or moved under a new manager with a very different approach. Things change, and you suddenly do not feel adequate to the task.

As an executive coach, I see these fraud feelings most frequently in situations where leaders move into a new role with increased scope of responsibility, often over functional areas where they have limited expertise. Sharon is an example of a person in this situation. She came into the department from a parallel position within a business recently acquired by my client company. Though she was put in charge of functions that included her area of technical comfort, she also now had responsibility for several areas about which she knew very little.

Sharon came in wearing heavy spurs and riding hard on the groups for which she was responsible. As she told me later, “During the interview process, I was informed that major changes needed to be made in the groups I managed. It was clear that their previous boss was too hands-off and lenient, and that a laissez-faire attitude had developed within the teams. A couple of the teams were worse than the others, but they all needed strong leadership.” Instead of getting to know each person who reported to her and building a team collaboratively, Sharon quickly began to make dramatic changes in the organizational structure and in the expectations she set for individual members of the teams in her scope of responsibility. This kind of strain on the system would have created a problematic level of stress on the teams all by themselves, but she complicated things with her direct reports by displaying inconsistent behavior and occasional emotional outbursts.

When I first met with her, it became clear to me that Sharon was overwhelmed and anxious in this new role. She made comments to me like, “I’m not really an expert across all areas of my new responsibility, and the company took a bit of a chance bringing me in.” She also said, “I think my boss wants to leverage my confidence and strong leader presence to inspire and drive these teams to greater productivity and, ultimately, better success. However, they don’t seem too motivated to ratchet-up their game.” On another occasion, she confided in me, “I’ve got to show that I am successfully changing the culture in this group, and it has to happen within the first three months.”

Sharon did not want to fail in this new assignment with this new company. Consequently, she felt that she needed to cover her inadequacies by pushing hard to score quick wins. Her self-talk, as in the above examples, undermined her capacity to confidently and genuinely express herself as the leader of this department. This led to behaviors that very nearly undermined her success. I

n her own way, Sharon was feeling like a fraud in the position. What are the symptoms that indicate you might be feeling like a fraud in your current situation? Here are some I’ve encountered:

  • Avoiding situations or people that seem to drain your confidence, ability to think clearly
  • Making quick, somewhat questionable decisions, just to assert your authority
  • Not speaking up in situations where you should weigh in as the leader
  • Trying to aggressively control the situation, drive your own agenda
  • Failing to establish collaborative dialogue as the preferred approach for decisions
  • Feeling tense, anxious, threatened, overwhelmed, or discouraged

We will learn in the next Leadersynth installment that a certain degree of tension helps move you from your current state to a more productive, effective one. However, too much tension can become destabilizing and, consequently, block your effectiveness. The optimal amount of tension pushes you to grow as a leader, and to develop new strategies and approaches, but does not destabilize you.

Weigh in on this topic and let us know what you think on our blog: www.roselleleadership.com

Keep ‘Em Once You Find ‘Em!

Tuesday, October 6th, 2015

The Importance of Great Onboarding Increasingly at Roselle Leadership, we are called upon to help leaders new to their positions and new to the organization get off to a good start. There are at least two very compelling reasons to invest in the onboarding process of new leaders:

  • Those new to a position who fail to build and maintain effective team and individual relationships, or who do not recognize quickly enough which are the most important results to pursue, have a higher probability of failing in the role.
  • Those new to an organization who do not feel fully part of it are much more likely to leave after the first year, most probably before their first anniversary.

These two facts put an exclamation point at the end of the phrase, “keep ‘em once you find ‘em!” Here are the data that support the importance of a thorough and engaging onboarding process:

Most leave before their first anniversary. A new Harvard Business Review article (OCT) cites a 2015 study in which it is clear that the greatest percentage of new employees leave after just one year! The conventional wisdom has been that exits tend to occur after four or five years, but these new facts indicate that fully 10 times as many people leave after one year than those who leave at five years, and that these exoduses peak around first anniversary dates.

There is a scarcity of qualified leaders. Recent data from a couple of 2014 studies cited in a recent Training and Development journal indicate that 40 percent of business owners are having difficulty in finding qualified candidates for their job openings across the organization. While this figure lumps all levels within the company into one single pool, a portion of this scarcity effect certainly occurs at the manager/executive level.

Your best talent is easily lured away. It is becoming easier and easier for corporate recruiters to find your new employees through their Internet presence, especially now that the recession continues to fade. Social media and data-crunching tools make it simpler to identify potential candidates on LinkedIn, for example, where someone’s combination of competencies catches the eye of a recruiter or a search algorithm.

Even your leaders who are not actively seeking an alternative to their current roles can be flattered and tempted by an interested recruiter. As the first study cited here pointed out, this can be particularly appealing to leaders who have not had their first anniversary yet, and who are disappointed with their onboarding experience.

Good news: the longer people stay with your organization, the less likely they are to leave. As employment continues to shift from a buyers’ market to a sellers’ market, your organizational leaders must pay closer attention to what job seekers indicate they want. Our own data at RLSI indicates that the new people you hire are looking for a chance to develop new skills, grow in their careers, take on greater responsibility, receive real time feedback and developmental coaching from their boss, and do meaningful work in a culture that fits them.

What are best practices for recruiting and retaining new hires? I discussed this question recently with a principal of a search firm in Minneapolis, and we agreed that the best recruitment/retention strategies typically include the following:

  • Clear and honest job and organizational culture information. In any materials you send out or publish, from as far upstream as possible, let potential hires know exactly what you want them to do in the role and what the culture will be like around them. By the way, this “official” culture description should match the “word on the street” about your organization.
  • Search firm trusted partners to help find candidates who fit. Work closely with a search firm that knows your company very well, or is willing to spend the time upfront to get to know it. Look particularly for firms that offer a kind of guarantee that their placements will stay.
  • In-depth interviews with key stakeholders. Make sure the candidates talk with their manager, manager’s manager, direct reports, and peers at some point during the interview process. This helps your team assess long-term fit, and it helps candidates better assess if this will be a good fit for them.
  • Accurate pre-hire assessments. While multiple interviews can help screen candidates to a degree, they typically don’t provide much objective data. Some candidates interview extremely well, but are poor fits six months down the road, while others interview poorly, but would do great work for you in the actual role. Leverage external psychological assessments to provide a deeper, more accurate picture of the bright and dark sides of candidates, to make sure they will be a good fit over time.
  • Thorough, engaging onboarding process. When you bring new leaders onboard, make sure key stakeholders are present (not travelling, on vacation, meeting with customers, etc.), so that the first 1-2 weeks is filled with meaningful conversations and the beginnings of strong relationships. Encourage new leaders to take the time to fully investigate, influence, and build interrelationships before they try to have real impact in their new role. Tailor your ongoing onboarding process to fit each new hire, making sure there is plenty of dialogue about what each person needs to help him or her feel a part of the organization. Encourage the building of friendships, perhaps with a buddy-mentor who is a peer.
  • Periodic check-ins. At regular intervals, the new hire’s manager and human resources business partner should check in to see how their first year experience is going. Do this at least once a quarter, with particular emphasis on the third quarter of their tenure, since this is just before the time when the most new hires seriously consider leaving.

Please weigh in at http://roselleleadership.com/stay-informed/roselle-leadership-blog with suggestions for keeping talent once you find them. We would love to hear from you!

Rule-Bound Leadership

Thursday, July 16th, 2015

A few weeks ago, I flew on Delta from Minneapolis to Tampa on business. Over the next two days, I learned a lesson in leadership from the circumstances I encountered with the flight and gate crews.

Originally scheduled to depart at 9 a.m. on a Monday, heavy rainstorms in the Twin Cities and several states between me and Florida delayed the flight several times, until it finally departed more than three hours late. This scuttled my scheduled meeting that afternoon, but it was unavoidable. Thankfully, the gate crew kept us informed as the delay lengthened and the flight crew was apologetic as we boarded.

On my return trip the following evening, there were storm systems still lingering in the area and surrounding States, and, again, my flight was delayed. The gate crew was helpful and understanding as we waited for a plane to arrive which could take us to the Twin Cities. About three hours later, our plane arrived, and it was then that I began to notice the rule at all major airlines).

