Talking Leadership

Posts Tagged ‘Leadership’

Lead Like Scrooge?

In Leadership Articles (Archives) on December 1, 2017 at 11:51 am


“Oh!, but he was a tight-fisted hand at the grindstone, Scrooge! a squeezing wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching old sinner! Hard and sharp as flint, from which no steel had ever struck out generous fire; secret and self-contained, and solitary as an oyster.” – Charles Dickens. A Christmas Carol

At this time of year it seems fitting to turn to Dickens with A Christmas Carol for some seasonal leadership inspiration. Let’s see what we can learn from one of literature’s most well known bosses – Ebenezer Scrooge. Read the passage again and this time let your mind linger over the words, then let’s take a closer look.

As the story unfolds, we can’t help but sympathize with the diligent and hard working clerk Bob Cratchit, a devoted husband and father who must endure the scorn and mistreatment of a cold and uncaring boss. Scrooge sees Bob’s wish to be with his family over Christmas as an imposition. As far as he’s concerned Cratchit is taking advantage of him. Even today there are a great many people feeling torn between unreasonable bosses and their families, they are often as discouraged as Bob Cratchit. Encouraging a healthy work / life balance is not only the right thing to do – it builds loyalty and performance. So this Christmas season why not take time to do a balance audit. Look a little more closely at how hard the members of your team are working and how they are feeling about it. Make sure there is time for family, rest and even a little Christmas cheer.

Dickens describes Scrooge as “secret and self-contained, and solitary as an oyster.” I think we can pull two good lessons from this passage. Today too many leaders hoard too much information. They don’t talk to team members regularly about the business, and when they do their comments are often superficial. If you want involved employees then you have to involve them – that’s the way it works. When you share information openly, when you genuinely work to help the members of your team understand the situation (whatever it is), you send a powerful message that you trust them and care about them. This is why a good communication plan is a strong loyalty builder. Remember, we talk to people we care about. This is the message good communicators send. So this season, take stock of how often you’re holding staff meetings and how openly you are sharing information.

Finally, I ask what might be the most important the question: Can a leader be “solitary as an oyster” and still build a high performance team? You of course know the answer. Leadership is at its heart all about relationships. When the people you lead know you care about them, they care about you – team members don’t want to disappoint leaders who care about them. I am convinced this is a powerful and enduring leadership truth. Whether you are encouraging, challenging or correcting, it must be evident that you care. So your final assignment as this Christmas approaches is to ask yourself how well you know the people you are leading and how well they know you. If you have well developed relationships, you are doing the work of a good leader, keep it up. If you’ve lost touch, if you’re spending too much time in your office and not enough on the shop floor resolve to get out more – Christmas is a great time to make a start.

We all know how the story ended. Ebenezer had a change of heart. He became the very best of leaders, illustrating the last and most important lesson: a change in the right direction can have a dramatic effect on everyone involved. Merry Christmas all, let us all try to keep the spirit of Christmas all year long.

Dan Gaynor

Follow Well To Lead Well

In Leadership Articles (Archives) on October 6, 2017 at 9:58 am


Great teams are ordered, and order starts on the leadership team itself. There is no place for anarchy, yet too many leaders unwittingly create more chaos and discontent than they realize. The conditions arise when we are directed to lead a mission we don’t personally agree with.

These situations are important tests for every member of the leadership team. If we’re honest with ourselves, we’ve all failed this test at some point. So how should we deal with them? First, a good leader will welcome input from the members of his or her leadership team. Advisors help leaders find tune plans and avoid unnecessary mistakes, so advocate for your point of view as an advisor, and when you’ve had your say, fully support the direction you receive as you carry it to your team. You would expect the same from those you are leading. If you cannot do this, even when it is contrary to a choice you would have made, the time has come to leave. Anything else invites chaos and eventually conflict for you and those you lead.

