I was recently speaking about our book, The 8 Dimensions of Leadership, to a group of Human Resource Professionals in California. My talk, “Becoming a Multidimensional Leader,” focused on three major themes:
2) Good leaders understand that being an effective leader requires integrating knowledge with a real understanding of emotional, psychological, and interpersonal “default settings” and “blind spots.”
3) Leaders who are rated highly-effective by their subordinates are “multidimensional.” They have learned to be highly flexible in responding to the wide array of demands required by their organization. They can move outside their comfort zone and overcome the psychological barriers that keep some leaders from acting.
In essence, effective leaders are people who have attained a certain level of self-awareness and put that understanding to work as they contribute to helping an organization respond to challenges. Continue reading “Leadership for All?” »
In their article “Are You A Collaborative Leader?” (Harvard Business Review, July 2011) Herminia Ibarra and Morten Hansen define Collaborative Leadership as the “capacity to engage people and groups outside one’s formal control and inspire them to work toward common goals – despite difference in convictions, cultural values and operating norms.” These authors differentiate a “Consensus-based” leadership style where all parties in a small group have equal authority, from the Collaborative style where the people leading the collaborative effort have clear authority to make final decisions. Their point is that Collaborative Leaders retain a strong role in directing teams. They maintain organizational agility by forming and disbanding teams as opportunities come and go. Collaborative leaders also pay close attention to the composition of the team and don’t hesitate to keep the team fresh by adding or changing players.
New York Times writer Adam Bryant interviewed Emerson’s Chief Marketing Officer Kathy Button Bell for the July 3rd “Corner Office” column:
Bryant: “When you think back over your leadership and management style, how would you say it’s evolved?”
Bell: “I am much more patient — a hundred times more than I was. I also prioritize much better, which comes out of patience. I think patience, by far, teaches you what to do.”
“Patience” is not a characteristic that comes to mind when we imagine a hard-charging business executive, but in fact our research for The 8 Dimensions of Leadership revealed that most effective leaders have learned the importance creating a stable, predictable environment inside their organizations. Continue reading “Patience is a Leadership Virtue” »
In The 8 Dimensions of Leadership, we spend a fair amount of time debunking the myth that great leadership is all about the “northern hemisphere” dimensions on our model—that is, the Commanding, Pioneering, and Energizing Dimensions. People often associate leadership with power, volume, and speed, but if you’ve been reading here long enough, you know that we think leadership is more multidimensional than that! However, this is not to say that the northernmost dimensions aren’t important—they are.
The Commanding Dimension offers its own leadership fundamentals that you simply can’t do without. After all, how can you lead change if you aren’t able to show confidence, take charge, and get results? Sure—other leadership practices like acknowledging contributions are needed as well, but the bottom line is that people need someone to step up. For many leaders, this can be surprisingly uncomfortable. Continue reading “Personal Authority Matters” »
Analytical and reserved, Deliberate leaders provide a sense of stability for the group by communicating clearly and ensuring that decisions are made carefully. In my career and personal life, I’ve been lucky enough to work alongside some great Deliberate minds. These leaders rarely provide a lot of gushing praise, but they bring a great deal of value to their teams and organizations. Here are three things that I’ve learned from Deliberate leaders: Continue reading “What I’ve Learned from Deliberate Leaders” »
In Good to Great, Jim Collins writes, “It is very important to grasp that Level 5 leadership is not just about humility and modesty. It is equally about ferocious resolve, an almost stoic determination to do whatever needs to be done to make the company great.” In the leadership model outlined in The 8 Dimensions of Leadership, the Resolute Dimension is about creating high standards for the group and insisting on methods that maximize efficiency. This dimension is my personal “default setting” as a leader, so I tend to set the bar high for myself and others, speak openly about my concerns, and work hard to increase efficiency wherever possible.
