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Article No.: 17-5, May 1, 2017

Article Title:  Leadership in Balance: Finding Your Voice and Helping Others Find Theirs

Author: Linda Gravett, Ph.D., SHRM-SCP, QECQ

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Leadership is complex today because the workplace is complex.  We navigate a workplace that is multi-cultural, multi-generational, and global.  A key challenge is leveraging the skills, knowledge and abilities of not only ourselves as leaders, but our associates as well.  How do we stand out and make a lasting impact in our organization?!

In this article, I’ll share 8 Ways of Thinking from top leaders in Fortune 100 and 500 companies; and leadership behaviors that are aligned with the 8 Ways of Thinking.  My main premise is that leaders are built from the inside out.  Leadership is not an external style we put on and take off like a pair of shoes.  Over time, our world view emerges from the way we think, and that world view shapes our behaviors as leaders.  Consider all the influences we’ve had on our world view – teachers; friends as children and friends as adults; the media; mentors; supervisors…..it’s a long list.  I like to reflect on my world view often because that affects the way I strategize and behave as a leader on a daily basis.

One of my favorite quotes is from John Dewey:  “We do not learn from experience…we learn from reflecting on experience.”  I had a colleague who had a pattern of hiring people for his company based on personal friendships or family associations.  Over the first few year after he founded his company, he had constant staff turnover.  He hired nice people from nice backgrounds who couldn’t do the jobs because they didn’t have the right skills and competencies.  As soon as someone quit (or was fired), he’d immediately reach out to a friend or family member and seek out referrals for some other “nice” person to hire.  Finally, I suggested that he hit the pause button before re-hiring so quickly and consider the job first – skills, knowledge, and abilities required – and intentionally seek out people with those specific talents.  Once he began reflecting on the skills and talents required rather than simply throwing out a very small net, his recruitment pool and choices became far better.

Being a leader involves dealing with a push-pull in several areas on a daily basis.  Should we endorse continuity of processes and systems to keep the status quo humming along smoothly, or should we be a catalyst for change that may sometimes be disruptive?  Is it better to work on most projects with others in order to collaborate and tap into many people’s talents, or should we look out for ourselves sometimes and competitively seek to stay ahead in our skills, knowledge and abilities?  Along those lines, should we be a learner most of the time and reach out to others with different competencies to help us grow, or should we aspire to be the teacher, the learned one others seek out for guidance?

I suggest that a Leader in Balance is sometimes a learner and sometimes a teacher; sometimes the guru and sometimes the one with the most to learn; and sometimes the change agent, balanced with maintaining continuity when the tried and true really is the best approach.  This balance isn’t going to be 50% - 50%:  it’s definitely situational based on the organizational strategy and what barriers are getting in the way of achieving that set of objectives.

In interviews of Fortune 100 and Fortune 500 executives for our book, Leadership in Balance, John Kucia and I uncovered some themes in the ways that these top leaders think, noted below:

  1.  Leadership is a relationship, not a position.  People will follow leaders loyally who position themselves as influencers rather than dictators. 
  2. A leader embodies the brand promise.  If the organization promotes accessibility to customers for instance, leaders should be accessible to their internal customers.
  3.  Leaders strive to achieve the company’s Mission at all times, rather than letting the market always dictate what steps are priorities. 
  4. Leaders collaborate with a purpose, rather than following the outdated concept of “management by walking around.”  You must have something related to the Mission to discuss rather than aimlessly meeting with people. 
  5. Leaders should share power and responsibility, even though they have ultimate accountability.  This unleashes employees’ creativity and potential.
  6. Teaching and leadership have a great deal in common – they both occur when leaders are strong role models. 
  7. Leaders must demonstrate a personal comfort with diversity.  It’s easy to work with people who agree with you, and much more challenging to invite and listen to different perspectives. 
  8. Leading through change takes collaboration and patience rather than controlling what people do.

Which of these ways of thinking resonate with you?
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If you have any questions or need more information about this article, please complete our Contact Form, or contact Dr. Gravett by telephone at 513-753-8870.

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