In his book, Shake Hands With The Devil, Ret. Lieutenant General Roméo Dallaire poignantly described his thought process at the height of the FLQ crisis of 1970, when he was asked to lead a mission he was uncomfortable with. His men had live ammo in their guns and he might have to give the order to fire on fellow Quebecers. Dallaire wrote, “If I gave the order to shoot, I could not let my men sense the slightest shiver of doubt in my belief in the rightness of that order. Any uncertainty on my part would communicate itself to my men; any hesitation on their part could result in chaos and innocent casualties. In a nanosecond I had to be able to set aside deep personal loyalties and put the mission first.”

Leaders who cannot put the mission first and follow well create three problems:
1. Divided loyalties
When the team sees you don’t fully support an initiative, they are caught between their loyalty to you and their obligation to the larger team. They hesitate, they cannot give the mission their best work and are often cited for poor performance, they become the innocent casualties of your leadership.

2. Multiplied resistance
It’s not good when anyone resists a mission their leader has charged them with, but a single individual does not have the same impact as a leader who is resisting. A leader can and will multiply that resistance across an entire team, undermining the effort for everyone who is trying to make a success of the effort.

3. Hypocritical example
If you are to become a transformational leader – someone who leads important changes – you will soon discover that leadership is not a popularity contest. There will be times when doing what is right is just not popular. Times when you must direct the team to follow you on a mission they don’t agree with. How do you do this when your example is contrary to what you ask of them?

I offer one caveat. You do not take a mission you believe is morally wrong to your team. If you find yourself in this situation, try to change your leader’s mind and if you fail it’s time to find a new shop. This said, these situations are generally rare. Most often resistance to a mission is the product of pride, preference and a need for popularity. What we’re asked to lead is not morally wrong, we just think our way is better, or we don’t want to take unpopular news to the people we lead.

A leader who follows well offers advice and then, regardless of the decision that’s made, accepts the mission and takes the hills he or she his charged to take. Anything less invites chaos, conflict and disorder. Anything less undermines the mission and the success of the team.

Interested in going deeper into timeless leadership practices? Check out the book or call or write for some individual coaching or a group workshop.

Dan Gaynor

Making the Most of Coaching

In Leadership Articles (Archives) on August 29, 2017 at 8:00 am

Personal Development Career

Sometimes it’s hard to believe that 14 years have passed since I resigned as president of a large daily newspaper to pursue a new direction in leadership development. Maybe not new so much as a sensible next step. I spent much of my newspaper career developing the men and women who served on my leadership teams. I did a lot of coaching.

In the years since, through Gaynor Consulting, I’ve provided a lot of coaching to a great many clients in many different industries – both in group workshops and individual sessions. Some have been more successful than others, I believe because they took the right approach. So how do I think you can get the most benefit from coaching?

Be an active honest learner
I can quickly tell those who want to learn from those who are across the table because they have to be. Those who want coaching come prepared with questions. They know where they want to get to (they have goals for growth) and they are open and honest about their situations. With coaching you really get more out when you put more in.

Make it a priority
We spend time on the things that are important to us so if you just squeeze your coaching session in when you can around everything else you are speaking volumes about what matters. As I have often observed, without coaching people under pressure usually just to the same things harder faster and you know what Einstein said about that – doing the same things over and over and expecting a different result is insanity. Developing better, more refined leadership skills is the key to meeting old challenges in more effective ways.

Be teachable
I’m sure most people would like to think of themselves at teachable. The reality is, for many pride closes the door to learning. It’s humility that opens the door. Too many of the leaders I meet don’t make it to a workshop or a coaching relationship at all because they are too proud to be open to learning. It’s as if they believe that finding out they didn’t know something, like how to provide expert feedback, is an admission of weakness, when in fact it’s just the opposite.

A few years ago I was presenting workshops to a large organization. I had to present each workshop several times to cover the group. The CEO, (one the most accomplished leaders I’ve ever known) attended each and every session. His opening comments included the observation that he picked up something new in each one. Now that’s the posture that leads to continuous learning and sets the right example for every other leader on the team.

Keep an open mind
Too many people are so committed to a belief that they cannot see the value of a new way of doing something even in the face of the most compelling rationale. I often see people defend a flawed position far too long. Admitting a mistake, even to oneself, is an act of strength and a key to learning.

