Tag Archives: Self Knowledge

Patience in Leadership ~ More Discipline Than Virtue

patience

Ben Franklin once said, “He that can have patience, can have what he will”

He was probably right. But, in a world where technology demands speed and the pressure to produce immediate results is all around us, disciplining ourselves to be patient is tough. Nonetheless, for leaders, it is a challenge worth pursuing. Here’s why:

Patience allows us to suspend judgment long enough to make considered decisions

Often, when the pressure is on, we can make snap decisions that we later come to regret. With a little patience, we can give ourselves the benefit of stopping to consider the impact of the decisions we make and whom we might be affecting by making them. And besides, ill-considered decisions usually result in having to take corrective action anyway.

Patience allows for the development of late bloomers

Not everyone learns at the same rate. Some, like the hare, are quick out of the gate and others, like the tortoise, are slower off the mark. Each needs leadership to get to the finish line. Patience requires us to steer the hare and reach back to encourage the tortoise.

If you are a leader with little patience for the development of those who take more time to learn and grow than you’d like, you could be missing something. After all, Winston Churchill was a late bloomer

Patience can help us to be better Listeners

Most of us recognize the value of listening, both to get to understanding and in building solid relationships. To accomplish either of those things there must be patience enough to suspend our own judgments and focus on what is being said rather than on what we are about to say.

Patience can help us manage stress

Getting to the place where we accept that sometimes we just have to wait can diffuse a lot of negative feeling. If we are frequently impatient with those around us, we are likely also frequently frustrated and possibly angry too. Managing our own expectations long enough to put matters into perspective can relieve a lot of tension and ultimately make work a more pleasant experience.

So, if you buy all that, the next question is, how do we develop patience?

Not being the most patient of people, I’m still working on that one. There are however, a few ideas that come to mind and here they are:

Learn to value the questions as much as the answers

There is a lot of benefit in curiosity and exploration. Patiently peeling away the layers of a problem through questioning and listening does, I think, result in a richer and more rewarding outcome.

Know the “impatient” triggers and practice managing them

To develop our level of patience, I think we need to focus on what makes us snap and the triggers that usually take us there. Once noticed, the rest is about practicing in an equally conscious way to improve our tolerance levels.

Keep the long-term goal in mind

It’s easy to get caught up in the pursuit of short-term results. After all, they can be very gratifying. The problem is, if we spend all of our time chasing quick results, we can easily get sidetracked and lose sight of our primary purpose. Some opportunities are worth waiting for. And, some goals just take longer to achieve. It seems to me that if they are important, they deserve whatever time it takes to accomplish them.

In the final analysis, it’s probably safe to say we all suffer from bouts of impatience, some of us more chronically than others. Impatience in leadership is particularly troublesome because it gets in the way of our ability to do the right things at the right times.

That’s what I think anyway. What do you think?

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Note: this post was originally published in 2010

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Filed under building awareness, Building Relationships, Leadership, Leadership Development, Self Knowledge

Choosing to Lead and Two Simple Truths

Leadership can be a complicated thing.  But there are some simple truths about it that can help us  cut through all of the, ahem, BS that so often clings to it. This post, from November 2011, raises just two of them.  What would you add?

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Leadership, while studied widely and deeply, remains misunderstood by a surprisingly large number of people.  In this world, there are some who would have us believe that leadership is only for a select few.  There are some too, who believe it is the job of leaders to rescue the rest of us from our various predicaments. And, when they fail, these same people feel somehow justified complaining about it.

think leadership is available to all of us.  It is a choice we make.  It doesn’t always come with a title or a big office but it is there and it asks us to do something with it.  Of course, the more we learn about it, the more likely we are to make it a conscious part of our lives.

Those among us who  remain unconscious and unaware of our own potential to lead would do well to rouse ourselves.  The world needs us all to wake up, not simply to point fingers of blame or criticism in someone else’s direction but to stand up for something, take responsibility for something or set a positive example for someone else.

