How often have you asserted something "without a doubt"? But stop and think for a moment; to be truly without a doubt, one of two conditions must be trued:
A real leader knows that doubt is inevitable, and in fact necessary. It is doubt that will drive a real leader to explore alternatives and counter-arguments, and to be respect them. It is doubt that will impel the real leader to step into other people's shoes and to see things from multiple perspectives. It is self-doubt that guards against hubris, and ensures a life-long quest for personal improvement.
Let our leaders have a little more doubt, please.
Collective dreaming is an opportunity for a group of people to construct a vision of their future. With its roots in positive psychology, and appreciative enquiry, it shifts the focus away from problems to be solved, and on to doing what works, and doing more of what is already working. Recently, I was working with a team who had been through a tough time lately. A great deal of organisational change, a couple of formal complaints and high staff turnover risked making this team of exceptional people become disillusioned. They were ready for some positive thinking.
Through a guided visualisation, I had the team envision a point in time one year on, and to think themselves into it, as if it were now. They explored questions like what the environment looks like and sounds like; how it feels to work in this team; how they are behaving towards one another and towards their customers; what they are saying to one another; what a fly on the wall would notice about the team; what skills and capabilities they are drawing on to be successful; what new opportunities are arising to further develop their skills; what the team’s core values are; and how their own personal values are being met by being part of the team.
I asked them each to come up with a metaphor for the team in a year’s time, when it is operating just as brilliantly as they want it to be. The results were richly varied. One person chose a German automobile company as their metaphor, identifying characteristics such as efficiency, innovation, expertise in each unique component part, brought together skilfully to make a high-performing result. Another chose a beaver, because it is industrious, works together with others to maximise resources, collaborates, is organised and at the same time a cohesive social unit. Another chose Brains from the Thunderbirds, because he is the communication hub, with his finger on the pulse, accessing and utilising all the other members of the team to get the best results. The picture above was one person's tree metaphor.
The team needed no further guidance to start to extract the common themes from their wide-ranging metaphors, to create their shared vision of the future. Further thinking created an inventory of resources within the team to generate the planning and momentum needed for the immediate actions. Stimulated by one person choosing Google as their metaphor, they realised that the staff turnover could be re-framed as a positive thing – the natural consequence of being a team of intelligent, talented, young, ambitious professionals. Inevitably such people would be highly employable and much in demand; and the loss of one team member would give the opportunity for the others to step up to the plate, learn new skills and extend their experience.
The day ended with the team buzzing with excitement and a palpable increase in their self-worth. Collective Dreaming may sound like an intangible concept, but it can deliver absolutely tangible results.
Leadership skills: 7 Key attributes for exceptional leaders
We take it for granted that leaders have good communication skills, can motivate people and get results. This article explores seven advanced competencies that set truly great leaders apart.
1 – Courage
A true leader is prepared to go out on a limb to get results. Be prepared to face difficult or risky situations with resolution, self-possession and confidence. Motivate others to follow in such situations. Go for it.
2 – Vision
Have a clear purpose and be able to paint a picture of your vision to others. Mediaeval leaders used symbols on their shields and banners representing their cause, which acted as a rallying point for their followers. What is on your banner?
3 – Inspiring Followership
Why should I follow you? What makes it worth my while? Identify what motivates your followers and capitalise on it. Take notice of their level of willingness to follow you, and adjust your behaviour, communication and example-setting to build their willingness.
4 – Serving
“I lead by serving, I serve by leading”. Serving in a leadership context is a two way street. The leader serves a higher purpose, whether it is a corporation, a deity or an ideal. The leader also serves their people. When you give to those around you as much as you expect them to give to you, you will be rewarded by respect and trust from motivated and inspired followers.
5 – Advocacy.
Present compelling arguments in favour of your cause, idea or policy. Actively demonstrate support for the issue. Be ready to speak fluently and passionately about your cause. Great leaders are inspirational when talking about or debating their cause.
6 – Decision-Making
Sometimes it’s tough; sometimes it feels like any decision you make is full of pitfalls, but as a leader you have to make decisions. So make your decisions with conviction, display confidence in your decisions, take ownership of them and follow them through to implementation.
7 – Entrepreneurship
Entrepreneurs show agility, speed of response and independence of thinking, driven by the awareness of threat from competition or market conditions. An entrepreneurial leader harnesses this sense of urgency to get results. Leaders with this attribute dream big dreams and achieve big goals.
The Importance of R&R
Today is a Bank Holiday where I live, and yet many people that I know will be working. From small business owners and entrepreneurs to multi-national conglomerates, the tradition of taking a day off on a Bank Holiday seems to have eroded. At the same time, parents are in debate with schools about the appropriateness of taking their children out of school for a family holiday during term time. As a result businesses struggle with the demands of all parents wanting to take their holidays in the same period. Families find that holiday prices soar over the school summer holidays. Overall finding time to take time off becomes harder and harder.
The days when whole towns closed down for a week's mass exodus to the coast or to the countryside are long gone. Some areas retain the vestiges of these traditions, such as Glasgow Fair week, but no longer do whole factories close down on Fair Friday for the workers to travel on mass to the Ayrshire coast.
And what else have we lost in the passing of these traditions? it seems as though the structured and societal observance of shared holidays gave us shared experiences, a connection to our communities as well as well-deserved rest and relaxation from the demands of our work.
Current pressures to perform often result in workers putting in extra hours and working on weekends and holidays in order to meet targets, or simply to impress and earn recognition - even when there's no overtime payment involved. But the times of rest are important to recharge the batteries, to stimulate other areas of the brain through engaging in non-work activities, and to reinforce social and familial bonds.
The old saying "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy" is just as true today as it has ever been. Periods of play help us to perform better at work. Rest gives us more energy. Relaxation makes us more alert. And what is all this work for, if not to be able to enjoy other areas of our life?
So if you're working today, stop and think for a moment about when else you can take time off instead. Enjoy planning how you'll use that time, whether you take a family day out to a country park, or sit on the sofa catching up with your favourite boxed set, knowing that you'll be refreshed and back at your peak afterwards.
Me? Yes, I'm working today. And I'm taking tomorrow off to go to the beach.
We find that the greatest leaders are able to demonstrate both resilience and courage, which is why we recommend this article. Regular time for oneself, including the support of an executive coach can be a great way to help to build resilience, as well as of obtaining support during the difficult times.
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A miscellany of articles and opinions on communication, leadership and management topics.