First, the plane had to be cleaned and the baggage taken off for the arriving passengers. The baggage removal was delayed due to lightning in the area, which apparently is not allowed under THE RULES. After the arriving passengers and their bags were cleared, the gate crew boarded us, the departing passengers. We were greeted in a very friendly manner by the flight crew, who seemed really glad to have us aboard (more on this later).

Then, we sat on the plane. After a while, the pilot came on the intercom and announced that handling our bags was delayed, because there was lightning in the area, which was against THE RULES. I used a method I had learned in junior high school to count how many seconds separated the visual lightning from the accompanying thunder, and figured that the lightning was about three miles away.

Finally, our baggage was loaded, but then the plane needed fuel. The pilot got on the intercom again to inform us that the fueling process would be delayed because THE RULES did not allow fuel to be pumped while there was lightning in the area. We waited some more. Then, the pilot got back on the intercom and warned us that we might not be able to depart after all. You see, the flight crew that was so friendly to us when we came aboard could only work 15 hours in a row, according to THE RULES, and it would take one hour more than that to get to the Twin Cities, after the re-fueling process.

So, they de-boarded the entire plane. There was mass confusion as not on the flight crew or at the gate gave clear instructions as to what our next move should be. I got on the phone with Delta to board another flight as soon as possible, but my original flight had not been cancelled officially. THE RULES did not allow me to find another flight until mine formally cancelled. So I waited.

With me in the aptly named “waiting area” were about 100 others, many of whom had infants, toddlers, and small children in tow. It was now about 10 p.m., and we should have been landing in the Twin Cities. While we waited, our flight crew sat on the plane for another two hours, and then left to go to their hotel rooms, where they probably got a bit to eat and a good night’s rest.

Finally, after midnight in Tampa, a replacement crew arrived from Atlanta. They were not nearly as friendly as our first crew when we boarded, however. I guessed that they had had no intention to spend the night in Minneapolis, and were not happy about being shuttled off on another three hour flight, because THE RULES required them to.

So, we passengers trudged sleepily back onto the plane with an unhappy and unfriendly flight crew, with a pilot who was perturbed about the delay and the actions of the first flight crew, and a gate agent who made it very clear that she blamed the first flight crew, as well, for our pain. In my tired mind, I imagined that there would be some sort of free food and spirits for us after this long series of delays (and because there were no open restaurants or even vending machines at the Tampa airport). But, no, apparently THE RULES prohibited flight crews from offering a small token of food or drink. We arrived in the Twin Cities around 3 a.m., and I was home in bed by 4 a.m., which gave me exactly 7 hours between my head hitting the pillow and me speaking to a group on a leadership topic for 2 hours.

What can we learn from this kind of experience that you can apply to your leadership?

1. Bend the rules when the safety or comfort of others is at risk. As far as I know, THE RULES cited throughout my attempt to get home are Union rules. The FAA rules require only that crew members do not exceed 100 hours in any 672 consecutive hour time period. I would have been willing to risk a spilled drink or dropped peanut bag due to a sleepy flight attendant, in order to avoid waiting another three hours. I’m sure the parents with small children on the flight would have been even more willing to bend the rules.

2. Remember who the customer is. Union rules are not the customer. If there are no paying customers, there are no flight crews or baggage handlers, and there is no Union. The baggage handlers and fueling crews could have used the same equation I learned as a teen to determine how far away the dangerous lightning actually was, and then taken leadership to get the bags and fuel onboard so the flight could take off. I am in favor of protecting workers from lightning strikes, but logic tells me that there is a zero probability of harm when the strikes are more than a mile away. In addition, the flight crew could have sided with the pilot and gate agent and decided to put in 16 hours of duty that day.

3. Encourage people to practice leadership at all levels. Most organizations have rules of conduct, lines of authority, values, and decision-making practices to govern it. However, within those systems and structures, people at all levels can demonstrate leadership. I’m so inspired, for example, that police officers and fire fighters – who also have unions – are often willing to go beyond the Union rules to serve and protect. I’m also impressed by educators who go beyond the rules to meet with parents after school, or give students special attention during their lunch or prep time. These and so many other unionized employees often go beyond the rules to meet the needs they see.

The Trusting Leader

Wednesday, April 15th, 2015

Are you a trusting leader?  In what do you trust—yourself, your team, your peers, or something else to help you succeed?  Trust is the cornerstone of building and maintaining powerful working relationships, which is the key to effectiveness as a leader.  However, many leaders struggle with trust.

As a psychologist, I can tell you that there are many reasons why people grow up to be distrusting.  They may have suffered major disappointments as a result of the action or inaction of others, were forced to adjust to severely negative circumstances over which they had no control, or were deliberately taken advantage of and hurt in ways that had lasting impact.

While this is true from the stories I have heard as an executive coach, not everyone becomes distrustful after experiencing these kinds of life events.  In fact, some people develop persistence and depth of character through such circumstances, and, in spite of the pain they have experienced, continue to trust. How can you become a trusting leader, or a more trusting leader?  Let’s start with a definition of TRUST.

Trust is the firm belief that you can rely on yourself, others, and/or God to deliver on a promise. 

From this definition, we can determine there are three basic pillars that form the foundation of trust.  In this Leadersynth article, we will look at each of these three.

Trust in yourself.  In most cultures, children are taught, encouraged, or pushed into trusting themselves to move from diapers to continence, from crawling to walking, from having others dress them to dressing themselves, and from being fed to feeding themselves.  Trusting in YOU started early in life.  As you built confidence and self-assurance, you began to take on greater responsibility.  You learned that you could trust in yourself to do many things.  When you grew into adolescence and young adulthood, you may have begun to develop trust in your ability to assert leadership over others and direct their efforts, whether on an athletic field, in a dramatic production, or on a work task.

Goethe wrote, “Just trust yourself, then you will know how to live.”  However, trusting in only yourself and not trusting in others can become a leadership fatal flaw.  Tennessee Williams once wrote, “We have to distrust each other.  It is our only defense against betrayal.”  However, in my experience, leaders who distrust others as a way of protecting themselves actually create low trust and poor results.

Trust in others.  I have coached executives who struggled with delegating to others, micro-managed the tasks and, ultimately, stepped in to do it “the right way.”  Leaders often hesitate to trust others when the project is highly visible, when the cost of a failure is worrisome, or when the situation forces them to delegate to the person they perceive is the weakest member of the team.  I have also worked with leaders who recognized early on in their careers the importance of trusting and leveraging the efforts of others in order to multiply the results and build competence on the team.

It is impossible to lead others effectively, without establishing some degree of trust in them to carry out their responsibilities.  Trust in others includes trusting in the leadership of the organization, itself, which is comprised of “others”.  For successful leaders, trusting others usually includes establishing a network of leaders inside and outside the organization, as well as some type of advisory board.

Horsager, in The Trust Edge, describes trust in others as the “confident belief in someone…to do what is right, to deliver on what is promised, (and) to be the same every time, whatever the circumstance.”  When you trust enough in others to delegate with some follow up, there are at least three positive outcomes: you build their confidence as they see and respond to your trust; they grow in their competence as you hand off stretch assignments; and your trust grows when they successfully complete tasks, with some degree of guidance from you.  Trust in others, it turns out, is infectious.

Trust in God.  The money we make and spend in the U.S. clearly states, “In God we Trust.”  Trusting in God means that, instead of placing trust solely in your own abilities or the competence of others, you recognize that there is a greater power at work in your work.   In his bestselling book, God is my CEO, author Julian emphasizes trust in God and quotes from Proverbs that you should, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge Him and He shall make your paths straight.”  This is the essence of trust in God—the firm belief in the existence of a power greater than you, your team, or your organization that can guide you in your decisions.

Recognizing that your success is not just the result of your own efforts and those of your team is the key here.  In my business, now in its 21st year, I actively participate in a monthly small group forum of other business owners (my advisory board, and part of my trust in others).  In the challenges, failures, and successes about which we share and seek perspective every month, we often acknowledge the hand of God in the increase of business, the resolution of challenges, and the strength and encouragement we feel through the circumstances.

