leadership incorporated blog

September 26, 2011

Inspired to Succeed: New Pecking Order

Simone L. just took over the leadership role in a mid-sized pharmaceutical contract manufacturing company. She had been with the organization for many years and was well-liked and respected by her peers. No one was surprised when she was chosen to succeed the retiring president.

Simone felt she had the support of her co-workers. So she was unprepared when those relationships changed as she assumed the presidency. All of a sudden people were talking behind her back. She got push back on changes that she thought everyone had wanted for some time. There was buzz that one of her co-workers was resentful, and thought he should have been selected for the position.

This isn’t unusual. Leadership both connects and separates you from those you lead. Change shifts the ground beneath your feet in relationships and increases uncertainty among those who used to be your peers. You may feel the same as ever, yet people see you as changed. Even as their respect may increase, so does the distance between you.

So what’s a new leader to do?

  1. Build confidence by having a clear vision and voicing that direction consistently so people know where the organization is heading.
  2. Build trust by always doing what you say you’ll do.
  3. Build certainty through structure. Structure is calming and safe.
  4. Build team by relying on people to do what they do best and making sure everyone understands their role in the big picture

Get used to being a little separated. Relationships will change. Expect it and stay calm and understanding. Above all, don’t take it personally. It goes with the territory.

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September 12, 2011

Is an employee mindset getting in the way of leadership?

Meet Frank. He recently took on a leadership role in a small medical technology company and immediately became very frustrated. They were much more dysfunctional than he had expected. They are highly disorganized. Their processes are inefficient. Their goals are unrealistic. The personalities he has to deal with are beyond challenging. The obstacles are enormous.
So Frank has become discouraged and depressed. He is offended by their lack of professionalism. He sees them setting themselves up for big problems. He isn’t sure he wants to be associated with a company like this. And he is thinking of leaving.
Now Frank is certainly entitled to this analysis. He is well within his rights to decide that this position isn’t a fit.
However, Frank is coming from the mindset of an employee, not that of a leader. And if he doesn’t shift this, perhaps he should leave. Because what this organization needs is leadership.
What’s the difference? Well, Frank’s focus is on himself. His sensibilities. His happiness. His abilities. His comfort level. His reputation. He is measuring all of this against current conditions in the organization. He is experiencing himself as powerless and his focus is on the present.
Leadership perspective is a total paradigm shift.
Leadership sees the opportunity for change instead of buying into the present as permanent.
Leadership relishes the challenge.
Leadership is not about the leader but about the organization.
Leadership knows that its primary job is to provide a clear and focused picture of where the company can go and what it can become.
Leadership can’t afford to become discouraged or frustrated, knowing that others are looking to leaders for cues as to what to believe and how to behave.
Leadership is a creative process. It’s all about seeing what could be, speaking about it in increasing detail and providing the encouragement, direction, support, tools and coaching to get the team moving strongly in that direction.
And leadership doesn’t get too emotionally involved. It has to hold the dichotomy of complete commitment along with a good measure of detachment. As soon as a leader’s identity is too tied up with the success or failure of the business, it’s screwed. It is now making decisions from an emotional and fear-based place and this is the worst possible place from which to run an organization.
It takes strength of character to resist joining the frustrated crowd and to instead head down an uncharted path. It ain’t easy to be the single voice of hope taking on the cacophony of anger, disappointment, frustration, fear and resentment.
Tough times are the proving ground for and the opportunity to step into true leadership. It’s easy to lead in good times. Hard times and challenges are the true test.

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