Many groups across the virtual and physical landscapes claim to support solid leadership development … many fail to live up to their promises.
I seek alignment with others who are serious about promoting effective and authentic leadership practices.
The communities which seem to best do this share some combination of these traits:
1) Strong leadership is clear at the top …
The Bell Curve concept holds true, even when you collect only the best and brightest into a group. In any group, a general distribution will occur. The majority clump into the middle and some folks fall at either end of the continuum.
This is not an indictment of those who rank lower, but just an observation. After all, even the lowest ranking graduate from medical school has still earned the title “Doctor“.
Strong leadership is clearly in place, through strong and clearly articulated visions, innovative practices, commitment to inclusion, and consistent focus on doing it better next time. Continue reading
Mashable started this event a few years ago to celebrate the positive aspects of social media in people’s lives. It’s a day to pause and reflect on a medium that did not exist in the recent past and has come to dominate much of our public and professional lives.
A few reasons why I am happy to celebrate Social Media Day: Continue reading
Today’s guest post is by Henna Inam, author of Wired For Authenticity launching this week. The subject is one of which I have personal experience and I appreciate Henna’s thoughtful and growth-oriented words:
The Leadership Upside of Getting Fired
“Can you talk about a failure you had and what you learned from it?” It was a harmless question from an attendee at a CEO roundtable event I was speaking at a few weeks ago. I shared about the time I got fired from my position as region president for a Fortune 500 company.
After I was done telling the story, the silence in the room was deafening. It was like everyone had taken a collective breath in and was holding it in. In that moment I thought: “note to self, come up with a better story because this one sure is making people uncomfortable”. I made a feeble joke thanking them for the therapy session. Later, one of the CEO’s came up to me and said that the group was quiet because they were unprepared for the level of authenticity and vulnerability in that story. Here’s the story and the lessons learned.
How I Got Fired
It’s not always good news when the HR head calls you up and invites you to lunch. I learned that the hard way. When he did that, I had no clue that I was being fired from a job that I had been in for about 12 months. The assignment was a big promotion on the heels of a huge successful turnaround in another business unit. Rather self-confident in my own abilities, I had taken a risky role in a challenging situation. The business had been declining for two years. We were behind on innovation. It had been a revolving door of predecessors who had lasted less than 24 months. Getting fired from the job in 12 months was a whole new record!
Up until then my career had been nothing short of stellar with promotions every two years, CEO recognitions, stock options. So of course, this came as a surprise. No, correction, it was a shock. I felt shame. I felt helpless. No amount of working harder and longer hours was getting me closer to success. The tools I had depended on were not working. There were many sleepless nights wondering “where did I go wrong? Did I unknowingly swallow a loser pill?”
What I Learned from Being Fired
- Being fired builds character. I must admit, it’s not great for the ego. My fairly rapid rise in the organizations that I had worked in had given me lots of self-confidence. What my self-confidence lacked was humility. I thought I was invincible and could single-handedly tackle any problem, no matter how complex or entrenched. It didn’t matter that I didn’t have experience in that business unit and the pressure was mounting on a quick turnaround. I realized I had been unprepared for the risks I had taken.
- I needed to redefine leadership. We often think of leaders as people who are strategic, make decisions, move things forward. They lead from the front, setting a vision of what needs to be done and getting others to do it. What I learned is that this is a very narrow definition of leadership. In this perhaps misguided definition of leadership I felt immense pressure to know it all, to not show any weakness or uncertainty about the answers to the complex issues we faced, and to not admit I was wrong. I didn’t ask for help. I didn’t do a good job managing expectations down because of a false sense of responsibility and bravado. I believe we need to make room for leaders to be vulnerable, to be able to say they don’t know when the answers are not clear yet or the situation is evolving too fast. I believe we need to make room for leaders to ask for help. It will better serve our organizations and the quality of decisions we make. It will better serve our leaders.
- Failing does not make you a failure. Being fired was a much needed wake-up call. I learned that failing at a job did not make me a failure. After a few weeks of intense shame, I learned that I would survive. The company had offered me a lateral move into another role. The person who replaced me was a peer on the team and I learned (with some difficulty) how to let go of what had happened in the past for the sake of my own growth and future success.
The hardest part in the coming months was not the shame. It was regaining a more balanced sense of self-confidence – one that comes from knowing your strengths, and also knowing your weaknesses, and trusting that you will find others who will help. It was replacing shame with a sense of self-compassion and resilience, which is in itself a worthy endeavor.
My purpose in writing this is to encourage all of us to talk about our failures. Doing this reminds us that we are not invincible. It grows humility. It teaches those around us that the act of failing does not make a leader a failure. I was so afraid of failure that it took me a while to even admit that I was in the midst of it. It creates a more authentic culture where people can discuss risk openly and encourage greater creativity and innovation.