Bottom line.  From my experience in organizations, the most effective leaders are trusting leaders.  They trust in themselves to bring out the best in their team, trust in their team to follow through competently and responsibly, and trust in a God who is invested in their success.  Trusting in yourself builds selfassurance, trusting in others multiplies results, and trusting in God increases your resilience and perspective.   Establishing and growing trust is a key leadership success factor.  

Please write to us to share your perspective on the role of trust in leadership.  

The Attitude of a Leader

Wednesday, January 28th, 2015

What role does attitude play in the effectiveness of a leader? Is it a key component, or an unimportant attribute? What kind of attitude makes leaders most effective, or at least makes it more likely that potential followers will accept them as leader?

In a recent Harvard Business Review article, authors Galinsky and Kilduff conclude after a series of experiments that, “the attitude with which you enter a new group…can help boost your chances of leading it.” In addition to increasing the likelihood of leading, based on first impression, the authors conclude that the attitude you bring to an initial interaction with a person or group can have a significant impact over time on your status as a leader with that group.

So, what does a “leader attitude” look like, and how can you project it? Well, there are some “confidence/competence clues” that others notice. These include things like: speaking up in a strong voice, stepping in and taking the initiative to get a task rolling, asking questions that help get to the root of the problem, expressing a clear point of view, or taking accountability to follow through.

Some people display these kinds of behaviors most of the time, and, consequently, find themselves in formal and informal leadership roles inside and outside of work. Others view these people as leaders and, consequently, respond to their leadership behaviors by following them.

But, what if you are one of those who tend to hesitate a bit, hold back to see if others step in, and feel uncomfortable when you first take on leadership within a group? Galinsy and Kilduff experimented with what they called “priming” with a mental process designed to trigger a tendency to take leadership, rather than avoid it. In their experiments, they asked individuals to think about a time when they had achieved positive outcomes and rewards, like exercising power over others, or taking action on their promotional aspirations, or about a time when they were very happy. Their study and other related studies have shown that “priming” individuals in this way (success, power, happiness) actually reduces their stress hormone, cortisol, and increases their feelings of optimism and confidence.

What happens when leaders feel more confident and optimistic? They tend to display the leader attitude we identified previously—speaking up, stepping in, asking questions, working collaboratively, and taking accountability.

So, is the answer to just make yourself feel more confident and optimistic? Well, theoretically that’s true, but how do you generate authentic confidence and optimism? Is it really as simple as thinking happy and powerful thoughts to prime your mind? What about situations where you need to interact with people who already know you, with whom you have worked for a number of months or years? How can you overcome the history of your previous interactions with them, in which you have not confidently or optimistically taken charge, or influenced the group?

Our experience at Roselle Leadership Strategies suggests that the key is to recognize how your own underlying irrational fears and faulty beliefs get in the way of you stepping up to lead. Perhaps, on a deep level, you feel a bit like a fraud when you exercise leadership at a certain level, or with particular people in your organization. Maybe, you have recently been promoted to a new position over people with whom you used to be a peer, or you have a new manager who seems to believe that you must prove yourself all over again. Or, perhaps you carry some baggage from the past when you tried unsuccessfully to lead a project group or department.

In our coaching work with executives at various organizations, we have found that it is often difficult to lead fearlessly, whether it is with a new group or one you have been leading. By “fearlessly”, we mean in a genuinely confident, optimistic way. Taken from our 2006 book, Fearless Leadership, our version of “priming”, as these HBR authors termed it, is to recognize when you begin to react in a situation, rather than respond. The difference between the two is that “reacting” is caused by underlying irrational fears and faulty beliefs that result in you feeling and acting confused, defensive, resistant, discouraged, or perfectionistic. These behaviors represent the opposite of confident and optimistic, and they tend to push away those who might otherwise become followers. Contrast this with “responding”, in which you approach situations in a calm, rational manner, guided by your healthy beliefs about leadership.

In addition to catching yourself reacting versus responding, a fearless leader attitude will be bolstered if you are familiar with your early warning physical symptoms and can prepare yourself mentally for those circumstances where your buttons are more likely to be pushed. For example, if you know that you tend to flush, feel tense, or develop a dry mouth in stressful situations, and that meetings with your peers and boss are circumstances when this happens most often, you can mentally prepare yourself to recognize your fearful reaction on the front end.

If it is too late in a particular situation, and you have already lost your confident, optimistic attitude, you can also “talk yourself off the ledge” by asking yourself a couple of conscious, rational questions about what is happening right then. Asking yourself a question like, “what’s causing me to react fearfully in this situation?” and following it with “how big a deal is this, even if it goes badly?” can shift your focus and prime you to be more confident and optimistic. Why would this help? Because, your reactions are based on a combination of unconscious, irrational fears and faulty beliefs, and these two questions are the opposite—conscious and rational. They have the effect of shifting your thoughts from the fearful part of your brain to the rational, objective part. Once you name the irrational reason for the fearful reaction, you can usually shift to a fearless response.

So, what role does attitude play in the effectiveness of your leadership? It sets the stage for how fearlessly (confidently, optimistically) you interact with others, and it non-verbally convinces them to either follow you or distrust you. In short, it’s a big deal!  

Choosing The Right Coach

Sunday, October 12th, 2014

Increasingly in the organizations we serve at Roselle Leadership, Human Resources and operational leaders are recognizing the value of executive coaching for their key leaders and high potential future leaders. The decision to provide a coach involves cost, and organizations are usually looking for value in the coaching engagement.

So, how do you determine who to choose as the right coach? In the past six months, I have identified a couple of helpful perspectives regarding what to look for in an executive coach. Moreover, I recently asked several of my key clients to describe what they look for in a coach. This Leadersynth article summarizes the core elements of these various perspectives.

One of my LinkedIn connections from Houston, John Reed, recently published a book entitled, Pinpointing Excellence. In it, he recommends that all executive coaches be evaluated on four fundamentals to determine if they would be effective. These include appropriate depth in: business understanding, psychological perspective, coaching experience, and ethical behavior. Business understanding includes aspects like management principles, leadership best practices, talent management/succession experience, and industry-specific expertise.

According to Reed, psychological perspective includes understanding psychological issues, like narcissism, perfectionism, or personality disorders, as well as having the capability to assess personality, leadership styles, strengths and other variables in order to affect behavioral change. Coaching experience helps coaches develop and apply their coaching model, and connect it to other generally accepted approaches. Ethical behavior comes primarily from the depth of the coach’s character, and can be bolstered by certification (for example, as a licensed psychologist), or membership in a coaching organization with a published code of ethics.

I agree with Reed that the best executive coaches probably possess a combination of these four factors in their makeup. These fundamentals alone, however, do not account for the “it” factor to which organizations often respond when choosing a coach. The coach needs to be perceived as someone with whom you can work effectively, who understands your culture, and who feels like a good fit for the needs of the executive who is being considered for coaching.

In the past year, I have also sat on the doctoral dissertation committee of Julwel Kenney, a published author and radio show host in New Jersey. For her study, she interviewed 10 executive coaches, both self-taught and certificate-trained, and she conducted in-depth research to pull together the top 10 core competencies on which these various perspectives seemed to agree. The core competencies across authors and executive coaches included these:

  • Orientation toward taking action
  • Clear, articulate, honest communication
  • Authentic, genuine interaction
  • Respectful attitude
  • Ethical behavior
  • Positive, up-beat energy
  • Orientation toward exploring deeply
  • Capacity to thoughtfully reflect
  • Focus on creating, maintaining dialogue
  • Collaborative mindset

As I noted to Ms. Kenney in my dissertation feedback, these core competencies are not actually different from other related disciplines, like professional counselors, social workers, marriage and family counselors, etc. None of these competencies reflects the point of view from Reed, above, that executive coaches must also have business/organizational understanding and depth of psychological expertise to know when to refer to outside resources. To provide further perspective on the question, I polled several of my key clients. These are the top 10 characteristics they look for in a coach (and the ones that matter most to me!):

  • Courage to give constructive feedback
  • Discernment to see the potential in people, their untapped capability
  • Perspective to draw upon from coaching other organizational leaders
  • Successful experience related to the specific coaching need at hand
  • Solid grounding in a valid, appropriate coaching model/point of view
  • Common sense, so they can make the coaching sessions practical, applicable to work
  • Relationship focus, to build rapport with participants, their managers, and HR
  • Partnership focus for the long-term, with a stable, trusted coaching business
  • Availability/capacity to work with participants when needed
  • Price point that falls within the organization’s budget parameters

The bottom line. Each organization is somewhat unique in how they view the value of coaching, why they choose specific coaching participants, what they hope to accomplish, and when their budgets make an engagement possible. Some organizations like to have a group of coaches from which to choose for particular coaching needs, others prefer a long-standing relationship with one coach who has come to know their organization’s culture and leaders.

