True Leaders Understand the Power of Collaborative Leadership / Interdependence

October 29, 2012

True leaders realize ongoing progress and achievement require extensive collaboration across organizational boundaries–and that such collaboration leads to greater organizational and individual success.

Although it is easy to make unilateral decisions without considering the ultimate effect on others, as long as groups have a shared purpose and vision what some have called “collaborative leadership” is generally the best approach. True leaders who possess solid interpersonal relationship skills (empathy, patience, tenacity, an aptitude for managing difficult discussions, and the ability to build coalitions) are best equipped to thrive in a collaborative environment because they are able to set aside narrow self-interests in exchange for open discussions of how, with the support of others, they can achieve broader goals.

Rosabeth Moss Kanter of the Harvard Business School published a Harvard Business Review article in which she spoke of leaders who recognize that there are critical business relationships, “that cannot be controlled by formal systems but require a dense web of interpersonal connections.

One person defined collaborative leadership as, “the intentional and skillful management of relationships that enables others to succeed individually while accomplishing a collective outcome.”

A coercive leader might say: “Here’s where we’re going, here’s how we’re going to get there, and I could care less about how this impacts anyone else.” With coercion others have no choice, no voice, and (most likely) no commitment. With collaboration, however, everyone works together, with commitment, toward a common goal. As a collaborative / interdependent leader you accept the responsibility for developing (and ensuring the success of) a heterogeneous team that is focused on a shared purpose–and you know how to develop and sustain solid working relationships based on trust and accountability.

Dr. Stephen Covey said in The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, “Independent thinking alone is not suited to interdependent reality. Independent people who do not have the maturity to think and act interdependently may be good individual producers, but they won’t be good leaders or team players. They’re not coming from the paradigm of interdependence necessary to succeed in marriage, family, or organizational reality.

True leaders understand that their success, and the success of the organizations they lead, is dependent on their vision and ability to lead coupled with the collaborative support of others–and they know how to garner that support through openness, candor, understanding, negotiation, cooperation, and compromise.

Allen Stalvey
Director of Operations / Program Director
Dallas / Fort Worth Area
http://allenstalvey.com


True Leaders Have Strong Innovative Tendencies

May 30, 2012

True leaders provide the thought leadership necessary for, and create an open environment that fosters, genuine creativity—leading to true innovation in the policies, procedures, programs, and tools used by their organizations. As Alexander Hiam (the author of Business Innovation for Dummies) said, “Innovation is, in my book, simply a fertile union of creativity and leadership.”

Although true leaders do not suggest or implement change just for the sake of change (since doing so is simply disruptive, and creates unnecessary “churn” in an organization), they are not afraid of change. In fact, they embrace change for the benefits it brings.

True leaders have a genuine interest in helping their colleagues, teams, and organizations be as efficient and as effective as possible—thus they look for innovative ways of enhancing the organization’s productivity. You’ll often hear true leaders say, “Can’t we do this better, with less effort?”

Even then, when they innovate, they focus on doing so in a non-disruptive manner—with the understanding that changes in policies and procedures, as well as in technology, need to be well planned for, appropriately communicated, and rolled out in a fashion that leads to welcome adoption vs. disdainful resistance.

To affect positive change, true leaders cultivate a culture of creative thinking where “the rules” are challenged, and challenges are faced head-on.

Great managers may be very good at keeping a successful business operation and running smoothly. True (and innovative) leaders, however, strive for excellence—because simply doing things well just doesn’t light the fire of a true leader.

Allen Stalvey
Director of Operations / Program Director
Dallas / Fort Worth Area
http://allenstalvey.com


True Leaders Have Excellent Interpersonal Skills

March 1, 2012

True leaders have well-honed “people” skills birthed from their ability to relate to, respect, and empathize with others. In addition, they have solid communication skills that allow them to inspire others to action. Combined, these skills allow true leaders develop and foster solid, long-term, working relationships within and outside of their organizations.

Key to their success is their own self-awareness and understanding of the impact their statements and their actions have on others. In addition, they’re good listeners who take into account others’ (yes, even subordinates’) concerns and perspectives. They build trust as a result of their reliability and authenticity—since what they say they will do, gets done.

They also bear in mind the needs and goals of others, and work with them collaboratively to help ensure each others’ success. They display a sensitivity in working with people from diverse backgrounds, and treat everyone with caring and courtesy. As a result, they’re able to build teams characterized by trust, involvement, and empowerment—leading to the development of a high-performance organization.

