The One Strategy That Will Set You Apart As A Leader

Sep 23

man standing alone-2What one strategy can you embrace today that will set you apart as a leader?

Recruiting others to help you implement long-term changes in your leadership behavior.

When said so plainly it makes perfect sense and seems simple, but it certainly isn’t easy—changing one’s behavior never is. Here are four steps that I’ve learned from working with my clients that will help you engage others and learn from their insights about your behavior as you seek to enhance your effectiveness as a leader.

Gather the Information You Need to Gain a Deeper Perspective.  Choose people who you respect to give you feedback about your key strengths, key opportunities to improve, and what one behavior should you alter, start, or stop. Identify the two top themes—or the two most important things you want to work on—over the next 30 days.

Choose Key People You Want to Engage to Help You Make the Change.  There isn’t one right way to choose whom you choose. What is more important is that you decide who can give you constructive input, be fair and candid, and be willing to let go of the past and evaluate improvement in your behavior from today forward. Be sure to request their participation—not demand it.

Make Your Choice and Implement Their Suggestions.  Review all the suggestions with an open mind, and in the spirit with which they were given, to help you become a better leader. Choose several of the suggestions and create your action plan for the next 30 days. Share what you’re doing with that cadre of people you have selected, and let them know you will be checking in with them to ask for feedback.

Seek Their Feedback About How You Are Doing.  Over the course of the next 30 days, reach out informally to those in your cadre and ask if they have noticed an improvement in the areas that you set out to change. Listen to what they have to say. If there were improvements, keep doing what you said you would do, and if they report no change, ask yourself three questions: What did you set out to do? What actually happened? And what do I need to do differently in the next 30 days? Once you answer those questions, give it a try for another 30 days and seek their feedback at the end of that timeframe.

Remember that changing behavior isn’t easy—successful change comes over time and requires your commitment to changing the behavior and replacing it with new behaviors that become routine practice for you. Change isn’t instant, but you can certainly increase your odds of success by engaging others who have a vested interest in seeing you succeed.


What C-Level Leaders Need to Do to Develop Competent Successors

Aug 25

team-meetingDeveloping competent successors prepared to fill executive level and critical leadership roles beyond the C-suite continues to top the list of critical Human Capital concerns facing C-Level leaders looking to sustain business success now and in the long-term. In a recent research survey conducted by Deloitte, despite this priority, “52% of C-level leaders and 59% of leaders waiting to be promoted into a C-Level role do not believe that their Direct Reports have the skills to assume greater leadership roles within the organization.”

At first look, these findings would tend to support the need for broader leadership development. However, the report exposes a surprising gap between what these executives are saying and what they are actually doing. The report reveals that only “49% of those in the C-suite or those in waiting are personally committed to developing leadership skills at all levels throughout the organization even though a majority of them acknowledge that their organizations support these development opportunities.” Closing the gap between words and deeds becomes more critical as Millennials take on leadership roles and organizational structure flattens. Executives and those poised for the C-suite must immediately become more personally committed to taking the actions necessary to build a solid and sustainable pipeline of successors.

Toward that end, here are 5 actions that executives must do to close the gap between their words and deeds:

1.  Link What Your Organization Needs to Do To Sustain Growth and Success To Leadership Development Initiatives. Create the organizational strategy and plan it in a way that clearly identifies which roles, skills, and competencies are needed to bring about sustained growth and success. Focus on linking all development plans but especially those of potential leaders with the overall strategic objectives for the organization. Be clear and consistent in communicating that leveraging the powerful synergy between individual achievement and organizational success is your priority. The result will be results-driven, people-focused leaders ready to step into c-level roles and deliver bottom-line results.

2.  Broaden and Deepen Leadership Development Initiatives Beyond the C-Level and Senior Leaders. Extending leadership development initiatives and programs several layers below the executive level will support the creation of a solid leadership pipeline not only at the highest levels, but also in all areas that are critical to organizational success. Link all talent management initiatives together so that there is consistency across the organization with regard to recruitment and development.

3.  Expand and Diversify Assignments Across the Organization for Those in The Leadership Pipeline. Ask that future leaders and those in critical roles have the opportunity to have rotational assignments within the organization and participate in high profile projects. Rotational assignments support exposure to wide-ranging experiences that foster the building of knowledge and relationships, while providing the exposure needed to establish the credibility to assume more significant roles.