If this sounds daunting, it could be.  But, it doesn’t have to be.  There will always be greater and lesser leaders among us.  But leadership does not always have to be larger than life. Nor does it have to be complicated.  There are two simple truths that guide me and here they are:

The First one is this.  Leadership is not about you

Real leadership happens when our role as leader becomes about something other than ourselves. At these times, our individual importance is overshadowed by the purpose we are there to serve.

Evidence of it is shown in the quality of our relationships with those around us. Leadership asks that we give others what they need to be at their best.  It asks us to guide them, coach them, talk to them, listen to them, encourage them, and expect the best from them.  Whatever we do, it must  be about that and about a shared purpose.  Real leadership is never about any one person.

The Second Truth is this.  You don’t have to be a hero

Peter Drucker once said, “No institution can possibly survive if it needs geniuses or supermen to manage it.  It must be organized in such a way as to be able to get along under a leadership composed of average human beings.”

Most of us are just that…average human beings.  We do not have to have special powers to lead. Sometimes all it takes is to believe in something enough to be willing to go first. Leadership is about caring.  It is about doing and participating.  If we expect perfection from it, we will be disappointed.  If we spend our time looking to the few for answers, we miss the opportunity to find our own answers and to explore possibilities that can only be found in the brainpower of the many.

The bottom line is, leadership is neither heroic nor about any one person.  It lives in us all.  We show it when we exercise our right to vote.  We show it as parents.  We show it in our communities when we volunteer.  We show it in our workplaces by being there and doing our best, regardless of our title.  So when we doubt our ability to make a difference because we don’t see ourselves as leaders, we would be doing ourselves a service by remembering that acts of leadership are choices we make. Be they big or small, all are important.

That’s what I think anyway. What do you think?

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Filed under building awareness, Building Relationships, Leadership, Leadership Development, Leadership Style

A Look at the Bones of Leadership… With The Iron Lady

Margaret Thatcher.  This name means different things to different people.  Some vilify her for her uncompromising approach. Others praise her for the same reason.

Whatever side of the fence you may fall with respect to Mrs Thatcher’s time as Prime Minister of Great Britain, there is one indisputable truth.  Margaret Thatcher was a leader.

If you gather that the subject of this post began with a trip to the movies, you would be right.  Meryl Streep’s riveting performance in The Iron Lady has indeed given rise to my curiosity and deeper thought about what lies in the bones of leadership

There are four things that come to mind

Abiding Purpose

Margaret Thatcher was driven by an abiding purpose to preserve the British way of life and restore its reputation on the world stage.  All else came in a distant second.  For many, how she went about fulfilling that purpose remains the source of great controversy.  Some people, who were negatively and personally affected by her decisions, may never forgive her for the change she brought to their lives.  Others will hold her up without hesitation as Britain’s savior at a time of great turmoil and indecision.  Regardless of the perspective, Mrs Thatcher seems to have always known what she was there to do and why it was important to do it.

Courage

The courage required of a world leader, like Margaret Thatcher is the kind of courage that compelled her to stand up in the face of great opposition and fight for what she believed.  Sometimes she fought alone.  But, she did it anyway because it was important and because as leader, it was her job to take risks and make decisions others shrank from.

Vulnerability

The bigger the job the more exposed is the leader.  When you make the kind of decisions that affect people’s lives, some will love you for it.  Some will not.   The business of leadership is not primarily about making friends. It is about challenging the status quo; helping others see what you see and changing something.  It invites criticism and sometimes, treachery.

Humility

Humility is not about being soft or weak nor is it about lacking confidence. Humility can sometimes roar. A truly humble leader will know exactly what she has to offer to the world, so much so that she will use all the precious time at her disposal to focus outwardly, on her goals and doing whatever it takes to accomplish them.  Margaret Thatcher once said, “ In my day, we would resolve to do something. Now, they resolve to be someone” 

If you are here, chances are you are not a World leader. So, you may ask; what does all of this have to do with me? Well, I think these four core leadership elements apply to everyone who wants to make a difference.  In a way, no matter if you run a small business, a large corporation, or  want to be the best parent you can be, it comes down to this:

  • The road to success is paved with intention.  Know your purpose and know, too, why it’s important
  • No matter what you do, the decisions you make will not please everyone.  Don’t waste your time trying.  Some will love you.  Some will not.  In the end, it rarely matters. In times of doubt, be guided by your purpose.
  • Be brave.  Make change.  Put strength behind your convictions.  Challenge complacency. Invite participation, discussion and involvement.
  • Know that rarely is anything about you.