Finally, they use their skills in developing pragmatic, process-oriented solutions that cross traditional department boundaries and foster organization-wide consistency and cooperation.

When it comes to true leaders. . . it’s kind of easy to know them when you see them—and it’s a joy to work for and support them.

Allen Stalvey
Director of Operations / Program Director
Dallas / Fort Worth Area
http://allenstalvey.com


True Leaders Bear in Mind the Long-Term Impacts of Short-Term Decisions

November 22, 2011

True leaders avoid the temptation to focus on short-term results to the exclusion of long-term impacts. In other words, in each decision they make they consider the long-term implications just as much as (if not more than) the short-term benefits.

For example, if a particular course of action will greatly increase profits during the next quarter (which might delight shareholders and executive management)—and yet that same course of action will also lead to major customer satisfaction issues (and likely reduced revenue) in the long-term, a true leader will know it best to come up with other options for increasing short-term profits.

Shortsightedness (something I often call “chartsmanship” because of how this disease causes some leaders to focus on numbers to the exclusion of quality) is an affliction that can make a leader appear to be making wise and profitable decisions in the short term, while their lack of focus on the future causes long-term harm to the sustainability of the organization. True leaders do not get caught in this trap, because they are not motivated by immediate gratification and pats-on-the-back. Instead, they focus on making decisions that will developing a sustainable organization with opportunities for a bright future (and not just a glowing next quarter).

True leaders maintain an awareness of the “big picture” as spelled out in their team’s / division’s / organization’s / corporation’s long term goals, objectives, and business strategies. Ask any true leader why they decided on their current “short-term” course of action. and they’ll tell you how it fits into the overall long-term plan. Actually, you probably don’t need to ask them–because true leaders will generally communicate how and why their decisions fit into the broader, long-term strategy as a means of getting everyone on board.

The net is: True leaders aren’t focused on shortsighted actions or short-term fixes, but on providing “true leadership” that will take their organizations through the next quarter, the next year, and beyond.

Allen Stalvey
Director of Operations / Program Director
Dallas / Fort Worth Area
http://allenstalvey.com


True Leaders Focus on Results and Impact, Not Personalities

April 21, 2011

True leaders focus on the results achieved by team members, and their team—and the overall impact of those results on the effectiveness and efficiency of the organization.

Being results and impact-focused makes it easier for true leaders to work with, and appreciate, the “wild ducks” in their organization—those often colorful folks who refuse to fly in formation because they see the world a bit differently and are not blinded by traditions and outdated policies. True leaders are not intimidated by independent thinkers who speak their minds, may be a bit non-conformist, and are by nature wildly imaginative.

Although these “wild ducks” may be viewed by others as “unmanageable,” a true leader recognizes the value of those who are willing to stand on their own in a never-ending quest for their next creative break-through; those who may be a bit “quirky” and hate the mundane and routine, yet who come up with some incredible ideas.

True leaders recognize greatness when they see it, even if it comes in an odd-shaped package—and when they see it they know better than to use a heavy-handed approach to threaten these free spirits and force them to toe the line. Instead, they respectfully and subtly guide their energies in the right direction. They foster a climate of open-mindedness and the acceptance of wild ideas, aware that these passionate souls take their ideas very seriously and take unnecessary criticism very personally.

When leading one of these brightly glowing and passionate creators, a true leader is willing to give them a bit more creative freedom, to be patient and tactful with them, to give them personal credit and recognition for their efforts and ideas, to provide them with the resources they need to be successful, to work with them on the development of challenging but realistic goals and deadlines, and to run interference for them if they come under siege by others who misunderstand and malign their eccentricity and lack of political savvy.

Of course if a wild duck becomes unreasonable, uncooperative, or grossly insensitive a true leader will put their foot down and draw a line in the sand—as there will be times when this is necessary to get them back in line. Even then, they do so with sensitivity and with respect for these brilliant contributors who at times may be a bit rough around the edges, and they do so because they’re focused on the end result as opposed to being concerned about defending their own ego when presented with challenging personalities.

As Thomas Watson, Jr., president of IBM from 1952 to 1971, said, “You can make wild ducks tame, but you can never make tame ducks wild again. One might also add that the duck who is tamed will never go anywhere any more. We are convinced that any business needs its wild ducks. And in IBM we try not to tame them.

Thomas Watson, Jr. was truly, a wise man.

Allen Stalvey
Director of Operations / Program Director
Dallas / Fort Worth Area
http://allenstalvey.com


True Leaders Exhibit Emotional Intelligence

November 18, 2010

True leaders realize that it’s not just what they do, but how they do it, that determines how effective they will be as a leader. True leaders are emotionally intelligent leaders—and as a result they are self-aware, know their strengths and weaknesses, and connect with their people. They are also able to maintain a flexible and optimistic leadership style, show an active interest in others’ perspectives and emotions, and guide and inspire others with a clear and compelling vision. In addition, they easily develop and maintain the cross-organizational bonds that are so critical to the success of a broader mission.

The ability of an emotionally intelligent leader to sense what others feel and to understand their perspectives allows them to develop and communicate a truly inspiring vision. Under the guidance of an emotionally intelligent leader, people feel appreciated, they are willing to share ideas, they enjoy learning from each other, they make decisions collaboratively, and they just plain get things done. They feel their work is more meaningful because they understand that their efforts contribute to the broader good of the team and the overall benefit of the organization—an organization they respect and are proud to be a part of.

True leaders create a type of resonance, a resonance the causes a passion and enthusiasm to resound throughout the group.  Whenever major concerns crop up, these emotionally intelligent leaders use empathy to attune to the emotions of the people they lead, and they use that awareness to help move the team in a positive emotional direction.

Leaders who lack emotional intelligence are not true leaders, as their lack of awareness of and concern for the feelings of others creates a level of dissonance that often becomes the group’s preoccupation and deflects their attention from the mission at hand.

In Primal Leadership: Realizing the Power of Emotional Intelligence, published in 2002 by Harvard Business School Press, Daniel Goleman (author of the international bestseller Emotional Intelligence) teamed with renowned emotional intelligence researchers Richard Boyatzis and Annie McKee to explore the role of emotional intelligence in leadership. In their own words, “If a leader resonates energy and enthusiasm, an organization thrives; if a leader spreads negativity and dissonance, it flounders.”

Allen Stalvey
Director of Operations / Program Director
Dallas / Fort Worth Area
http://allenstalvey.com


True Leaders Are People of Integrity

June 23, 2010

John W. Marriott III, Executive VP for Marriott International, Inc., once said, “When asked what qualities we are seeking in future leaders of Marriott, I’m quick to list the characteristics we admire: customer-focused, diligent, intelligent, caring, and the list goes on. But, here’s the reality: a person must have integrity. If they don’t, they won’t last long in our organization. Integrity is the most important attribute a successful associate, manager or executive can possess. And yet, it seems that people with a strong set of principles are among the hardest to find. When we do find people with integrity, we keep them, we promote them, and we ask them to lead others. In other words, integrity works.”

True leaders understand that it is essential that they lead with integrity, because people follow people they trust.  If they make a mistake they don’t cover it up or blame someone else—they admit it. If they make a commitment to a an employee, colleague, or superior—they keep it.

The word integrity stems from the Latin adjective, integer (meaning whole or complete). Synonyms for integrity include: candor, forthrightness, goodness, honesty, honorableness, and incorruptibility.

Why is integrity so important? Because lack of integrity in a leader immediately causes others (both inside and outside the organization) to lose trust in them; and it’s character-based trust that binds people (including spouses) to each other. Just as soldiers follow leaders they trust into battle, especially those who are willing to “take point” (i.e., assume the most exposed position),  employees follow leaders they trust.

True leaders know that trust is essential to maintaining high morale in an organization, and that lack of trust destroys morale and motivation. As Dr. Henry Cloud, clinical psychologist and corporate consultant, said in his 2009 book entitled, Integrity: The Courage to Meet the Demands of Reality, a lack of integrity is bound to result in failure in three key areas:
1. Hitting a performance ceiling that is much lower than ones aptitude
2. Hitting an obstacle or situation that derails you
3. Reaching great success only to self destruct and lose it all.

As people of integrity, true leaders are willing to take “unpopular” stands and are willing to say, “No,” when doing so is the only ethical choice. W. Clement Stone shared this admonition, “Have the courage to say no. Have the courage to face the truth. Do the right thing because it is right. These are the magic keys to living your life with integrity.”

Allen Stalvey
Director of Operations / Program Director
Dallas / Fort Worth Area
http://allenstalvey.com