Revisit and reinforce
Over these years presenting workshops I’ve also come to appreciate the value of reinforcement. You simply will not attend a workshop or learn something new in a coaching session and lock it away for good in one pass. Learning requires repetition. I see the evidence when I do a brief knowledge check to discover time and time again that too many people have forgotten some of the most important fundamentals. This is why I encourage everyone to take lots of notes on the handouts and revisit the material from time to time. With enough repetition knowledge starts to stick.

Apply what you learn
I once heard it said that information alone does not lead to transformation. It’s information and application that gets the job done. The goal of good leadership development is to help people build strong new leadership habits but new skills don’t start as habits. Discipline always precedes habit. Nothing new, whether it’s an exercise regimen or a new approach to providing feedback, starts as a habit. It starts as a discipline that says, “I’m not going to miss that daily workout” or “I’m going to find at least one opportunity every day to apply the feedback skills I just learned with a member of my team.”

Over the years I have coached I’m sure hundreds of men and women, first as a newspaper executive and now through my own company. There are undeniably two groups: those who became better more skilled leaders and went on to produce great results and those who remained stalled right where they were wondering why the next promotion never came. Reflecting on this experience it seems to me that those in the first group knew how to make the most of coaching.

For more on timeless leadership practices check out my workshops or consider some individual coaching.

Dan Gaynor

Thinking “Corporate”

In Leadership Articles (Archives) on January 31, 2017 at 1:10 pm

Like so much of our language, the word “corporate” has taken on new meanings over the years, many of them not very flattering. Often when we hear it we think of power, money, cold-hearted leaders, business in it’s worst manifestations. A look at its classic definition provides a different perspective. Our english word corporate gets its roots in the latin word for the body, corpus. It literally means to form one body of many members.

We can draw insight from this perspective as we consider corporate life in all its forms – business, non-profit organizations, community groups or any other situation in which people come together to work or play.

The classic definition of corporate gives us powerful insight into organizational life and leadership. it carries with it implications that are worth thinking about, regardless of where you lead. It’s helpful to see the organization then as a corporate body.

Let’s start with the idea that corporate gets at the reality that we are at once highly individual and at the same time connected to everyone else who is part of the group. The contributions of one affect all. Whether or not we like it, we rise and fall together.

There is a reciprocal relationship within every corporate body. The body needs strong members; the members need a strong body. When the body is strengthened everyone benefits; when it is weakened everyone suffers. The body will only ever be as strong as its members and what they contribute. When one contributes even a little more, the entire body is strengthened for everyone. When one contributes less, or undermines the effort in any way, the body is weakened for all. This is why great leaders treat every performance like it really matters.

At newspapers across Canada, I shared this thinking in my own way, with the many different teams I led. I held a staff meeting, usually within a few days of my arrival. Among my comments, I told everyone that I believed people were the most important part of every newspaper. I waited for the predicable response, “Oh, he’s one of those guys, those people guys.” Then I would continue, “No, I really mean it. So if I really believe that people are the most important part of this newspaper, I will treat every performance like it really matters. I will insist on your best and accept nothing less.”

When you really believe people and what they do matters, it carries with it a responsibility to pay attention, and it sends the message to team members that they must approach work as though what they do really does make a difference. There can be no free rides. I have always believed that people want to make a difference, they want their contributions to matter. I sent this message early and often. I supported it with strong caring performance management throughout the organization.

In a strong corporate body there are no unimportant contributions. So how does your leadership team treat the development of the organization? Does every member of your leadership team treat the work of each individual as indispensable? How would this corporate perspective change the way you lead?

Want to go deeper into good leadership? I wrote, The Heart and Hands of Leadership: The Twelve Timeless Practices of Effective Leaders to pass on what I’ve learned through a career of building strong teams. Or consider some individual coaching or a leadership group workshop.

Dan Gaynor

The Pain Problem

In Leadership Articles (Archives) on October 18, 2016 at 11:37 am


“Pain insists upon being attended to.” C.S. Lewis

There is no question that pain presents a significant problem for many leaders. For many, their reluctance to say or do something that will be painful causes them to avoid many of the most important interventions. To develop expert performance management practices we must accept pain as a constructive and even essential force.

