Follow up on Eight Lessons from Leaders Part 1

A while back Michael Keegan wrote a post on Leading Across Boundaries, which included eight lessons from leaders that were profiled in the report, Six Trends Driving Change in Government. As a follow up to that post I’d like to look deeper at each of those lessons and how we assess ourselves as leaders against them. Today, we’ll look at the first four:

  1. Leaders need to act quickly with strategic intent – The world is changing quickly and organizations need to keep up. We can’t dwell on decisions and hope to be moved along with the tide. At the same time, making rash, reactive decisions won’t help your organization either. Leaders need to be able to strike a balance between time and strategy. We can use the massive amounts of data available to us and analytics to help make better decisions, faster. We need to look toward the future, think about where our market and customers are headed, create a roadmap that aligns to that, and move forward with execution without hesitation.

Assess yourself: If you spend more time reacting to short term goals, more time talking than doing, and have data but no idea what to do with it, you’re not yet there.

Personal Assessment: Objectively, and anyone in my organization would affirm it, I’m stuck in the mode of short term goals.  It is not by any lack of understanding the data nor the understanding of the long term strategic intent; it is a product of practicality.  So even though I blog about the importance of Leaders to act quickly with strategic intent, it is not achievable or practical to think, as a leader, you will always be successful in executing in that manner. I think that is okay as long as you recognize it, have a plan to keep your eyes on the future while working on the present and still hold a vision that you communicate to your organization.

  1. Attention from the top is paramount – Leaders at the top level need to be deeply engaged in the details of their organizations. You don’t want the first time you learn about something to be when it’s become a publicity nightmare. Instead, be an active participant in the ongoings of your organization and give guidance to those supporting you.

Assess yourself: Are you up to date on the latest changes to your organization? Do you understand the work your people do and why they do it? Do you feel comfortable talking about your key solutions and capabilities? If yes, keep up the involvement!

Personal Assessment: Leading an organization of 5,000 people, sometimes this is daunting.  As I reflect on how I spend my time, the engagement I have with our consultants and our clients, I feel that at present, this is working well.

  1. Collaboration maximizes speed of execution – Social media, mobile, and cloud have become the standard of operations. These tools allow us to collaborate within and beyond our organizations. No longer do you have to wait to find an expert or book a meeting room. Key stakeholders can be easily and quickly brought together via technology to help create solutions. Not to mention, the breadth of knowledge expands to not only employees or partners, but to customers, to communities, and beyond – You’ll find that the boundaries of the past are quickly becoming blurred.

Assess yourself: Does your organization leverage collaborative technology to connect employees? Has your dependency on physical space decreased? Have you engaged your customers to help create better solutions? If not, you still have work to do.

Personal Assessment:  I can say I have done all the above, but there is always room for improvement and it is a personal objective for me to increase collaboration at all levels with multiple channels.

  1. Use different leadership styles when necessary – One size does not fit all. Everyone is different, every situation is different, and leaders who can be agile in their delivery will be most successful. We as leaders must be contextually intelligent. “Contextual intelligence is the ability to understand the macro-level factors that are at play during a given period of time,” said Harvard Business School’s Tony Mayo. He continued that a “leader’s ability to make sense of his or her contextual framework and harness its power often made the difference between success and failure.”

Assess yourself: Has your leadership style changed as the world around you has changed? Have you tried applying new methods and new thinking to new challenges? If yes, you’re on the right track.

Personal Assessment:  For better or for worse, my leadership style has changed with my positions and with the situations at hand. I would like to believe, and do, that there are few core principles that drive my leadership style, the dominate characteristic changing based upon the situation.


Friday Fast Tip: Be Prepared for the Unexpected

Just like snow at the end of March, our professional lives and decisions can result in unexpected outcomes. You can’t predict them all, you certainly can’t prevent them all, but you can be prepared.

When making decisions, think about all the potential results, even the ones that shouldn’t happen or the ones you wish wouldn’t happen (ehem, 20 degrees in spring!); then make contingency plans in case they do come to fruition.  It’s always a smart choice to be prepared for the worst possible outcome, no matter how seemingly unlikely – though you do want to weigh the cost of this preparation vs. the probability of it happening.

So before you put your winter boots away for good, make sure that spring is actually here to stay.

What I’m reading now: Leadership Excellence: Not for the Faint of Heart

Sadly, I think all of us have encountered people along the way whose fears and insecurities kept them from being the leaders they were capable of becoming—leaders who lack the courage to match their proverbial “talk” to the reality of their “walk.”

A thank you to Bruce Kneuer for sharing this post with me on Twitter!