The movie showed Baroness Thatcher, as she is today, not very well and suffering from dementia.  Some have criticized the decision to show this.  To me though, it illustrates only too clearly that power diminishes and when all is said and done, we are  left with only ourselves.

What do you think?

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Filed under Leadership, Leadership Development, Self Knowledge

Patience in Leadership ~ More Discipline than Virtue

The original of this post was published in 2010. I have revisited it and refreshed it because, well, sometimes I need a little reminding about some things.  The importance of cultivating patience is one of them.

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Patience.  It isn’t often included in the list of primary attributes we look for in leaders and yet to me, it is an underpinning of good leadership.

Ben Franklin once said, “He that can have patience, can have what he will”

Note that he didn’t say, “can have what he will”…NOW.

In a world where technology demands speed and the pressure to produce immediate results is all around us, disciplining ourselves to be patient is tough. Nonetheless, for leaders, it is a challenge worth pursuing.   Here’s why:

Patience allows us to suspend judgment long enough to make considered decisions

Often, when the pressure is on, we can make snap decisions that we later come to regret.   With a little patience, we can give ourselves the benefit of stopping to consider the impact of the decisions we make and whom we might be affecting by making them.  And besides, ill-considered decisions usually result in having to take corrective action anyway.

Patience allows for the development of late bloomers

Not everyone learns at the same rate.  Some, like the hare, are quick out of the gate and others, like the tortoise, are slower off the mark.  Each needs leadership to get to the finish line.  Patience requires us to steer the hare and reach back to encourage the tortoise.

If you are a leader with little patience for the development of those who take more time to learn and grow than you’d like, you could be missing something.  After all, Winston Churchill was a late bloomer

Patience can help us to be better Listeners

Most of us recognize the value of listening, both to get to understanding and in building solid relationships. To accomplish either of those things there must be patience enough to suspend our own judgments and focus on what is being said rather than on what we are about to say.

Patience can help us manage stress

Getting to the place where we accept that sometimes we just have to wait can diffuse a lot of negative feeling.  If we are frequently impatient with those around us, we are likely also frequently frustrated and possibly angry too.  Managing our own expectations long enough to put matters into perspective can relieve a lot of tension and ultimately make work a more pleasant experience.

So, if you buy all that, the next question is, how do we develop patience?

Well, not being the most patient of people, I’m still working on that one. There are however, a few ideas that come to mind and here they are:

Learn to value the questions as much as the answers

There is a lot of benefit in curiosity and exploration. Patiently peeling away the layers of a problem through questioning and listening does, I think, result in a richer and more rewarding outcome.

Know the “impatient” triggers and practice managing them

To develop our level of patience, I think we need to focus on what makes us snap and the triggers that usually take us there.  Once noticed, the rest is about practicing in an equally conscious way to improve our tolerance levels.

Keep the long-term goal in mind

It’s easy to get caught up in the pursuit of short-term results.  After all, they can be very gratifying.   The problem is, if we spend all of our time chasing quick results, we can easily get sidetracked and lose sight of our primary purpose.  Some opportunities are worth waiting for.  And, some goals just take longer to achieve.  It seems to me that if they are important, they deserve whatever time it takes to accomplish them.

In the final analysis, it’s probably safe to say we all suffer from bouts of impatience, some of us more chronically than others.  Impatience in leadership is particularly troublesome because it gets in the way of our ability to do the right things at the right times. What do you think?

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If you want more on the virtues of developing patience in leadership, I came across a great post you might want to check out entitled, “Leading with Patience – The Will to Wait” by Doug Moran.

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Filed under building awareness, Building Relationships, Leadership, Leadership Development, Self Knowledge

Choosing to Lead and Two Simple Truths

Leadership, while studied widely and deeply, remains misunderstood by a surprisingly large number of people.  In this world, there are some who would have us believe that leadership is only for a select few.  There are some too, who believe it is the job of leaders to rescue the rest of us from our various predicaments. And, when they fail, these same people feel somehow justified complaining about it.

