Leadership: Seed or Fruit?
Purpose: Learn immediately if you are fostering leadership or ignoring it. Discover the power of nurturing your people.
It was an enormous redwood tree. And due to regulations the forest service had to go to incredible trouble and expense in order to cut it down. The cutting team had to start by climbing to the branches and removing them one at a time from the lowest to the highest. Once at the top they could cut two foot lengths off of the trunk at a time until they reached the ground. It seems absurd to us that they started with the branches and then disassembled the trunk, a process that took hundreds of thousands of motions instead of just cutting at the base of the trunk, which of course, would have affected the entire tree. Recognizing that the efficiencies of working with the trunk in order to influence the rest of the tree holds true when we wish it to live and thrive, we have the choice to take a different approach ? yet, many are attempting to grow branches before the trunk.
Leadership is the trunk. Strategic initiatives are the branches. Benefits are the fruit. This is not philosophy; it is a simple statement of the truth.
- Trunk = Leadership
- Branches = Lean Systems, Sustainability, Decentralization, Agility, Customer care, More.
- Fruit = Profit, Market share, Efficiencies, Quality, Environment, Innovation, Compliance, Low turnover, Prestige, Influence, More.
Are you starting at the right place?
There is no other place to start. An idea in action means people in action. The very second someone exposes their desire for the accomplishment of an objective; the idea is in motion through people. The exposure of the idea is leadership in itself, then the actions of people, whether guided by proper principles or not, is leadership.
There is a misconception that leadership is always positive. It is not. Leadership is setting the example. That example can be good or bad. Either way, that example will be followed. In their book, Built to Last, Jim Colllins and Jerry Porras say, "Top management will have an impact on an organization ? in most cases, a significant impact. The question is, will it have the right kind of impact?" A manager sitting in his office all day, not interacting, not supervising, not inspecting, not involved, is setting the example for others. And yet, even if there is a low level use of positive leadership principles, there will still be a certain amount of good fruit.
These results, though limited, will usually follow from the power and validity of the idea, the existing infrastructure and manpower, and the mandate from the boss. The compulsory need to interact with others to accomplish a goal for mutual benefit means that a certain level of leadership capability exists and is needed in every person. The trunk of your business is leadership. Your company's leadership, with its latent capacity, will piggyback the initiative and produce fruit.
In normal conditions of competition and growth, this present level of leadership is sufficient to produce enough fruit to keep everyone happy and focused on marginal periodic improvements. Due to the fact that the ability to produce quantum leaps in leadership capabilities has escaped corporate America, the incremental improvements created through books, seminars and tapes have sufficed.
Ignore leadership development at your own peril ? Apply common sense
We have settled for the less involved leadership development approach and the nebulous results because we feel the need to do something without expending the resources that would then demand a measurement of ROI. In a Society for Organizational Learning supported survey, it was identified that one of the current challenges to leadership is that the "pressure is on for leaders to deliver and sustain measurable results and deliver results through others. (however) Focus of results is ROI, yet there is no measurement of ROI for leadership." Though there is ample evidence to support the positive affects of properly principled leadership, many organizations are unmoved unless they have internal numbers to justify the expense. The cost of getting the numbers, however, is a barrier in itself and leads to an abandonment of a serious program and reliance on the marginal results of "what everyone is doing."
Are you fixated on line items and task lists?
Our concentration, therefore, moves to the power of the ideal. Sustainability and Lean Manufacturing are the way to go, or it is our ability to be responsive to the market that is important, or by decentralizing we will produce the fruit we want. No matter the complexity of the strategic initiative it lends itself to a task list and line items. We can assign a person; put it in a pert chart and schedule meetings six months in advance. This black and white constitutes our corporate comfort zone.
We are darn good at it, and it predictably produces results ? though marginal. We are spending time on the branches, squatting at the end waiting to see the fruit. We are lavishing attention on the branches, pruning, watering and talking to them. If a leaf sprouts, we know it. If a leaf falls, we know it. We mark it in black or red and continue to stroke the bark and fluff the leaves. All the while, the trunk is left to nature for its water, sun and soil.
The growth of the trunk is out of our comfort zone. Dean Hohl, the President of Leading Concepts Inc. explains that, "The objectives associated with leadership, teamwork, and communication, don't lend themselves to task lists and line items." They are nearly impossible to quantify and track. It is easy to rest on our experience that the trunk was here when we arrived and it will be here when we leave. We've build hundreds of branches, but never a trunk. We then rely on the latent soft-skills of our people to implement the ideals.
Today we find ourselves in an unanticipated predicament, which is pressing us from several different directions and threatening our viability. Foreign competition, new technologies, and ideals that require a shift in corporate culture all seem hard to keep up with and out of our control.
