Category Archives: Connection & Engagement
We like to hear of lessons in leadership, and look for relevant examples in all mediums. Whether reading articles, books or watching movies, there is always a leadership tip we can gain, whether from good or bad displays.
An example of this is one of my favorite movies – Apollo 13. One of the reasons I gravitate to that movie is not just the story itself, but Ed Harris’ character in the film.
Harris plays Gene Kranz, the NASA Flight Director in charge of the moon mission that has been derailed by an internal explosion aboard the ship. Some of the lines Kranz says helped calm the anxious flight command crew and give them hope of bringing the astronauts safely home:
“Gentlemen, at this moment, I want you all to forget the flight plan. From this moment on, we are improvising a new mission: How do we get our people home?”
“We’ve never lost an American in space and we’re sure …not gonna lose one on my watch! Failure is not an option!”
“With all due respect, sir, I believe this is gonna be our finest hour.”
“Let’s work the problem, people. Let’s not make things worse by guessing.”
These statements serve as an example of mission-oriented leadership. Through them, Kranz was able to rally his team, giving them direction and the hope that would resolve the crisis. His skills in knowing what the team needed to accomplish it’s charge allowed everyone to do what was needed to succeed.
The question that this poses for leaders in all fields is: “Is the ability to instill hope a necessary leadership trait?”
Leaders deal with people. People bring to the table skills, vision, insight, and emotions. The first three of these may be constants in anyone’s day, but it’s our emotions that ebb and flow with the circumstances we’re faced with.
Leaders must have a solid EQ to deal with people’s emotions. There are many factors, both internal and external to the organization AND the individual, that make a person’s belief in the mission waver.
For instance, a military commander may be outnumbered in forces and face daunting environmental challenges that shake up their troops. A volleyball coach’s team may shrink at the notion that they must play the state champs the next day.
So what leadership traits keep their teams engaged and committed to the mission at hand?
This is where hope is necessary.
Hope is a feeling of trust, an expectation for a certain outcome. It is akin to faith, a confident trust in someone or something. It’s the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. Hope intersects the emotional needs that your people have at any given moment. It’s not a buzzword or a catchy slogan, but a real genuine feeling of possibility that comes from doing the right things.
Hope is not always a guarantee for success, but a leader will take the slightest amount of hope to chip away at the barriers of reality and impossibility. An astute leader will dove-tail hope into the vision and mission of their organization. They will work to make sure that everyone is “laser focused” on the task at hand. More importantly, they will make the vision bigger than the obstacles that threaten the mission itself.
But where does the ability to instill hope fit into the list of leadership traits?
If you peruse many of articles on the top leadership traits – even those form leadership teachers like Peter Economy, John Maxwell, and Brian Tracy – the closest you find to this is optimism, positive attitude, and confidence. Yet none of these qualities are the same as hope.
- Optimism is an everything will work out in the end mantra. It doesn’t always factor in the inevitable crises such as what happened in the Apollo 13 mission.
- Positive attitudes tend to root out the reality. Gene Kranz was not a cheer-leading type in what he did during the aborted moon mission.
- Confidence, while a key trait, will not alone get it done. Napoleon’s confidence got the best of him when he rushed into the Battle of Waterloo. Confidence is usually centered on self and does not easily impart to others.
Giving hope to your people combines the alignment, engagement, and vision of the organization. A leader’s ability to do so will reap enormous benefits for your organization and your people.
Hope is telling your team that getting this difficult proposal done on time will open up new doors of business. Hope gives your people the drive to keep going when they don’t see the results coming together. Hope is reassuring the employees that you’ll all get through this rough financial patch intact. Hope drives doctors to cure patients, teachers to educate students, and public servants to protect their communities.
If not for the ability to instill this in their people, where would leaders such as Abraham Lincoln, Ghandi, and Martin Luther King have turned to? What would the people they led have become?
(this post first appeared on Lead Change Group)
(image: The Blue Diamond Gallery)
There are two types of leaders.
Those who are critics, and those who are cheerleaders.
Critics are those types of leaders who feel their knowledge and experience give them a superiority over everyone else.
These are leaders who look down on others, and don’t believe anyone can tell them anything that they don’t already know.
One of the fatal flaws a critical leader commits is discounting someone’s input because they feel their experience is inferior and not qualified to matter. They discount the hourly employee’s input who is new to the job, the young manager who only has an associate’s degree, or someone’s view on workflow because they don’t work on the factory floor but in the office. They fail to realize that people many times have valid viewpoints based on their observations and collective experience.
These leaders don’t build others up or develop people. Instead, they put them down and find people with the similar critical spirit to enter into their circles, creating more of the same spirit throughout the organization. This enables toxic and untrustworthy behavior and is always short-sighted. They also usually make very poor personnel decisions due to their elevated sense of self and contempt for those they deem lesser than themselves.
The other end of the spectrum are those leaders that are cheerleaders. Cheerleaders are not necessarily a “ra-ra” motivational personality. Instead they are the steady leadership style that elevates everyone around them to grow and develop.
Cheerleading leaders give higher value to their people, their insight, and their development. They give each person and equal value and voice and cast a vision within them to inspire them to give feedback for the greater mission.
These types of leaders have no problem stepping aside and giving others credit, leadership in projects, and a platform for input. They are more tolerable and forgiving for mistakes, and while demanding a high degree of performance, know that their people need time to develop and learn.
They esteem others more than themselves, knowing that the best organizations are more than the leader but the sum of all it’s constituents. They usually make the best personnel decisions which lead to more sustainable growth and achievement of the company’s goals. Cheerleaders are the ones who better develop future leaders.
Work to be a cheerleader who looks up to your people, not a critic who look down at others. Only one mindset can make a positive, lasting impact.
(image: wikimedia commons)
There are two ways to have your organization be molded.
The first way it to enact policies and practices as you go. This method addresses performance issues when they arise, meets compliance and regulatory standards, and manages the overall behaviors of the company.
It also has a direct impact on culture. and typically a negative one.
When policies are the driving mechanism in managing and leading, they take priority in the strategic goals of the company, leaving culture to be wrapped around it and fit in where it can.
For instance, if a policy is implemented in reaction to a new regulation of due to circumstances like increased injuries, then the culture may have to adapt in response. A company that claims customer service as a key value can hardly execute that culture when it devises a tenuous procedure on verifying returns or damage claims that protect the company first and leave consumers with a poor experience on how these claims are handled.
That’s where culture needs to be the driving force in everything an organization does. This is the second and best way to have your organization molded.
When culture has its rightful and preeminent place in your organization, it will permeate everything it touches. Culture well defined will seep its way into meetings, decision making, processes, and yes even policies. When culture is allowed to have its way, it will transform the way a company operates.
Those policies that are necessary due to regulatory compliance become less of an encumbrance to staff. Instead, culture will look at the compliance issue and say “How can we enact this in a way that still gives dignity to our people and excellent service to our customers?”
Culture will always keep your core values intact, engagement high, and your systems in congruence with your people. It will allow the human touch in business, not like the robotic and cold, technical and policy-driven approach does.
When culture is at the center, it’s effects will ripple out and make lasting waves through your organization. It flows more freely because it doesn’t force actions but enables them to be more organic.