I think leadership is available to all of us.  It is a choice we make.  It doesn’t always come with a title or a big office but it is there and it asks us to do something with it.  Of course, the more we learn about it, the more likely we are to make it a conscious part of our lives.

Those among us who  remain unconscious and unaware of their own potential to lead would do well to rouse themselves.  The world needs us all to wake up, not simply to point fingers of blame or criticism in someone else’s direction but to stand up for something, take responsibility for something or set a positive example for someone else.

If this sounds daunting, it could be.  But, it doesn’t have to be.  There will always be greater and lesser leaders among us.  But leadership does not always have to be larger than life. Nor does it have to be complicated.  There are two simple truths that guide me and here they are:

The First one is this.  Leadership is not about you

Real leadership happens when our role as leader becomes about something other than ourselves. At these times, our individual importance is overshadowed by the purpose we are there to serve.

Evidence of it is shown in the quality of our relationships with those around us. Leadership asks that we give others what they need to be at their best.  It asks us to guide them, coach them, talk to them, listen to them, encourage them, and expect the best from them.  Whatever we do, it must  be about that and about a shared purpose.  Real leadership is never about any one person.

The Second Truth is this.  You don’t have to be a hero

Peter Drucker once said, “No institution can possibly survive if it needs geniuses or supermen to manage it.  It must be organized in such a way as to be able to get along under a leadership composed of average human beings.”

Most of us are just that…average human beings.  We do not have to have special powers to lead. Sometimes all it takes is to believe in something enough to be willing to go first. Leadership is about caring.  It is about doing and participating.  If we expect perfection from it, we will be disappointed.  If we spend our time looking to the few for answers, we miss the opportunity to find our own answers and to explore possibilities that can only be found in the brainpower of the many.

The bottom line is, leadership is neither heroic nor about any one person.  It lives in us all.  We show it when we exercise our right to vote.  We show it as parents.  We show it in our communities when we volunteer.  We show it in our workplaces by being there and doing our best, regardless of our title.  So when we doubt our ability to make a difference because we don’t see ourselves as leaders, we would be doing ourselves a service by remembering that acts of leadership are choices we make. Be they big or small, all are important.

What do you think?

8 Comments

Filed under building awareness, Leadership, Leadership Shift, Servant Leadership

Six Ways To Make Collaboration Work

The other day, I went with my granddaughter to the playground and watched her as she dove happily into play with the other children.  I envied her ability to simply become part of the group.  It was lovely to see the easy cooperation that danced among them as they shared the various pieces of playground equipment and discussed the merits of this climbing apparatus over that.  It was then I began to think about collaboration and what it means.

Some people think that collaboration is just like that… playing and working together cooperatively for a common purpose.  In the case of the children in the playground that purpose is simply to have fun.  But, I think collaboration, while having elements of that, is more. It is a labor of love ~ deeper and more focused . It holds more tension and requires us to listen to each other and communicate on a variety of levels through diverse means.

Randy Nelson, Dean of Pixar University made reference to this in a keynote speech he made about collaboration.  He describes it as “co-operation on steroids”, an apt description, I think.

My definition goes like this:

Collaboration is the act of coming together and working with another, or others, to create something that goes beyond the ability of any one person to produce.

Here’s what I think it looks like when it’s in action:

Those who successfully collaborate:

Engage in, and value, conversation

They take an interest in others. In fact, they use conversation as a simple yet very effective way to learn about others and the potential they may have for working well together in collaborative efforts.

Find ways to draw out creativity in themselves and others

At Pixar, they use improvisation as a tool for opening doors to new ideas and perspectives.  Others use a variety of brainstorming techniques.  No idea is discounted or censored, just played with until it either becomes something bigger, or fizzles out.

Actively seek self-knowledge and Learning

Those who know what they’re good at and enjoy, also know how they can make their best contribution to the collaborative effort.  They use their curiosity as a tool to explore and discover new possibilities.