A Transformative Conversation with Dr. Ada Gonzalez (Part Two)

Aug 05

This week we continue with Part Two of our interview with Dr. Ada Gonzalez. In her new book, Transformative Conversations, Dr. Gonzalez weaves wisdom from many sources. She makes the case for the value of engaging in effective dialogue, and gives the reader clear guidance about how they can harness the power of dialogue to ignite the level of engagement and commitment needed to accomplish their own business priorities and goals.

Dr. Ada Gonzalez is an executive coach, facilitator, and a consultant in organizational development. She translates theory and research findings into practice in day-to-day activities, supporting business strategy and results. In addition to undergraduate and graduate work at Andrews University in Michigan, she earned her Ph.D. at the Union Institute and University on Organizational Behavior, with an emphasis on leadership, dialogue, and change. She is currently working as an adjunct professor for the University of Delaware.


How does being comfortable with not knowing as a leader contribute to fostering dialogue?

Some leaders are tempted to think they must know everything about everything, so to speak. As leaders gain professional maturity, they realize that’s impossible and impractical. It’s a leader’s role to be the catalyst for others to become experts in their disciplines. This is why the best leaders are not necessarily specialists in their fields—they focus less on giving advice and more on asking probing questions. This technique allows employees to discover the best path on their own. That is the power of not knowing. To facilitate transformative conversations, a leader must “not know.”

Similarly, in dialogue you leave the comfort of the known to explore the unknown. Not knowing requires a humble, patient, open perspective: you are the student, not the expert. Not knowing can:

  • Fill dialogue with fresh wonder
  • Encourage deeper dialogue
  • Create meaningful connections
  • Take you in unforeseen directions
  • Surprise you with an unexpected destination
  • Awaken new perspectives
  • Open the space for wisdom to emerge.


A Transformative Conversation with Dr. Ada Gonzalez (Part One)

Jul 29

How Can Organizations and Leaders Harness the Power of Dialogue?

This question is one that is asked time and time again by those in leadership, and has been answered by many authors in various ways. In her book, Transformative Conversations, Dr. Ada Gonzalez answers this question with a detailed answer. Weaving wisdom from many sources, Dr. Gonzalez makes the case for the value of engaging in effective dialogue, and gives the reader clear guidance about how they can harness the power of dialogue to ignite the level of engagement and commitment needed to accomplish their own business priorities and goals.

After reading the book, I realized that every leader—from those just starting out to those in the c-suite—would benefit from her practical wisdom and useful guidance about how to have more meaningful and deeper conversations. Over the course of the next two posts, I will introduce you to Dr. Ada Gonzalez and share with you our conversation about the power of true dialogue.

Dr. Ada Gonzalez is an executive coach, facilitator, and a consultant in organizational development. She translates theory and research findings into practice in day-to-day activities, supporting business strategy and results. In addition to undergraduate and graduate work at Andrews University in Michigan, she earned her Ph.D. at the Union Institute and University on Organizational Behavior, with an emphasis on leadership, dialogue, and change. She is currently working as an adjunct professor for the University of Delaware.



How did your background and experience impact your thinking about how important conversation and language are?

As everybody can tell the moment I open my mouth, I was not born in the United States. I was born and raised in Cuba. Most Cubans are talkers! Picture this: Evenings on the porch. It seems so simple, but it’s one of my fondest memories of childhood in Cuba. After dinner, it was common to melt into those squeaky rocking chairs. On our porch or on the neighbor’s porch. It didn’t matter where. What mattered was the conversation that swirled around those rockers. I loved listening in as my parents and friends shared stories, traded recipes, told tales, and gave advice. It was a free—and often entertaining—education in business, politics, religion, health, love, and life. I was hooked. My lifelong fascination with conversation was off and running. (more…)

As a Leader, Unspoken Priorities Can Lead Others to Take You Off Course

Jun 23
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Deciding what you want to accomplish, as a leader, is only part of a successful leadership journey. As leaders, your success demands that you also intentionally define and lead from a set of priorities. These priorities govern your thinking, behaviors and decision-making, and ultimately your success as a leader. Leadership priorities promote the autonomy, competence, and independent thinking that is fundamental to staying on track. However, as leaders, knowing our priorities is part of the equation needed for success.

