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Saturday, January 20, 2018

Balanced Leaders

In history we highlight leaders that were effective, and therefore we admire them. But the real question is how did their followers see them? Getting things done as a single measure is no sign of success if dead bodies are left trailing behind the one who led them. But, does it have to be one way or the other? Can we focus on relationships and get the needed results? The data suggests that a relational protocol, and a coach approach to managerial leadership, is quite effective in getting the best of results.

I’ve long maintained that there are two aspects of leadership: visionary and managerial. The suggestion that leader and manager fit into two separate categories is simply a convenient way to explain away executive shortcoming. It’s true that individuals will tilt either one way or the other, but this should only direct us to the place where we need to work on ourselves, to be a true, rounded professional. It is very possible to develop the missing element in one’s leadership style. This is what Jim Collins calls the “Level 5 Leader.”

Visionary leaders focus on the big picture, while managerial leaders focus on people. Strong visionary leaders who lack managerial skill will create a lot of enthusiasm, but will fall short when addressing human need through proper incentives and delegation. Strong managerial leaders who lack visionary qualities will organize the work well, but for what purpose? People need a strong connection to something bigger to have a sense of purpose. This is how humans are made and as such we must meet those needs to be an effective organizational leader. Food without water or water without food doesn’t suffice to nourish the human body—the same principle is true for the human soul.

To be a balanced leader with the right mixture of results and relationships, we must have:

1- Discipline. When I was in High School, I was strong in math and not in English, so I had to work hard to gain what was lacking to make a good grade average. If you have a particularly strong bent at one aspect of leadership and not at the other, effort must be applied to gain and incorporate what’s missing. We understand and address shortfalls in all other parts of life.

2- Accountability. It’s not enough to be a self-study in this area. Developing balance oftentimes requires outside help, and there are a number of effective options. Some choose to establish a feedback council of peers and direct reports, or engage a coach to receive the needed feedback. Without other’s perspectives to provide objectivity we’ll acquire what Daniel Goleman calls “CEO Disease.”

3- Input. If you think you’ve “arrived” you are dead in the water, no matter how long you’ve been a leader. There is always more to learn, and more effective ways to gain leverage and influence. We should always have a mentor and be well read. All professional athletes have coaches. Jeff Immelt, CEO of GE once said, “leadership is an intense journey into yourself. It’s a commitment and an intense journey into your soul.” He’s right.

Pride is the only thing that prevents us from seeing ourselves as we ought. Humility, on the other hand, helps us to understand our own shortcomings and is by far the biggest factor in becoming a balanced leader. If we’ve learned the secret of how to get things done through the active support of others, we are on our way to being a true professional leader.

Coaching questions: What’s your leadership style, results or relationships? What steps can you take to round out the weaker competency and become a more effective leader? Write your answers in your journal.

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