Just as they peacocks show us, some are bold and some are plain. Leaders can take the same approach. Not all leaders are the bold, vibrant people that we encounter at our jobs. Some people display and live leadership by example without the vivid display. Both types of leadership are valued. Which type of leader are you and which do you aspire to be? Your choice will take you down a different path on your leadership journey.
By Lead in the Moment guest blogger, EJ Widun
As leaders, we spend a lot of our time thinking about how to bring our team to new levels of success. As servant leaders, we are always looking for ways to breakdown barriers and empower our team members for their personal fulfillment and success. My question is whether or not we truly live and practice this in our personal life or do we simply focus on the team?
As leaders, we are called to lead by example. We are also called to sharpen our own skills. If we are not sharp and constantly learning and developing, how can we expect our team members to live what we ask?
I find this to be one of the hardest things about leadership to practice. I spend a lot of time focused on my team and will delay my own development. What ends up happening is that I grow complacent. I will put off my development at the expense of the team and say that I will make that up later. The problem with this statement is that later never comes. Daily leadership challenges will aid in your development, but are you really pushing yourself. Are you pushing your limits and thinking differently?
For me the concept of pushing myself beyond my comfort zone came several years ago. I attended a team-building event on a high ropes course. The goal was to climb a three-story tower that required you to stretch yourself to reach the top. On this day, I reached my personal threshold; I was half way up the tower and didn’t think I could go further. My team below me began to cheer and push me forward. In the end, I made it to the top of the tower and I learned that limits and development are often self-fulfilling statements. Today, I will continue to push my goals and growth in several ways. I will add more miles on to my daily bike ride, when I think I cannot go any further. Other times, I will receive encouragement from others. I had this experience again recently. I was co-authoring a piece with my wife Kristin and I did not want my name on it. I have not published anything since the first Bush was president. She told me to embrace the opportunity to put myself out there. If not this time, then it would come soon. We co-authored our first piece and published it this week.
No matter where we go in our careers, always push yourself and help push others. You never know whom it may help.
It is hard to escape all of the noise that exists around us. There is the noise you actually hear, such as barking dogs and loud children (something that is heard quite often in my home.) Or the noise you do not hear – all of the outside influences, such as social media, other people, or the many things that roll around inside your brain on a daily basis.
When we talk about a noisy world, I personally believe the internal noise that we deal with is far more difficult to process than noise that is obvious. I know this seems like a confusing idea, but let me put it into perspective for you.
I am a writer, when I sit down to write a blog, story, or article, I prefer to have quiet so I can think and hopefully string together a couple of intelligent thoughts. Sometimes it works, other times, not so much! Can I work if the house is noisy? Of course I can, it just makes it a bit more difficult to concentrate, but not impossible. On the other hand, I can be sitting in a quiet room working on a story, but cannot focus due to all of the “noise” going on inside my head. The list of everything I need to work on, the kids’ schedules, does this blog really make sense, did I forget to pick up the dry-cleaning; what on earth am I going to make for dinner…. dare I even mention the crazy stuff on Twitter? See how difficult it can be to think about the actual work at hand when we cannot clear our minds to focus?
This scenario can be challenging for a leader. You are tasked with leading a group or an organization when there are so many things that can and usually happen in a day creating unnecessary diversions in our paths. Keep in mind that I am not referring to interruptions from your team members or colleagues. Speaking with a team member about an issue should never be considered “noise” in my opinion. If someone is concerned enough to seek out your assistance, calling their concerns noise will not do much to solidify your position as a leader. The type of noise I am referring to is the type that you can allow to overtake your brain, or you can squash it like a bug. Understanding that internal noise exists and getting rid of it can be a challenge. For some, it is getting up and taking a walk to step away from the noise for a moment. For me, I have personally found that jotting down notes on my writing ideas on paper helps keep me on track. For some reason, once I write something down the old-fashioned way, it puts my thoughts back in order. How do you block out all of the “noise” to effectively lead?
A corporate buyout has just occurred. One side is exceedingly happy about the opportunity to grow their organization. The other side is experiencing a stressful, confusing, and overall frightening existence, as they are unsure what will happen to their positions within the new regime?
This made me think about the strange existence of a leadership team on the executive level during a situation such as this. We all know that when a merger takes place, the highest-level executives are shown the door pretty quickly once the ink is dry on the agreement. These executives are typically paid a significant sum of money when they complete their tenure with the organization. I became curious about the way employees view their leadership during a time such as this; versus the way an executive views their remaining time with the organization. As a leader, at what point is it okay to stop caring? Is there ever a situation when you should stop caring? With all of the corporate mergers, and acquisitions, at some point, you may be downsized out of a job. This is especially true for those at the executive level. Do you still care about what is going on with your employees after you have been informed that your tenure with the organization is limited?
In the case of an organizational acquisition, the top executives usually leave with a large sum of money while the remaining employees may not fare as well. If you are a leader in this situation, how does this scenario play out for you? Are you actively engaged with those within your organization, or do you just sit back and bide your time? Do you believe that caring is not worth your time, as you cannot make a difference if you are not going to be there for the long term?
How many leaders in this position make this same mistake? An organization going through an acquisition creates a great deal of confusion and fear. Employees are just looking for leadership to provide guidance and provide some sense of normalcy. By taking an attitude of indifference, this destroys what is left of employee morale – if their leader doesn’t care, then why should they?
While many executives are waiting to pull the ripcord to their “golden parachutes” they should take a step back from the edge to consider the implications of their actions. Should leadership be conditional? Do you lead your organization until the last day you are employed, or do you stop caring when that date is written on the calendar?
On the other hand, as an executive in an acquired firm, you realize that your time is numbered and you will be monetarily rewarded for your efforts and leadership. After all, you helped make the company desirable for someone else to want to acquire it. You also realize that if your company was publicly held, your team will realize you are getting a “golden parachute”. What your team may not realize is that once the agreement is signed, you are no longer a decision maker. You will often be left out of key decisions or left in the dark when decisions are made. This places you in a difficult position. Your team will look for you to still be a leader (after all they have been following you during their career) but you have no power to influence or change things. Your position becomes even more challenging when the acquiring firm states how you will or won’t be integral into the future organizational design.
If you stop caring, you are seen as disengaged and disenfranchised, when in reality you may feel helpless to assist your team during this transition. Should you just do nothing and become invisible? Do you leave your team hanging in the balance? The best solution is no. You should make yourself more visible at this time. Bonding with all the members of your team, making friendly conversation instead of merger related talk. You can still play an integral role in easing your team’s reaction to the transition. Plus if you are experienced in mergers and acquisitions, your insights and experience may provide hope for your team and improve their position. Let’s face it; your team may lose the most core of their needs, the ability to provide for their family. Distraction will be immense even though they will try to do their best. You can still help with coaching them through this change curve.
What this highlights is whether you are a leader or a manager. The leader will seize the opportunity to help their employees, understanding their emotional distress. The manager will say it is business as usual, and they need to do their jobs and it will hopefully work out for them in the end.
Which person are you? Remember even if you don’t have the luxury of a “golden parachute,” managers can seize this opportunity to help lead people. Times of acquisition create an opportunity where people can develop and unveil their true leader inside.