Adaptive Leadership


Adaptive Leadership - 1So many of the world’s problems, and the issues that organizations, businesses, and people face every day can seem intractable and unsolvable. Leadership consultants Ronald Heifetz, Alexander Grashow and Marty Linsky discussed a new way to lead the charge to change in their book in 2009 entitled, “Adaptive Leadership”.

Adaptive Leadership calls for moving beyond outdated approaches and embracing new skills and attitudes to guide your organization in the 21st century. Adaptive leadership combines established ways of leading with new skills and new perspectives for dealing with unprecedented challenges.

But, if it were easy, everyone would be adaptive leaders and everyone would be successful.  Before you begin the process of bringing lasting change to an organization you must Continue reading “Adaptive Leadership”

Listening for the Future


Listening Leaders - 1Great leaders are always “listening for the future” all the while staying grounded in the here and the now.

That sounds impressive and insightful.  But what does it mean?  Simply, it means that our society is evolving into a noisy, chaotic world; characterized by “volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity” (This is what “Futurist” Bob Johansen refers to as “VUCA”).

Elements of the VUCA paradigm have existed throughout history, but never to the extent evident in the early 21st century.  Leaders who make decisions without regard to VUCA realities tend to exhibit various “dysfunctional and dangerous” attitudes and reactions, including fear, disdain, procrastination, frustration, anger and denial.  And I am not exactly sure where the anger is strongest.  Is it on the side of those who loath their leaders?  Or is it on the side of the leaders who loath the burden of leadership?

Nevertheless, there are enduring leadership principles that will hold you in good stead during these VUCA times.  Consider the following:

  • To be on time is to be late. – Get there early.  Get there before your team arrives and be ready to greet them as they arrive for the day or for the meeting.
  • Always start on time.  – Don’t punish those who are on time for the sins of those who are late.  And don’t go back over what you have already covered for those who do arrive late.
  • Mental gymnastics.  – Build leadership skills through leadership thoughts.  Read and study other great leaders.
  • Listening Leaders - 2Actively listen.  – But carefully filter what you hear.  Make sure that in the midst of your listening that you are not swayed by an emotional message that takes you away from your core values.
  • Be ready for action.  – We are living in a fast paced world and in the face of uncertainty, preparedness is a great benefit.
  • Practice “urgent patience”. – Know when to press forward and when to ease up on your team.
  • Be a storyteller. – Use compelling stories to inspire hope in your team.
  • Observe synchronicity. – Nothing occurs in a vacuum.  So explain connections and patterns to help others find the reason for your actions.
  • Stay positive.  – It is easy to succumb to the negativity that surrounds us.  We get a steady diet of it on the news and from the media.  Do not dwell on this.  [I could speak at length here about the importance of being in some type of daily devotional reading, but I will save that for another time and place.]
  • Don’t spread yourself too thin.  – You cannot directly lead a multitude.  So, find a small group of leaders to develop and pour yourself into them and make them into great leaders.  Don’t make them clones.  Make them leaders.

Continue reading “Listening for the Future”

Wit & Wisdom from Midland County, TX


Gary Painter on Fox News

I love living in Texas.  I usually tell people that I was born in way extreme far east Texas. [better known as Alexandria, Louisiana].  And you get wit & wisdom out of folks in Texas that you don’t seem to find in or around the Capital Beltway.  I know, because I lived in that area for quite a while also.

I don’t often tackle politics in my writing.  And I really am not trying to tackle politics right now. Instead I think there is a leadership lesson to be learned here.  Consider if you will for just a moment Sheriff Gary Painter from Midland County in Texas.  Recently he was interviewed on Fox News about the ISIS threat to the United States.  Consistent with what he has been saying for at least 8 years he made the following statement.  I am providing it below with advance apologies for some of his language as I never want to offend our readers. But here is his quote:

“If they show their ugly head in our area, we’ll send them to hell.
I think the United States needs to get busy and they need to bomb them.
They need to take them out. I would like for them to hit them so hard and so often that every time they hear a propeller on a plane or a jet aircraft engine that they urinate down both legs.”

Contrast that with our President who calls them the “JV squad” and who doesn’t have a plan to deal with them.  And ask yourself for a moment, Continue reading “Wit & Wisdom from Midland County, TX”

Signs That A Leader Is Succeeding

Signs That A Leader is Succeeding - 1I recently wrote an article called, “Signs That A Leader Is Failing”.  And I did so with a fair amount of trepidation.  When you consult with other leaders you always wonder what one of them will think when they read one of your articles.  You wonder if they think it is about them.

(Why is there suddenly a Carly Simon song playing in my head)?

Signs A Leader Is Succeeding - 2Well, today, I hope that all of the leaders that I have worked with over the years think this article is about them.

I have written over 160 articles describing, in some way or another, what it takes to be a superior leader in the home, at church, on the job, and in society.  Some researchers and authors claim a superior leader possesses certain traits or abilities innately; others say it is all personality, style and charisma. Still others maintain it is the behaviors or actions that I take — if I do this, then my followers will do thus — that are crucial.  Regardless of the how and why, these are some signs that your followers are following you and that you are succeeding as leader:

The team caught your Vision —  Successful leaders have followers that have a clear understanding of your vision and what it means to them as an individual contributor or follower.  They see it and they own it.  There is no ambiguity.  If you ask them on an elevator to describe the vision of the organization, they can express it with clarity and passion.

