Developing Leaders – Tom Yeakley

Taking the Mystery out of Leadership

Archive for the month “September, 2015”

Leadership Jazz – 4

How does a leader ensure good, creative work and how does a leader effectively lead creative people?  Max DePree in his work, “Leadership Jazz” reminds us of the following related principles.

1. How does a leader approach the process for creative work?
A leader protects unusual persons from the bureaucracy and legalism so ensconced in our organizations.

“A leader works with creative people without fear.

“While respecting them, a leader is wary of incremental changes.  Don’t let small changes—perfectly good in their own right—replace true creativity and real innovation.

“A leader arranges for projects to proceed along a narrowing path.

“In the end, true innovation will never be a democratic event–it’s just too risky for group-think.  Majorities seldom vote to change.  A small group of accountable leaders together with the creative people involved must make the decision and take the risk.

“Peter Drucker once said:  ‘When you have a real innovation, don’t compromise.’

“A leader paves the way for change.

2. What do creative people need to be fruitful in the worlds of organizations?  First they need access to (even intimacy with) senior leadership.

“Creative work needs the ethos of jazz.

“It matters a great deal how leaders give work to gifted followers.

“Creative people, like the rest of us, need constraints.

“A leader needs to give creative people license to be contrary.

“Leaders welcome the committed skeptic, who wants to be held accountable and demands a share of the risk.

“Leaders give odds to creative people that their work will get to market.

“Creative people need a fundamental level of trust from leaders.

“The work of creative people is only part of a whole; it cannot be taken in isolation.

“Finally, creative people need to work with others of equal competence.

3. What should a leader be careful about when dealing with creative people?  First, a leader will be careful about the utilitarian self-concept so much in favor with administrators.

“Second, just as moving up in the hierarchy does not confer competence, so organizational power does not guarantee wisdom.

“Be wary of setting out to win prizes.

“Good work is the goal; recognition is a consequence.

“A last caution: Don’t fail to give credit.  People who through their unusual gifts bring change and innovation and renewal to organizations need to be identified.”

Are you leading well those creative people around you?  Are you encouraging or stifling their creativity?  Have you defined their contribution and identified their boundaries?

Leadership Jazz – 3

Max DePree has the following to say about leading from beliefs, values, and vision in his excellent work titled, “Leadership Jazz.”

“From a leader’s perspective, the most serious betrayal has to do with thwarting human potential, with quenching the spirit, with failing to deal equitably with each other as human beings.

“Beliefs and values are the footings on which we build answers to the questions, “Who matters?” and “What matters?”  The promises we make as leaders must resonate with our beliefs and values.

“It behooves us, then, to find our voices.  Leaders must speak to followers; we must let them know where and how we stand on the important issues.

“Vision is the basis for the best kind of leadership.  A vision exists somewhere when teams succeed.  Instinctively, most of us follow a leader who has real vision and who can transform that vision into a meaningful and hopeful strategy.

“Another fragile facet of a leader’s character is what I call an eagerness for the fray. The best leaders I know are always anxious to get to the job at hand, to do what they are there to do.

“Real preparation consists of hard work and wandering in the desert, of much feedback, much forgiveness, and of the yeast of failure.

“Moving up in the hierarchy does not confer competence.

“The only appropriate response to a promotion is ‘Good grief, have I got a lot to learn now!’

“Success tends to breed arrogance, complacency, and isolation.  Success can close a mind faster than prejudice.”

A leader’s communication, both verbal and written, will focus those around them on various issues.  Pick and choose your communication topics to ensure that your influence is focused on those issues that are most strategic and important for the mission at this time.

What are you communicating about?  What are your followers focusing on as a result of your communications?

Leadership Jazz – 2

Max DePree in his great leadership book, “Leadership Jazz” has some excellent thoughts regarding a leader’s promises.

“Though I’m still learning things about being a leader, I can tell you at least two requirements of such a position:  The need to give one’s witness as a leader—to make your promises to the people who allow you to lead; and the necessity of carrying out your promises.

“Followers can’t afford leaders who make casual promises.  Someone is likely to take them seriously.

“For no leader has the luxury of making a promise in a vacuum.

“A leader who backs away from her promises under duress irreparably damages the organization and plants the seeds of suspicion among her followers.

“The best leaders promise only what’s worth defending.

“It’s important to understand that leadership is a posture of indebtedness.  The process of leading is the process of fulfilling commitments made both to persons and to the organization.

“Knowing what not to do is fully as important as knowing what to do.

“Remember to think of followers as volunteers.  Remember, too, that the goals of the organization are best met when the goals of people in the organization are met at the same time.

“Here are several questions that leaders should expect to hear.  The answers to these questions, you see, are some of the promises leaders will make.

  • What may I expect from you?
  • Can I achieve my own goals by following you?
  • Will I reach my potential by working with you?
  • Can I entrust my future to you?
  • Have you bothered to prepare yourself for leadership?
  • Are you ready to be ruthlessly honest?
  • Do you have the self-confidence and trust to let me do my job?
  • What do you believe?”

If you are a verbal processor you can unintentionally make promises that you never intended.  As a leader your words carry extra weight and your thoughts expressed are assumed to be decisions.  You did not intend your words as final, just talking and thinking aloud, but others remember and will quote you in the future.  Beware of communicating what to you are just thoughts in a process but others hear as final decisions.

Are you a faithful leader?  Are you faithful to your word?  Can you be counted on to do what you say you will do?

Leadership Jazz

Max DePree has a second leadership classic titled, “Leadership Jazz.”  Here are some of his thoughts on the subject of faithfulness in the section, “Finding Your Voice.”

“Let me suggest five criteria as a way to start thinking about faithfulness.

  • Accountability for others, especially those on the edges of life and not yet experienced in the ways of the world, is one of the great directions leaders receive from the prophet Amos.  Amos tells us that leaders should encourage and sustain those on the bottom rung first and then turn to those on the top.
  • Integrity in all things precedes all else.
  • The servanthood of leadership needs to be felt, understood, believed, and practiced if we’re to be faithful.
  • There is a great misconception in organizations:  That a manager must be either in control or not in control.  The legitimate alternative is the practice of equity.
  • Leaders have to be vulnerable, have to offer others the opportunity to do their best.  Leaders become vulnerable by sharing with others the marvelous gift of being personally accountable.

“One becomes a leader, I believe, through doing the work of a leader.  It’s often difficult and painful and sometimes even unrewarding, and it’s work.”

Are you becoming a faithful leader?

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