Invite Contribution and accept what is offered without judgment

Often it is the case that someone will offer an opinion or a piece of work and our first instinct is to look for flaws.  Those who collaborate productively resist the temptation to do this, choosing to build on what is offered instead through questions and discussion.

Make Others Look Good

In his keynote, Randy makes reference to making your partner look good. To me, this means focusing on the work and the contributions others make before seeking personal recognition

Manage disagreement well

While we might like to think that effective collaboration does not include disagreement, it does.  Those who are skilled collaborators see the value in the tension that disagreement can produce and use it as a bridge to get to something different, or something better.

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The bottom line for me is that collaboration is hard. Its success depends on making the work more important than any one individual.  It asks us to subordinate our desire to compete with others and instead find personal satisfaction in the joint effort.  But, done well, collaborative efforts produce some pretty amazing, and very successful things.  Just ask Pixar

What do you think? What would you add?

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Filed under Building Relationships, communication, Leadership, Leadership Style, Uncategorized

Trying Too Hard & 5 Ways to Get Over It

I started this post a number of times, but was dissatisfied with it.   I was trying too hard.  I was trying to be clever.  I was trying to be deeply intellectual.   Guess what.  It didn’t work.

It’s not that I’m not capable of being clever or even deeply intellectual…on a good day.  But, I think today, I was just trying too hard to force myself to be those things.  It happens.

When I think about this notion of trying too hard in a leadership context, a number of things come to mind.  For instance, some leaders try too hard:

To be Popular

I think everyone, to a greater or lesser extent, likes to be liked.  But, trying too hard to be popular gets in the way of our ability to make tough decisions and to lead in a judicious way.  In my experience, people respect and respond well to those leaders who are fair much more than those who focus on being popular.

To be Perfect

Those who strive for perfection can also have a tendency to micro-manage everything to death to avoid making any mistakes.  Of course the trouble is that, in so doing, they manage to annoy most everyone who works with them, or for them.  While it is admirable to want to do things well, it is not possible to get everything right all of the time.  It’s just not.

To be All-Knowing & All-wise

Leadership does not come with all the answers.  It’s too bad, but there it is.  If we try too hard to create the impression that we are the font of all knowledge, we are bound to disappoint.

To be Strong

To some people, a leader should always be strong and impervious to the problems and worries that afflict other mortals.  While it is true that leadership asks us to bring our courage to work, it does not mean that we cannot share our concerns with others.  As individuals, trying too hard to be strong, places a great and unnecessary burden on us.  As leaders, it also excludes the possibility that others are willing and quite capable of helping.

So, how do we avoid the problem of trying too hard?  Well, here are some thoughts about that:

1.    Know and Accept ourselves, warts ‘n all

I think having a good handle on what we’re good at and what we’re not good at, is a place to start.  It doesn’t mean that we should stop learning, growing and improving…not at all.  But having a certain confidence about who and how we are, somehow gives us permission to take the focus off ourselves and onto others without having to try so hard.

2.    Embrace the Imperfect

I struggle with this one all the time but I keep working on it because when I strive for perfection, I invariably achieve only frustration.

3.    Look and Listen More… Talk Less

I think, when we try too hard, there is a tendency to talk far too much.  Whatever the reason for this, while we are doing it, we are undoubtedly missing the opportunity to observe and listen to others. Incorporating the thoughts and ideas of others takes the pressure off us to have the right answers all of the time.

4.    Dare to be Vulnerable

This is about allowing our humanness to come through and striving to place more value on the giving and receiving of empathy.  I think human beings are stronger when they allow each other a glimpse into what matters to them. Trying too hard to be strong and stand apart from the rest leads not to strength but to isolation

5.    Lighten Up

Sometimes you just have to laugh.  When we’re trying too hard, it’s entirely possible that we’re also being way too serious about it all. Laughing at ourselves can take the pressure and worry out of most situations.  So, wherever you go, take your sense of humour with you.  It will serve you well.

So, that’s what I think about trying too hard.  What do you think?

14 Comments

Filed under building awareness, Building Relationships, communication, Leadership, Leadership Development