With the impending launch of my new book, “Leadership IS for Everyone”, I sat down to reflect why I wrote it. I have survived and then thrived in corporate workplaces for more than two decades. I have read many business books, and worked with many great and not so great (oh, who am I kidding, they were downright bad!) leaders.
A lot of the bad ones bought into the “flavor of the month.” If it wasn’t “MBWA” – management by walking around, it was talking about “collaborative work.” If it wasn’t hand waving and a lot of “rah rah”, it was “empowerment.” I went through it all.
And the great ones seemed to have something the pretenders didn’t. I scoured the bookverse to figure out their secrets. I found out a lot about celebrity leaders and their accomplishments. Great! What I never found out was how all or any of that applied to most folks. Was it just that leadership is reserved for a few and the rest of us are doomed to follow? But reality was different. I have had the pleasure of working with what I’d call “everyday leaders” all the time. Some of them were CEOs, but not all. Many of them didn’t have a title that would make you think they were leaders. Why didn’t they wait for celebrity? What made them different? Over the past 2 years, I focused on what made them different. I realized that I had been modeling (a fancy term for copying!) a set of behaviors they exhibited. I found that these were sustainable and could skewer through the various flavors of the month! And much to my amazement, I found that these behaviors, this system could indeed be codified. And that’s what I did in “Leadership IS for Everyone – 20 Leadership Secrets for Exceptional Outcomes and Fulfillment at Work.”
Why should leadership be the exclusive haven for those who hold titles? It is available for all of us! And that’s the central theme of my book. In it, I guide you through specific techniques to take you from wherever you are to where you need to be and want to be.
My driving passion now is to share my system with as many people as I can. I firmly believe that I can ignite the potential for exceptional performance and get people to define and achieve their own versions of success. That’s why I wrote this book. I hope you join in and launch yourself into stratospheric levels of success.
I have been on both sides of the sales equation recently. As a seller, selling my wares as well as a consumer buying what other people have to sell. Both sides have had hits and misses. But one thing stands out. The conversations and deals that were fruitful all had a common theme. It was this. Whenever the seller stopped trying to “convince” or “persuade” and focused totally on a genuine empathetic drive to serve the buyer (meet the buyer’s desires), the whole environment shifted. It became a comfortable and unrestrained exchange of information. This actually increased the ability of the seller to meet the buyer’s desires. Which is what every seller wants anyway. This seemingly contrarian approach is what works best in personal leadership as well. The more we struggle to “lead” by enforcing and abusing, the more remote our chances are of succeeding. Personal leadership starts from within with a set of sustainable behaviors and is delivered to others in the form of unrelenting service.
Elsewhere in this blog, I wrote – “Expect to Serve” where I outline 3 discrete strategies to focus on service as a leadership technique. If you intend to lead others, you will need to learn how to serve first.
Ever over draw your relationship coin? Or had someone withdraw too much from the relationship capital they have with you? Huh? “Coin”, “Capital” – are these words even relevant here? You bet – if we are talking business relationships. We all hear the exhortations on every social network and by every self styled “career management guru” to “network.” And so you curate your LinkedIn profile, get active on all the other social media platforms and the braver among you even go to physical networking events. But what are you actually doing? Sharing and retweeting other people’s intellectual property? Or sometimes even trumpeting your own opinions, pictures, etc? Sadly, this passes for networking, especially when you are (a) looking to sell something or (b) are kind of in a “status quo” mode at your career.
But when you actually need something – an introduction, a referral, a job interview – you amp it up suddenly and start withdrawing from the relationship bank! Except – retweets and shares and all of that don’t amount to much coin, unfortunately. The other folly I see people committing (and I have been a culprit as well!) is to keep going back to the same folks who have helped you and appear to be well connected. Just because they are well connected doesn’t mean that you can keep withdrawing!
So, what’s a leader to do? It’s simple really. What do you do if you have insufficient funds in your bank? Replenish it with more money right? You have to do exactly the same thing with your relationship capital. Even (especially) during your time of need, find ways to enrich your contacts with whatever value you bring. The real return on relationships within your network is the “interest” or “dividend” that will accrue automatically if you focus on putting more coin IN rather than withdrawing more coin OUT.
Hi, this is Vinay Nadig and welcome to the Living Leadership Daily Podcast. In this episode, I discuss two spectacular levers that effective leaders use to manage their careers. I hope it gives you valuable tools to manage yours!