My perspective, as a licensed psychologist with more than 25 years of experience in the coaching field, is that depth of psychological expertise to identify issues not amenable to coaching, breadth of corporate and other organizational experience, track record of successful coaching with similar needs, fit with the organization’s culture/brand, and a style that is both direct and empathetic, are the key parameters of the right coach for most organizations. Let us know your thoughts regarding the characteristics you look for in a coach.

How Leaders Leaders Succeed – They Renew

Wednesday, June 25th, 2014

In this Leadersynth series, we have explained that leaders learn, empower, achieve, direct, and en-spire others.  In this final edition of our seven-part series, we focus on the need to “renew”.   As a reminder, we believe that, to be a successful LEADER, it is critical that you: 

  • Learn 
  • Empower 
  • Achieve 
  • Direct 
  • En-spire 
  • Renew

Renew.  To renew is to look continuously for ways to improve, change, tweak, or innovate.  Depending on their core personalities and abilities, leaders renew in a variety of ways; the similarity is that they continue to look for paths toward improvement.  They encourage this “looking with new eyes” in others by setting the expectation that the future of their team, department, or organization depends on generating new ideas and testing them.  By far, the majority of innovations that organizations leverage to renew themselves are new applications or improvements of products or services they already provide to the marketplace.

Leaders who champion renewal often ask the “why” question—why are we doing things this way, why are we not attacking this from a different angle?  They often approach renewal within the context of the strategic business focus of the organization, which makes the innovative efforts purposeful and critical to their future success.  They celebrate creative thinking, whether it results in a failed attempt or a successful product or service.  When an initiative fails, renewing leaders look for why it failed and what was learned for the next attempt. They do not punish those involved in failed initiatives.  Instead, they approach renewal with determination, carried out in a humble, open, curious, and genuine manner. Innovating leaders encourage the “wild-eyed” inventor types on the team, but also provide the structure within which renewal can occur.  They engage in a process that involves some or all of the following: 

  • Re-engagement 
  • Re-examination 
  • Re-integration 
  • Re-invention

Let’s look at each of these for greater insight about what it means to be a renewing leader.

Re-engagement.  In the previous article in this Leadersynth series, we discussed the importance of being a leader who en-spires.  But what do you do when you take a position with a team or department that is tired and discouraged from previous leaders or failed projects?  It takes a leader who can re-engage the group.  One way to do this, borrowed from a psychological discipline called Appreciative Inquiry, is to sit down with the team and use these questions to facilitate a more energized, engaged dialogue:

1. Think of a time when you were part of a highly energized, productive team.  Briefly describe the situation and when it occurred in your life. 2. Now, think about what made this particular team stand out—what was it about the dynamics, the objectives, the leadership, and the other members that made it work? 3. Finally, think about our own team/department.  You have three wishes for how you think this team could be improved.  What are they?

Re-examination.  To affect change and renew, you often need to look with new eyes at the things that surround you.  Notice what the team/department is doing and how they are doing the tasks.  Think about where your existing systems create bottlenecks, where processes produce redundancy or waste, or where organizational obstacles result in frustration and discouragement.  Notice what your customers/clients are asking for or dealing with that your products or services could address, but do not currently.  Pretend you are an anthropologist who has just been dropped into the middle of a foreign culture—what stands out about the people, the dynamics, the interactions?  What needs to be changed, what could be changed?

Re-integration.  Most of the renewal that occurs in organizations, the majority of the innovation, comes as the result of a re-integration.  This involves the weaving together of what you already do with what you believe could be done.  It builds on your continuous improvement efforts—your legacy and continuity—but also includes change points that create more dramatic shifts in your processes and products.  For example, in many ways, Apple’s iPad was a smaller, faster version of the laptop, and my Samsung Note is a smaller, faster version of an iPad.  Each of these steps involves a re-integration of the previous output.

Re-invention.    Contrast the shift from iPad to Note, with the original laptop innovation, which took the desktop design of three separate components (PC, monitor, and keyboard), and squeezed them into one flat book that could open and close.  This was a dramatic change, a re-invention in the computer industry.  In some cases, the motivation is to meet customer needs that have shifted and created an altered context for your products or services, and in other cases, the motivation is to open customers’ eyes to a need that they were not even aware they had.  The first smart phones are examples of this, as are the first PC’s that shifted work from the industry standard mainframe computers to your desk top.

What about you?  Take stock of yourself in terms of your capacity to renew, either through your own ideas, or others on your team.  In what ways are you effective at encouraging renewal in your team members?  What could you do to foster and nurture more of this capacity in yourself and your team?

Keep in mind that, according to a recent Harvard Business Review article (Building a Game Changing Talent Strategy, JAN-FEB 2014), talented individuals are drawn to organizations that continually renew their systems, processes, and strategic initiatives in order to delight customers and stay ahead of competitors.  What are you doing to renew and attract new talent?

We hope this sixth in a seven-part series has been helpful.  Please give us your feedback, and share with us an example from your own leadership experience.  We look forward to hearing from you!

How Leaders Succeed – They En-spire!

Monday, April 14th, 2014

In this Leadersynth series, “How Leaders Succeed”, we have explained that leaders learn, empower, achieve, and direct. In this sixth edition, we focus on the importance of motivating the work of others through inspiration and enthusiasm, that is, how to “en-spire”. As a reminder, we believe that, to be a successful LEADER, it is critical that you:

  • Learn
  • Empower
  • Achieve
  • Direct
  • En-spire
  • Renew

En-spire. Research and our own hands-on assessment and coaching experience at Roselle Leadership over the past 20 years has shown us that there are repeating patterns in what motivates and engages employees. These include:

  • Doing meaningful work
  • Having a say in decisions
  • Building new skills, knowledge, perspective
  • Developing lasting friendships
  • Making clear progress toward goals
  • Being paid competitively
  • Experiencing balance between work and personal life

In addition to these seven, the 8th one is so important, in fact, that poor relationship with manager is the number one reason employees cite in exit interviews for why they are leaving your company.

So, how can you create enthused and inspired followers who do not want to leave you as a manager? A growing body of evidence, as cited in an August 2013 Harvard Business Review article, suggests that the most effective way to engage others as a leader is to express warmth.

Warmth. According to the authors, this attribute undergirds influence, facilitates trust, and aids in understanding communication. Warmth is typically a set of nonverbal indicators that a leader is happy to be with team members and interested in their concerns and ideas. Though most leaders work hard to demonstrate their strength in the role, conveying warmth actually contributes significantly more to others’ positive perceptions and their trust for the leader than does strength/competence.

Warmth is particularly helpful in engaging others. Among the ways you can convey warmth are to be genuinely interested in team members, to speak in a caring voice, and to make sure your eye contact, facial expression, and body language align with a genuinely caring attitude. Furthermore, ask open- ended questions, listen deeply, and find common ground. Validate their feelings, if appropriate.

Warmth alone, however, does not assure that a leader will engage others and generate enthusiasm. In the Great Leaders™ mid-manager workshop series developed by Roselle Leadership, we discuss five other ways that leaders like you can inspire their direct reports. They include: context, analysis, interdependence, direction, and innovation. We discussed “direction” at length in the last Leadersynth article in this series, and we will address “innovation” in our next and final installment of “How Leaders Succeed”.

Here is a brief description of these other three components of inspirational leadership:

Context. This involves recognizing the broader picture outside your department, business unit, or organization. It features peripheral vision to focus on the less obvious factors that might affect your organization, as well as the prescience to anticipate future implications. If your team sees you as someone who is always looking on the horizon to identify potential dangers and opportunities, they will work with a great deal more inspiration.

