Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Imagine That You Are a New Leader

How we make others feel about our leadership is now a critical measure of our success or failure.

Imagine you just joined a new company in a new position, and you have been given the responsibility for achieving success. Your predecessor was unable to pull it off, so you have some extra pressure to deliver results. Imagine you accept this responsibility and start your job tomorrow.

While holding that thought, imagine the following situation, which I’ll call Scenario 1. As you do your due diligence and make your assessment of the situation, you uncover concerns that you didn’t see before. The talent seems to be light for the task ahead. You sense that the resource base is also light, and you realize that the job is bigger than you thought.

The business problems also seem bigger and you can’t get your arms around them. You are new and believe you are supposed to be in charge of the situation. You decide not to share your fears and worries out of concern that others will think you are not capable of being a leader or are unable to handle the challenge. How would that decision impact the future success of the business?

As an alternative, let’s look at Scenario 2. You come aboard, do your due diligence, and find problems are more difficult than you originally anticipated. You immediately bring your direct reports into your assessment and, with open and honest communication, you create an engagement process to build positive energy and focus. You include others in discovering new and exciting ways for building the business. In Scenario 2 you are more open and transparent with colleagues, you express your desire to create sustainable partnerships, and you are willing to coach and be coached to help yourself and others grow.

Leadership Choices

Whether you are a man or a woman, old or young, seasoned or new, you have leadership choices about how you want to engage with your organization from the moment you step into your new role.

In Scenario 1, you choose to hold your fears inside, but by doing that you broadcast to your colleagues that you are unapproachable. As a result, your concerns magnify and your fears amplify until they appear from the inside out as insurmountable. Without realizing it, you send out signals of secrecy, which cause other people to make up stories about what is going on inside your head. By not sharing what’s on your mind, you set yourself apart from others—distancing yourself from the very colleagues you need to work with to overcome challenges that face everyone.

In Scenario 2, on the other hand, you know how to face your challenges by including others rather than pushing them away. You reflect on the challenges deeply and think about how to create the context for bringing them onboard with the challenges ahead.

Who Are You?

What kind of leader are you? How will you approach the job of moving your business forward? Will you be open or closed? Will you blame others for not having the talent you need, or will you engage others in finding ways for everyone to raise the bar and succeed?

What Kind of Leader Are You?

  • Power-over Leadership or Power-with Leadership
  • Exclusive or Inclusive
  • Being in control or Developing accountability
  • Criticizing and judging others or Appreciating others
  • Punishing risk-taking or Encouraging risk-taking
  • Instilling fear or Instilling hope
  • Silo mentality or Encouraging sharing
  • Dictating or Developing

Do you know who you are? Most of us know ourselves only from the inside out. We know how we want to be perceived and that we want to be acknowledged as a leader. We rarely see our dark side; we most often focus on our bright side. We know ourselves in terms of the values and beliefs we stand for—again, from the inside out.

Executive coaching has taught us that what is missing for many leaders is the view from the outside in—how we influence others and how they perceive us relative to the actions we take every day. Since feelings have been considered taboo for so long in the business world, we have pretended they do not exist. Yet, among the new leaders, feelings make a difference—a big difference. In fact, how we make others feel about our leadership is now a critical measure of our success or failure.

 Judith E. Glaser is the Author of two best selling business books:

Creating WE: Change I-Thinking to We-Thinking & Build a Healthy Thriving Organization - winner of the Bronze Award in the Leadership Category of the 2008 Axiom Business Book Awards, and The DNA of Leadership; and the DVD and Workshop titled The Leadership Secret of Gregory Goose

Contact: 212-307-4386
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