Pain often provides the motivation to correct a bad habit – it insists upon being attended to. Sometimes it leads someone out of the wrong work and into right work, providing for lasting job satisfaction. Pain is so often part of the dynamic of meaningful change. I know it has been in my life. Indeed it is in every life. Because pain is a universal part of the human experience it stands to reason that it serves a purpose. And yet the reluctance to accept it as an inevitable consequence of a leader’s work causes too many leaders to choose avoidance over engagement. Surfacing and resolving the big questions about people and their work often entails some pain and yet it among a leader’s most important work.

When you become aware of a performance problem, the first step is always to provide corrective feedback – a simple 2-5 minute coaching conversation that describes the situation, the problems it’s giving rise to, and the change that is required. Caring and fair leaders voice their concerns as soon as they arise, they don’t delay. This minimizes damage and provides the best likelihood of a successful correction, but the pain problem often prevents leaders from holding even these initial conversations. The individual loses the opportunity to correct a problem early and the mission must accommodate a poor performer. As performance issues worsen so too does the deterrent effect pain can have on leaders.

When corrective feedback doesn’t bring the change that’s needed, consequences up to and including job loss should follow. Experience has taught me that pain has a tendency to intensify until it is resolved at the source. This is the way progressive discipline should work. Job loss is painful, often intensely so, this we know. At times it provides the motivation for someone to learn an important lesson and make a necessary change. Once again, a skillful leader must in all things treat people fairly. This means clear feedback with a clear warning about future consequences. When the feedback is not acted on, however there is the limit to a leader’s influence, we cannot force the change we would like to see in someone else. When leaders are unwilling to resolve these issues in a timely manner, they become accomplices to the problem.

Pain often motivates change because it forces us to address it at its source, nothing else brings relief. Good leaders never deliberately cause pain for others, however the best all come to accept it as a natural, even necessary by-product of their work. In doing so they serve well the missions and people they lead.

For additional leadership resources I offer group workshops, individual coaching, speaking and a book.

Dan Gaynor

Discussion Questions:
1. When has pain played a purposeful role in your life?
2. When was the last time fear of pain stopped you from taking steps you should have taken to resolve a performance issue? What were the consequences?

Risky Business

In Leadership Articles (Archives) on March 23, 2016 at 1:58 pm

Red pill, blue pill

Lately I’ve encountered too many leaders who seem far more concerned with playing it safe than they are with making a difference. The simple truth is that powerful transformational leadership and risk are inseparable. Leadership – real leadership – isn’t safe. Never has been, never will be. The few leaders who actually make a meaningful difference to their teams and missions all accept risk as part of the package.

The reality is that the risks of transformational leadership are real. There are no guarantees of success. At times you prevail and at other times, well you know what they say, the pioneers are the one with the arrows in their backs. Churchill put it his own way when he said, “Do you have enemies? Good, it means you stood for something.” Standing for something will eventually cost you something.

There is a bit of a paradox here. Leaders who make a difference are the ones who earn the promotions and rise through the ranks. Become a leader who makes teams better, stronger, faster and people notice. But that same work entails rocking the boat and challenging the way things are, that can also get you fired.

I’ve plenty of first hand experience with this. At one newspaper my drive to assemble a best in class leadership team entailed removing several people who were popular with leaders at head office and one who was popular with a very significant shareholder. There I was back at risk again: do the safe thing and leave a touchy situation alone or take on the problem and the risk. I approached it with care and was able to make the changes I felt had to be made. We built a leadership team I am proud of even today and went on to build that newspaper’s performance quite significantly together. The same approach though has cost me a few good clients in the work I do these days. I consider speaking the uncomfortable truth as tactfully as I can to be essential to my work. I know that I have to look into the mirror each day and feel good about the fellow I see. I know that real change isn’t possible without confronting difficult and often unpopular choices.

Taking risks is essential to powerful leadership. Taking them foolishly is not. When a move was risky I always took care to approach it thoughtfully. In the leadership team example I cited I took care to build my case step by step before I sought the approval to remove the individuals. Still, know that a thoughtful approach reduces risk, it doesn’t remove it. So many leaders today just seem unwilling to go there. They will spend careers as safe and ineffectual leaders, stuck endlessly in junior or middle management roles.

