Take Heart: Lessons from Leading in Turbulent Times

You feel it; we hear it.  Leaders today are not blessed with the sunny ease of honing their leadership skills through careful experimentation over time.  Instead, they (you!) are thrown into complex, rapidly changing environments that demand of them untested – and sometimes even unimagined – leadership skills.  A scandal threatens to undermine your organization’s good name – and you must be a compelling spokesperson for its reputation.  A crisis (political, financial, or natural) brings your essential product and service delivery process to a halt, sometimes for the foreseeable future, and you have to keep your company competitive.  Markets go crazy and you don’t know what actions to take to remain sound. Continue reading

Embracing the Impact of the Introvert Leader

You are interviewing to fill a position for a high-level leader in your organization.  The role demands leading a large number of bright, autonomous, ambitious people.  The environment for the job is complex – a rapidly changing marketplace, political sub-contexts that create risk, periodic mini-crises.  You are down to two candidates.  One, C.J., is a strong, charismatic presence who speaks confidently, is gregarious and outward-looking, and who has quick and facile answers to all your questions.  The other, Casey, is thoughtful and careful in responding to your questions, takes time to offer good depth of perspective, and describes leadership in terms of seeking others’ capabilities.  Both have strong endorsements from current and prior bosses and no red flags have emerged.  Which one would you choose? Continue reading

Shepherd Leadership: Five Ways of Guiding from Behind

As a leader, Brian rarely told his team what he wanted. When issues arose, he asked, “Who’s got an idea?”  As the ideas surfaced, he cannily waited for the most promising one to surface and then called the question, “Which option seems most likely to succeed?”  When the team had agreed on the path forward, he’d suggest that the owner of the idea lead the way. Along the way, if he saw another team member bring forward good alternatives or challenges, he’d make sure the team slowed down long enough to consider new input. Continue reading

Are You Frozen in Your Opinions?

Keith is a smart guy. He processes data rapidly and forms theories quickly. Just as quickly, his theories crystallize into opinions. One member of his team, Bart, is a great admirer of Keith, but he sighed as he said, “He says he loves to bring data to bear on a problem. The only problem is that once he forms an opinion, he no longer wants new data.”

Katherine described Dennis’ rise in the organization. “He’s brilliant and creative. He deserved to be promoted and supported. But now he’s stuck in his opinions and he’s stopped learning.  He just doesn’t recognize it.” Continue reading