The team understands the Mission —  Successful leaders have communicated the mission and the team “gets it”.  They know why the organization exists in the first place and they have a sense of the historical context of the organization.  They can also answer the mission question on an elevator just as effortlessly as they can answer the vision question.

Signs That A Leader Is Succeeding - 4The team has a Goal  —  Successful leaders have followers who understand the goals set for them.  They were probably participants in setting the organizational goals and their individual goals.  They are both excited and challenged by the goals and they are looking forward to stretching to achieve them.

The team is Confident —  Successful leaders have followers who are confident in their leaders and in themselves.  They have been taken through a process Continue reading “Signs That A Leader Is Succeeding”

Five Things You Can Do To Prepare The Young To Lead


5 Things to Prepare Young Leaders - 2There is much to be learned from those who have served our Country by serving in the military. This is especially true if you look at some of the “specialized” organizations within the military.  I am blessed to have some very dear friends who have served.  One or two have served in some of our military’s most elite units.  Consider the following as it relates to leadership and youth.

“We expect to lead and be led. In the absence of orders I will take charge, lead my teammates, and accomplish the mission. I lead by example in all situations.” — Navy SEAL Creed

Navy SEAL Teams are a relatively flat organization. Everyone goes through the same grueling training, and everyone is trained to lead regardless of age or rank. In the civilian world, emergent leadership is about team members stepping up and taking the initiative to accept more responsibility and to perform work outside of their general roles when called upon. If we, as leaders, encourage and promote this type of drive, our young team members will be ready to rise within the organization, and our organization will be better off for it.

5 Things to Prepare Young Leaders - 1Here are five ways that we can prepare our young people for leadership.  But remember they are, in fact, young:

Give them a platform. Don’t hide your young leaders. Show them to the world. Let them be a feature of your organization.  Encourage them to contribute to the organization’s blog if you have one.  Take them along with you to trade shows and give them an opportunity to represent you in the booth.  And offer them opportunities to collaborate on ways to improve the organization’s systems and offerings.

Manage them, not their output. Get the right people in the right jobs, give them a goal, but don’t micromanage their efforts. It has been my experience that when someone comes to you and says, “I am not trying to micromange, but  . . . “, they are usually micromanaging!  Set goals and boundaries and then back off. Allow them to be innovative and develop systems, processes, and methodologies that will accomplish the goal you set for them and that get the job done. They may and probably will do it differently than you would have done it.  And that is OK.  Doing this will not only result in a more confident team and better retention, but will give your team members a sense of ownership that they wouldn’t get by simply following your orders.

Let them fail.  This one is hard.  Continue reading “Five Things You Can Do To Prepare The Young To Lead”

Signs That A Leader Is Failing

Leadership Failure - 1I was told by a manager one time, “If you aren’t failing, you aren’t trying.” And I am sure that there are many situations in which that statement is true. But, I am not dealing with effort and intentions alone today. Instead, I am dealing with results.  To some this may seem harsh.  Our society often expresses success in terms of trying really, really, really hard.  But for today, let’s look at failure from a results-oriented perspective.

There are certainly tell-tale signs when a leader is failing. And that is true even when the leader himself does not see it. Certainly those around him don’t always it either. And if those that do, don’t always know hot to address it.  But many times, those with discernment will see it.

Consider some of these signs of leadership failure within an organization:

  • A leader is failing when there is a refusal to accept advice or help from other leaders within the organization who are more experienced. Sometimes we think that we must do it all ourselves and we must “gut it out.” Although advice is easy to find. Good and sound advice is a precious commodity. As a leader you must seek it out and give it very careful consideration.
  • Al leader is failing when they lack the support of those around them. Failure is near when you have lost the support of those closest to you and who have real insight into the situation.
  • A leader is failing when new people searching for a an organization with goood leadership continue to pass you by. Among many things, leadership is defined by followship. And when there are folks in need of leadership and yet they choose a different organization, this is a sign of leadership failure and that failure is obvious to those outside of the organization.
  • A leader is failing when they bring embarassment or shame to the organization. It seems that the concept of shame is a distant and bygone concept. But everyone still understands embarassment on a personal level. So, if your organization is the brunt of jokes or is ridiculed publicly, there is leadership failure.
  • A leader is failing when there are financial problems. This one is a little tricky if your organization is a church or non-profit and it depends upon charity or offerings for funding. Fundraising is an unavoidable function of leadership in this setting. And financial problems are most often indicative of the lack of “buy in” by those in the organization. As leaders we must be able to communicate and get buy in.
  • A leader is failing when you continually miss opportunitues. There is a big difference between “seeing” and opportunity and “seizing” it. And these lost opportunities are hard to quantify. But here is where great leaders surround themselves with great teams where there is likely to be someone with the ability to spot opportunities and initiate a strategy to take advantage of that opportunity.
  • A leader is failing when there is desperation. Great leaders do not let the situation degenerate to the point that deperation kicks in.

Continue reading “Signs That A Leader Is Failing”