Just today, I was coaching another young leader through this same dilemma as she wrestled with whether or not to talk to her boss about an uncomfortable situation – play it safe or take a risk to try to make a difference. The choice will be hers alone as it must be. So where is your leadership today? Are you taking risks to make a difference or are you playing it safe, unwilling to rock the boat. This is a choice that separates the few truly transformational leaders from the league of ordinary managers who populate so many of our organizations.

Want to go deeper into great leadership? Check out my book, The Heart and Hands of Leadership: The Twelve Timeless Practices of Effective Leaders. Available in soft cover and in all major e-book formats.

Dan Gaynor

1. What was the biggest risk you’ve taken in leadership.
2. Can you name a risk you had to pay for

Powerful Ambition

In Leadership Articles (Archives) on February 2, 2015 at 8:00 am

Hands and power

“Power is a tool. It allows us the freedom to be who we truly are.” Erwin McManus.

Ambition gets a bad rap, at times deservedly so. But the question is not whether ambition is good or bad but whether it is selfish or selfless. One way or the other, ambition is a powerful force that drives change and underpins accomplishment.

Let’s begin by reaffirming that all great leadership is sacrificial. The leader wields power, and power is a necessary tool that must always be used it in the service of the team and its mission. Power reveals the character of leaders. For the best leaders, team and mission always come before personal interests – the leader’s interests always come last.

It has been said that motivations, drive actions and actions create outcomes. Motivations and the power to do something about them are a potent partnership. Honourable motivations drive honourable actions and outcomes. Dishonourable motivations… well you know what they produce. The formula also works in reverse: outcomes help us understand actions and reveal motivations. I believe this can be said of ambition – among the most powerful of motivators. Let’s look at the two variations of ambition, and the actions and outcomes they produce.

The less common form of ambition is selfless. Nobel Peace Prize recipient Martin Luther King Comes to mind. By any standard pursuing a dream to see racial segregation ended was ambitious. It was an unselfish ambition intended to benefit not just one race but to pull down the barriers and hatred that split a nation. So powerful was King’s ambition that it motivated him to a life of hardship and risk. As we know, he gave his life for it. When a leader is driven by selfless ambition the outcomes always benefit others. This type of ambition is inspiring, it invites trust and becomes a powerful force for good.

The more common form, and that which correctly gets a bad rap, is selfish ambition. Alberta politics has recently given us an example in the floor crossing of nine elected representatives, including the party leader. If we go back to outcomes as a reliable indicator of motivations it’s hard to accept this as a case of mistaken motivations. The move has been widely criticized by people of all political stripes. A host of commentators have described the widespread betrayal experienced by those who believed in and supported the Wildrose dream. This kind of ambition breaks trust and is a big reason so many people are so cynical about leadership.

The best leaders are always ambitious people, so are the very worst. The use their positions their power and their influence to improve the situations of others. The worst use the same advantages to improve the situation for themselves – to feather their own nests. For the best leaders people are the purpose of leadership; for the worst they are the means to an end.

Ambition is a powerful force. In and of itself neither good or bad, a force channeled in one direction or the other by the heart of the leader. Want more on power and ambition? Check out chapter 12 of my book, The Heart and Hands of Leadership: The Twelve Timeless Practices of Effective Leaders. 160 pages, available in soft cover and all major e-book formats.

Discussion questions:

1. When have you experienced an ambitious leader, what was the goal and how did the leader affect those who followed?
2. What is your ambition, where is it focused and will it stand the test of power?

Three Keys To Trust

In Leadership Articles (Archives) on September 2, 2014 at 8:23 am

IMG_0921Grandson Sawyer learning to trust

Much has been written about the importance of trust to effective leadership and rightly so, it is likely the single most important factor. When followers do not trust leaders they are wary, cautious, uncertain. Moments of broken trust always elicit feelings of disappointment and often anger. They can put followers in an oppositional relationship with the leader. These are not the feelings that lead to dedicated high performing teams. Trust is the glue that binds leaders and followers together.