Analysis. Somewhat hand-in-glove with “context,” analysis encompasses the capacity to make sense of the information you glean from looking outside at the bigger picture. Central to analysis is the ability to make sense of the trends, technology, and talk outside your organization, and then apply it in commonsense ways to benefit your team, department, or organization. It involves, to a degree, the ability to look at data with new eyes and pull helpful themes from it. This gives your team confidence about its ability to solve problems.

Interdependence. Inspirational leaders know how to get things done through a network of relationships across the organization, or a “coalition of the willing.” This might mean creating an inner circle of mentors, subject matter experts, and others who help solve problems and remove barriers to success. The key to this aspect of inspirational leadership is recognizing the significance of strong, interdependent relationships and emphasizing the importance of collaboration.

What about you? Take stock of yourself in terms of your capacity to inspire others and create enthusiasm through your personal warmth, your ability to recognize and analyze important contextual information, and your network of others. In what ways are you effective at inspiring and generating enthusiasm in your team members? Think about what you could do to become even more engaging with the people who report to you. We hope this sixth in a seven-part series has been helpful. Please give us your feedback, and share with us an example from your own leadership experience that you think illustrates this successful leader component of en-spiring others. We look forward to hearing from you!

How Leaders Succeed – They Direct!

Wednesday, January 29th, 2014

In this ”How Leaders Succeed” Leadersynth series, we first introduced the topic, and then explained in our last three editions that leaders learn, empower, and achieve. In this fifth edition, we focus on the importance of directing the work of others. As a reminder, we believe that, to be a successful LEADER, it is critical that you engage consistently in each of the following behaviors:

  • Learn
  • Empower
  • Achieve
  • Direct
  • En-spire
  • Renew

Direct. In a recent Harvard Business Review (December 2013), Daniel Goleman (author of the seminal book, Emotional Intelligence, and several subsequent books on the topic), makes the case that a primary task of leadership is to direct the attention of others. To do that most effectively, he reasons, leaders must be able to focus and direct their own attention.

Our experience with leaders at many levels in a wide variety of organizations concurs with Goleman’s assessment. We have seen that a primary characteristic of successful leaders is their capacity to clearly and engagingly direct the work efforts of others. Successful leaders are able to focus their own efforts on the desired end result, and they are capable of helping others focus on this. We know from experience and research that teams function most effectively when their leaders:

  • encourage open communication and feedback,
  • provide clear roles and lines of authority,
  • foster respectful relationships, and
  • ensure that all members participate and feel ownership.

A key function, then, of a team leader is to establish clear goals and lines of decision-making and accountability. Leaders inspire and direct the work of others by grounding them in the team/organization mission, displaying the organization’s values in their behavior and encouraging it in others, and casting a motivating vision and strategy to propel the team forward.

Clear Vision, Strategy. Directing others to get the work done is, in large measure, the result of casting a vision that energizes and enrolls, and then developing a strategy to achieve that vision. Not that leaders must necessarily do this on their own. Quite the contrary in most situations, listening to the ideas of the rest of the team and leveraging their thoughts to create the vision and strategy is a very effective way to build buy-in with the team.

In a conversation last week with a senior leader whom I am coaching, she asked for my help in building an agenda for a team retreat. I suggested providing development assessments for each team member, using the results to offer individual feedback before the retreat, and then sharing strength/weakness themes for the team when we meet together as a group. For her part, she saw her role as developing the vision for 2014 and delivering it in a motivating fashion in front of the group. However, she indicated that this was not a strong suit of hers, and she expressed doubts about her ability to do a good job at it.

It surprised her when I said, “Well, you don’t need to be the one creating the vision on your own, and it’s not up to you entirely to motivate and energize the team for 2014.” I suggested that, instead, she meet with each team member to gather their ideas about the vision/strategy for 2014, and then include these in the final form that she presents at the retreat. That way, it would be a joint vision statement. Further, I suggested that she assign each team member to a specific role on the retreat agenda, so that each member would share ownership for the retreat success.

Inspirational Direction. Sometimes, directing the work of others does mean standing up in front and providing the structure and encouragement to get the job done. Other times, it means leveraging members of the team to foster buy-in and deliver results. The inspirational leader taps into the needs of most team members to be part of a bigger cause, one worthy of increased efforts on their part. Creating the big picture—either on your own, or with the ideas of others—inspiring hope and motivation in team members, and persuading them to follow you in pursuit of the vision and strategy, are critical elements of directing work efforts.

Fostering the desire to follow your lead is the foundation of directing the work of others and achieving results through them. One VP Sales I coached a number of years ago had learned how to lead in the military, and he had just received critical feedback from his team. They did not view him as an inspiring leader and had rejected his attempts to pull them together as a team through me. As he looked over the feedback, he concluded that he needed to leave the organization. I asked him why he thought that, and suggested that we could probably turn things around. He said, “No, I learned in the military years ago that if your troops are not following you, you are not actually leading. I have been unable to inspire and provide leadership direction to these folks, so I just need to leave.”

Think about how you could do more to inspire and direct those people who report to you. We hope this fifth in a seven-part series has been helpful to you. Please give us your feedback, and share with us if you have an example from your own leadership experience that you think illustrates this successful leader component of providing direction. We look forward to hearing from you!

How Leaders Succeed – They Achieve!

Monday, November 18th, 2013

In our current Leadersynth series, we first introduced the topic of “How Leaders Succeed”, and then explained in our last two editions that leaders learn and empower others. In this fourth edition, we focus on the importance of achieving the results you promise as a leader. As a reminder, we believe that, to be a successful LEADER, it is critical that you engage consistently in each of the following behaviors:

  • Learn
  • Empower
  • Achieve
  • Direct
  • En-Spire
  • Renew

Achieve. It may seem a bit elementary to include “achieve” in this series about how leaders succeed, but it is critically important to actually accomplish what you set out to do as a leader. In fact, not achieving results as promised is the second most frequent reason why 50 percent of leaders new to their positions fail. This includes leaders promoted into a new position, as well as those hired from outside the organization. Achieving results is a big deal!

In my work helping organizations like yours hire and develop their key talent, it is clear to me that achieving results is a primary motivator for the vast majority of leaders. They become energized when they are able to get results through others, and they become demotivated when people or processes get in the way of achieving their objectives. In fact, I believe this drive to achieve is one factor that helps organizations identify new, high potential leaders. Those who demonstrate a strong drive to get tasks done on time and within budget are often the ones considered most highly for promotion.

In the eyes of those on the team, “Leaders make things possible. Exceptional leaders make them inevitable.” (Lance Morrow) When leaders build a track record of consistently getting the job done, it energizes their teams and builds confidence and respect on the part of their peers and superiors in the organization. Everyone wants to be part of a winning team, and these teams are typically led by someone who knows how to get the results accomplished.

Not results at any cost, however. In an earlier Leadersynth series on “Why Leaders Fail” (available on our webpage), we noted how the number one reason leaders do not succeed in a new role is their lack  of success in building and maintaining good relationships. Exceptional leaders, then, get results with the buy-in and support of their team members. They build, nurture, and leverage relationships, and then achieve results through others. They delegate effectively and follow up to make sure assignments are completed on time, as promised (see “How Leaders Succeed—They Empower!” on our webpage).

Get the result. The bottom line in delivering the results is that you accomplish what you promised, within the budget and timeline, and without losing team members or customers over how you did it.  For example, several years ago, I was called in to work with the general superintendent on a major sports stadium construction project. The HR VP who contacted me indicated that this individual was a  bully who threatened internal employees and external construction vendors with his aggressive language and physical demeanor. He had bailed out of a previous attempt at coaching, but he was such a high value individual that they were willing to give another coach a swing at it.

When Dan and I first met, I talked with him for about half an hour before I said to him, “this is where smart (you) meets educated (me), and we work together to shift your approach.” He was very reluctant at first, because his previous coach had told him to “just relax and don’t feel so responsible.” However, he WAS responsible, not only for getting this professional sports facility done on time and within budget to the customer’s satisfaction, but also for making sure that there were no deaths or serious injuries due to safety issues on this $400 million build. From the first time I stepped into his temporary Quonset hut office and saw four years of huge calendars capturing major deadlines for the build, it was very clear how important it was to achieve this project on time. With a little help from me, Dan managed to complete it a month early and with no deaths or serious injuries. As he would say, he“got ‘er done!”