Unspoken priorities can rob you of valuable feedback and perspective from those best positioned to help you develop and achieve success. In the absence of clear direction, despite their best intentions, others can easily lead you astray and drive you in the opposite direction from where you want to be.

Here are some strategies to guide you as you embark on your leadership journey:

Discuss Your Priorities with Those Around You

As leaders we often assume that because we know what we want to achieve, those around us do as well. We fail to remember that other people cannot read our minds. Consistently sharing your priorities helps others innately grasp what you are trying to accomplish. The result is that you amass a group of peers and mentors who can advise you and hold you accountable in accordance with your priorities, and are less likely to substitute their own thinking for yours.

Live Your Priorities

Do what you say you are going to do so that others witness your seriousness and commitment to your priorities. Others will watch every move for consistency to your stated priorities. If they sense a lack of clarity or commitment, they will jump in to help with what they believe is right and not necessarily what is right for you. By holding yourself accountable, others will realize that you are serious about your intent and be less likely to try and undermine you. You won’t feel pressured and stressed to accommodate them when their ideas don’t fit within your priorities.

Adapt When Circumstances Dictate

Know that over time some of your choices will prove wrong. When you don’t meet the expectations you set, be the first one to acknowledge where you went wrong. Doing this quickly gives others confidence in your ability to go about getting what you want by short-circuiting and mitigating people’s resistance to your new plans. Showing others that missed opportunities are learned from encourages continued support rather than their trying to prevent you from doing something they think isn’t in you best interest.

If you commit to following these strategies, you won’t be swayed by someone else’s vision for your life, no matter how well intentioned they might be, and at the journey’s end you’ll know that where you are is where you’ve chosen to be. The more we keep these principles in mind, we not only do ourselves a service but those around us as well.


Does Your Talk Match Your Walk When It Comes to Ethical Leadership?

Mar 08

walk-and-talk-by-luis-garcia-free-photo-3676 Are you living in line with your core values and ethics at work, home and in your community? Trusting relationships form the foundation of all ethical behavior. As a leader at any level within an organization, if you are serious about integrity, setting an ethical tone, and standard of leadership you need to remember that your every choice, action and behavior will be judged by those you lead as being consistent or inconsistent with the ethical culture you are trying to create. Appearances do matter when it comes to ethical leadership.

Sadly, in many organizations leaders say one thing and do the opposite. Many leaders lose sight of the fact that people react much more to what they do rather than what they say. If you as a leader are serious about integrity and creating an ethical culture within your organization, here are some things you can do to help you align your ethical beliefs, core values and vision with your behaviors, choices and actions:

Invest the time to discover, understand and integrate your core values and beliefs into your daily life so that over time they become automatic, and are reflected in your choices and behaviors in your personal and professional life.

  • Set reasonable boundaries, and be clear about the purpose and intent behind them. Seek out opportunities and organizations that share similar boundaries and intentions.
  • Communicate your boundaries in word and deed. Discuss them with others in a positive way, focusing on what should be done and not just what can be done or is legally allowable.
  • Make sure that your choices and actions benefit the common good and go beyond the minimum standards that are part of everyday business practices.
  • When faced with an ethical dilemma do not respond reactively. Step back and try to anticipate the consequences of taking certain actions in the long term. Choose long-term results over short-term gains and involve others in the process. Getting others involved gives you an opportunity to convey your values and ethics so that others know what should be done from watching you and that will encourage their ethical behavior in similar situations.
  • Remember that behaving ethically in the small things matters as much as behaving ethically in the large things.
  • Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, do not forget that you become what you practice. Others will look at your choices and behaviors and decide who you are and how ethical you are.Ethical leaders know their core values and beliefs and have the courage to act and live in accordance with them in every aspect of their lives.

Are you walking the talk? Let me know what you do to walk the talk, I love to hear from you.

Intrinsic Motivation the Key to a More Agile and Engaged Workforce

Nov 18

Intrinsic MotivationSurviving let alone thriving in an unpredictable, dynamic and global marketplace hinges on an organization’s ability to respond quickly and effectively to favorable or unfavorable unforeseen situations. A flatter, more responsive organization that relies more on their employees’ judgment, initiative and inventiveness can be the difference between failing and surviving. Despite the increasing recognition that an agile, adaptable and engaged workforce is a key ingredient, many organizations are experiencing just the opposite. According to recent surveys by the Gallup Organization, actively disengaged employees – those who are potentially hostile to their organizations – outnumber engaged employees 2 to 1. The cost to businesses of disengaged workers annually in the United States is between $450 billion to $550 billion dollars.

