A recent article in the Harvard Business Review discussed a long time phenomenon the author calls “violent politeness”. This is when we enter the workforce young and eager to make our mark we often leave our voice behind. Why? Because speaking up and potentially sharing our critical opinion comes with a cost. We think the cost is being labeled as being “not a team player” or “negative” or “he never has anything good to say”. Because of this we think silence is the answer, but at what cost?
The reality is when we don’t speak our mind we are building up in ourselves a learned behavior of not sharing what could potentially be the best asset we bring to any environment, our opinion.
I have been luck enough in my career to work for some people who not only encouraged honesty, but demanded it. Because of that a great deal of the learned behavior I have built my career around is not being afraid to share my opinion. Some times it costs me short-term status, but often times it increased my long-term value when I am shown as being the lone voice of reason in hindsight.
The article got me to think a little about my current work environment. The current environment does not lend itself to honestly sharing opinion or comment or ideas. For one thing these are not asked for by others. No one comes to you and says, “I just wanted to get a different set of eyes on this, what do you think?” They are all too busy building empires, which the worst enemy of empire building is the insight and opinion of others.
Because of that in recent years I have slowly been retrained to not bring honesty to the table, because honesty is negatively rewarded. However, I have not allowed this to change the way I lead others or how I interact with others where I know the relationships can withstand honesty. I still approach these with the focus of sharing honest opinion and insight.
So it makes me wonder what it would be like if we all made an agreement to come to the table with honesty in tow in our work environment. What if we where able to accept it was okay to share honestly without fear, and not only accept it, but expect it? What would work look like if that was the base expectation?
The article that spurred this thought (“Why Work Is Lonely” by Gianpiero Petriglieri) can be found by clicking here.
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If I asked you if you live an authentic life, could you say yes? If I followed that up by asking you what that meant could you answer? If I asked you if you lead with character, in any capacity that you find yourself a leader, could you say yes. If I then asked you what that means to you what would your response be? Would you stumble and make something up, or would you actually have an answer for that?
I have written before that everyone leads, in some capacity. You are leading those that work for you. You are leading your family, wife, kids relatives. You are at various times leading your friends. When you are looked upon by those people what do they see in your actions?
A good question came up at a recent conference that I was attending when a speaker (Corey Ciocchetti) asked a group of IT leaders if they could honestly say they never lie. So when you think about leading with authenticity what does that mean to you as an individual? It makes you wonder to what degree authenticity plays in leadership.
As kids we can see through to someone authenticity without even thinking about it. The observations of kids about adults are in many cases the most accurate. However, somewhere along the way we loose that and from that we loose the idea that we need to build our leadership style on thinks like authenticity, character, morals, integrity, and the core components of our try personality.
No matter what tool you might use to slice up and examine your personality the basic components don’t change. But when you took your personality and built a leadership style around it did you keep your true self in tact or did you part it out for the sake of being the kind of leader you thought you should be? Leadership that is not built on a foundation of authenticity will eventually lead to failure. So as you think about what your leadership style is and what you want it to be make sure you include the components that make up who you really are.
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So a quote from one of my most favorite movies (“The American President” starring Michael Douglas, Annette Bening, Martin Sheen, and Michael J. Fox) goes like this:
- Lewis Rothschild: People want leadership, Mr. President, and in the absence of genuine leadership, they’ll listen to anyone who steps up to the microphone. They want leadership. They’re so thirsty for it they’ll crawl through the desert toward a mirage, and when they discover there’s no water, they’ll drink the sand.
- President Andrew Shepherd: People don’t drink the sand ’cause they’re thirsty. They drink the sand ’cause they don’t know the difference.
Is this true? Is leadership in this country, in your community, in your work, in your home so lacking that those around you are prepared to follow anyone that steps up, regardless of what they are “selling”?
I think it is time that as individuals we stop drinking the sand and say to those that are stepping up to be “leaders” that we are no longer willing to follow you. We are no longer willing to go your direction just because we are not currently going any other direction of our own. There is an Afghan proverb that says “If you think you’re leading and no one is following you, then you’re only taking a walk.” Well guess what just because you are following someone who is out for a walk doesn’t make them a leader.
Leadership is about purpose, direction, compassion, vision, connection and most importantly character. If you are following someone who doesn’t show these characteristics in EVERY aspect of their life then you need to stop following them immediately. Stop supporting their political campaign. Stop letting them influence your decision-making.
To end with another quote from the same movie. In the end of the movie the character of the President finally has had enough of the personal attacks by someone who is campaigning against him. In the course of the movie the opponent questions the President’s character. And it is address with this statement:
- President Andrew Shepherd: For the last couple of months, Senator Rumson has suggested that being President of this country was, to a certain extent, about character, and although I have not been willing to engage in his attacks on me, I’ve been here three years and three days, and I can tell you without hesitation: Being President of this country is entirely about character.