When followers trust leaders they work more creatively and they demonstrate much more initiative. Initiative and creativity (doing something without being told to do it, or doing something entirely new) naturally entails risk, and people don’t take risks when they don’t trust the leader. Instead, they default do doing just what they are told to do and nothing more. So if you want creativity and initiative you must earn and maintain trust.

So how do the most effective leaders build and maintain trust?

1. Like so much of leadership, trust starts with character. A selfish or uncaring leader will not be able to apply the right tactics and earn trust. Followers easily discern where the leader’s heart is. They don’t trust leaders whose hearts are not in the right place. There is no faking it when it comes to character.

2. When leader’s hearts are in the right place, when they approach each day as an opportunity to serve the team and it’s mission, they do not hurt people and this raises an important relational question: Will he or she hurt me? When a poor leader intimidates or embarrasses a follower it hurts and trust is broken. The most effective leaders build and maintain trust by taking care not to hurt those they lead.

3. Finally, truth is essential to trust. When a leader is caught in even one deception, trust is broken. Leaders deceive followers for both dishonourable and honourable reasons. At times the truth is hard for followers to hear and leaders deceive in an effort to protect followers or to shield themselves from being the bearer of bad news. This is doing the wrong thing for the right reason most of the time but it’s all deception to followers. Truth can never be contingent on convenience. The most effective leaders tell the truth – all the time. They are sensitive in the way they tell it, taking care to help followers see why a difficult decision is necessary and acknowledging the hardship it entails.

A final thought: Trust is fragile. Some people enter a new relationship more predisposed to trust, others are more wary, especially when they’ve been burned. In all cases trust takes time. You must demonstrate consistently that you won’t hurt people and you won’t deceive people to earn it. One slip and the trust you’ve been trying to build, like fine crystal, is shattered and on the floor. While broken trust can be repaired, (a mea culpa is always the first step), it can take a very long time. Multiple breaks are irrecoverable. Much easier to treat trust as the valuable asset it is and do all you can to build and protect it. The reward is always a dedicated, creative team that takes the kind of initiative that other lesser leaders never receive.

Want to go deeper on effective leadership? Please check out my book, The Heart and Hands of Leadership: The Twelve Timeless Practices of Effective Leaders 160 pages, available in softcover and in all major E-book formats.

Dan Gaynor

Discussion Questions:

What was the most significant broken trust you experienced? What gave rise to it and how did it affect the way you felt about that leader?
Think about a leader you took some risk and initiative for, how would you describe that individual?

Trust Builds Acceptance

In Leadership Articles (Archives) on May 31, 2013 at 11:14 am


When good leaders introduce new initiatives they are often met with resistance that creates conflict and discomfort for the very people who are resisting their efforts. So why is it that so many people resist leadership, when accepting it would lead to far better outcomes? Followers will always resist leaders they do not fully trust, and trust has to be earned. Leaders earn it by demonstrating they will not hurt the one whose trust they wish to earn.

 A recent experience with my nine year old quarter horse, Boone, struck me as a good illustration for something every leader should pay careful attention to. I’ve owned Boone for four years now and he has been wary of new experiences – allowing me to approach him while he is lying down, crossing a river or the dreaded tar lines in the road, and our latest milestone, allowing me to put his rain blanket on. I was always convinced that he wanted to trust me with these things, he just had to learn that he could.

 Aware of the rain blanket issue I had formed the habit of tying Boone before I went for the blanket but last Sunday morning I was in a hurry and decided to try it without the tying routine. I grabbed the blanket and slipped under the rails to approach him. He immediately started, but then he did something he has never done, he stood still. I slowly approached him, stroked his grey neck and slipped the blanket on without incident. It occurred to me that trusting me with the blanket in hand was a little scary the first time but the payoff was he spent the afternoon warm and cozy in a cold rain.

 My mind went back to the last time I tried without the  halter and rope, over a year earlier. It was a dreadfully cold night with rain bordering on snow and I chased him in six inches of sticky mud with no success. I ended up cold and drenched to the skin. I left him sweating and fearful in the cold rain, without the blanket. The lesson – there is no point in chasing someone who is not ready to trust you and be helped. If I’m honest with myself, as I try to be, my stubbornness in wanting to overcome him was a big part of why I stayed out there so long. I’m sure I set our progress back with that mistake.

