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LEADERSHIP: Get the "Lead" Out of Your Leadership Balloon

mikeharringtonwebsiteIn a previous blog I stressed the idea that the way in which someone leads can have a direct impact on how a company, and its people, progress.  I once had a leader, or should I say boss, whose mantra was ‘no good deed goes unpunished.’  You can imagine the ripple effect that had on the employees of this organization, but the surprising thing was that he could never understand why he struggled with keeping up employee morale. Somewhere along the way, he (and I’m sure we’ve all fallen victim to it at least at some point) got the notion that being a ‘do-er’ was much more important than being a ‘leader.’ To be honest, I’m not sure that notion is so farfetched considering many of us have been placed in leadership positions based on our ability to get the task or job done.  What can cause the train to derail though is the lack of attention paid to the other two factors in this equation: Process and relationship.  These two factors are what cause us to complete the job; they cause us to look above the fray. What processes are needed in order for the organization to function most effectively and what relationships must be maintained in order to facilitate the completion of the tasks, while simultaneously improving morale?

ILEADERSHIP_cropIn Jim Collins’ book Good To Great (read Good To Great or just read our review of it) he referenced a similar concept as the Level 5 Leader, which he describes as that individual who is clearly a step above.   In his book he describes this individual as someone who demonstrates not just exceptional knowledge about the organization and its role as the leader, but also the understanding that success as a leader only comes through the success of the people he/she leads.  That understanding, coupled with an unquenchable thirst to continuously improve is what makes up the Level 5 Leader.

Leaders with lead in their balloons do not operate at the fifth level; they probably don’t even function at a level 4.  Both allude to the idea that the organization is operating at peak performance levels and the workforce is highly engaged in company dynamic.

Level 4: Effective Leader:Able to catalyze commitment to and vigorously pursue a clear and compelling vision, while stimulating higher performance standards. (Good to Great, pg 20)

First off, we must be able to diagnose whether we have lead in our balloon. If you have that constant feeling like you’re never able to get out of the muck: that you’re always two steps behind, then you’ve probably got some lead.  More specifically, use the following to identify how much lead you’ve got:

ð You experience push back from others when presenting a new idea or concept.
ð You have an open door policy, but it’s only used in times of crisis or complaining.
ð There is a lack of interest by others to fully engage in the organization.
ð Others see the annual review process as punitive or at least not growth oriented.
ð You regularly find yourself taking a ‘glass half empty’ position.
ð There are regular and repetitive behavior problems with employees.
ð There is a lack of commitment around decisions made in meetings.
ð Staff members are reluctant to engage in discussions.
ð You end up doing much of the work yourself and feel no one is as capable as you in getting the job done.
ð You are having to force participation in work groups and other engagement activities.
ð You see a lack of ownership by others, and a resistance to take on a task completely.
ð Your team requires a lot of guidance even though they have the understanding to do it themselves.
ð There is a mad rush for the door every day at closing.
ð There is minimal non-professional, interaction between employees.  They don’t talk about their personal lives, the things that make them happy.

So how do we begin to get rid of some of this lead? Below are 5 first-steps you can take to lighten your load.

1. Develop a Leader Job Description – imagine that you have been charged with hiring an innovative, charismatic and determined leader who is capable of cultivating a workforce that takes ownership over their work and is committed to the success of the organization. What would be the traits you would want this person to possess, and what responsibilities would you give him or her? (Read The Leadership Pill. It’s an easy read, but gets the point across. Or again, just read our review of it)

2. Begin to build a culture of possibility – start by modeling the type of behavior you are looking for from others within the organization.  If you are wanting a culture where solutions are sought after and the collective belief is around saying ‘yes’ before thinking ‘no’, then a leader must constantly work to create that culture. Be an inspiration to those you direct.

3. Be present – there is no such thing as absentee leadership or leading by osmosis.  A leader is unable to influence others from behind his/her office door. There must be regular engagement from inside the boardroom to out on the floor. A tool we use is the WILO, or Week in the Life Of worksheet. This requires the person to identify the typical tasks that fall within his/her week, and then where there are gaps – time that can be filled with more active engagement on their end.

4. Believe that your success is dependent on the success of your people – the ability to lead an organization is determined by the ability to lead the people within it.  By investing in their development, encouraging their growth, and trusting in their capabilities, employees will drive the organization in the direction it needs to go.  Praise and willingness to put others first are the keys to cultivating your workforce.

5. Spread your wings – learn one new management technique every month (I suggest starting with Herzberg’s theory of motivation).  There is no such thing as a born leader, just individuals who were born to lead, suggesting that it is up to the person in the position to build his/her knowledge and skill in best leadership practices.

In the end, it is the act of leading that actually influences the doing. So let me ask you, under what mantra do you operate?  Is it one of ‘no good deed goes unpunished?’ Or does it reflect a more positive ‘anything is possible’ tone?

If you would like a follow up blog on any of the above concepts, include a comment below and I’ll be sure to start that conversation.

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An innovative training and employee development firm located in southern Vermont since 1984, we specialize in helping organizations get the most out of their people by raising the bar, inspiring potential and partnering with organizations to build a people-centered, high-engagement culture.

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