Posts Tagged power
My blog has been silent for a few weeks now. The reason is partially due to life but mainly because I have not felt inspired to write. Not that there aren’t thousands of thoughts yet to share about leadership, teamwork and personal interactions, but nothing felt right to write (pun intended). Amazingly enough, my lack of inspiration now became my topic! Call it writer’s block or being uninspired, when ideas are not flowing, I feel it is almost impossible to force good content. For me, when I write, it is like I am speaking the words in my head while I am typing. I type as fast as my thoughts are flowing which makes writing fun and the words easy to find. When my head is empty, my fingers are not able to move. Personally, I think it is obvious even in the way I write between topics I am inspired to write about and others that I am trying to just get down on paper.
The difference between inspiration and discouragement comes down to motivation. When I am inspired about a topic or a life event, I am motivated to work. My mind and my body are energized towards greatness as ideas and effort flow forth in a way that feels exciting and fun instead of like a drudge. When I am not encouraged or enthusiastic about my topics or about my life events, the weight of my ambivalence slows down my entire psyche. I don’t WANT to think or to move! So let’s think about this when it comes to leadership because this is a huge deal.
Just like it is obvious to me in the results of my work when I want to write and when I am going through the motions, the outcome for groups is no different. The harder task for leaders is to find the motivating factor for the team to drive them to greatness. Unfortunately, we are all made different so this sounds a lot easier than it is. Although, there is one core truth that I choose to believe, that people do strive for greatness. Call it optimism, but when we are at work or charged with a task in life, I choose to think that individually we want to good a job. It is a sign of our capabilities and our talents to demonstrate what we can accomplish. In turn, when we have a chance to use our skills, we are energized. I think for leaders, identifying those particular talents and skills of each team member to contribute to the goal overall is the key to keeping people motivated and therefore inspired.
The Professional Development Team
We make hundreds of choices each day–from what to have for breakfast, what to wear for work or what to do during the weekend. We have options. Some of our choices may not feel like choices anymore in our lives, like do we listen to the alarm clock and get out of bed for work. While it may not seem like there is a choice of going to work or not each day, truly the option is still there. The reality is there are consequences or reactions to all of our choices. If we do not go to work today, we may not get paid, or we may even get fired. Since that is a consequence that is unacceptable, we choose to go to work.
Let’s think about how we analyze our choices – usually we look at the benefit or the penalties to the options before us. An easy example is choosing what to wear – maybe the criteria are color, cut or comfort (or all three). As we pull items out of drawers or the closet, we are looking at the benefits (looks great, feels awesome) or the consequences (uncomfortable, mismatched) of the choice. It may be subconscious, but we should apply the same principles to all of our choices. Admittedly, we may not always be aware of some of the benefits or consequences of choices until after the fact. If we had foresight and hindsight all wrapped together, it would make choices a lot easier!
When faced with multiple choices that may create a jumble of different outcomes, it can be entirely overwhelming to see a clear path ahead. I submit the first thing is to remember that we DO have choices. With choice comes power. Power in this case is manifested in the form of control. When we make certain choices, we may give up some of our power but again, it is a choice. For instance, my earlier example inferred I have control over what I wear each day. That may be true for certain professions, but while I was in the Navy, I had zero control over my choice of outfit. In fact, I had very little control over much of my life, but that was my choice. I picked that path knowing what the impact would be on my life.
Sometimes it feels as if our opportunity to choose is taken away, maybe due to someone else’s poor choice. That is a frustrating and disappointing situation; however, once again we have to look at what choices remain. I may be impacted negatively by someone else’s bad decision, but I have the ability to choose how I will react or handle the outcome. When we recognize and fully develop our own sense of choice (and acceptance of the good or bad results) then we truly have power.
CEO, The Professional Development Team
A friend of mine posted this question on Facebook, and it is an excellent question. Why do we look to be in positions of leadership? What makes a position of leadership so appealing? There is a rush of adrenaline to think that you either chose or were selected to be in that position of honor and responsibility. When we are the leader of a team, we are in charge. There are several underlying facets to the statement “We are in charge”, and that is what I want to explore a little further. I am not a psychologist, nor will I pretend to be. However, I know my own personality traits that drive me to desire positions of leadership; so I approach this question from that angle.
I would say the biggest obstacle when I am not the leader is trust in whoever is in charge. It may be safe to say that for anyone who has a new manager or boss, trust does not come easily; trust has to be earned. I feel more comfortable approaching problems from a position of earning the trust of others than giving out my trust freely. That is probably because I am aware of my own strengths, weaknesses and knowledge. For that reason, if there is any doubt about who should be guiding a team–if it is appropriate for my skills and talents–I will volunteer. It should be noted, though, that the old adage “To be a good leader, you have to be a good follower” is true. If there is someone else more qualified, better prepared and ready to step up, I gladly defer to his or her expertise. In that case, those of us on the team know how to be excellent support partners and team players, because we understand what that leader is facing.
To be fair, many people do not want a position of leadership. They may go so far as to directly shun such a position. That may be because of the other half of leadership – the responsibility. Some situations are easy, fairly cut and dry with little decision making involved. However, when the stakes are high and money or lives are on the line, leadership takes on a much bigger burden. There is no shame in rejecting that kind of accountability, but bottom line, someone has to do it. In that moment, the ones who strive for leadership will step forward and take the reins. From then on, it becomes a challenge and an adventure to see what the team can achieve.
CEO, The Professional Development Team
In a recent master’s course we were asked which we would choose – a leader with technical competence or more influence. Technical competence is of great importance to our group since it is a Masters in Computer Information Systems. The majority of us, of course, said we would like a little of both, but we also leaned heavily toward influence over technical competence. Technical competence is wonderful when it comes to understanding the micro-level of a project or a plan. For instance, a software developer would be overwhelmed, unproductive or even destructive without technical knowledge of the problem and the solution. However, the upper levels of leadership need different skills.
This is not to imply that leaders are not technically savvy, far from it. The relevant skills of middle or executive level leaders are more in their influence or power to get things done. Let’s explore the software developer mentioned a moment ago a little deeper. This person could be a wizard when it comes to creating the next iPhone or Android app, but maybe he or she really likes to work from home or might need a nice quiet space to focus. While the upper leaders are not the ones doing the coding work, they are ensuring the software developer has the time and the tools he or she needs to do the work required.
The leader understands the needs of the business and translates those needs to the team. The team’s work is incredibly valuable; it is up to the leader to make sure it is appropriately applied or understood. What if the software developer needs additional resources – maybe a deadline extension or overtime pay? It is up to the leader to work out issues with customers, other departments or higher leaders in order to keep the entire project on task while supporting the team. That is the true skill of a leader – getting others (over whom they have no authority) to support his or her team. In order to do this, leaders MUST have at least a baseline of technical knowledge, but they need a lot more influence. In my opinion, I would much rather work with or for a leader who has the ability to get me what I need to get the job done instead of being technically fluent.
– Lori Buresh
CEO, The Professional Development Team