leadership incorporated blog

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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