The Impossible Dream

The Impossible Dream“Tilting at windmills” – a phrase made famous by the off-kilter actions of knight-errant Don Quixote in ‘Man of La Mancha’ – signifies a misdirected idealism.  Indeed, crazy Don Quixote saw the beautiful in everything, no matter how much trouble it got him into, no matter how others derided his optimism. Continue reading

Decision-Making Fast and Slow

Decision-Making Fast and SlowDecisions can be relatively inconsequential, but when they are tough ones, one of the complexities leaders face is how quickly they need to make the decision.  As illustrated in last week’s blog post about James Comey’s many decision points, sometimes you have more time to develop good assessments, and other times you don’t.
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Beware the Handy Emotions

DecisionToo much of a good thing is too much of a good thing.  That applies to everything in life, doesn’t it?  Lovely red wine that’s healthy for the body can become too much red wine that causes accidents.  Overdone exercise can become a cause of injuries.  Doting on children can lead to irresponsible adults.  The balance is always difficult.

And so it is with the advice to extend your emotions as a leader.  On balance, wonderful things happen when you operate from your best emotional self in the tricky interpersonal relationships that are the crux of leadership.  And yet, we can’t take for granted that just ‘more of’ means ‘better’. Continue reading

The Taboo of Anger

angry and furious announcement - businessman spitting fireAnger is one of the most powerful emotions in the human repertoire.  It drives people to collective action, as in the civil rights movement and the recent election, and also in sports – have you seen the New Zealand rugby team the All Blacks perform their ritual haka before each game?  But anger can be destructive as well.  It can generate hurt feelings, damaged relationships, divisiveness, anxiety, inaction or outsized reactions, and in extreme situations, irreparable ruin of people or property.  That potential for damage and conflict makes it a feared emotion. Continue reading

Managing the ‘New Leader Expectations’ Trap

Young creative manager feeling the pressure“I’ve only been in my new role two months, and already I’m totally overwhelmed,” gasped Audrey. “Everyone wants a piece of me. And I can’t possibly live up to all their expectations!”

Audrey was a strong player in the organization when she took on her new role. She had done some impressive work in her previous assignments, and when she took on the leadership of a business unit with some problems, expectations of her were outsized. Everyone from her boss to her employees to her business partners was looking for major change in the twinkle of an eye. And Audrey felt an obligation to respond glowingly. After all, this was why she’d been promoted into this role, and it could be her career-breakout position. Continue reading

Taking the Lead or Playing to Please

Taking the Lead or Playing to PleaseIt’s a brand new role. No one else has been here before. You have the opportunity to make a real mark. And here is where you face your first dilemma as the leader of this newly identified role. How is my success being assessed?  For that matter, even if it’s not a new role, a leader coming into a role new to her (or him), often realizes the difficulty of understanding how success in the role will be determined.

And one of the easiest ways to address the dilemma is to work hard to please the people who are most influential in determining your success. But that may not equate to the long-term success you’re looking for in your reputation as a leader. Continue reading

When Are Emotions Appropriate in Leadership?

Stressful businessman at outdoorsMartin was going through a tough divorce that took him by surprise.  He knew his angst and sorrow showed through at work.  “I worry about how I’m being perceived – less leader-like, more needy.”

Emily had frequent encounters with a colleague who was consistently mean-spirited, un-collaborative, and dismissive of her team’s work.  After six months of forced efforts to find common ground, she admitted she “felt angry at the very sight of him, and totally out of control emotionally when around him”. Continue reading

Left Brain and Right Brain – Not Either/Or

Left Brain and Right Brain - Not Either/Or“I’m afraid I let my emotions influence my decisions too often.”
“I try to remain rational at work.”
“I am empathetic with my staff, but when it comes to getting the work done, I can’t let emotions get in the way.”

Somewhere in our normative formation as leaders, we learned that the left brain and right brain were meant not to mix; that we were to separate their usage in our business lives. Continue reading

Helping an Employee – or Are You?

Helping an Employee - or Are You?Ella steamed out of Diane’s office and directly to her mentor, Greg. “She did it again!  She knows the recommendations I gave her for the Highlands project are going to resolve all the issues the customer has raised, yet once again, she had to ‘help’. She just couldn’t resist offering her own little ‘improvements’. Why can’t she ever just say, “nice job, Ella”?” Continue reading

Offering Help to a Fellow Leader

Business colleagues sitting at a table during a meeting with two male executives shaking handsIt seemed logical and right to Fred to offer his help to the sales director.  After all, “sales is everyone’s responsibility”, acknowledged Fred, even though he was the operations manager.  Fred was watching his colleague Ryan’s area flounder in the new sales campaign, and he was sure he had some experience with the business-to-business customers that would really make a difference.  He knew that Ryan was under a lot of pressure from the CEO, and that the impact of a poor sales campaign would be devastating for the company. Continue reading