Organizations and those who lead them need to rethink and be willing to move beyond the rhetoric of empowerment. Leaders need to actively challenge and rethink the basic assumptions relied on for generations to motivate and improve performance productivity and encourage excellence. The old models and strategies that focus only on extrinsic means of motivating employees are clearly no longer as effective as they once were. Abandoning extrinsic means of motivating a workforce is not what is being suggested, but rather understanding that the need for new ways to motivate and engage the 21st century employee are needed. As employees are asked to become more agile, flexible, collaborative and creative in what they have to offer an employer, the employer must reinvent and expand their reward systems to include the intrinsic motivators that meet the employees’ needs. 21st century employees are motivated by meaningful work that challenges them professionally and personally. They seek opportunities that enable them to learn cutting-edge skills and become more self-directed.

Embedding an intrinsic reward system in your organizational DNA will increase the engagement of your workforce. Creating a framework requires that those in leadership understand not only what intrinsic motivation is, but also how the concept of intrinsic motivation works. For it to be fully effective it takes willingness on the part of those in leadership to give up control and trust in the creativeness and intelligence of their employees.  So what does intrinsic motivation mean and what are intrinsic rewards?

Intrinsic motivation is the energizing behavior that comes from within an individual out of will, choice and interest for the activity. Intrinsic rewards are the result of the behavior itself. Intrinsic rewards are the emotional high gained by achieving one’s purpose, a sense of self-directedness, and feelings of mastery. So when we talk about organizations committing to the strategy of intrinsic rewards as a motivational tool, we mean that the organizational culture focuses on the concepts of purpose, autonomy and mastery. Intrinsic rewards do not remove the concept of accountability, but encourage self-management and interdependence between the goals of the employee and the strategic vision of the organization. An organization which adopts this strategy recognizes that external enticements alone are not enough to engage employees. These organizations know that what motivates an employee best is the desire to use their drive, intelligence, knowledge and skill set to direct what they do, when they do it, how they do it, and with whom. It acknowledges that once the survival needs of the person are met, the desire to succeed comes from inwardly striving, innovating and improving to meet the needs of both the individual and organization, thereby meeting the organizational objectives tied to them.

Investing and committing to incorporating the strategy of intrinsic rewards into the culture of the organization leverages their greatest asset – their people. Employees who are engaged and agile:

  • Use their judgment about the meaningfulness of the purpose (mission, vision and the intent). They seek consistent and tireless communication on the objectives and vision without needing to be dictated to on the methods.
  • They value the degree of autonomy they have over doing things the way they believe best fulfills the purpose. They seek to clearly understand the intent behind the objectives and then rely on their knowledge to best discover the how, the technique, the timing and the tools needed to achieve it.
  • They use an internal sense of competence when judging the quality of their work. They are most fulfilled when the work meets or exceeds their personal standard and real progress toward a goal is tangible. Their drive, excitement, curiosity and personal sense of accomplishment outweigh the bonus or the feedback from others.
  • They assess the value and effectiveness of their contributions, and the emotional high or sense of accomplishment is the reward for a job well done. These positive emotions and experiences (intrinsic rewards) encourage the employee to develop a mastery mindset that drives them to make progress toward achieving their purpose by seeking out new challenges that are not too easy nor difficult, but require them to stretch and enhance their skills to accomplish them.

The research shows that there are widespread benefits associated with leveraging the power of intrinsic rewards for the organization and the employee. Organizations that support and encourage a culture of autonomy, purpose and mastery see greater concentration on the part of their workers, report greater levels of effectiveness of their employees, have higher retention rates among employees who want to be there, rather than those who cannot afford to leave. They see increased levels of responsiveness and innovation and their employees become the most effective marketers and spokespeople for the organization’s products and culture. Engaged employees bring others who are similarly motivated into the organization, and serve as a primary resource for recommending and recruiting new and talented employees.   Organizations reap more tangible results as well: employees take fewer sick days, are less stressed, and have a better work/life balance. Diminishing error rates and costly mistakes lead to increases in client satisfaction, revenue and enhance the organization’s reputation for excellence. As the employee’s positive experiences build on positive experiences, opportunities for new learning and personal and professional growth become readily available. Their work satisfies their sense of self and well-being and they flourish and grow with the organization.

