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Monday, January 09, 2006

The Leadership Void

"What creates trust, in the end, is the leader's manifest respect for the followers" - Jim O'Toole, Leadership Change.

I read that quote this morning and after thinking about it I realized that in many of the places I have worked there has been a consistent lack of respect shown to the followers by the leaders, which ultimately results in a Leadership Void. A Leadership Void exists when the goals of the leaders aren't embraced by the followers. Respect, or lack of it plays a big part in helping to create this void.

So what do you do when you are in an environment with a Leadership Void. My advice is to start modeling the behaviors of tried and true leaders.

Some Leadership principles I have come to believe are:

Be consistent in what you say and do. Inconsistency shows a lack of focus. Being inconsistent will undermine your credibility with others.

As a leader you will need to provide focus, constancy of purpose, and clear direction to your team. The problem with many leaders isn't a lack of personality or charisma, it is a lack of focus and follow-through.

When leading remember "beware of no man more than thyself" - Thomas Fuller. Ask for feedback from others. Remember the higher the leader is in an organization the more blind spots he or she will experience.

A good leader is a master of the big picture and is knowledgeable of the details. A leader that isn't willing to get involved in the details is just plain lazy and won't have the respect of the team they are leading.

Be careful about negative assumptions. Leaders that are high achievers know their behavior tells the truth about their assumptions.

Leaders ensure that their followers know where they fit into the big picture.

Leaders who underestimate the intellect of others tend to overestimate their own.

Other things that are always displayed by a leader are the ability to:

Create and nurture a vision


Leave their ego at the door

Think before acting (not quick to criticize)

Be a risk taker

State and meet commitments

Be a role model

Be a risk taker

Have a can do attitude

Encourage success

and finally...

  1. Walk around and talk to people (this doesn't happen much where I work)
  2. Schedule monthly one-on-one interviews
  3. Conduct regular formal group surveys and do something with the data
  4. Pick areas where Quality is lacking and form teams to fix the problem

What do you think. I welcome your comments.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I think we ought to be careful with pithy aphorisms about leadership. They have a rhetorical plum value which may seduce readers. The 'list', too, is another rhetorical device with great persuasive powers. It has a beginning and end, an 'alpha & omega' feel.

For all that, I don't think great leaders really have a clue what the heck they do, just like poets. The great poets, most of them, merely see themselves as 'midwives', not knowing from where or when or how their visions are born.

As much as we cling to calculus (lists and sayings) to illuminate this or that, leadership seems to slip, shift, hide, dodge and double-back.

The true 'void', as I see, is our utter loss to elucidate it, once and for all. For all that's been said about leadership for the past couple of millenia, you'd think we'd have that descriptive project pretty much wrapped up.

That said, some of yours are nonetheless pretty good aphorisms.