Archive for July, 2013

Stay in Positive Control.

positivecontrol“Positive control” is a term I first learned in the military.  Ironically, it has nothing to do with the traditional understanding of the word “positive”. Unlike positive in the sense of upbeat or enthusiastic, positive control is more about awareness and leadership.  Being in positive control indicates that there is direct (or sometimes indirect) leadership presence from the person in charge.  In some ways that is simplistic, because the term means more than that as well.

In my experience, part of positive control means having situational awareness and team awareness at the same time.  Situational awareness is the understanding of one’s entire surroundings with more of a big picture view.  It is important for leaders to keep situational awareness throughout a challenge; things change along the way.  In order for leaders to be effective, we have to recognize the changes that occur or pitfalls up ahead for our teams and are ready with the plan to adjust.  It is that ability to “adapt and overcome” that helps set apart great leaders from good leaders.   Team awareness is the same thing, but instead of the overall focus, the leader has to stay involved with the team members.

Teams change over time. People get tired of long projects that seem to have no end, or a long journey that gets physically taxing. People also get tired of other people and need some space.  Sometimes leaders can accommodate those ups and downs of the team dynamic with rest or personal space and sometimes not.  The important thing is to recognize that they are happening and try to handle any tensions before they boil over.  There are many examples where teams started out cohesive but one person or the entire team fell to pieces.  For leaders, positive control indicates the juggling act of keeping in focus the path ahead and the people walking the path so everything and everyone reaches the finish line.

Lori Buresh

CEO, The Professional Development Team



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To Have vs. To Be

book In response to my last blog – The Illusion of Control, someone wrote “Leadership is not having control. Leadership is being in control.” I thought this statement was excellent and needed further dissection and dissemination.  The alteration of the verb within the statement makes all the difference in the world – having and being.  Let’s take a look at each word as defined by Webster Merriam Dictionary.

have (verb \ˈhav, (h)əv, v; in “have to” meaning “must” usually ˈhaf\)

1a : to hold or maintain as a possession, privilege, or entitlement

  b : to hold in one’s use, service, regard, or at one’s disposal

  c : to hold, include, or contain as a part or whole

 be (verb \ˈbē\ ; present participle “being”)

1a : to equal in meaning : have the same connotation as: symbolize

  b : to have identity with

  c : to constitute the same class as

  d : to have a specified qualification or characterization

  e : to belong to the class of

                 Looking at the definitions gives clear distinction between the two perspectives.  As stated, to have means to hold or maintain possession.  The implication is superiority or dominance when applied to leadership.  While leadership does include responsibility and authority, I contend superiority is not on the list of attributes.  The verb ‘be’ includes various uses, tenses and terms but the predominant theme in the definition is equality.  In my opinion this is the key division between true leaders versus managers.

Leaders are not only the head of a team but they remain team members as well.  Those that choose to set themselves apart from the team instead of digging in deep and working shoulder to shoulder do not succeed as a true leader can. For leaders, ‘having’ control does not directly correlate that they are actually ‘in’ control since as Webster stated – it is an entitlement.  I find that entitlement leads to apathy and no person can lead when they are apathetic towards their team.  ‘Being’ in control is a state of doing something, of action, which is the need of the team from their leaders.  People that display strength, courage, wisdom and humility which inspires others are ‘in’ control, and the team is ready to willingly follow their leader.

Lori Buresh

CEO, The Professional Development Team

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