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03 2012

Either/Or Wrong Perceptions of Leadership

Syndicated from: balance-AND-results

A friend sent a link to a very instructive Harvard Business Review blog post by Joel Stein, a columnist for TIME and author of a recent, interesting-sounding book on Manliness as we currently assess it. It’s significant that he notes in the blog post that he hadn’t known many great leaders (or hadn’t noticed if he had?). That probably sheds light on why he started his quest toward being a ‘manly man’ judging from the barbed comments of reviewers. He was pursuing the imaginary image, not noticing the reality. His blog post title, “Boringness: The Secret to Great Leadership,” gives a bit of a hint about what his challenge was in recognizing great leadership. He’d bought into the everyday myths we are constantly fed about leaders being either ‘strongmen’ who yell and threaten or, alternatively, failed workers who got booted upstairs and merely hold the title leader without contributing anything. Either extreme is outrageous whereas truly great leadership is so common sense and seemingly low key as to sound ‘boring’ as some would perceive it. Why do we have to see things in such either/or terms? Google has a better approach resulting from the Project Oxygen study outlined here in earlier posts – be a coach, don’t micromanage, but don’t be a wimp either when it comes to pushing for outstanding results. Being a ‘man’ about leadership to use the totally wrong term doesn’t imply that you forget empathy and the need to connect emotionally and powerfully to get people on side. Nor does the latter mean you would be better off being a ‘woman,’ which is all too often taken as implying all empathy and no push. An example, which seems it ought to be ‘classic,’ but which I’d never read quite this way, just appeared in the June 4 issue of Canadian HR Reporter in the report of a survey on what’s tough for leaders. I laughed when I saw the list, especially in order of most to least tough. At the bottom, what’s least tough is ‘strategy development.’ Don’t we all think we’re good at that – strategies sometimes seem a dime a dozen. It’s hilariously funny is that the next least tough according to the leaders surveyed is ‘strategy execution.’ Why, you might ask, is that funny? It’s because of what’s listed as much tougher. Above these two basics, ascending from least to most tough: Creativity (relatively easy in the eyes of many apparently), Emotional Intelligence (fairly easy? really?), Managerial ability, Leading cross-cultural teams, Critical thinking/problem-solving. and then on to the really, really tough ones: Ability to influence and build coalitions and ultimately the toughest of the list: Change management. So we think it’s fairly easy to create and execute strategies, but it’s super-tough to manage people through change? And that’s because we aren’t so good at ‘Influencing and building coalitions’ despite the fact we’re sure we’re emotionally intelligent, with managerial ability, etc.? How was it again that we ‘executed strategy?’ Would that be by issuing orders to our ‘subordinates’ to get it done? But when they fail and we feel the duty falls to us, well, we realize we’re not so good at managing change ourselves, which presumably requires influencing and building coalitions? In other words, lots of leaders think they’re just fine until they get down to the nitty gritty of what it takes to actually lead and get desired outcomes. The story goes on.. Bookmark and share this post More »

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