Here’s the big difference. We consider a leader successful because of high achievement. We measure them based on their accomplishments. And that’s a good and important thing. But we consider a leader great because of the positive influence they’ve had on the lives of others. We measure them based on their character and care for others.
In Alaska, we’re accustomed to seeing icebergs from time to time, near our many glaciers. Icebergs are majestic and powerful floating structures. They can be the size of buildings! What some people don’t know is, 83 per cent of a floating iceberg is unseen, below the surface of the water. But what’s below the surface buoy’s up and supports the 17 per cent that is seen.
The life of a leader is much like the iceberg. Business and operational successes are easily seen, and get most of our attention as a result. But 83 per cent of great leadership is largely overlooked, because it is not readily seen without going deeper.
Like the iceberg, it’s the 83 per cent of the life of a leader that’s unseen which allows the 17 per cent that is seen to either “sink or swim.” Focusing on the 17 per cent above the surface can help you achieve success, which is important in any organization. But getting below the surface, focusing on the 83 per cent is how a leader begins the journey to greatness.
The world is in desperate need of great leaders of character; leaders who give more to their world than they take; leaders who care about investing in the next generation of leaders.
There are plenty of people offering advice on how to become more successful. Every five minutes there’s a new tweet in my Twitter feed telling me what successful people do. (Many of the articles contradict each other.) I read and apply some of them because I want to be more successful, as every leader should.
But I want to go beyond just being successful. I want to be a great leader. I hope you do too. But it doesn’t happen by accident. Going for greatness requires thinking differently than striving for success. That’s the conversation I want to create with the Great Leaders Blog- a conversation about what’s below the surface.
Until next time, here’s a paradigm to chew on. If we set our minds on being successful, we may or may not ever become great leaders. But if we set our minds on becoming great leaders, our definition of success may change, and we may find ourselves being more successful at what really matters than we ever dreamed.
1. Think of a great leader who impacted your life. Tell someone about that impact, and why it makes that person great in your eyes.
Hi, my name is Jay. I’m a pretty average looking, pasty white, middle-aged guy. Almost. There’s one thing that’s unusual about me. I have a passion for making great leaders. How did it get there? Great leaders before me put it there. They were leaders who thought of me as not just a statistic, but an immortal soul with eternal value. They wanted more from me than to just do their bidding. They wanted to make me a great leader. And they challenged me to make more great leaders.
They saw their time with me as an investment in the future. They stopped what they were doing, pushed away from their desks, and really listened when I needed them to. They cared more about who I was becoming than what I was producing. They challenged me not to just be successful, but to be great. And that’s what made them great. Maybe you’ve had great leaders like that too.
This is a blog dedicated to greatness. It’s in memory of great leaders before us, and it’s a commitment and investment in today’s leaders and tomorrow’s.
Every three minutes, I see a new article in my Twitter feed about how to be more successful. It’s overwhelming! A lot of it has helped me become more effective in getting things done, and I’d recommend learning some of those tools. But I want to have a different conversation. I want to make a distinction between successful leaders and GREAT leaders, and I want to have that conversation with people who care about those they lead.
And I want to challenge you to do one more thing with me. I strongly believe that the number one job of a great leader is to make more great leaders. I don’t want to just equip you to be a great leader. I want to equip you to equip others to be great leaders as well. So, while I’m investing in your greatness, I want you to simultaneously invest in someone else’s greatness. Because ultimately THAT’S what will make you a truly great leader.
Here’s how it works:
First, think of someone you want to invest in with the hope that you’ll both grow as great leaders together. Maybe it’s one person you’re doing life with. Or maybe it’s a team that you lead. Invite them to join you in a conversation about great leadership.
Second, forward this newsletter to them and ask them to subscribe to it so that they’re getting it as well. Here’s the link to subscribe.
Third, whenever you get a new newsletter, schedule time to discuss it together. And ask two questions of each other: “What did you learn,” and “What are you going to do about it?”
And lastly, challenge them to make the same investment in someone else. Next thing you know, you’ll be infecting your world with great leaders. And don’t we know our world needs them!
OK, go for it! This is going to be amazing! One more thing just for fun: Write me a quick note at firstname.lastname@example.org and tell me how this first step went. Who are you going to invest in? Who are they going to invest in?
One of the most frustrating time wasters in the workplace is spending hours and resources working on something only to find out it’s not what your boss wanted. Or believing you were doing something the way your boss expected it to be done, only to find out in a feedback session you misunderstood their expectations. Wasting time and resources at work due to misunderstanding hurts credibility and often leads to frustration, feelings of resentment and loss of respect.
Many of us spend the first year of working for a new supervisor trying to figure out, mostly from trial and error, how things are supposed to be done. Sometimes, the boss’s verbal directions don’t match their unspoken expectations. Sometimes, those expectations are inconsistent from one day to the next, or from one employee to the next.
This is understandable however. For most of us supervisors, if we were asked every week about our workplace expectations, and we gave an answer off of the top of our head (which would be the case for most of us), the answer would probably not be consistent week after week. It would vary based on the mood we were in at the time, new information or circumstances, or a variety of other variables that change from week to week. And often we’re just too busy in the moment to explain things as thoroughly as we should.
But when our lack of clear expectations leads to confusion and distress, valuable time and productivity are lost. And so is your credibility. And so is the company’s productivity.
With a little additional effort, forethought and intentionality, it doesn’t have to be that way. You can be the leader who breaks the mold. You can have the employees who are confident about working consistently for you and with their peers, knowing that they are all moving forward together in the right direction- the direction that you clearly articulated to all of your employees.
