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Carl Robinson, Ph.D. on Leadership 10/2/2012
 
We help maximize the effectiveness of individuals and organizations by helping them improve their ability to lead, work together, select and develop their people.  Some of our related business services include: executive coaching, executive team coaching and executive assessments for development and selection.


Carl Robinson, Ph.D., Managing Principal
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Seattle, Washington
206-545-1990
carl@leadershipconsulting.com

In This Issue:

When Heroic Leadership Hurts

Breaking Through


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When Heroic Leadership Hurts

As a leader, what do you do when it’s time to step up and address a challenging situation? Are you able to inspire your co-workers and subordinates to get involved and contribute to the solution, or do you dive in and take over?
 
If you feel you are the only one left at the helm during these times, then you may be taking on heroic responsibility. At first nod, this sounds like a positive trait, but read on to find out how it detracts from your own results and alienates those around you.
 
Hollywood loves heroic responsibility; who doesn’t want a hero to come in and save the day? History is full of heroic responsibility. When leaders take on heroic responsibility for critical choices facing their organizations, it is often the beginning of a mass team exodus. Why is this?
 
Isn’t becoming a heroic leader what we’ve all been practicing for?
 
The choice to go it alone tends to set into motion a cycle in which team players are frozen out of sharing the burden of the solution. Hijacking the situation is not going to engage the people around you. This could be detrimental for everyone. Do you want to be left “holding the bag” when all of your support has fled the situation?
The all-or-nothing approach with regard to responsibility and leadership fosters an infectious cycle.
 
In the worst cases, it goes something like this:
 
· Leader reacts to the first sign of hesitation from others by trying to fill a perceived void.
 
· Members feel further marginalized, encouraging even more of a retreat.
 
· Leader is resentful for having to singlehandedly bear the whole situation and collapses under the pressure.
 
· Leader does an abrupt turnaround, flipping to an under-responsible stance to be insulated from the perceived looming failure.
 
· Followers react by assuming over-responsibility themselves, ensuring that they will never again be dependent on a leader who lets them down.
 
An Infectious Attitude
Leaders often say, “no one did their part!” This is actually the result of leaders not doing their part to engage, inspire and rally all of those involved in the situation.
 
This dynamic can infect any relationship - in life or in a professional setting - and spreads like a virus.You can find an obvious outbreak of the virus wherever people are saying that they were tricked, duped or were “just following orders.” Of course, as a leader, we never want to hear that last remark!
 
Rather than seeing winning as the highest value, we must replace it with the value of making an informed choice, based on dialogue. Instead of control, we must valuegenerating internal commitment.
 
Consider this maxim:
 
What we think about, we bring about.
Because the root of heroic responsibility is fear, the more we ponder possible failure, the more likely it becomes. Even the most seasoned leader can experience an innate “fight or flight” response when fear sets in, in the face of a high stress situation. The extremes of this response require the leader to either seize total responsibility or assume almost no responsibility.
 
A different, more thoughtful approach will render a positive outcome: collaboration, resource magnification, the benefits of diverse talents and perspectives.
 
Consider your reaction the next time you are faced with an extreme situation. Remember how detrimental a fight or flight response can be. Find the “responsibility balance” and lead people through the situation to individual and organizational success.
 
By taking the path of mutual responsibility, we not only help ourselves but we actually protect others from the “responsibility virus” and bring them closer to the middle ground of responsibility.

Breaking Through

It happens in every career, in every industry. A feeling of being stuck, optionless, and in need of a jolt. A breakthrough is defined as “any significant or sudden advance, development, achievement, or increase that removes a barrier to progress”. These moments can be career awakening epiphanies.
 
Creating Breakthrough Methods
You’ll reach new plateaus and achieve breakthrough results most effectively when you determine which methods maximize the opportunities available to you. These methods act as conductive vehicles that speed your path towards breakthrough moments. Identifying and leveraging new ways to seize possibilities will catapult you to breakthroughs.
 
There are several methods & approaches. Here are a few favorites:
 
Coaching and Being Coached
Whether in offices or on fields, coaches around the world focus on the accomplishment of goals – helping performers to achieve results and remove barriers. It is their duty to assist in generating solutions, create ideas, and turn the coached individual into someone with new avenues of thinking, decision making, and overall competence. By giving and receiving more coaching, and thus continually turning new solutions around in your mind, you will achieve more breakthroughs.
 
Request the Unreasonable
Don’t be afraid of asking for something you’ve got little right to ask for.  How else are you going to know if anyone will give them to you? Getting a properly positioned request granted, however unreasonable it may seem, can propel you to a breakthrough like a turbo charger as you rocket towards success. Even when you fail to get your request granted a compromise can be reached, putting you several steps ahead of what you would have normally been comfortable in asking for – great requests are a shortcut to breakthroughs and can make your path far easier.
 
Get Out Of The Office
A shocking change to the humdrum can have profound effects on your mindset, and can provide fertile ground for breakthroughs to grow and thrive. Putting yourself in a more colorful context can give you new perspective. I frequently encourage activities such as attending Cirque du Soleil shows because they are inventive, imaginative and stimulative, and would be an ideal exotic context for a management team to enjoy before a strategy session.  Or, sign up for a beginning art class - like ceramics where you can play with mud.  
 
The Direct Approach
Candid, unfiltered, feedback from a group of superiors, peers, and direct reports can have a profound difference in your view of yourself and of those around you. It isn’t the easiest path to reaching your breakthroughs, yet it has been proven that getting subjective, job specific feedback is among the most powerful ways to reshape our thoughts and pick up on unseen opportunities. You’ll get more & better information, and usually several suggestions about how to best get the results you want.


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