 Horses have taught me a lot about leadership. I don’t think people are so different than Boone. Followers have to learn to trust leaders; leaders have to earn their trust. Until this exchange takes place the leader can end up cold and wet; the follower sweaty and fearful. While I’d like to think Boone learned from consequences alone (it’s cold without the blanket and warm with it) and this was probably part of it, something else changed – Boone reached the point where he decided to trust me.

 Many followers have been burned by poor leaders who hurt them, it’s no wonder they don’t immediately trust the first good one who comes on the scene. I believe Boone learned to trust me for the same reason followers learn to trust a good leader. I have spent countless hours with him, grooming, feeding, just hanging out and yes, riding. Along the way he’s also learned that the blanket is warm. Watching Boone these past four years learn to trust me and accept my leadership with each new experience has been very satisfying. Boone has moved from cautious to willing partner and it has made us a better team.

Dan Gaynor 

Discussion Questions:

  1. Think about the leaders who have broken trust with you. Who were they? What were they doing?
  2. What do you believe are the keys to earning trust?
  3. How does trust pave the way for leading change?

The Case For Order

In Leadership Articles (Archives) on August 30, 2012 at 11:08 am


We live in a world where authority has become a bad word and we place a lot of value on personal freedoms, a world of self first where a great many people don’t want rules, expectations or accountability. Within this type of culture it’s not surprising that authority and order have fallen out of fashion. Today, ideas like self-directed teams and flattening the organization (a euphemism for getting rid of the managers) get a lot of attention, but all healthy and effective teams are ordered, and it takes authority to instill and maintain order. The opposite is chaos, and chaos does not lead to high performance or high productivity.

While it may not be fashionable leadership thinking today, there will always be a need for order, and someone in authority to maintain it.

The question is not whether authority has any place in leadership thinking but who is holding it and how is it being used. Caring and effective leaders use authority to protect organizational order around three facets of corporate life: fairness, accountability and values.

Throughout history, from kings to CEO’s, the senior leader has been responsible for making sure the community is fair and just. This is why we have the rule of law. Every parent knows that the first sentence coming out of their two-year-old is often, “It’s not fair!” Well, were still saying it at 50! When a workplace is perceived to be unfair, people react strongly. The most dedicated employees get turned off. Good leaders use their authority to ensure the workplace remains fair, as best they can.

Good leaders also ensure accountability is part of life within the organization for two reasons: First, it’s essential to the welfare of the entire workplace, without accountability a culture of excuses soon blossoms, and this kind of place wouldn’t have much of a future for anyone who is part of it, (for more on this check out “Accountability And The Corporate Body” from our archives.) Second, accountability is a good teacher. When a strong leader holds someone accountable for what they have done he or she is positioning them to learn, even when that accountability comes in the form of job loss – sometimes people need to lose a job to learn a lesson. Failure to enforce appropriate accountability makes the leader an accomplice to the problem.

Finally, good leaders must be the keepers and shapers of corporate values. Values more than anything, affect the quality of the workplace and the team’s performance. When strong leaders observe arrogance, lying, laziness, bullying, selfishness or any of the other values issues that cause so many problems, they do something about it. They know their ability to attract, motivate and retain talent rests largely on the quality of the organizational values. Values are not an area where skillful leaders go soft. Effective leaders provide a strong personal example, communicate what they want in team members, then reward the right behavior and correct the wrong behavior wherever they encounter it.

Effective leaders are caring and they are strong. They appreciate the need to maintain organizational order around fairness, accountability and values to ward off chaos. Authority and order may be out of fashion in a lot of current leadership thinking but they will always be at the heart of healthy high performing teams.

Discussion Questions:

1. How do you feel about the need to use your authority to instill order when it’s called for?

2. Can you think of a time when accountability taught you, or someone you know, a key lesson?

3. Which organizational values are most important to you and how often are you telling people about them?

To take your team’s leadership skills to a new level call to arrange a 1/2 day workshop