Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Leadership Development: Practical Leadership

This post is part of a series on leadership development.

As I mentioned in a previous post, I am currently participating in a Leadership Development Program (LDP) as part of my work at Franklin University. This week, I attended a presentation by E.J. Thomas, the CEO of Mid Ohio Habitat for Humanity. He has had a great deal of experience, including many years of military service, as a state representative, and working for a former Ohio Governor. His presentation was an excellent mixture of practical experiences and practical advice for budding leaders. Below are my notes from the presentation - these are likely a mixture of how words and my thoughts. 

E.J. Thomas speaks of practical leadership.

Leadership Types

Thomas asserted that there are two main types of leaders: 
  1. Power Leader - These leaders are more directive in nature. They use phrases like, "I need you to do this. No questions - just get out there and do it!" They are potentially focused on themselves and have less care for the people they lead.
  2. Servant Leader - These leaders are more particiaptive and supportive in nature. "We've agreed on the challenge - tell me when you can have this done. How can I help you be successful?
"The servant leader inspires loyalty. The power leader inspires movement to another organization." 

The "Beer Wagon" Analogy

Leadership is like driving the Budweiser Beer Wagon. You have got to recognize that you can't pull the wagon on your own. You have the reins in your hand, and you need to hold them loose enough to let them do your job, but tight enough to let them know you are there and in control.

Activities of Success

In your role as a leader, there are two elements that define your success.
  1. Management - you have to count the beans. You must stay focused on whatever the objective is. The outcomes must be met.
  2. Mentorship - you must mentor the people that are with you. You must help others improve and grow and develop. It will take empathy, commitment, evaluation of strengths (maximize them) and weaknesses (manage or minimize them). 

Self-Awareness: Managing Strengths and Weaknesses

As a manager, you need to be more self-aware than anyone on your team. Each of us has strengths and weaknesses. You must recognize the strengths and the shadow weaknesses. They sit in the background - they aren't out there to see in an obvious way. If you are a servant leader, your team will help you manage around these weaknesses.  

Characteristics of the Insecure Middle Manager

The insecure middle manager who usually falls into the "Power Leader" style, often has some or all of the following characteristics:
  1. Takes credit for the work his or her people are doing.
  2. Engages in gossip  
  3. Wants folks that are "yes men" instead of thinkers 
  4. Never gives you all the pieces to help you succeed. No matter what you do, you are never going to make them happy.

The Vital Skill of Empathy

Failure is a critical component of building empathy. When you have the scabs and scars on your own knees, you are much more understanding because you remember what it felt like to fall. If you lack the ability to look through their eyes, see their pain, you will be a lousy leader. Empathy helps you think through what is important to the individual that you are leading. People from different backgrounds and frames of reference make it necessary to work with them in very different ways. Empathy helps you put yourself into the role of the individual so that you can have a positive impact on the person.

Other Tips and Ideas

Throughout the presentation, Thomas shared several excellent tips and ideas related to leadership Here are the ones that I captured"
  • Recognize that everyone in your charge has value and adds value to your organization.
  • Observe how your interactions with others is responded to by others.
  • People stay in or leave their jobs based on what is happening within 10 feet of their desk. A good leader makes people feel comfortable in their jobs at their desks day after day.
  • "If you have to smack someone with a pipe wrench, you should wrap it up with a towel." 
  • If you treat people right, they will walk over hot coals for you.
  • A shred of doubt can become the sniper's bullet that takes you out.
  • If you have been mistreated, there is a natural tendency to treat others poorly.
  • I don't care what you say, but I do care how you say it. Be respectful. No personal attacks. Focus on the issue. Work toward positive results. Use a positive tone - be calm. Be kind. Be compassionate.
  • "95% of ideas aren't worth a hill of beans. We have to get all 100% on the table so that we can find the 5%." Ohio Governor, Jim Rhodes
  • If you control what you can control, you will make an impact.

Take One for the Team

If you want people to follow you into hell and back, never thrown them under the bus. A manager filters out the crap from above. They take one for the team. If you take the heat from above, then your people will have great respect fro you. And your people will achieve increasingly dramatic results.

The Shoe Box Analogy

Whenever there is a challenge between you and another person, treat the challenge like it is something in a shoe box on a table. If you offend someone or do something stupid, you will put another shoe box on top of the shoe box. You will then spend an inordinate amount of time on the distraction shoe box so that you can finally get to the original shoe box.

How do You Deal With a Team Member that is Apathetic and Not Working

  • If it is your employee: You should approach the individual and kindly state, "I don't think you're in the game all the way. I'm losing confidence in your ability to do the job." (This will get their attention. You don't have to tell them the job is on the line). You can continue, "I'm going to have to write you up, here. But if you can fix it, then I am willing to pull it out and tear it up." Note that this will work much better if you truly are a servant leader. Be aware that the negative person that is dragging people down is in some way exercising control over what is going on. You must keep positive, contributing team members.

30 Seconds of Reflection: 

We have been doing 30 seconds of reflection at the end of each leadership session. Here is what I wrote for this one: These are great ideas - very practical and useful! I really relate to the servant leader approach - this is in alignment with my natural approach to working with others. I also appreciate the thoughts on "filtering the crap from above" to create a micro-environment that is positive and fulfilling for the people I lead and work with.  

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