One of the best ways to become a leader whose communication motivates employees is to have a written leadership philosophy. Put down in writing what you expect of your employees and what they can expect from you in return. Consistent expectations lead to predictability in the workplace, which leads to stability, confidence and improved productivity and teamwork. So how do you create crystal clear expectations for your employees?
The first step is to realize that you’re probably not as understood as you think you are. None of us are. So begin by assuming that you’re going to have to work harder at being clear about your expectations than you thought. But, like all leadership development, a little extra effort up front will have huge payoff down the road.
Second, commit to taking time to put your big picture expectations in writing, along with the major principles that guide your decisions and leadership behavior. Hone that message into a “living” written leadership philosophy that you can use as your basis for communicating a consistent message.
Third, share your written leadership principles and expectations with all of your employees. They will be thankful for your clarity and for the days and weeks you’ve saved them by not having to figure you out through trial and error. And you’ll be thankful for their extra energy, consistent effort and improved productivity.
And lastly, let your daily actions be consistent with your written and spoken expectations. Hold yourself accountable to behavior consistent with even the smallest details. There’s nothing more frustrating than bosses who don’t walk their smallest details. There’s nothing more frustrating than bosses who don’t walk their talk or hold people accountable to their stated expectations, even the smaller ones. It’s better to not share an expectation than share it and kill your credibility by not living up to it.
You can download some FREE examples of effectively written leadership philosophies here.
Supervisor, if you’d like to become an expert at clearly and consistently communicating your expectations, I’d recommend attending my Leadership Excellence Course in Anchorage or Seattle. Every participant finishes the three-day course with a written personal leadership philosophy that’s ready to share with his or her employees. Click here for all the details on dates, locations, and discounts. If you live outside of Alaska or Washington, I can connect you with a Leadership Excellence Course led by one of my Academy Leadership colleagues in your area.
One of the most common failures of managers today is the failure to effectively handle workplace conflict. We’ve all experienced a conflict between employees that derailed teamwork, dissolved trust, broke down communications, robbed us of productivity, and took the joy out of our work. So it’s natural to assume that we need to avoid conflicts in the future. You may have promised yourself you would not let that happen again. You may have communicated to your team that conflict won’t be tolerated. This is the “save your drama for your mama” leadership approach. After all, there’s too much important work to be done. “Why can’t these people just get along?”
Added to that, some leaders’ personalities (mine included) feel mentally and emotionally drained by personal conflict. Our tendency is to isolate from people whose opinions and ideas disagree with ours.
But the truth is, avoiding a conflict is usually the worst strategy for dealing with it. This is such an important issue for supervisors and executives, I dedicate a whole block of my Leadership Excellence Course to helping leaders develop a solid strategy for resolving everyday workplace conflict. Let me share some highlights of that training with you.
Supervisors, when conflict happens at work, whether you’re one of the parties in it or not, it’s important to engage it rather than avoid it. Avoiding conflict can often lead to:
And we all know that loss of productivity means loss of profitability! If that doesn’t motivate executives to learn healthy habits for handling conflict, I don’t know what will. In fact, effectively and consistently managing team conflict can actually IMPROVE team productivity and, ultimately, profitability. OK, so how can a manager effectively leverage conflict to create a stronger, more productive and profitable team?
The first step is to understand what conflict really is. Conflict is simply a condition where people have different expectations, desires, ideas or needs related to a common resource, project or concept. Conflict does NOT imply a lack of character, a lack of leadership skill, an inferior personality trait, or even a value judgment about a person. Conflict naturally happens when people work together toward any goal they care about. Because people (that includes you) naturally think differently than 75 per cent of their colleagues, conflict naturally and regularly occurs between good people, especially when they care deeply about what they’re doing.
Second, choose to believe the best about those involved in the conflict. Assuming that their intentions are honorable, just as yours are, takes the sting out of the conflict and allows us to begin dealing with the issue from the right frame of mind. This is harder than it may appear, because of the way our brains are wired. When your brain senses conflict, it begins releasing adrenaline, which causes your “fight or flight” survival instincts to kick in. And adrenaline is not the smartest thing in the world. It cannot tell the difference between a verbal attack and a physical one. This is why we must make a conscious decision in that moment to act appropriately, not react.
Third, look for a win/win solution. Engage the people in the process of collaboration. For competitive personalities, this will require a more cooperative attitude toward other parties in the conflict. For more accommodating personalities, this will require asking them to be more assertive. Different personalities approach conflict differently, but it’s possible to draw any personality into a collaborative process. (More on that in a future article.)
Of course, a situation could occur where collaboratively working for a win/win solution is not the appropriate course of action. But you should think of those scenarios as the exception, not the rule. The collaboration process takes extra effort, but that effort pays off in building a team that will perform at a higher level in the future. When a team learns to consistently practice healthy collaboration strategies, trust grows between team members, and future conflicts can be dealt with more effectively, increasing long-term productivity and profitability for your organization.
Manager, if you’d like to become a guru at effectively and consistently managing conflict in your team, I’d recommend attending my Leadership Excellence Course in Anchorage or Seattle-Tacoma. Click here for all the details on dates, locations, and discounts. If you live outside of Alaska or Washington, I can connect you with a Leadership Excellence Course led by one of my Academy Leadership colleagues in your area.
Jay Pullins has been leading and developing leaders in a variety of settings for over 30 years. He has a diverse background as a leadership coach, military officer, an appointed state official, and executive leader of Alaska's largest church. Jay has trained over 1,400 leaders in the last five years, from Alaska to Southern California, in various fields from universities to military, construction, product distribution, manufacturing, telecommunications, churches, banks, casinos, and a railroad.