“Thinking Gray” and “Listening Gray”

This one is going to rattle some folk’s cages. And that is OK with me. Part of the purpose of LeadershipVoices is to spur us to think in ways that we don’t always naturally think.

Thinking Gray - 1In 2001, Steven B. Sample wrote a book entitled, The Contrarian’s Guide to Leadership. I must confess I liked it just based upon the title. I mean, who doesn’t have a little “contrarian” in them? Steven Sample was the president of the State University of New York at Buffalo. And he is an accomplished leader in many ways. He was the president of the University of Southern California up until he resigned to pursue other interests in 2010.

In The Contrarian’s Guide to Leadership, Sample posits several things. He posits first of all that contrarian leaders are great leaders. While others see black and white, contrarian leaders maintain their intellectual independence and see many different shades between the extremes of stark black and stark white. He further states that contrarian leaders are those who can conceptualize a wide range of ideas, thus, making them more creative and intellectually open to solutions to the problems that plague them.

But here is the thing that challenges me about Sample’s assertions. Sample says that the leader who “thinks gray” must also learn to “listen gray”. In other words, we must learn to listen for nuance and we should avoid the fad ideas and also avoid jumping to conclusions before we have all of the input.

So what is the leadership principle here? Continue reading ““Thinking Gray” and “Listening Gray””

Thermometer vs. Thermostat Leaders

Driving to work this morning and listening to the news I was again reminded of the need for real leadership in our culture today. And nowhere is that more pronounced that in our homes.

Too many of us have been thermometers instead of thermostats. What does that mean, you ask? Well, take a look at those two items. One reflects or measures the environment and the other influences or changes the environment.

Which one are you?

ThermometerAre you a thermometer? Do you simply reflect or monitor the situation around you in your home? To be sure, a thermometer is a valuable item. For instance, it can help us determine when a child is sick. I had an opportunity to use one this week-end on a feverish little child. Although I didn’t need the thermometer to tell me she had a fever. It was very beneficial in determining the extent of the fever.

ThermostatAre you a thermostat? Do you actually influence and set the tone for your home? A thermostat can cool things down when it gets a little hot. It can warm things up when there is a chill in the air. Having a thermometer does me no good unless I can then take that information and then modify the environment.

This is so true in our homes. But it is also true in our workplace and in our social gatherings and churches. Are we simply measuring the “temperature” of our homes? Or are we actually taking the information given to us by a thermometer and then influencing the environment for good? Continue reading “Thermometer vs. Thermostat Leaders”

A Value Vacuum

Value Vacuum - 1Can you have real leadership in a “value vacuum”?

What do I mean by that? By that I mean a leadership context that is devoid of values or morals. In an article earlier I opined the following: “Values are an integral part of good leadership. To be a true leader, you must take a stand on issues. And that stand must be a moral stand. As leaders we should be mobilizing and motivating our organizations to higher moral ground even when that may not increase the organizations profit margin or bottom line”.

Upon further reflection I am wondering if in addition to a leadership crisis in our society, we actually have a values crisis. Could it be that there are not enough of those who see values that are worthy enough that would make us want to lead others to strive toward reaching them? Conversely, could it be that there are not enough of us who see things that have such potential for harm that we will lead others away from those dangerous moral pitfalls? Continue reading “A Value Vacuum”

Leadership Diagnosis by the Post Mortem Method

Post Mortem Method - 1OK, the title is a little morbid.  But stick with me for a minute or two.  Because I have used this approach many times with clients when I was more actively involved in consulting. This particular approach that I recommend that you try attempts to take a look at what exactly happened during an “event” so that all of the stakeholders can understand it clearly. Not all will see it the same way. But, with enough individual views, a collective view will emerge.

This approach can be particularly helpful when there is already an acknowledgement that there are a number of issues that need to change. This approach requires a high degree of trust among the team because it can naturally focuses on the negative of what took place. It is very similar to the critiques we used to receive in the theater at the end of a performance or a rehearsal. The best critiques included all of the components below: Continue reading “Leadership Diagnosis by the Post Mortem Method”

I am guilty of at least 5 things.

I am guilty of 5 things - 1Confession is good for the soul, right? If that is true, then here is a confessional moment. I have made many mistakes in the many leadership roles that I have had over the years. Fortunately, I didn’t make all of these at the same time!  And some of them, I still make from time to time.  However, leadership is as much of a journey as it is a destination.  So, I continue on.

Nevertheless, here are a few mistakes that I have learned from. Maybe you will learn from them also.

  1. I have often allowed poor performance from staff when I know they are capable of better performance or more output. So, I ask myself now – Am I  convinced that they are lead-able? Continue reading “I am guilty of at least 5 things.”