Developing Leaders – Tom Yeakley

Taking the Mystery out of Leadership

Archive for the month “October, 2015”

Leading Change – 2

Overcoming complacency and the desire to maintain the status quo is key to leading change.  John Kotter in his great book titled, “Leading Change” gives us the following reminders on creating a sense of urgency for change.

PUSHING UP THE URGENCY LEVEL
“Creating a strong sense of urgency usually demands bold or even risky actions that we normally associate with good leadership.  Bold means cleaning up the balance sheet and creating a huge loss for the quarter.  Or selling corporate headquarters and moving into a building that looks more like a battle command center.  Or telling all your businesses that they have twenty-four months to become first or second in their markets, with the penalty for failure being divestiture or closure.

“Never underestimate the magnitude of the forces that reinforce complacency and that help maintain the status quo.

“We don’t see these kinds of bold moves more often because people living in over-managed and under-led cultures are generally taught that such actions are not sensible.  If those executives have been associated with an organization for a long time, they might also fear that they will be blamed for creating the very problems they spotlight.  It is not a coincidence that transformations often start when a new person is placed in a key role, someone who does not have to defend his or her past actions.

“Bold moves that reduce complacency tend to increase conflict and to create anxiety, at least, at first.  If top management consists only of cautious managers, no one will push the urgency rate sufficiently high and a major transformation will never succeed.”

How’s your personal sense of urgency for bringing about change?  Is there an agreed upon sense for the need to bring significant change from those you are leading?  What needs to be addressed for you to get that sense of urgency embraced by many you are leading?

Leading Change

John Kotter has written a foundational book on the subject of leading organizational change titled simply, “Leading Change.”  One of the primary obstacles leaders must overcome is the sense of complacency that sees little need to change.

Here’s Kotter’s thoughts on how to overcome such complacency.

ESTABLISHING A SENSE OF URGENCY
“With urgency low, it’s difficult to put together a group with enough power and credibility to guide the effort or to convince key individuals to spend the time necessary to create and communicate a change vision.  People will find a thousand ingenious ways to withhold cooperation from a process that they sincerely think is unnecessary or wrongheaded…In this complacency-filled organization, change initiatives are dead on arrival.

SOURCES OF COMPLACENCY
“Nine reasons help explain this sort of complacency.

(1)  No highly visible crisis existed.
(2)  That meeting was taking place in a room that screamed “success.”  The subliminal message was clear; we are rich, we are winners, we must be doing something right.  So relax.  Have lunch.
(3)  The standards against which these managers measured themselves were far from high.
(4)  The organizational structure focused most people’s attention on narrow functional goals instead of broad business performance.
(5)  The various internal planning and control systems were rigged to make it easy for everyone to meet their functional goals.
(6)  Whatever performance feedback people received came almost entirely from these faulty internal systems.  Data from external stakeholders rarely went to anyone.
(7)  When enterprising young employees went out of their way to collect external performance feedback, they were often treated like lepers.
(8)  Complacency was supported by the very human tendency to deny that which we do not want to hear.  Most of us, most of the time, think we have enough challenges to keep us busy.  We are not looking for more work.  So when evidence of a big problem appears, if we can get away with ignoring the information, we often will.
(9)  Those who were relatively unaffected by complacency sources 1-8 and thus concerned about the firm’s future were often lulled back into a false sense of security by senior management’s “happy talk”.

“Big egos and arrogant cultures reinforce the nine sources of complacency. Never underestimate the magnitude of the forces that reinforce complacency and that help maintain the status quo.”

Are you seeking to lead a change process that is finding it difficult to get traction or overcome inertia?

Leadership Jazz – 6

Here’s the final installment from Max DePree’s outstanding book titled, “Leadership Jazz.”  In this section DePree addresses the topic of what are the key attributes needed for great leadership.

Attributes of Leadership:  A Checklist

  • Integrity.  Integrity is the linchpin of leadership.
  • Vulnerability.  Vulnerability is the opposite of self-expression.
    There is no such thing as safe vulnerability.
  • Courage in relationships. Followers expect a leader to face up to tough decisions.
  • Discernment
  • Awareness of the human spirit.
  • Sense of humor.
  • Intellectual energy and curiosity.
  • Respect for the future, regard for the present, understanding of the past.
  • Predictability.  To their followers, leaders owe predictability as a human being.
  • Leaders must be calculable forces in organizations; they are not free to follow a whim.
  • Tending a vision is as difficult as conceiving one.
  • Breadth.  To borrow from Walt Whitman, leaders are people large enough to contain multitudes.
  • Comfort with ambiguity.  Healthy organizations exhibit a degree of chaos.
  • Organizations always delegate the job of dealing constructively with ambiguity to their leaders.
  • Presence.  Leaders stop—to ask and answer questions, to be patient, to listen to problems, to seek the nuance, to follow up a lead.
  • Leaders stand alone, take the heat, bear the pain, tell the truth.”

How’s your assessment related to the above checklist?

Leadership Jazz – 5

Continual personal development as a leader is essential for implementing great leadership.  Max DePree addresses this topic in his book titled, “Leadership Jazz.”

“We need to take into account not only the needs of our careers, but the “careers” of every member of our families.

“Leaders think about polishing their personal gifts.

“Leaders see a twofold opportunity—to build a life and to build a career.  And the fact is that people become leaders only by building both.

“Leaders deal in substance and the quality of life, deaf to the calls to pursue quantity and appearances.

“Good leaders know that moving up in the hierarchy does not magically confer upon them competence.  They know that being elected president, for instance, gives them the opportunity to become president.  Leaders also know that their real security lies in their personal capabilities, not in their power or position.

“A leader’s capabilities begin to be tested shortly after she arrives on the job.  Spontaneity and reflection begin to fade away amid the din of schedules leaders don’t make and commitments they don’t seek out.  Required reading begins to edge out elective reading.  More and more energy goes into resisting pressure to move in undesired directions.

“Followers adamantly demand that a leader possess a high degree of integrity when it comes to self-perception.  A combination of self-confidence and humility seems to me to be crucial.

“Organizations have a right to expect decisiveness from leaders.  Being decisive in an area of one’s strengths is not too difficult.

“Acting in the face of one’s weakness requires courage and risk.

“Am I willing to reserve time on my calendar for reflection?

“In learning to listen, have I thought about improving my ability to practice the art of silence?

“Am I prepared to think about polishing gifts as a way of dealing with time and leaving a legacy?  As the years slip by, am I learning to see through the lens of mortality?  How does this improve me today as a leader?

“What will give me joy at seventy or eighty?

“At the end of life, what will I face?  Or, more important, whom?

“Ask yourself frequently, “What truly gives meaning to my life?”

Are you continuing to develop yourself over a lifetime?  Are you continuing to be a life-long learner?

Post Navigation