A more recent coaching participant of mine, Katherine, illustrates how failing to get results casts a shadow on everything you try to accomplish as a leader. She had been hired by my client, an architectural design firm, as a bright, driven leader who was a possible successor to the current president. She immediately jumped into the deep end of the organizational pool, finding major leadership holes and taking on a large number of assignments that cut across this multi-state firm. In addition, she was responsible for building new business in one geographic region, as well as championing better business development practices in the other regions. Weighed down by all these leadership tasks that she willingly took on, and running into major obstacles in trying to drive other leaders toward the changes she identified, she was simply not achieving enough results in ANY of her areas of responsibility.

The other senior leaders began to complain to each other about Katherine, and the president began to lose confidence in her ability to succeed in the organization. At this point, I was brought in to help her chart a course and an approach that might lead to short term new business results, as well as long term impact on the organization’s processes and systems. She sharpened her focus to work on the most pressing problems first, and she began to make headway in convincing others to adopt new work task processes and systems. She brought in outside consultants to help structure new business proposals. Slowly, but noticeably, the firm began to adapt to the new approaches. Just a few days ago, she sent me an email that said, “The Oak Grove hospital project has been funded, which means $750K in new business by the end of the year. The business development model is finally working!”

Instill the results drive. Successful leaders like Dan and Katherine exhibit a strong drive toward results. They display a sense of urgency about accomplishing their goals and objectives, and they instill in others the importance of getting the job done on time and within budget. They are role models who aim toward the highest levels of performance with passion and purpose and involve others to deliver results.

We hope this fourth in a seven-part series has been helpful to you. Please give us your feedback, and share with us if you have an example from your own leadership experience that you think illustrates this successful leader component of achieving. We look forward to hearing from you!

How Leaders Succeed – They Empower!

Thursday, August 15th, 2013
In our current Leadersynth series, we first introduced the topic of “How Leaders Succeed”, and then explained in our second edition that leaders are learners. In this third edition, we focus on the importance of empowering others in your leadership approach. As a reminder, we believe that, to be a successful LEADER, it is critical that you engage in each of the behaviors, below:
  • Learn
  • Empower
  • Achieve
  • Direct
  • En-spire
  • Renew
Empower. To empower others, according to Webster’s unabridged dictionary, is to give official authority to, or to provide the necessary faculties or abilities, to another. That is, to empower is to authorize and enable another to do a task, take on a responsibility, initiate an action, or move forward. Of the six essential leadership behaviors we will discuss in this series on how leaders succeed, this is one of the three that are most focused on developing your ream and others around you (the other two are Direct and En-spire, coming up in future editions). The great General George S. Patton said, “Never tell people how to do things. Tell them what to do, and they will surprise you with their ingenuity.” Bill Gates, philanthropist and co-founder of Microsoft, said, “As we look head on into the next century, leaders will be those who empower others.” From the field of war to the valley of silicon, then, empowerment has become a key leadership skill. When you Empower others, it requires a degree of mental preparation:
  • Recognize that your capacity to get things done is limited when you do everything on your own
  • Acknowledge to yourself that others on your team have untapped potential and could take on more responsibility than you currently give them
  • Admit to yourself that your focus should be less on day to day tasks and more on strategic, future orientated thoughts and plans
  • Determine that the best way to develop your team–and spend your time on highest priority tasks–is to become highly effective at turning things over, authorizing, and assisting others
First, get out of your own way. If you are like most leaders we have worked with as coaches, you probable engage in behaviors that unwittingly undermine your capacity to empower and develop others. People often refer to the this cluster of behaviors as “micromanaging”, because they include actions like: demanding to stay informed down to the smallest detail of every team member’s tasks, checking incessantly on tasks others were given to handle, stepping in to take back projects that were handed off to direct reports, and working longer hours to make sure that no detail is overlooked. There are some obvious problems with this picture of a micromanager, but also a number of subtler issues that undermine a leader’s effectiveness. For example, micromanagers tend to foster dependence on the part of their direct reports. As a consequence, high performing and confident direct reports often find their way out of a team or the organization, and the least confident and competent team members usually stay. From our experience as executive coaches, micromanagers are more likely to be passed over for a promotion or terminated as part of a larger downsizing effort. The reason? They tend to have little time to focus on tasks and initiatives that are their boss’s and/or the organization’s highest priorities, because they never get out of the weeds. Micromanagers also tend to become angry, frustrated, critical, or emotional when things do not go exactly the way they desire. If you recognize yourself in this picture, take steps to find a coach and work toward a more effective leader approach. Your team will thank you for doing it; your boss will respect you for asking for help. Then, learn how to delegate. The act of delegation is one that involves giving others the authority and responsibility to handle tasks or projects in your stead. Delegating in NOT the action of dumping stuff on a direct report at the last minute, because you did not plan adequately for all the tasks on your plate. when you use delegation to empower others, you should have three fundamental questions in mind:
  • What does each of my direct reports need to work on next that would help them achieve a greater level of confidence and competence, and perhaps position them for promotion?
  • Which tasks assigned to me would be appropriate to assign to others on the team, so that I can create space on my calendar for my highest priority tasks and projects?
  • What level of support will I need to provide to those to whom I delegate, including adequate lead time, instruction, feedback, and follow through?
The key to becoming a strong delegator is to consider these three questions every day, as each new project and task comes through your door or into your inbox. In order to maximize the use of your time on any given day, you must quickly decide to handle the tasks yourself, push back on the timeframe and renegotiate a later deadline, or delegate them to someone else on your tea,. These are the only three options you have when it comes to handling work. Are you an empowering leader? Here are some questions you can ask yourself to determine the extent to which you leverage empowerment in your leadership, currently:
  • Do I trust other enough to empower them to do work for which I am ultimately responsible?
  • Do I make my expectations clear fro the delegated tasks and ensure that others understand?
  • Can I let go of the desire for tasks being done perfectly (the way I would do them) for good enough (the way others might do them)?
  • Can I still recognize my own value after I empower others to complete tasks assigned to me?
  • Do I use delegated tasks and projects to develop the confidence and competence of my team?
We hope this third in a seven-part series has been helpful to you. Please give us your feedback and share with us if you have an example from your own leadership experience that you think illustrates this successful leader component of empowering. We look forward to hearing from you!

How Leaders Succeed – They Learn!

Thursday, May 30th, 2013

In our most recent Leadersynth article, we introduced the topic of “How Leaders Succeed.” While it is true that successful leaders from multiple arenas engage in hundreds of obvious and subtle behaviors every day to be highly effective in their roles, our experience and examination of related research suggest that to be a successful LEADER, it is critical that you:

  • Learn
  • Empower
  • Achieve
  • Direct
  • En-spire
  • Renew

Learn. To be a learner is to be curious and open to new information. It involves the critical skills of insightful questioning and deep listening, as well as the goal of understanding fully what others are saying. Encouraging others to share good and bad news is an important part of learning, as is conversing and reading broadly to understand the context of potential decisions and actions. Learning leaders provide a role model for continuously soliciting feedback, applying new learning, and improving themselves and the decisions they make.

Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. once said in speaking about Robert F. Kennedy, “He did not know all the answers. But, more than any other politicians of the day, he knew the questions.” The same can be accurately said of you as a leader. It is more important to ask the right questions and listen to the responses than to give the correct answers. If you tend to function as the Answer Person in your current approach to leadership, it is important that you shift to the role of the Question Person.

Being the Question Person. Early on in the careers of most leaders, before they take on their first supervisory roles, they are rewarded primarily for being able to figure out the right answers to the problems they face. Being the Answer Person is typically the key to promotion into a lead role, and then into a formal supervisory role. While there is nothing wrong with knowing or being able to figure out the right answers, staying at this level of competence undermines your capacity to learn and grow. It also hobbles others on your team from being able to learn and grow.

Let me illustrate with the story of a CEO with whom I am currently engaged in a coaching relationship. We’ll call him Kelly. When I met him, he had already made the complicated career transition from architect, to director of the architect function, to entrepreneur, to CEO. Each step in this transition involved Kelly asking good questions, being open to learning, trying out new responsibilities, and developing different skills and perspective. His mindset epitomizes that of a learning leader, one who gets excited (and a bit scared at times) about the idea of stretching outside his comfort zone. Kelly became the Question Person early in his career, and he continues to leverage this as a learning leader.