Of all of the qualities that Resolute leaders like me bring to the table, I’m most intrigued with setting high expectations. What does it mean to set high expectations, and why is it important? Is it possible to overdo it? In our book, my coauthors and I describe six psychological driving characteristics of leaders with my Resolute style. Three of these drivers, in particular, have a great influence on Resolute leaders’ tendencies to hold themselves and others to high standards:
- A drive toward personal mastery
- A tenacious drive to overcome obstacles
- A disdain for weakness
These three drivers are the very reasons that I’ve been able to accomplish things like completing my master’s thesis, running marathons, and writing books. And while these drivers may sound a little harsh, the high expectations that I set for myself are also fueled by a desire for pleasure, what psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi calls “finding flow.” He writes in Psychology Today, “The metaphor of flow is one that many people have used to describe the sense of effortless action they feel in moments that stand out as the best in their lives. Athletes refer to it as ‘being in the zone,’ religious mystics as being in ‘ecstasy,’ artists and musicians as ‘aesthetic rapture.’”
I love finding flow in my work, and as a leader, I certainly want others to experience such peak experiences. One of the essential elements of flow is having a challenge in place. Csikszentmihalyi writes, “Flow also happens when a person’s skills are fully involved in overcoming a challenge that is just about manageable, so it acts as a magnet for learning new skills and increasing challenges. If challenges are too low, one gets back to flow by increasing them. If challenges are too great, one can return to the flow state by learning new skills.”
As a leader, I see one of my roles as setting expectations in the perfect zone—not too high, but certainly not too low. I want to push others to challenge themselves, to reach success, and maybe even to find flow along the way. But, it’s a balancing act, because as Csikszentmihalyi points out, if the challenge is too high, the experience only proves frustrating for people. Striking the right balance is absolutely an art form. Using timelines, deadlines, quotas, benchmarks, and other types of goals, leaders need to match the expectations to the abilities of their people and the needs of the organization.
Most importantly, by setting expectations high, leaders send the message that they believe in the people they lead. As Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner write in The Leadership Challenge, “The high expectations of leaders aren’t just fluff that they hold in their minds to keep a positive outlook or to psych themselves up. Another person’s belief in our abilities accomplishes much more than that. The expectations that successful leaders hold provide the framework into which people fit their own realities.”
Where do you “find flow?”
How can leaders set expectations that are high but not too high?
In Sunday’s New York Times, Robert W. Goldfarb describes a bind that many employees find themselves in these days: Corporate mission statements encourage innovation and entrepreneurial boldness, but with economic pressure, budget cuts and layoffs, “dedicated, ambitious workers tell me they are so afraid of making a mistake that they feel it is safer for their careers to avoid innovation and initiative.” Goldfarb calls this “trickle-down anxiety” and attributes the source to leaders who spend too much time managing uncertainty and not enough time making things happen.
For the last few years, leaders at all levels of organizations have been performing a high-wire act that demands balancing the realities of their markets with their responsibility to build an organization capable of effectively outperforming the competition. For many, the clouds of economic recession are disappearing, but it is difficult to shake the fatigue and lost confidence associated with prolonged focus on managing unrelenting downward trends.
Stress is part of any job, and being in a position of leadership can add a certain level of constant pressure. Negative external stressors like the economy and even positive stressors like rapid growth can significantly add to the stress level in a leader’s life. And while some level of stress is normal, too much stress can cause irritability, poor decision-making and even take a toll on your health.
Everyone has a different style of leadership, and each person reacts in a different way when faced with stress. By examining our natural reaction to stress and how it manifests itself in our leadership style, we can equip ourselves with leadership qualities that are essential in stressful situations. Continue reading “Stress and Leadership” »
It’s no secret that humans are an extremely social species. In The Psychology of Leadership, David Messick explains, “Allowing people to be a member of a group is to permit them to share vicarious pleasures of others’ successes. We all experience a satisfaction when the strangers who represent our team are victorious over the strangers who are their team….But the underlying psychology remains the same. People want to belong, and good leaders provide inclusion” (p. 86). Isn’t it a thrill when your department meets a stretch goal, your favorite sports team makes the playoffs, or a political candidate who you back wins an election? Feeling involved, even if only from afar, simply feels good.
My team just returned from hosting a successful conference. We unveiled a new look for Everything DiSC, attendees got to have a sneak peak at our upcoming new product, Everything DiSC Work of Leaders, and we officially launched The 8 Dimensions of Leadership. Add in lots of fun networking, great breakout sessions, and a fun speaker, and you’ve got a successful event.
It’s probably no surprise that one of the key ingredients for hosting a successful event is strong leadership. But this was not a one-person leadership job. It was team leadership. Huh? When you think of leadership, do you think of a pyramid-style organization? You thought leadership was a one-person gig? I think not.