Most of all it reminded me that we need all of us, those who lead from the front, those who lead from the back, those who lead from the side. In our rapidly changing times I believe it will best serve us if these roles are not fixed based on hierarchy but are flexible based on what expertise is most needed in a situation and who has it most available to offer. This requires great humility from those at the top and balanced confidence from those at lower levels.
In closing, I hope you will take the time to examine some of your failures and perhaps share these with the people you work with. It created a tremendous connection with the people in the room that day for me, and I hope that it does that for you as well. After all, it is hard to authentically influence people unless they feel truly connected to us.
ABOUT THE BOOK
Wired for Authenticity offers a practical tool-kit for leaders who seek both authenticity and adaptability in a 24/7 dynamic workplace.
Through the introduction of seven practices of authenticity, the book defines authenticity as a choice we make in each moment that inspires our fullest self-expression for the benefit of the people we lead. It proposes that we’re biologically Wired for Authenticity; it’s good for our well-being and inspires experiential learning via experimentation and application.
The seven practices help us evolve as leaders to be authentic and trusted, as well as agile and adaptive. This book comes with online tools to achieve goals, take action, learn, share, create community, and celebrate success.
How to Tackle Tough Love
Throughout my career, I’ve received all kinds of feedback about my performance, strengths and weaknesses, and leadership abilities. But sometimes the feedback stung like a bee, particularly if it came from someone I trusted.
Like me, you may have experienced this same sting of “tough love,” too. It’s that feeling you get when someone hits you with a hard truth about something you need to fix—a reality that bites because you didn’t want to face it or simply didn’t know you had an issue in the first place. But this kind of tough love is a gift.
Whether it’s a much-needed reality-check or a light on your blind spot, it can be a catalyst for advantageous, powerful change. As a leader, discipline yourself to take it seriously. Welcome this kind of tough love, understanding that not only is such feedback “The Breakfast of Champions,” but it also gives you the opportunity to change and grow. Then, be grateful to that trusted individual who cared enough and took a risk in giving you that vital truth.
Here are three simple steps to improve your odds of leveraging tough love and truth:
- Listen to the message. You likely know there’s a difference between hearing someone and truly listening to what they have to say. When someone you trust takes the time or makes the effort to tell you the truth, be fully present, drop your defenses, and focus on what that person is communicating while remaining open-minded.
- Clarify unknowns and ambiguity. If you notice yourself resisting or not fully believing the message, you likely need to understand more about it. So always ask the person giving you the tough-love feedback to tell you more and/or explain why they are sharing this information with you. For instance, if someone you trust says you’re not meeting expectations as a sales manager, you may believe that person is just talking about “numbers.” However, in asking questions, digging deeper to uncover what’s at the root of the feedback, you may find it’s more about how you’re managing time, client relations, or communication with others on the sales team—all of which are specific, useful bits of information against which you take the right corrective actions.
- Demonstrate gratitude. When learning a cold, hard truth, it can be tempting to want to “shoot the messenger”—but don’t! Instead, make the conscientious choice to push beyond any pain and perceive truth as an opportunity to transform your leadership for the better. Whenever someone gives you a good dose of tough love, thank that person. What’s more, after you’ve taken that feedback to heart and made some vital changes, let that trusted person know that their feedback was not in vain but valued. This will reinforce your efforts to remain accountable to personal growth and give that advisor a sense of satisfaction in knowing they genuinely helped.
When has “tough love” strengthened your leadership?
Originally published April 20, 2015
John Manning is the president of Management Action Programs, Inc. (MAP), and author of The Disciplined Leader – now available on Amazon. Learn more about his work at www.disciplinedleader.com, or connect with him on Twitter @JohnMManning.
Over at the Lead Change Group blog today, I finally admit what many have long suspected: “I Don’t Know Nothin’ About This …”
The topic of the moment for that jolly band of leadership thinkers has to do with “Unexplored Territory”, which we all know something about.
Whether you have wandered the planet, sought exciting and exotic adventures, dared to risk all, or just hung out in your home town, we have all lived … the scenery and the details are unique to each person, but everyday life is a mystery until we actually experience each day, each hour, and each minute as it comes to us.
To live out our lives each day means we all encounter and traverse unexplored territory as long as we inhabit our earthly bodies.
As a wise character once said “To live … to live would be an awfully big adventure!” (Peter Banning/Peter Pan in Hook)
If you have a few minutes, pop over HERE and give my thoughts a look. I thoroughly enjoy comments, criticisms, corrections, and rants about what I write:).
... and if you care about thoughtful exploration of topics and issues around leadership, personal development, and change, you might consider engaging with the Lead Change Group. You will not regret doing so.
Having an awfully good adventure in the Heartland ….