What is the leadership lesson here?

Posted in Leadership on January 6th, 2011 by kjr – 4 Comments

A friend and colleague sent me the video below today. Over the past year I have thought more and more that we are living in times that are remarkably transformational. Times that equate to the invention of the printing press, or the impact of a World War. Different than anything experienced since the 1950s.

The digital age, the transfer of world wealth and power, the increasing life span of much of the world. All of this seems to me exponential in how it has changed the values, norms, and expectations of our cultures and societies.

This video put in a capsule for me some of those changes, especially since 1999.

Yet, what it does not say, is what was the difference in why some countries thrived in those 200 years, and what is needed in the next 10 years to help people, communities, nations, regions to thrive.

It’s the intangibles of leadership, influence, vision, direction, creativity, and more that will make the difference.


Posted in Leadership on January 3rd, 2011 by kjr – 3 Comments

Happy New Year

It’s a good time,

at a time

when we mark time,

to think about

what it is we are leaving behind.

Every leader, good, bad, or mediocre leaves a mark. In an earlier post on Loving Critics, I mentioned the book A Leaders Legacy. I believe it is important to consider– What is the legacy we will leave as leaders?

In a sense, to do this effectively, we need to hold two almost conflicting ideas in our minds- and actually our hearts- simultaneously. One is to recognize and be mindful of the fact that what we do impacts our organizations, communities, other people. The other is to acknowledge our impact is fleeting, and if we try to build an impressive legacy to be remembered by, it almost guarantees our legacy will be small and insignificant.

Being mindful of the fact we are leaving an impact is like the vapor trail in this photo. It enhances the picture, adds something meaningful to the image, but, it’s temporary.

Pride motivating what we do to leave a legacy is a falsehood that undermines our effectiveness. We won’t enhance and add meaning to an organization, or another person’s life, if we are driven by pride.

Jim Collins, in the book Good To Great, Why Some Some Companies Make The Leap …and others don’t talks about 5th Level Leadership. He describes those who reach this level of leadership this way:

They are humble, self-effacing and more concerned about the prosperity of the company than their individual success.

The pilot flying the jet, leaving that vapor trail a few mornings ago, had no idea how it enhanced my view, prompted my thoughts and added to this blog.  ….. Wonderful!

The “right” choice is often hard

Posted in Leadership on November 29th, 2010 by kjr – 1 Comment

Over the years I have also referred to this axiom as: “The right thing to do is often the harder choice you are confronted with”.

Leadership (and life too) is many, many times dealing with ambiguity. Some of the synonyms of ambiguity I think can describe our thoughts and feelings when confronted with difficult choices: vagueness, doubt, puzzle, uncertainty, obscurity, enigma, haziness.

The choices and paths seem as twisted and hard to follow as the branches in this sycamore tree I often bicycle past.

At some point in our career as managers or leaders, we are faced with a problem where the path to resolution is unclear, and the outcome at the beginning is unknown.

Sometimes we are confronted with choices in life- neither of which leave us totally comfortable and resolved.

Let me use examples to illustrate this.

Most of us at some point in our careers, if we manage or lead people, will be confronted with a difficult employee. This is almost always a good person- who is smart, and certainly at some point was considered capable. Yet, something changed. Either he or she allowed themselves to become stale in skills, or perhaps because of disappointments, became disillusioned and embittered.

What do you do? Too often I have seen where, after considerable effort has been spent on trying to turn the performance or attitude of such a person around, a manager is confronted with the choice to move them out, or move them on. -Meaning fire them, or transfer them to a different department.

The harder choice is the right choice. Taking the steps to remove someone from our employ is hard. We don’t want to have the conversation telling them they are out of a job. We don’t want to go through the process required by law and/or our HR department or union to ensure fairness and consistency.

We make excuses and build barriers to things –like our HR policies don’t ever make it possible to “let someone go”, -or we say, ‘Well this is just a bad match and I need to find a new role in a different department so they can start fresh.’

What ends up happening if we simply shuffle such a person? Here’s my suggested list:

  • The person continues, stuck in the rut of playing the victim and is denied the opportunity that the shock of being fired will give them;
  • The department receiving this employee finds out some months later they’ve inherited a problem, and if you’ve ever been on the receiving end of this you know you feel like you’ve been duped;
  • The peers of this person are relieved that they no longer need to deal with the lack of solid competency or poor attitude, yet, they know you didn’t have the fortitude (backbone) to “do the right thing”;
  • You have lost some respect of all of the people involved.

Yes, I agree, you didn’t have to go through all the bureaucratic processes, paperwork and meetings to show, and document, and file all the reasons and examples of why this person needed to leave your company. But as a leader you lost; you didn’t gain.

In my next post, I’ll write about a situation in life where, being confronted with ambiguity left someone needing to make a right choice that was hard.