17 October 2006

Leadership and goals

Setting goals is a important part of the function of a leader. Often this is described with having a vision, although in laymen terms it is called setting goals. An important point when setting goals is setting the right goals. And to be able to set the richt goals, one needs the right information for the situation. An example of setting the richt goals and having the right information is an anecdote about a basketball player who took up running, because basketball was not really his game. Before he began running, he called a trainer. The trainers advised him to start running eight miles every day for a week and then call him back. After a week he would see results, the trainer added. After a week of running eight miles every day, the runner found he was still running the eight miles in the same time as when he began running. Disappointed he called the trainer, that his time had not improved and that could not have been the goal. The trainer answered with a question: “Are you still out of breath after running eight miles as you were at the beginning of the week?” The runner had to admit, that his condition had improved over the week. And he could only conclude that he had sat himself the wrong goals. So the only difference between the trainer and the runner, was the amount of knowledge. The trainer knew that a better running condition starts with better use of your lounges, not a faster time.

So being able to set the right goals is an important leadership skill. Setting the wrong goals will lead to disappointment and disappointment will lead to resistance. But setting the right goals needs information. Information about the possibilities and abilities and about the situation in which those abilities are to be used. It asks for the ability to tune the available abilities to the situation. To recognize which abilities are needed in a situation and see which abilities are available in yourself and your organization. But it also needs the ability to see the possibilities and impossibilities of a situation and through that set the right goals. Because setting realistic objectives, is more important to create the feeling that reality is manageable, than setting high and lofty goals, that will be forever out of reach. Besides it is more fun to make real small steps, than become disappointed over giant steps you will never make.

13 October 2006

Leadership and two kinds of it

If you want to sort leadership, one could state, that there are only two kinds. The first kind is all about the leader. The second kind is all about the succes of the organization the leader works for.
In the case of the leader who stands central, the leader and his wishes will stand as norm. Something that would not be a problem if the leader had only to lead himself. Or when his wishes and standards coincide with those of his surroundings. It becomes a problem, when this leader starts to impose his wishes and standards on his surroundings, from his believe to be more knowledgeable than everybody else. Often such an all knowing leader will look for people to surround him, that will agree with him. Or else he will use any means possible to undermine and weaken the opinion of others. If the leader has enough power he will use it to get rid of those with a opposing opinion or make it impossible for them to work, so they will choose to leave.
Such an egocentric leader will believe that all successes are his doing and will explain all failures with every possible external reason available. If that means blaming his coworkers, so be it. But failure can never be his doing.

The second kind of leader has a attitude that seeks to find success for his surroundings. He knows, through observation, what his surrounding sees as success. This kind of leader will try to gather people around him, that will be strong in the aspects where his weaknesses lie. He wil also find the means and people who make it possible to be successful. And he will look for the strong sides of the people and the means that are at his disposable to create success.
The inclusive leader will acknowledge everyone who had a part in the success. He wil look at failure from its causes and try to learn from it, together with the people with whom he cooperates. This behavior does not mean that this kind of leader is afraid to take difficult decisions. Difficult decisions are part of what a leader has to do. The inclusive leader will have less need for these kinds of decisions. And they will be taken after all other options have been tried and proofed to be inadequate.

Making such a bipartition is off course extreme, because no human is black and white in personality. However it will be much less fun working for an egocentric leader than a inclusive leader. Even if the egocentric leader is completely or partly egocentric. So all one needs to do is find a leader, who finds his surroundings more important than himself.