So ask yourself are you following someone with character? If not how does the sand taste?
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So a slight departure from the normal format of talking about leadership in this space. Let’s for a moment talk about leadership in the context of the current situations playing out or having just played out in Washington D.C. Our county’s leaders have over the last month demonstrated anything by leadership. You might recall in an earlier post on defining leadership I wrote about the characteristics of what make a leader.
Some of these characteristics included being authentic, having principles, demonstrating character, integrity, and inspiring others to be and do better. I would like to point out that regardless of your political leanings you cannot possibly look at the experiences in our nation’s capital over the past few weeks as having demonstrated any of those characteristics with any regularity.
It is difficult to speak on leadership and argue that people should aspire to be better leaders when there are fewer and fewer examples of good leadership getting airtime on the television. I would strongly encourage that if you are a leader or are aspiring to become a leader that you turn your sights away from our country’s leadership (in both parties) for examples of what leadership looks like when not mired in self-interest. Look for examples of local leaders in your community, church, volunteer organizations, etc. for true examples of leadership that is self-sacrificing and at it’s heart base in true vulnerability-based trust.
In the mean time for our country’s leadership I would encourage you to get involved. Don’t spend you time complaining about it on Facebook or to your friends. Use that time to become active in your local government. Use that time to volunteer to support representation from your city, county and state that demonstrate true leadership abilities. Use that time to communicate to your current representation on what a poor job of being leaders to this country they are currently doing.
Leadership has the ability to be born out of irritation, frustration, and discontentment. Leadership is not born out of complaining, complacency, apathy, or indifference. Rather than blaming leadership, take control of leadership. As was discussed in a previous post Leadership is an action not a noun. In order for you to be a leader you mush lead, otherwise you are just another complainer with a lot of opinions.
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Still working through thoughts on leadership and motivation. As you think about motivation what comes to your mind? What does motivation look like? Does motivation look different to you in your role as a parent, a student, an employee, a leader, a coach, a son/daughter, a brother/sister? Does motivation mean different things to you when discussing personal motivation versus motivation of someone you lead or mentor? Does it mean different things to you when you compare your work life to your home life?
Simply put motivation is defined as:
The psychological feature that arouses an organism to action toward a desired goal; the reason for the action; that which gives purpose and direction to behavior. – Wordnet.com developed by Princeton University.
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Leadership and motivation often go hand in hand. Over the last couple of weeks this topic has been in front of me every time I turn around it seems, so much so that I decided I needed to write a couple of articles on this just to unclutter my thoughts. This post is the first in a series of discussions on leadership, motivation, and what drives people.
Some time ago I came across a book by author Anthony De Mello called Awareness. In his book Mr. De Mello recounts a story from the Chinese philosopher Tranxu:
“When the archer shoots for no particular prize, he has all his skills; when he shoots to win a brass buckle, he is already nervous; when he shoots for a gold prize, he goes blind, sees two targets, and is out of his mind. His skill has not changed, but the prize divides him. He cares! He thinks more of winning than of shooting, and the need to win drains him of power”.
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It has been a long week. Many of the aspects of my life have been challenged this week. Through all of that however came an interesting learning opportunity on leadership. In past posts and in content from other authors it has been said that if you look back and no one is following you then you aren’t leading. The question is where are we leading people to?
Most successful discussions about leadership and goal accomplishment talk about success in context of moving up. We climb the ladder, reach the summit, and hit our peak. This would seem to mean that leadership is about moving people not only forward but up. Leaders have planted a goal and now must use their skills and gifts to lead their followers to that goal with success. Read more
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What would leadership look like if it was forever connected to grace? For those unfamiliar with the real meaning of grace it is defined as:
freely given, unmerited favor (something done or granted out of goodwill, rather than from justice or for remuneration) or goodwill (friendly disposition; benevolence; kindness) ~~ Dictionary.com
The key word in this definition is “freely“. This means that as a leader you should show favor and good will without conditions. Now this is not to be confused with the idea that “respect has to be earned” and “trust is earned not freely given”. Where respect and trust may come with conditions in leadership, grace should be given without the need for justification.
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If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader. ~~ John Quincy Adams 1767-1848
Leadership is different from management in one key area. In management you are focused on overseeing the accomplishment of tasks. However, as a leader you are responsible for the development and guidance of the individual. This may seem like the same thing, but it is actually two entirely different concepts. Read more
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The second part of the presentation I gave on leadership. In the first part of the presentation I worked on defining leadership. In this conclusion of the presentation I provide recommendations on tools that can be used in your journey of discovery about yourself and those you are trying to lead. The biggest question here is if you don’t understand yourself and those you lead can you be an effective leader? Read more
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