Archive for June, 2013

The Illusion of Control.

control            When it comes to leadership, we fool ourselves into thinking we have control.  The truth is, when it comes to people, control in any context is an illusion.  Unless that person is bound up in chains and has no free will to resist, control is not actually within our grasp.  Think about this for a moment: While I may give the tools to my team to accomplish goals, it is ultimately up to each of them to act of their own free will in accordance with the needs of the mission.  For example, to prepare for a party I need balloons inflated; so I hand out balloons.  However, it is up to each person to choose to take a deep breath and inflate a balloon.  Simplistic example but true.  Even in the military it is still up to the free will of each person to execute the orders he or she is given.  While I may have worked with my division on which areas of the ship to paint, they were the ones who got it done.

So where does the control exist in leadership? I submit it still exists with the leader but not in a direct manner.  Let’s go back to the idea of blowing up balloons – I cannot force people to take a deep breath and blow up a balloon. I cannot hold their mouths open and shove air into their lungs.  Yet if I demonstrate there is a need, and that I am willing to do the same task as everyone else and that by accomplishing the task there is a greater good, I can influence the free will of others so they may want to blow up a balloon. Therein lies the key – the team members want to act and therefore choose to act.  Maybe “want” is not the right word, because we may not want to do the things we need to do in every situation.  Yet, we will use our free will to do what is expected of us.

As leaders we create the influence necessary to affect other’s free will by showing strength, courage, compassion, knowledge and calm.  I believe most people want to do well.  What they need is a guide to get on the right path.  It is the leader who becomes that guide so that each individual knows what he or she needs to do. In that regard, the leader is in control but not really.  We each control ourselves, but through our leaders we choose our actions.

Lori Buresh

CEO, The Professional Development Team

Advertisements

, , , , , , ,

1 Comment

The Importance of Silence.

  As a type-A personality and as a mother, I am quick to answer questions – those posed by my children or pretty much anyone else.  What I am finding, though, is that it is almost a detriment to others.  Convoluted as it may seem, it may be better for me to stop answering the questions.  This does not mean ignore the questioner, but I need to do a better job of leading the questioner down the path of figuring it out for him or herself.  Since I am so quick to answer, I am not allowing or fostering the idea of critical thinking in others, which means they need me more to answer their questions.  I believe this is a struggle for other leaders as well.

The problem is I usually DO know the answer. I can see the path ahead or the “right” choice to make or (in the case of my children) where the shoes were left last.  I am also sometimes a little low on patience skills, which fosters the desire to just answer the question and move on with life.  With this in mind, it is a win-win for me as the leader to push back and not answer questions so directly with a final decision.  I need to learn more patience and how to guide people better and he or she will learn better critical thinking, which is invaluable.

I see this as a common problem today.  Many people are looking for the quick solution or the immediate response to be doled out instead of figuring things out for themselves.  We seek out truth, but for some reason we hesitate if seeking involves work.  I think leaders have to be aware of those moments when giving out the answer may solve the problem but in the long run doesn’t help the situation.  We have to make the time and give the latitude to teach and guide others.  There is real strength in this as shown through confidence building and empowerment. Next time I will work harder to be silent since I want others to work harder at thinking.

Lori Buresh

CEO, The Professional Development Team

, , , , , , ,

1 Comment

Flexibility.

flexibleThe differences among people can be both an advantage and a disadvantage to teams. In this context, what I am thinking about today revolves around leaders making significant changes to accommodate one or more person’s individual needs.  To put it another way, how much do I have to (and should I) bend as a leader for my team members?  I think the answer is the ever clarifying – it depends.  In my opinion, there are some areas, like ethics, where there is no flexibility.  Effective leadership directly relates to ethical behavior, which cannot be compromised.  Unfortunately, other individual characteristics may impact team building and teamwork, and they are not as clear-cut.

Most other examples, like physical disabilities or personality quirks, start out with the sentiment that leaders must take those things into consideration for the overall team strategy. However, each example comes to a point where ‘but’ comes into play.  For instance, physical disabilities of team members are something leaders have to adjust and accommodate…but…. if the mission of the team is one where the physical limitation hinders the team from accomplishing the goal then physical disabilities may be a disqualifying characteristic.  That seems to be my thread of thinking – leaders should and must do what is right and proper to incorporate whatever talent that individual brings to the table as long as it does not jeopardize the overall goal accomplishment or the other team members.

Another thing to keep in mind is that leaders must adjust and adapt their leadership styles in different ways to effect different people.  Not that the leader changes who they are for every person they meet.  How they interact or motivate people has to be adaptable.  To be sure, it is a tough balance.  However, I believe the answer to my original question about how far to bend is don’t.  What I mean by this is not to bend as a leader so much that my own morals, convictions or sense of self are affected or compromised.  Those traits are what help strengthen me as a leader in the first place.  Working with team members, in whatever ways they need to achieve their goals, should not conflict with that simple premise. If it does, it is up to the leader to remain resolved.

 

Lori Buresh

CEO, The Professional Development Team

, , , , , ,

3 Comments