Leading and Learning are elements of the same rainbow of competence. It also fosters a sense of humility and a trainer needs to demonstrate this too. As we say , Wisdom Lies Within – which acknowledges that everyone can learn for anyone; and No Way is THE Way which is a humble acceptance that none of us hold the only right answer to situations. It allows leaders not to super-impose their solutions as the only answers to problems faced by their people. And LEADERS need to pay heed to challenging thoughts and offerings coming from those they influence and lead
Engage, Energise and Empathise are 3Es to employ as a learning route and process of knowledge and skill building. It demonstrates how a leader should leverage the Trust, Alignment & Assurance in a way where the Leaders constantly Learn that “The Process is the Content” and results are a consequence of not short-circuiting the route but instead grounding it in managing the process.
Management gurus and their disciples, thinkers, strategists and business process engineers have been busy propelling the corporate world and shaping the corporate mind into not only coping with, but also keeping in step with the rapid changes of an ever shrinking, increasingly competitive and exhaustingly demanding global market.
The new millennium which is already well in play is host to the greatest revolution in communication the world has ever seen, and consequently, the businesses of today and the people who drive them, have to constantly re-engineer and restructure their approach, ever so keenly, to first survive and then ride the crest of this tidal wave of change. And the tsunami of emotions that unfailingly accompany the white- water churn of rapid change.
Today, the ability to mass communicate instantly, has drilled right down to the level of any individual choosing to use the “Web”, and is no longer the sole domain of large corporate houses with huge advertising budgets. Information and yes, dis-information can be broadcast for over a billion to view, in the mere blink of an eye. Social and Business transactions on the Web, the common use of e-commerce today, is only partly reflective of the immeasurable progress the world has achieved in just over a decade, decidedly overshadowing the undeniably tremendous evolution of the world over the preceding half century. And with this, you and I and almost everybody we know, have been catapulted into this maddening and raging sea of emotions of an everyday life which seems to be increasingly in conflict with the very vision and goals we seek to achieve of sweet savoured success, joy, tranquility and the abundance of life in all its beauty. Ah !that bittersweet, sweat soaked, tear stained magnificent and exhilarating life on the leading edge of extreme everything !
What do you feel, as you race to the top ? Do you often wonder in an action packed day, where time ticked away to, or what to make of the blur of life flashing by, as you negotiate your job tediously through the day, or why you dread Mondays yet have no memory of a truly joyful Sunday, or why despite all the money you make, you feel helplessly out of control in the quieter moments of life, or why you don’t really care about the little things of life, as much as you did before, although you have “grown up” now, or why despite all your achievements, you really need someone else to tell you that you are doing a good job, or why despite the noise and buzz of a loud and crowded life, you feel really vacant in your heart and all alone ?? The answer no doubt, lies in the Math of Life. From the beginning of time, as the world and life itself evolved, mankind has constantly striven to relentlessly push the pace of progress, leaving the weak to die, and the strong to live and thrive. We called it the process of Natural Selection. And so it is today too, you will surely agree, with even greater ferocity and ruthlessness. The business arithmetic is very simple. If the size of the pie is constant, to eat more of it, somebody else has to go hungry. That is, unless somebody else has the wisdom and the ability to make another pie and another.
Business strategy is increasingly pointed in this direction. How to make another pie! For a business of today to succeed, organizational structure and operations have to be focused towards the Sun — that is, the entire organization and its various subsystems have to be energized to support each other, in one common direction. Organizational structure has to be redesigned to support operational efficiency and effectiveness.
Whether product or people, success today, more than ever before, will lie with those businesses at the cutting edge of technology, constant re-invention of their competitive advantages, ruthless leveraging of every possible opportunity, attentive attunement to market sentiment and agile change leadership.
For, in the current market order, the “factory” will no longer produce what it simply can produce of original capability or capacity, but will bend every resource it has or has to procure , to supply what the market demands of it — be this product or service. Because the customer now has literally, a world at his or her fingertips, and the decision making process has crashed down to almost an emotionally charged heartbeat.
Needless to say, terrible misfortune greets rigid and in the most liberal sense, merely “reactive” organizations and their people too. It would therefore be a matter of plain common sense that at the micro level, should we ever as individuals feel protected and comfortable, this is to be feared most. Because this means, that we have probably lost touch with reality and the pilot-riding emotions tattooing danger signals on an unresponsive mind.
Anybody within reach of reality, must always recognize the compelling need –of discomfort, of constant change, of threat to survival, of creating and fostering change, of continually learning, of challenging the established norm and only when you can catalyze change continuously, as you navigate life, can you truly consider yourself to have the Leading Advant-Edge. Throw in waves of emotional churn with this and you now need to develop the EQ Edge to make this your special Advant-EQ-Edge !
The organization that must carry this task through will demand man-management skills of a dimension far superior than ever before. Every man, must view the business as its CEO, regardless of his position in the organization, for the view is best at the top, but with your heart connected securely to the ground with empathy.
It is a commonly known fact that, any business entity is as good as the people who represent it. Tapping and cultivating individual potential has reached Critical Mass point in context of the business environment today. The pyramidal Boss-Subordinate structure has given way to flatter and even the classicinverted pyramidorganizational structures, with teams of people working towards common goals while relating to each other needs and feelings.
The role of the traditional Boss, has matured into one of being a Facilitator and Motivator. At the cutting edge of business competence, the strenuous demands on individual performance and achievement are complemented with the Boss providing a highly positively charged, emotionally secure, work environment transformed through robust relationships, along with the necessary tools of the trade, continuous training in the techniques to perform and produce results, counseling at regular intervals and most importantly, leading from the front in all these areas.