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Julie was nonplussed. She told her friend and confidante, Sam “I feel like I provide all the structure and guidance needed by my team. They are well compensated, they know their roles and I clear obstacles in their path.” Sam responded “that’s good isn’t it? But something still seems to be bothering you – what is it?” Julie said “well it’s just this feeling I have – like my team members follow the rules, but they seem to not be totally into working with me as their leader.” Sam said “what does that mean “not into working” with you? Have you noticed them under performing or not taking direction form you?”
“No, it’s nothing like that. It’s more of – they seem hesitant to help me when I need help without being asked. They also don’t seem to know my ebbs and flows” replied Julie. “Well”, said Sam, “beyond the structure and guidance you provide, how do you interact with your team?” “What do you mean” said Julie. “I give them all the time and energy required for them to do their jobs.” Sam said “well, they are fueled by other motivators than just the job specifications, you know.” “To be led by the nose is one thing, to follow is quite another. I think you have been selfish!” Julie was upset to hear that, since she just couldn’t understand how Sam could say that about her. “Sam, what do you mean, selfish?” I mean I am there for my team aren’t I?” Sam said “Julie, when I said selfish, I meant how much have you opened up to your team about your wishes, your own personal aspirations and your goals?” “If it is always about how you are cast iron solid and provide direction and structure to your team, then what you will get is a group who will be led, but may have trouble following because they don’t really understand what drives you.” “They need to see your vulnerabilities, your weaknesses exposed – so that they can then begin to fill in those gaps. That’s when you will feel like everything’s “flowing” in a unified, consistent manner.” Julie reflected on this and had to agree with Sam’s assessment. She never really wanted to open up to her team, feeling that any show of personal vulnerability would undermine her authority. She had been taught that leaders don’t show any weaknesses.
In my experience, effective leaders at work don’t much care about always appearing impregnable. They’d rather give more of themselves in an honest and transparent way to work together with their team, than satisfy some archaic more of leadership they have been taught. Sam is not telling Julie to walk around wringing her hands and shaking her head in despair. That would only discourage her team. What he is talking about is for Julie to ask for help sometimes. To let a team member drive an idea through at times. To not cover up a gap in her understanding by relying on rules and structure, but rather let her team know that she “doesn’t know.” And then watch the team come together and bring more of themselves into the mix – i.e. to truly follow rather than be led.
Are you being selfish at work?
Websters’ defines it as “the beat, time, or measure of rhythmical motion or activity.” Have you ever noticed that great leaders have a cadence about how they lead? We are all assaulted with “leadership styles”, “personality profiles” etc. etc. It seems that we are to be boxed into a specific type of “avatar” and that’s how we are supposed to lead and be led! Reality is different, of course. Human beings continue to motivate and be motivated by different drivers based on where they are/what they are doing/whom they are doing it with. While there may be certain basic behavioral attributes that remain constant, it is a folly to think that most people are “broken” and will never change. I don’t subscribe to that notion and if you want to be a great leader, you cannot afford to either.
Teams are made up of different people with different strengths and weaknesses. Organizational objectves and pressures follow their ebb and flow. Great leaders are able to harmonize their own beat to this natural “push & pull” of workplace rhythm. Here are some leadership cadence behaviors:
Every interaction is customized. Whether it is with their own team members, customers or vendors, great leaders engage and interact based on specific situations and people. They buy into the concept of fairness and equality. However, in their minds that doesn’t translate to a “cookie cutter” approach. They use the tools in their repertoire to address each interaction with a goal of the best outcome possible.
Different avatars for different situations. Leaders are able to smoothly and swiftly change gears from visionary to tactical implementer, from directive to persuasive, from expert to enabler, from foreground to background as the situation demands it. They are not pedantic and don’t really care what their DiSC or Myers-Briggs type is! (Nothing against assessments, these or others – they are valuable in their place, but sometimes there tends to be too much focus on these types of instruments).
Crescendo & Decrescendo. Leaders are able to orchestrate the subtle shifts required at appropriate times. For example, great leaders generally show up and get really intense during the “last mile.” Any project or initiative is most vulnerable at the beginning and near completion. And if leaders don’t focus on these, they are not serving their teams at all.
Have you checked your leadership cadence lately?
During a lunch conversation with a business associate who is an up and coming executive in a large global corporation, we launched into a stimulating discussion of where leaders fail. He is particularly close to this topic as he himself is taking the helm of a business unit and has to collaborate with senior leaders. We talked about some destructive leadership behaviors that seem to crop up all the time. Leadership behaviors that, instead of getting teams to pull together towards a common goal seem to fall short. Here are the top three gaps we identified: