24 October 2005

Preparing to be a leader

The development of leadership is comprised of several elements, that need to be clear beforehand.
The first element is a question:
“Are you sure about leading other people?”
That question should be asked, not because leading other people is the worst job there is, but because leading is more than giving orders from within a well defined plan communicated in the right way.
Leading means taking into account, that others stop taking responsibility for their actions, simply because the leader is responsible for everything.
  • How do you make them understand, that they are responsible and need to take responsibility for what they do?
Leadership also includes taking into account the jealousy of others, who wanted to be the leader instead of you. Or the jealousy of those who think they can do a better job than you at being a leader.
  • How do you make those jealous ones let go of their jealousy?
Being a leader also means having to meet people with the expectancy that you are or should be infallible.
  • How do you make it clear, that being a leader, does not mean you stopped being a human and so you will make mistakes?
It also seems that having the leadership includes seeing the future more clearly than others, without the information and knowledge of others about what the present looks like.
  • How do you make them help you with their knowledge and information?
Leadership according to many entails: telling others what to do and how to do it.
  • How do you make them understand, that their way of working is no worse than yours or even better than yours?
  • And that you do not posses all knowledge and skills just because you are the leader?
Some think that leaders are without fear or fearless.
  • How do you make them see, that it is not about being without fear, but that it is about conquering your fears and taking decisions or action although you are afraid?
Being the leader means you have manipulated those who took the decision to make you the leader, because you had compromising information about them or bought their loyalty.
  • How do you convince them that your were chosen on basis of your merits and abilities and you were the best the decision makers could find for the job?
Leadership is according to some the willingness to lie and cheat to keep your position and protect the company.
  • How do you make it clear that a real leader does not lie to safe his position or protect his company?
There are more questions you can ask, before you decide to start taking on your role as a leader. Especially because if you do not answer them beforehand, you might find out the hard way during your leadership, that they exist.

Leadership and communication

There are lots of definitions given for leadership and everybody will have his own preference. I am not planning to summarize them here. If you are interested you can always go to a search engine to start a search.
What I think is special is that more and more people think that leadership is something you can learn and not a talent you are born with. Look for example at this site of Big Dog en Little Dog at the page about the concept of leadership.
Another example of a different way of thinking about what is important in leadership is the Dutch column by Bert Overbeek about what organizations can learn from termites on Management Site.
What is so special in the article by Bert Overbeek, is that it points out how much you can achieve with a good plan, that is clearly communicated and in which everybody works together. This article by Bert Overbeek gives me the idea, that a leader is the one who creates a well thought out plan and communicates it with those who will execute it. When this is done well, he makes sure that the cooperation runs smoothly. To be able to do this, the leader needs to understand the culture within his organization.
But his knowledge of other factors within his organization is also important, for example knowing how changes influence everybody within the organization.
But in the end all knowledge is useless, if you do not know how to communicate with others.

17 October 2005

Eight Tips to motivate, or should I say nine?

In this Dutch article on Managers Online you will find eight tips from Phil Kleingeld, CEO of Motivaris.
The most important tip is that you can not motivate other, you can only support their own motivation by creating the right conditions.
The other eight tips are:
  1. Using immaterial rewards lasts longer
  2. Let people decide how the will work
  3. Listen to ideas
  4. Keep people informed
  5. Use concrete goals and do not forget to use tip 4
  6. Give clear compliments, as soon as you see something done well
  7. Be consistent towards others and in your own behavior
  8. Plan useful meetings

Managers Online and Motivaris
The question I have after reading those nine tips is: What is the founding idea?
One answer I know from scientific research is that people like having their lives in their own hands. Even babies like toys they control more than toys controlled by others.
You can also conclude that people like to motivate themselves, by the fact that children playing games like to play by their own rules. Looking at the reaction grown-ups give to this “childish” behavior, it seems that grown-ups also would rather play by their own rules. The solution to solve this conflict is agreeing to rules beforehand and strictly adhering to those rules. If you break the rules you are accused of being a cheat.

In a way it all seems very simple. If you abide by the rules, explicitly or implicitly agreed upon, everybody is motivated to play along.

Kinds of leadership

I think there are several kinds of leadership. I do not mean the kind of leadership Blanchard and Hersey address when they speak of situational leadership. What I mean is leadership in the areas of:
- content
- emotion
- relation
- procedure.

A good leader probably needs to be reasonable to well able at all these areas. You might say, he has to be a leader in all four areas. In that sense it would be better to speak of a complete leader. I assume that four persons, every one very able in one of the four areas, could achieve the same as one leader, able at all four areas.
The art of finding leaders, under that assumption, would mean finding four persons that make each other complete in every four of the areas.
Off course, if one of the four is a complete disaster, when it comes to relations and another one is his opposite, the situation will not be salvageable.
This does not mean, that a four headed leadership is less appropriate. It just means that looking for four leaders takes as much wisdom and spirit as looking for one leader. Besides four equals are in the situation to learn from each other. The danger for one person, that is better in most areas than other persons in his surroundings, is that he or she becomes arrogant, if that is not already the case.
And we all know what happens to arrogant leaders.

14 October 2005

Leadership and fear

Ever since that dreadful day in september 2001, their has not been a day, that terror has not struck at the hearts of citizens all over the world.

More afraid
But most leaders will have been more afraid than most citizens. Because how can they make it clear to us that they have recognized our fears? How can they make their citizens see that they are doing everything to control the creators of our fears?
As I look at the situation, I see a problem. How can I diminish the fear of others through my behavior? Is it possible to influence others emotions by showing courage? I do not know. What I do know is that people seem to be less afraid, when others in their surroundings, to whom they look up, do not seem to be afraid. However this technique does not really work in the long run. Look at all the stress related illnesses. The first world war had its shell shock, the first Gulf war had is syndrome. It seems that showing courage is the way to help others suppress their fear. It does not seem to help them conquer their fear.
So maybe it is necessary for humans to experience their fear. And that the leader should only show that you do not have to be afraid of your fear.

Most afraid
So I would not be surprised if it became clear, that showing bravery, while not really being brave is the worst thing a leader can do. This behavior probably looks to most people more like bragging, than bravery. Although most people might not be able to put their finger on it, the probably feel something is wrong. And it is this subconscious information that is endangering the position of the leader.
This problem will not have a simple solution. Because the solution will differ for every person and every leader. But the first step will be to show that you are afraid but have faith in the outcome of the situation. So what is important is to show, that you know your own feelings and know how to deal with them.

Real courage seems to me, is not running for your fear. Real courage is becoming aware of your fear and having the will to give it a name. Once your are aware of your fear and ask yourself why you are afraid you can work on it. Because often we think we are afraid of the situation, but what we really are afraid of is what this situation will mean for the future of our position.
In that sense I can understand that a leader is afraid to show his fear, because that might compromise his position in a situation in which everybody is looking to him for guidance. In those situations it does not only take courage to become aware of your fear for the situation but also become aware of your fear of loosing your position.

09 October 2005

The difference according to women

a list of words describing female leaders, as mentioned by females:
  1. collaborative
  2. compassionate
  3. consensus building
  4. empathetic
  5. emotional
  6. gossipy
  7. intuitive
  8. multi-tasking
  9. relationship building
  10. strong
  11. verbal
a list of words describing male leaders, as mentioned by females:
  1. arrogant
  2. assertive
  3. bravado
  4. competitive
  5. direct
  6. dominant
  7. ego-driven
  8. focused
  9. intelligent
  10. physical
  11. powerful
  12. self-righteous
  13. single tasking
  14. Strong
  15. stubborn
Can you spot the differences?