Though the design/build architecture company he founded and runs is not a major player in a large metropolitan area, he nonetheless determined to invest time and money in the development of key leaders, including him. When we first met about the possibility of using Roselle Leadership to help grow the leaders at his company, he peppered me with insightful, calmly-delivered questions about the breadth and depth of our approach. He listed and compared my responses with another firm he had been using.

Later on, with the input of his senior leadership team, we decided to use development assessments, including our FULLVIEW multi-rater feedback instrument, for each of his six key leaders – the future of the company. Since then, he has engaged me to coach each of these key leaders, as well as to work with him to augment the perspective he gets from another external coach and certain members of his Board of Directors. With each of us, he asks great questions, listens, and integrates the feedback. When he received contradictory suggestions, he digs further and looks for common ground. Becoming a learning leader. As Kelly’s story illustrates, becoming a learning leader involves leveraging these five facets and avoiding their opposites:

  • Being curious and open to new information, not reactive and closed off to bad news, contrary opinions, and conflict
  • Asking open-ended questions (how, what) and making requests (help me understand), not continuing to be the Answer Person or presenting a strong point of view that squelches others before they share their ideas
  • Soliciting feedback on own performance, not isolating and insulating from others
  • Listening deeply in order to understand fully, rather than debating, mocking, or nodding and smiling, pretending to listen
  • Learning from the feedback to transform into an increasingly effective leader, rather than ignoring or dismissing it

Are you a learning leader? Here are some questions you can ask yourself to determine the extent to which you leverage learning in your leadership:

  • What percentage of my time in interaction with others is spent promoting my point of view and solving problems, versus asking questions and listening to others’ ideas and perspective?
  • How often do I seriously consider the input of others on a question, and then integrate their ideas into the final decision?
  • When is the last time I asked for others; feedback on my performance of my work, either formally or informally?
  • When is the last time I mocked or dismissed another person’s idea in front of a group?
  • What grade would my coworkers give me as a listener? What grade would my spouse or children give me?

We hope this second in a seven-part series has been helpful to you. Let us know your feedback, and share with us if you have an example from your own leadership experience that you think illustrates this successful leader component of learning. We look forward to hearing from you!

How Leaders Succeed – Overview

Monday, April 1st, 2013

In the last two Leadersynth articles from Roselle Leadership Strategies, we discussed Why Leaders Fail, and what your organization can do to minimize leader failure.  In this new series of postings, we will take a closer look at what factors seem to be most correlated with leader success.  That is, we will look at How Leaders Succeed.

It is true that successful leaders from multiple arenas engage in hundreds of obvious and subtle behaviors every day to be highly effective in their roles.  However, our experience and examination of related research suggest that six components are absolutely essential.  To be a successful LEADER, one must:

  • Learn
  • Empower
  • Achieve
  • Direct
  • En-spire
  • Renew

In this first of a seven-part series on how leaders succeed, we will define each of these components of successful leadership.  Of course, it is possible to be a successful leader without some of these components.  It is also possible to have all these components and still not succeed as a leader.  However, leveraging most or all of these components will improve your chances significantly.  And, the good news is that these are aspects that you can develop over time—you do not need to born with them!

Learn.  To be a learner is to be curious and open to new information.  It involves the critical skills of insightful questioning and deep listening, as well as the objective of understanding fully.  Encouraging others to share good and bad news is an important part of learning, as is conversing and reading broadly to understand the context of potential decisions and actions.  Learning leaders provide a role model for continuously soliciting feedback, applying new learning, and improving themselves and the decisions they make.

Empower.  People on your team and on your team’s teams need to know the scope of their decision-making authority.  As much as possible, successful leaders push decisions down and empower people at multiple levels to draw their own conclusions.  This includes giving people the latitude for how they approach and implement the decisions, rather than outlining each step.  Trusting others is the key to empowerment, and leaders who trust tend to cultivate trust throughout the organization.  Bringing out the best in others, seeing things they do not see about themselves, and encouraging them to take risks are also part of this component.

Achieve.  Attaining the promised results, on time and within budget, is a key attribute of successful leaders.  This means getting results through others, not on your own or with little involvement of your team.  Related aspects of achievement include: sense of urgency, strong drive for results, dependability to follow through on commitments, and celebration of successful outcomes.  Achieving means developing and executing a plan of action with the input and help of others on the team.  

Direct.  This facet of leading involves the ability to provide direction for your part of the organization.  That is, to cast a vision of where we need to be in three years, for example, and to develop a strategy for how to get there.  It means involving your team in the creation of the vision and strategy, and then mobilizing them and others to move in the desired direction.  It means being decisive and breaking deadlocks that threaten to undermine progress.  This might also include influencing key stakeholders and helping overcome organizational obstacles.

En-spire.  On the surface, this may appear to be a cheap way to correctly spell LEADER; in all honesty, that may have played a part in creating this new, hyphenated word!  However, en-spire also combines the concepts of enthusiasm and inspiration, which are the key attributes of this component.  Successful leaders have a way of generating hope, energy, and motivation in the hearts of their followers.  Sometimes, they inspire them through their lofty ideas, the certainty of their convictions, or the courage they exhibit.  Other times, they generate enthusiasm through the warmth and genuineness of their style, or their vibrant, contagious energy level.  In one way or another, they en-spire people around them.

Renew.  To renew is to look continuously for ways to improve, change, tweak, or innovate.  Depending on their core personalities and abilities, leaders renew in a variety of ways.  The similarity across this component is that they continue to look for paths toward improvement.   They encourage this “looking with new eyes” in others by setting the expectation that the future of their team, department, or organization depends on generating new ideas and testing them.  By far, the majority of innovations that organizations leverage to renew themselves are new applications or improvements of products or services they already provide to the marketplace.

These six components provide the map for where the next six Leadersynth articles will take us.  With each new component in the coming months, we will dig more deeply into them and illustrate with stories from leaders with whom we have worked in our client organizations over the years.  We hope you will find these new postings informative and motivating.

In fact, let us know if you have an example from your own leadership experience that you think illustrates one of these six successful leader components.  We look forward to hearing from you!

Why Leaders Fail – Part 2

Tuesday, January 8th, 2013

In our last Leadersynth article, we raised the question, “Why do leaders fail?”  We discovered that the reasons for leader failure fall into three broad categories of dysfunction:

  • Poor relationships with people (not handling problems, too emotional, not considering needs of others, abrasive, blaming)
  • Inadequate results (problems with planning/organization/execution, not strategic enough)
  • Inappropriate guidance (over-controlling, failing to manage/nurture talent, not building/maintaining team)

In part, this dysfunction can occur because strengths that get managers promoted can become liabilities in more senior roles, weaknesses tolerated at lower levels can create obstacles at higher levels, and events outside a leader’s control can undermine results.  While no leader is strong in all the core competencies of effective leadership, our goal as organizations should be to pick the best talent for our culture, make sure that new leaders receive feedback early on, and address problematic behavior immediately. BEST PRACTICES.  What are the best practices other organizations use that can help you dramatically reduce the extent of leader failure in your organization?

  1. In the pre-hire process, screen candidates for potential derailing characteristics
  2. In the on-boarding process, help new hires acclimate, acculturate
  3. After six months on the job, conduct multi-rater feedback
  4. Confront any behaviors that appear to be dysfunctional when they arise
  5. Provide coaching/mentoring to mitigate any problematic behaviors

Pre-hire screening.  Create a process that screens candidates for negative characteristics like poor interpersonal skills, reactive behaviors, lack of organizational skills, inadequate team/talent management.  There are several screening mechanisms you can employ to accomplish this; keep in mind that no combination of screening tools will be completely fool-proof.

First, expose candidates to multiple interviews internally.  Keep them occupied with interviews, lunch, and other interactions over the course of a day to see how well they “wear” over time.  Make them come back for several interviews on different days with the same people, so that you can look for inconsistency in their behaviors.  Assign a “homework” assignment between interview days to generate an example of their critical/strategic thinking and organizational skills.