The price usually paid by an organization on a victorious battle pitch, is the poaching of its emotionally starved lieutenants. Organizations will have to recognize the inevitability of this and plan for it, with what is called the protection and consolidation of, or at least restricting the flight of Intellectual and Emotional Capital.
In addition to the tangible ingredient “knowledge” which can be data based, intangibles of emotional drive, motivation, optimism and the passion that builds from these, form the other vital ingredients when Leading on the Edge of Excellence.
The crown of thorns, purple robes, the cross of crucifixion and the wavering loyalties of disciples. Teams are powerful and painful, filled with times of glory and desecration, trust and betrayal, compelling vision and rank pettiness. But Teams are what deliver Results, Teams create Leaders, and Leaders co-create Wealth.
Together Everyone Achieves More. Or should…..
Michelangelo once famously said “The greater danger for most of us is not that our aim is too high and we miss it. But that it is too low… and we reach it” The learning curve in leading and managing teams to achieve more, read “ambitious” goals is not a gentle curve. It’s more a twisting exhilarating scary ride on a monster water slide !
As a senior manager in a tall hierarchical organizational structure, one is given clear positional power and this often comes along with expert power. People influenced by that power acknowledge and accept it. You are supposed to demonstrate it and if you don’t, it doesn’t augur well. Strange yet true ! Moving on to managing high powered teams, and needing to manage relationships and commitments needs positional power released in favour of influential relationship power. Sudden flattening of the acknowledged power pyramid also has its consequences. Power sharing or empowering, although talked about a lot, is not a common experience on either side. Trust is a common casualty , trying to manage and monitor the process instead of learning to let go of what has been given and accept imperfect demos of its application as learning lessons and not misuse. Yet that is a reality too.
In powerful teams, of equals, or assumed equals, hierarchy is notional even if part of structure. Unlike among “un-equals” for want of a better word, where power- sharing engagements by the leader are valued, in ” equals teams ” Leadership is not acknowledged unless it is first severely challenged. So managing the power line is challenging maybe because lines represent recalling or limiting the power shared and giving up or releasing assumed power is difficult. In the process accountability against commitments is lost in power struggles. The team leader’s role and relationship is targeted, or team members are singled out and reprimanded, when team promises are not fulfilled, targets are not met and contagious contaminated victim- persecutor- rescuer role playing adds to the drama. So commitments are hurriedly put aside in favour of patchwork relationships. And now its difficult to get results and one accepts poor performance as part of learning to work better together. While the process is more important that the result, should the process be allowed to deny the result ? How short term are we pressured into delivering results, when the security of long term is clearly more desirable? What responses do we choose in answer to the emotional adrenaline coursing through our minds ? How hijacked are we, to the contagion of emotions from the teams we engage , manage or lead? The book “First Among Equals” by Patrick Mckenna and David Maister have interesting tips for the team leader beginning with clarifying the leader’s role and confirming the leader’s mandate as paramount for the team to know and acknowledge the leader. Then the leader needs to set about “building relationships – one at a time” , not just as a leader but also as a trusted advisor. Team membership that contributes significantly to the team vision and goals requires that the team has established rules of membership to include setting levels of mutual accountability and shared contribution while establishing shared values. This helps build Team Trust, the emotional glue that holds teams together with empathy as the cornerstone of engagement.
According to Mckenna and Maister, the Elements of Trust are Sharing information about oneself and what makes one feel vulnerable, Following through of commitments, Letting others know if you can’t do something, Keeping people informed after asking for advice and constructive disagreement – all of these needing guidelines to be based on demonstrable behavior. For example they say, one guideline for constructive disagreement could be “ if you hear an idea or thought that you disagree with , you cannot offer a contrary view until you have restated the initial idea and then propose a supportive or embellishing idea or thought to improve on that initial idea”
Declaration or transparency of personal goals is important too, to allay fears of hidden agendas. The team cannot manage a vision or a goal that dramatically leaves behind a personal desire and goal. Acknowledging compelling yet divergent personal goals is critical, so what’s common can be included, and what’s uncommon can be separately managed without the usual spend of so much extra energy and engagement, in blind emotional distress.
To be “Effective Equals” needs the clamour for power and control to subside in the minds of all team members and replaced with shared values, practiced trust and the painstaking path of managing the alignment of personal goals with the team vision and goals. Clarifying one’s own emotional entanglements in power struggles allows for better navigation through the quagmire of doubt, suspicion, mistrust and politics to the open air of optimism with the future. But none of this is free from pain.
In their very engaging book ‘Leadership on the Line – Staying Alive through the Dangers of Leading', authors Ronald A. Heifetz & Marty Linsky say that the hard truth is that it is not possible to experience the rewards and joy of leadership without experiencing the pain as well. The painful part of that reality is what holds so many people back. Apparently, the dangers of leadership will come from known adversaries, but also from the betrayal of close associates and the ambivalence of trusted authorities.
Balancing the Heart and Mind According to them, the most difficult work of leadership involves learning to experience distress without numbing oneself. The virtue of the sacred heart of leadership lies in the courage to maintain one’s innocence, curiosity, and compassion even through the darkest, most difficult moments, remaining receptive to the full range of human emotions without going numb or striking back. The wonder of the sacred heart of leadership is that while in one moment we may experience total despair, the next compassion and forgiveness.
As difficult as it may be to accept this wisdom, and even more difficult to practice; a sacred heart or Sacre Coeur is an effective answer to a common modern day solution – callousness by numbing oneself. The positive power of leadership with a sacred heart, as a way of life for all, and not just as a leader, helps mobilize not only the leader but also everyone else, to face challenges that strain one’s innocence and compassion, numbs curiosity and passion, demands courage to stare it in the face despite the fear, and to survive, thrive and thrill through the roller-coaster ride of change.