Acknowledging that we can have minimal impact on our competitors, especially those overseas, and that new technologies are something that are requisite for all to grasp, our greatest opportunity for advantage comes from a superior ability to implement the reigning corporate ideals. Many strategic initiatives, particularly sustainability and lean manufacturing, have drawn us in with promises of incredible fruit and their adaptability to black and white. However much these initiatives look like branches, they are actually part of the trunk.
These initiatives necessitate a sea change in corporate culture. Successful implementation requires the buy-in of nearly everyone in the company, which demands a purposeful approach to changing people's values; a soft subject. The objective of changing people's behaviors forces us to enter an arena parallel to that of soft-skill development. Our situation demands that we get out of our comfort zone and figure out how to effectively nurture the trunk.
In order to best control the situation our focus must go back to influencing people's values. Along with helping people understand and value the power of the continuous improvement of lean thinking or the financial impact of sustainability, we have the complimentary opportunity to develop the soft-skills of teamwork, leadership and communication. If we are going to legitimately jump into this arena and do it correctly, not only is leadership complimentary, it is an imperative.
Leadership is the trunk. Implementation of these strategic initiatives cannot be successful with the existing level of leadership. We've reached a point of necessity, which compels us to develop the ability to achieve quantum advances in leadership capability. As necessity is the mother of invention, and invention at this level will be dramatically different, prepare for a method that is as different from standard "leadership and teamwork" development as the telephone is from the telegraph.
Jamie Flinchbaugh, an expert in lean manufacturing transformation, questioned, "How is it that such a low percentage of companies that know about lean can turn it into a success?" His answer was, "because the leadership, cultural, organization and implementation challenges are bigger than most people anticipate." I will reinforce his message by saying that in order to achieve ideal results you have to put ideal resources towards their accomplishment. Don't try to put out a house fire with a garden hose.
We no longer have the latitude to rely on an as-is trunk of leadership. We cannot expect that branches of revolutionary strategies can be managed and implemented with existing leadership capabilities. Decorating the leaves will not pass for results. We have to purposefully move the values of people, help them change their behaviors, and work together with them to grow the desired fruit.
By altering our concentration from the branches to the trunk, we are enhancing every ability of our organization. A healthier trunk, means the capacity for, and increased health of, our branches, which in turn produces a greater quantity and quality of fruit.
Now that we are focused on the trunk, we can begin to look at the opportunity of taking quantum leaps forward in the soft-skills of our people. The solution lays in immersion leadership training.
To learn more about how immersion team building and leadership training can help you visit: http://www.leadingconcepts.com
Copyright 2005 Brace E. Barber
Brace E. Barber works extensively with Leading Concepts, Inc. (http://www.leadingconcepts.com) in the field of immersion soft-skill training with a focus is on how to develop leaders, who are prepared for and can succeed under stressful circumstances. He is the author of the book No Excuse Leadership. (http://www.noexcuseleadership.com)
The Defining Moment: The Straw That Stirs The Drink Of Motivational Leadership (Part One)
Decades ago, as a rifle platoon commander in the Marines, I saw leaders who could motivate troops to do extraordinary things -- and leaders who couldn't get the troops to do much at all. I wondered what was the difference between the successful and unsuccessful leaders; and if that difference be taught.
Leadership and The Dirty Work
The airline, Jet Blue, has been featured in many magazines as a new company that has hard great results and success so far. A lot too has been mentioned about the challenges they face ahead and about the culture they created at the start and are working hard to foster now. One of the many things that sets Jet Blue apart is their focus on teamwork. Here's one example. They have no cleaning crews - every employee on the flight (including pilots and those not working but on the flight) cleans up the plane. This saves time and money - both things very important to any business.
Father Knows Best
A good strong example of a family leader would be Joshua in the Bible. He was a true spiritual leader and a strong man of God. He was not one to let the circumstances of the outside world convince him of defeat. Because of his strong leadership and convictions, everyone looked up to him as a father figure. Everyone but him and a few others were cut short and fell in the wilderness journey because they would not obey and follow God's instructions. Even today we still fall short of who we will serve. Idols have been and still are a major downfall in our success and failures. That is why Joshua told the people to choose whom they would serve. If they chose to serve the idols that their father's served, then they should be prepared for God's wrath. But, his advice was, "As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord." Josh. 24:15
Career Advice for Business Leaders: Empowering Others
Many potential leaders in business sabotage themselves and their organizations out of fear of empowering others. In 21st Century Leadership: Dialogues with 100 Top Leaders, Lynne McFarland, Larry Senn and John Childress assert, "the empowerment leadership model shifts away from 'position power' where all people are given leadership roles so thy can contribute to their fullest capacity." John Maxwell confirms this in his work on leadership, The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership. He states, "only empowered people can reach their potential," and that barriers within the organization are created when empowerment is not present. Maxwell observed that the most common barriers to a leader's empowerment of others are:
Ask Yourself Whats In It For WE?
"Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success." - Henry Ford
Leader is Not a Title
There is a steady flow of information in the form of books, articles, white papers and training all in the context of [ "what is leadership" or "how to develop a leader"]?. In this issue, I will avoid those two questions and write about two others that I believe might be on the minds of a lot you readers and they are:
What is Leadership?
Leadership is what every organization needs and so few have in adequate supply. Part of leadership is what the first President Bush called "the vision thing". It's the ability to see what does not exist and then gather, mold and shape the resources needed to make it happen.
Dont Be a Complainer
Complaining. There's room for legitimate complaining, but if you let this deadly disease of attitude - complaining ? loose, it will conquer you. Complaining can take over your life. Destroy you and leave you without anything.
Being an Extraordinary Leader Through Tough and Challenging Times
Tough and challenging times will surely come. That is a given. The questionis what kind of leadership we will demonstrate during those time. Those whoare weak leaders will see lasting damage done, if not see the organizationfall apart completely. With Extraordinary Leaders at the helm, however, anorganization can actually become stronger and thrive in spite of the toughand challenging times. That should be our goal so here are some idea on howto be an Extraordinary Leader in tough and challenging times!
The Seven Mistakes to Avoid when Organising Your Student Leadership Program
How do you measure the success of a training or teaching program? There are many measures you can use including; focusing on learning outcomes, behavioural change, student engagement and even efficiency of delivery.
What We Can Learn From J. Paul Getty
J. Paul Getty planned to enter the U.S. Diplomatic Service, but, when he got out of college, the Oklahoma oil boom caught his attention. Since his father had already prospered in the oil business, he was irresistibly attracted to the prospects of wildcatting, and he decided to postpone his diplomatic ambitions for two more years.
Real Charisma, Clinton Style
What exactly is Charisma? Most would agree that it is a magical, illusive, personal quality, divinely endowed on some people more than others. One thing is for certain, it is more easily identified than defined. It is the secret to being liked and agreed with by others. It is the much sought-after quality that causes people to envy others because of their congeniality and ease at which they interact with people. Charisma, like many other character traits, may be gifted more to some, but regardless of your given level, charisma, like any other skill, can be further developed.
Managing Monsters in Meetings - Part 5, Dominant Participants
While dominant participants contribute significantly to the success of a meeting, they can also overwhelm, intimidate, and exclude others. Thus, you want to control their energy without losing their support.
3 Es For Leaders - Engage, Empower, Encourage!
"Enflamed with the study of learning and the admiration ofvirtue; stirred up with high hopes of living to be brave...and worthy..., dear to God, and famous to all ages."- John Milton
Managing Monsters in Meetings - Part 4, Quiet Participants
There are many reasons why someone would decline to participate during a meeting. For example, the person may feel reluctant to speak out, may disagree with the approach endorsed by others in the meeting, or may just be tired.
Leadership - Passion, Purpose, Profit - Its Not That Hard
Go to any educational institution, look at airport bookshelves, shopping centres and open your eyes to the myriad of products available today and you could be forgiven to thinking that the art of leadership was beyond mere mortals.
Make The Elephant Jump -- Leading With A Kind Heart
Leadership is not about getting people to do what they want. If they did what they want, you wouldn't be needed as a leader. Instead, leadership is about getting people to do what they don't want to do (or don't think they can do) ? and be ardently committed to doing it.
Professional Organizations: Join or Fold?
All of us join professional organizations for a reason--a friend belongs, we need to for credibility, etc. Many times we let years slide by and we don't stop and review those reasons. Unless something sets off a boundary--lack of funds, the organization runs itself into a ditch, or a leadership problem.
The Personality of Leadership
Have you ever wondered what type of person or personality makes the best leader? Most would consider the answer to that question to be the person that has the greatest success, the largest organization, or the best staff. Conversely, have you ever wondered how it is that a person with little drive or entrepreneurial skills ends up in a leadership position? You know the type person I am writing about, a person that couldn't lead a dog on a walk, but has been given the responsibility of leading a large and well-established organization.
Weakness, Struggle, Fear, Knowledge, Growth, Courage, Leader
Theodore Roosevelt was one of the most remarkable men in the history of the world. As a boy he wanted the boldness of his father. As a child he wanted to be a naturalist, but as a teenager he wanted to get into politics. Once in politics he wanted power, and once in power he would change the world forever.
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