Employ an outside selection assessment service, such as that offered by Roselle Leadership (RLSI), to ensure the advantage of standardized tests and behavioral interview questions.  Using personality inventories, tests of critical thinking and numerical/verbal reasoning, and behavioral interview questions applied to thousands of candidates over the years, firms like RLSI provide a deeper perspective and a clearer picture of how candidates will likely behave six months down the road.

On-boarding processes.  Though the best strategy for minimizing leadership failures is to pick the perfect candidate every time, this does not typically happen.  Every candidate has flaws that do not show up in the pre-hire screening; the hope is that they will be minor flaws.  Even very good candidates, however, can get off on the wrong foot and end up cross-wise with their boss, their team, or others.

One way to minimize this is to develop a six-month on-boarding process that emphasizes the importance of the new hires getting to know their team members over a number of weeks, building relationships with their boss and peers, and becoming acculturated to your organization.  Too many leaders feel the pressure to deliver major results within the first 90 days, and that tends to generate dysfunctional behaviors and undermine their success in leading others.  A strong on boarding process will help new leaders acclimate to their new roles, even if they are internal candidates that have been promoted.  Using outside coaches who know your organization’s cultural expectations can also help.

Multi-rater feedback.  After new hires have been in their roles for six months, conduct a multi-rater feedback process.  Either use a strong internal mechanism, like an employee survey,  for accomplishing this, or employ an outside resource like RLSI’s FULLVIEW Feedback Inventory™.  The purpose is to provide early feedback to new leaders, whether hired from the outside or promoted from within, on how their direct reports, peers, boss, and others view their approach so far.  Six months gives coworkers enough time to formulate an informed impression, while still being early enough to make any changes recommended by the feedback.

Dysfunctional behavior.  Using the 360-degree feedback or other informal feedback on their behavior and its impact so far, sit down with the new leader and address potentially dysfunctional behavior.  Focus in particular on their success in establishing relationships, building a team, organizing and executing the work for which they are responsible, the quality of their results, and the capacity to manage their own emotions and respond to the needs of others.  Any behaviors that appear to be dysfunctional and could lead to derailment should be identified immediately and clearly.

In providing this feedback, watch for reactions that suggest they are not taking ownership and, instead, are blaming others, trying to create a smoke-screen, or becoming defensive.  These are serious warning signs typically associated with leaders who are on the path to failure.  Consider using an outside resource to provide this feedback and confront any defensive reaction to it.  Look for a genuine commitment to change potentially derailing behaviors and attitudes, before you invest in support.

Provide Coaching/Mentoring.  If the new leader responds positively to the feedback by taking ownership and asking for help turning the corner in this new role, provide a combination of internal mentoring and external coaching.  Most of the behaviors identified in this article as dysfunctional and leading to failure (being abrasive or emotional, not considering others’ needs, failing to organize/deliver or think strategically, managing and nurturing talent in overly-controlling and ineffective ways, not building a functional team) can be significantly improved through coaching.

As in most situations in life, however, the dysfunctional leader must be committed to the process for any real change to occur.  If you, or an outside coaching resource, are working harder than the new leader is to become more effective in your culture, it is probably time to sever the relationship.

Why Leaders Fail – Part 1

Wednesday, October 17th, 2012

Why do leaders fail? This is a critical question, and the answer to it is important because, in most situations, as leaders go, so goes the organization. The good news is that empirical studies in the last several years have shed ample light on this question.

But, let’s begin with a brief look at why leaders succeed. An increasing body of research and practical experience suggests that highly effective leaders create motivated followers, and that these engaged employees make the difference between the organization that thrive, rather than just survive. At Roselle Leadership Strategies, our research and experience suggest that the most effective leaders exhibit strengths in three basic pillars of competence: building relationships, achieving results, and applying resourcefulness. These “Three-R’s” of leadership form the basis for our FULLVIEW Feedback Inventory™, and include such behaviors as driving for results, inspiring and motivating others, providing strategic perspective, coaching and developing, influencing decision makers, and collaborating across groups.

It is not necessary for leaders to possess strengths in all three of these buckets in order to be successful. In fact, most leaders do not have the perfect “trifecta” of strong relationships, results, and resourcefulness. However, it is imperative that their weaknesses are not so large that these overshadow their strengths. When dysfunctional, toxic behaviors dominate leaders’ behaviors, their strengths become almost unnoticeable.

Recent research from a consortium of executive coaches and talent management consultants shows that one in four externally hired executives and one in five internally promoted executives do not perform as expected, even after two years on the job. They concluded that in most of these underperforming executives, the most critical factors in their failure were lack of interpersonal and leadership skills. Other factors cited as contributing to these failures were: organizational structural problems, conflicting goals with more senior management, and poor fit with the new role.

These are important data, because the failure of leaders at multiple levels in organizations typically has as a component lack of interpersonal/relationship skills. Across a variety of studies using different methodologies in various organizations and cultures, unsuccessful leaders were found to display poor judgment, inability to build effective teams, difficulty building relationships, and little evidence of learning from their mistakes. They fail to address the gaps that others point out to them in feedback, do not thrive in changing situations, lack self-insight, and/or exhibit flaws in their moral character.

Other research over the last 30+ years shows an average rate of leader failure at about 50 percent, with a range across various studies from one third to two thirds. When top leaders fail, it is usually a very expensive problem to resolve. One cost is the actual financial impact. Various studies have estimated the range in cost from $500K to more than $2M, depending on the size of the organization and the level of the failed leader within it. These figures do not include the value of pre-negotiated severance packages, or missed business objectives.

Other costs, less tangible and measurable, include the stress and unhappiness that dysfunctional leaders cause in their team members and peers. Organizational climate surveys consistently show about 75 percent of working adults indicating that the most stressful aspect of their job is their immediate boss. In human resource exit interviews, the reason most frequent cited by those leaving is poor relationship with their manager. The costs in decreased productivity, negative acting-out behaviors at work, and employee turnover is considerable. Overall, the costs associated with toxic leaders may represent the greatest profitability opportunity for most organizations.

The initial studies of leader failure primarily focused on U.S. males. However, subsequent studies replicated the results in females and across various European and American samples. Three themes that consistently seem to rise to the top in their impact on leader failure are: problems with interpersonal relationships, difficulty adapting to changing dynamics, and poor business performance. Earlier in this paper, we described the three pillars represented in our 360-degree instrument, the FULLVIEW Feedback Inventory™, as reflecting the Three-R’s of relationships, results, and resourcefulness. The studies of leader failure clearly parallel the need for a degree of capability across these three.

Within the last five years, other researchers have identified nine categories of destructive leader behaviors and found no differences between males and females. The nine included issues like: persistent people problems, over-controlling with others, under-controlled in their own emotions, poor planning/organization/execution, inappropriate use of information/rumors, failure to manage/nurture talent, and failure to consider human needs. This last factor, failure to consider human needs, was found to have the most devastatingly toxic impact on staff morale. Within the last 10 years, research has identified specific behaviors that can potentially result in leader derailment. They include the following four major problem areas:

  • Building/maintaining team (micromanaging, autocratic, poor morale/motivation)
  • Non-strategic perspective (too detailed, reliant on technical skills, unable to prioritize)
  • Working relationships (insensitive, abusive, blames others, not politically astute)
  • Inappropriate behavior (over-reacting, poor integrity, easily stressed, gossip/rumor mongering)

If you reduce the types of problems identified across the various research studies into broad categories, you find that poor relationships with people (not handling problems, too emotional, not considering needs of others, abrasive, blaming), inadequate results (problems with planning/organization/execution, not strategic enough), and inappropriate guidance (over-controlling, failing to manage/nurture talent, not to building/maintaining team) are the three fundamental issues that stand out. Again, this set of recent findings parallels the Three-R’s of leadership from Roselle Leadership: relationships, results, and resourcefulness.

This first of two Leadersynth papers on the topic of Why Leaders Fail is designed to pull key finding from research and experience to identify behaviors most associated with derailment, dysfunction, and leader failure. In the next paper, we will explore what organizations like yours can do to minimize the likelihood of selecting dysfunctional leaders and mitigate the effects of the toxic leaders already employed there.