Archive for May, 2012

Titles and Leadership

            Chris Hayes with MSNBC was admonished for his reluctance to attribute the term “hero” to a fallen soldier.  While my own views on this subject are strong, I will refrain from espousing my emotional reaction.  Instead, I will turn this moment into an opportunity to delve into titles or terminology. I believe Mr. Hayes’ point was to highlight the automatic assignment of phrases towards people that may or may not be appropriate.  Are all fallen soldiers heroes? Did they perform a heroic act that led to their death?  In my own eyes, anyone who chooses to serve this country and gives his or her life, in combat or otherwise, serves a higher purpose to protect us all, and that is heroic.  What about titles or names used in business? Do we apply the same sort of blanket phraseology like soldier = hero, CEO = leader? I think we do, and it may not be right. 

            In society we rely on titles to signify rank and social class.  This is nothing new today versus thousands of years ago.  Titles give us a sense of purpose and roles within life. For example, my title of “mother” has certain expectations, authority and pride associated with it.  I know what I am supposed to accomplish as a mother.  I know what my family (and society for that matter) demands of me as a mother. What about “CEO”?  This is my title for my business. The stresses and requirements for this role are much different than those as a mother.   Chief Executive Officer, along with other common titles, indicates a level of responsibility, authority and hopefully a measure of respect.  I feel that it is the level of respect bestowed on a person that defines their performance as a leader.  Respect is earned, and cannot be taken; it is given by those following the leader. However, respect can be lost quickly and must be rebuilt slowly, if ever.

            The application of titles brings us back to an earlier blog I wrote about positional authority.  Many business leaders with high-profile titles earned the rank through hard work, time and effort.  In this sense, the application of a title to a person probably means he or she is an inspiration to the workforce. However, senior leaders must watch out for those people who use their titles like weapons – throwing around big roles like Director or Manager or even VP or President without consideration or thought. Wielding a title or a position of power as the sole basis for goal accomplishment (instead of teamwork or coordination) can diminish the trust given to that person or office.  Leaders with significant titles should take the responsibility seriously and use their authority sparingly. 

-Lori Buresh

CEO, The Professional Development Team

 

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Acceptance – A Leadership Challenge

                In the town where I live, there are two rather large divides across sections of the community.  The first is cultural, with a growing Hispanic population that is not well integrated into the town as a whole; the second is generational, with the older population striving to keep our town more historic and serene instead of growing with ‘box stores’.  Both of these problems are stifling the ability of our town to grow and may in fact cause it to shrink in population and revenue.  I sat down recently with the Director of the Chamber of Commerce to talk over some of my thoughts regarding these divides.

                One of the main hurdles to overcome is acceptance. This is a two-fold issue in regards to the cultural diversity – acceptance by the community for cultural differences and then acceptance by the Hispanic community of efforts to better join all members of the town together.  Acceptance though means trust.  We can only accept that which we trust either as safe or as truth. It comes down to leadership to establish the necessary trust relationship.  In this case, top down is the way to go.  The community leaders from all facets of the town have to work together to bridge the gaps.  By demonstrating the efforts and benefits of melding instead of isolating, leaders will set the example for others.  With an issue as emotional and personal as cultural diversity, it will take time and perseverance for trust and acceptance to build on both sides of the divide.  I believe that all of the community leaders see the value in the efforts but it will take a lot of work to build the necessary relationships for a long lasting and supportive community. 

                As mentioned above, cultural diversity is only half of the battle – the other half is generational.  The town has deep roots from the Civil War and the Route 66 era.  There are indications of the rich history all over which many people enjoy and want to maintain.  The issue is not that the community should destroy the history or cover it up, but there is a sentiment that if more industry or larger stores are brought in to the area that the quiet, peaceful nature of our town will be corrupted.  Again it is up to leaders to build the trust relationships with community members to prove the goal is to grow in meaningful ways while not forgetting our past.  It takes leadership to show that accepting growth for the future does not mean history is lost. 

– Lori Buresh

CEO, The Professional Development Team 

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The Power of Confidence

                As I was thinking about leadership this morning, I started going through the different words that I associate with leaders.  Many come to mind but one stuck out – confident. Leaders display some level of confidence in their actions or in their team.  Used in this way, confidence has a two-fold effect: 1. creates a sense of trust by the team members in the leader and 2. shows the team members that the leader has trust in them.  In this sense, confidence comes down to trust.  It may be fair to say that confidence equals trust because without one you really can’t have the other. 

                Assume there is a decision to make and the responsibility is up to you to make it.  It is possible you have very little data or supporting evidence to base your decision on; however a choice must be made.  If you make the decision with a large amount of waffling or outward insecurity, what message does that project to the team members both in the choice and in you as the leader?  Keep in mind that as a leader you do not always have to make decisions all by yourself.  In fact, soliciting team members for their input is encouraged to gain their insight and engagement on the path forward.  Nevertheless, the final authority and responsibility lies with you as the leader, which is important to remember, especially if things go wrong.

                How many times in life do we make the best choice possible and hope for the right outcome?  The key is the confidence which can directly drive to the results desired.  If the leader has confidence, the team may be more willing to put faith and trust in the decision (and the leader) as well. With the team’s support, the leader can show trust and faith back to the team by working together to accomplish goals.  Confidence can be the building block for a strong team. 

– Lori Buresh

CEO, The Professional Development Team

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The Need For Leadership

             I attended the Chik-Fil-A Leadercast last Friday (remotely).  For those of you who did not watch via a host site or attend it live, it is worth the time for next year.  The event is a live webcast of the stage in Atlanta where roughly a dozen different people spoke on leadership.  The speakers were authors, athletes, journalists and doctors.  The very first speaker was Andy Stanley, author of The Next Generation Leader.  He grabbed my attention with this statement: “Uncertainty underscores the need for leadership.”  I wrote that one down.

             The simplicity of this statement yet the complexity of the content are amazing. The first word is “uncertainty”, which is not a word usually applied to leadership.  Yet when we look at life in general, it is full of uncertainty.  There are risks and benefits with everything we do in our professional and personal lives.  The unknown ahead in life can be both exhilarating and terrifying all at the same time! However, some people are paralyzed by the fear and responsibility of the unknown instead of driven by the adventure of choice.

             Why are there leaders?  One answer – there is a decision to be made and someone makes it, although that isn’t enough.  I can make decisions all day long and not be a leader.  To be a leader, one must have followers.  Followers are people who do the same action because of the leader’s physical or emotional influence.  Leaders are usually identified with the decisions they make, good or bad.  Think about Harry Truman or Rosa Parks, two leaders who made a large impact on our society and the world due to their decisions.  History shows us that sometimes there is a choice to make and it just takes a strong leader to make it.  

-Lori Buresh

CEO, The Professional Development Team

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