A Key to the Mastery of Leadership

          Leadership is about inventing something uniquely new in concert with those who will be led and it cannot be done through formulae, steps or a checklist. Leaders who have mastered the skill of leading have invented, together with those being led, a new way of listening.

     In an earlier article I wrote about Leaders having first to be Followers, as it is quite obvious, I trust, that in order to follow one must first listen, intently and conscientiously.

     Now the shoe is on the other foot. It is the Leader's turn to listen.
          Allow me to take an area which I am fairly acquainted with, namely Network Marketing. But the principle presented here will work in any field where leadership is required.

          Consider complaints. Complaints from those being led are born from situations over which people feel they have no power. Such complaints or situations are early warnings of a future outcome that is 'already written'. Namely, these are outcomes that can more accurately be called predictions because the Complainer "knows what will happen". It is here that the Leader must listen along with the Follower/Complainer and not fall into some formulaic response.

Here is an example of such a sequence.

Complaint: "Not one of the prospects I attract is serious."

The Leader's question: "What is not being said - but is being communicated - about this situation?"
This is important, even imperative, to discover because whatever is being left unsaid but communicated leaves no space for a solution to be created by Leader and Follower as a team.

The Default Future being Spoken: The Complainer/Follower wallows in failure, unaware why or how this is occurring again and again and again. In countless situations such as this, the outcome is preordained by the Complaint as it is designed to kill all possibilities of creating a successful outcome.

          A fork in the road is presented, the road sign pointing to either "Fit In" or "Stand Out". Will the Complainer/Follower/Networker "fit in" with the 98% who fail and complain again and again or will the individual "stand out" by standing with the 2% who excel?

          I will reiterate what I began with: Leadership is about inventing together with those who will be led an outlook that cannot be had through formulae, steps or a checklist. Leaders who have mastered the skill of leading have invented a new way, together with those being lead, of listening, which implies a radically new and different interpretation of what is being spoken. And left unsaid.

          No one-size-fits-all solution can be pulled out of a bag of leadership tricks and be applied slapdash to a complaint/situation. Here is where the expertise of the Leader who has walked the path before must come into play. Here is where the Leader who listens intently can hear the subtext and along with the Aspirant come up with their unique solution.

Credit : Tony Lauria

Don't Lose the Momentum

          One of the techniques used in a leadership training course I attended were games governed by a myriad of odd rules, the only real purpose of which was to make the game difficult to play. One of the prime results of these rules was extreme difficulty in achieving or maintaining any momentum. Even if one team was able to gain a little momentum, the rules were structured so that the other team could break a rule causing the game to stop, only momentarily, but long enough to bring both teams back to a sort of equilibrium. That was extremely frustrating for a group of people who are motivated to win! An interesting development in playing the games was that as the teams became more familiar with the peculiar and seemingly endless rules, it became easier for them to maintain the desired forward movement.

           These games demonstrated a simple fact of life; it's easier to achieve a team's goals if that team is able to gain and maintain momentum in the right direction. Unfortunately, as leaders we often allow outside influences to derail us from our real goals and objectives. Also, unfamiliarity with the rules can make winning difficult. In the context of leadership I'm really referring to two sets of rules. First are the various laws and directives that govern our business practices. Leaders know they should be familiar with these, but they are many and varied making it difficult to truly be an expert. It's important though for leaders to have at least a rudimentary understanding, and gather around them experts who can help them navigate these often tricky waters.

           The other set of rules to which I refer can be thought of as the reason your organization exists. These are the mission, goals, objectives, and values which comprise the road map for success. These essential rules point your leaders in the direction they need to go and provide the rules for how to get there. Sticking to these rules will go a long way towards ensuring your organization's leaders don't lose the momentum and are able to push ahead, even when outside influence tries to derail their efforts, or distract them from what's really important.

      The five rules that will help leaders are:
1. Make sure your leaders know your vision. Surprisingly, some senior leaders don't think this is terribly important, but it's vital. Leaders, in fact the entire organization, need to know where the boss sees the organization going.

2. Give your leaders a concrete mission statement. This statement of the organizations basic mission provides a concrete foundation for everything the organization does. I've always instructed my leaders that when they were in doubt, ask "Does this support our mission?"

3. Make sure everyone understands the organization's values. At the same time, make sure you, and all your leaders, live up to those values. These values provide a definitive set of boundaries of what's acceptable. The famous Tylenol poisoning case is a great example of how a company's values (Johnson & Johnson) provided the basis for the correct answer in an extremely difficult time.

4. Analyze and clearly identify those things that will get in the way of accomplishing the mission. Be very honest about these things so that leaders can either address and fix them or do their best to insulate subordinates from these detractors. Most importantly, if these types of issues are identified up front, they won't be nearly as likely to interrupt your momentum.

5. The final rule is to identify clear cut goals and objectives, which are reasonable and measureable. These goals and objectives are the things your organization's leaders are striving to accomplish and they are the first casualty when the momentum is interrupted. By ensuring goals and objectives are both well understood, and just as importantly, frequently measured and evaluated, leaders are much more likely to move ahead in spite of influences that will try to sidetrack their efforts to less important things.

           These five rules are not meant to oversimplify what is often a very complex world. In spite of a leader's best efforts problems will arise that interrupt the desired momentum, and that is the final lesson of the games. When the opposing team does break your momentum, but your team really understands the rules and those rules form a solid foundation for the leadership team, it is much easier to quickly recover the momentum and continue toward success.

Credit : Bob Mason