10 questions for leaders to ask themselves
Good leaders are self-aware, and have thought through the issues and complications of leadership, says professional development consultant Todd Cherches. On the ThoughtLeaders blog, he offers 10 questions to ask yourself - and to answer:
1. How do you personally define leadership?
Definitions of leadership abound. But if one of your subordinates asked what your definition is, would you have an answer?
2. Who are some of the leaders that you admire and why?
We can learn from other leaders, particularly from their failures. Are there leaders from business, politics, the arts, or sports who you admire, and why?
3. Who have been some of the influential leaders in your life?
While we can learn from contemporary and historical figures we have never met, the most influential leaders are often people we have known - from grandparents to neighbours to bosses - who have shaped our lives in some way. Who are they, and what did you learn from them about ethics, core values, and leadership style?
4. What are some of the defining leadership moments of your life?
Sometimes an incident or interaction transforms us or others in a memorable way. Those moments serve as a guiding compass, for us, and the people we lead. So it's important to identify and understand those defining leadership moments.
5. What are you truly passionate about?
Passion, like negativity, is contagious. "Rather than trying to light a fire under people, great leaders light a fire within them. So are you clear on what it is that you are truly passionate about ... and do you inspire passion in others?" he writes.
6. Why should anyone be led by you?
What leadership characteristics do you have that will allow people to be led by you, rather than simply have them accept you as their boss and dutifully follow instructions?
7. What are some of the key leadership lessons you would want to pass along to others?
A vital responsibility of leaders is to develop the next generation of leaders. What do you wish to share with others? At your retirement party, what would you want your leadership legacy to be?
8. Who are the people in your life who make you a better person - and a better leader?
Earlier, you considered leaders from your past who influenced you. Now focus on those people today - leaders, peers, subordinates, friends, relatives - who help you to be a better person and leader. Heed the advice of former U.S. president Dwight Eisenhower, who said, "Always try to associate yourself with and learn as much as you can from those who know more than you do, who do better than you, and who see more clearly than you."
9. What are you reading?
It's crucial to always be reading, and learning. Whether books, magazines, trade journals or blogs, you must be widely read since you never know where your best new idea might come from.
10. Are you a good follower?
To be a good leader, at times you must be a good follower.
STRATEGY / STARTING POINTS FOR SUCCESSFUL PLANNING
Your strategy should match your competitive environment. That means companies operating in dissimilar competitive environments should be planning, developing, and deploying their strategies in very different ways, three consultants with the Boston Consulting Company write in Harvard Business Review.
Martin Reeves, Claire Love, and Philip Tillmanns say the crucial variables for determining your strategic style are predictability and malleability. That leads to four strategic styles:
Classical:If the environment is predictable but hard to change, you want the classic strategy taught in business schools of setting a goal, targeting the most favourable market position, and developing steps to reach your goal.
Adaptive: When the environment is totally unpredictable and hard to change, forecasts and long-term plans are usually worthless. You must be adaptive, constantly refining goals and shifting resources quickly to respond to events.
Shaping: If the environment is unpredictable but you can shape it, you want short or continual planning cycles, with flexibility, aiming to shape the environment by bringing together customers, suppliers and others in an effort to define the industry.
Visionary: In predictable environments that you can shape, seek a "build it and they will come" approach, developing bold strategies that will lead to dominance.
WORKPLACE / WHEN TO TALK POLITICS
It's usually considered a bad idea to talk politics in the workplace. But HR consultant Laurie Ruettimann, in a post and video on her Cynical Girl blog, counters that conventional wisdom by urging you to have difficult, complex, and controversial discussions at work.
"Debate - especially respectful debate - is healthy," she insists. Indeed, discussing controversial topics at work with people you respect and admire - where the code of behaviour also means you won't punch anybody in the nose - might teach you some lessons about civil discourse.
Ideas that are discussed can resonate later. She remembers interesting conversations that years later have informed her thinking and opinions. "The more we are exposed to other points of view, the more it tests us and makes us smarter and stronger," she says.
At the same time, she says you shouldn't count on immediately swaying others to your point of view. If you are in a political conversation that has hit gridlock, it's time to walk away. And it's definitely time to walk away if the other party offers some racist, sexist, or homophobic comments.
"There is no reason to stick and participate in a conversation if someone says something that offends you to your core. In fact, sticking around gives people permission to say additional stupid things. While it's not illegal to be a misinformed jackass, it's inexcusable," she declares. In such situations, say you have to make a phone call or have an appointment, and bail out.
A pause to refresh your audience
If you want to dazzle a crowd like former U.S. president Bill Clinton did at the Democratic convention, presentations specialist Sam Harrison says you need to learn to pause and take advantage of dead air in mid-sentence - even several times in a sentence - as Mr. Clinton did, so your message sticks. Remember that your facial expressions can dramatically accentuate your words so don't be deadpan. FastCompany.com
What you know won't get you a job
HR consultant Sharlyn Lauby says her first job in the field was based on what she knew, but every job offer afterward came because of who she knew. HR Bartender Blog
Spell out your plan to micro-managers
If you work for a micro-manager, Michael Hyatt, chairman of Thomas Nelson Publishers, says you should tell him or her what you plan to do; then do what you said you would do; and then, if anything changes, be the first one to tell the boss. MichaelHyatt.com
Get the big picture, banish the little ones
Try working in full-screen mode when writing on your computer. This will wipe away all the distractions of the task bar or other programs, advises blogger Leo Babauta. It will be just you and your words.