How would you redesign your organization so that it better promotes more engagement on the part of the employees? Please share your ideas in the comments field below.



How Do You Become Someone Others Can Trust?

Oct 30

9142422-trust-magnifying-glass-over-background-with-different-association-terms-vector-illustrationTrust is the common thread in every successful relationship, family, team, organization and business undertaking. The erosion of trust can bring the biggest, most powerful business, family or relationship to an end. When trust is present, leveraged and created unlimited potential is unleashed that can alter the trajectory of your life. Sadly, more than a decade of corporate scandals, ethical failures, downsizing and turbulent times have created a degree of cynicism about trust in anyone. The developing trust gap is clear when you look at the current research on trust in America. According to a 2013 AP-GK poll, one-third of Americans say they do not trust others and 42% report, “you can’t be too careful in dealing with others”.

Think about those you know professionally and personally. If they were asked to choose from the following two phrases; “I tend to trust this person or I tend not to trust this person” which would they choose to  describe you and why? Becoming someone others can trust is without question the key to long-term success. How trust operates in our lives and how trustworthy we are perceived by others to be begins with our ability to trust ourselves. Without trusting yourself you cannot establish, develop and offer trust to others. When we lose trust in our own ability to keep commitments, and walk our talk we fail to develop the personal strength of character and credibility that inspires others’ trust. How do you become someone others can trust? The power to become someone others trust resides within each of us. Taking an inside out approach by first learning to trust yourself is what leads to building the credibility and character needed for others to trust you.

Creating trust is not easy. It is scary, risky and requires that you be willing to place your success in the hands of other people. But it is a risk that you cannot afford not to take. Genuine trust doesn’t require that you trust blindly or unconditionally, it means that you focus and commit to making the creation of trust an unambiguous objective. The key to creating the genuine trust needed to fully accept the risk of trusting others, and the possibility of betrayal, is to first be sure that you honor the commitments you make to yourself and act with clarity and integrity in even the small things in life. Without trust in oneself, your ability to judge scam or opportunity, credible or not credible, is diminished. Trusting others and having others trust you begins when you start trusting yourself. Self-trust is defined as the reliance on the integrity, character and competence of one’s ability to act in ways that demonstrate to yourself that you are a person within whom trust can be placed. When you prove to yourself that you are trustworthy, others see and recognize that and more easily place their trust in you.

Here are some thoughts about how to develop self-trust. Ask yourself if you embody these thoughts. If not, make the changes to develop the self-trust you need to create a better future for yourself and those you interact with.

Trust Your Intentions, Motives and Build a Sense of Integrity/Character

Trusting your intentions and motives leads to developing integrity. Trust grows when our motives are straightforward and they demonstrate benefit to others and ourselves. Having confidence in taking self-directed action to bring about principled decisions, tirelessly and openly communicating your intentions and rationale (motives) to yourself helps you gain clarity and understanding of your internal values and operating principles. It is about walking your talk and having the courage to act in accordance with your values and beliefs. Establish credibility with yourself by not lying or stretching the truth about your actions, strengths and weaknesses. Remember, it is the little breaches of trust or dishonest acts that can also gradually weaken and corrode your credibility. Trusting yourself is grounded in self-awareness, and being well-intentioned. It means consistently behaving and acting in ways that honor the commitments you make to yourself and those around you. Being able to fulfill your promises to yourself helps you believe that you are worthy of the trust of others. If you don’t see yourself as trustworthy it is not likely that others will.

Build Expertise, Credibility and Hold Yourself Accountable

Build trust by becoming and demonstrating competence. Develop a high degree of competence by gaining and developing your talents, attitudes, skills and knowledge. Have a clear understanding of your ethical code and know that simply because you can do something does not mean you should. Expertise comes from the right knowledge, skills, and capabilities. Rely on your competence and character and hold yourself accountable for your actions, choices and decisions. Create a track record of success that is based on your commitment to meet goals that you set for yourself. Be true to who you say you are, and know your limitations as well as your strengths. You become who you say you are by showing what you value, honor and commit to doing. Once you develop a pattern of self-awareness you will know who you are and so will those around you.

Be “Selfish” – Engage in Self-Care and Self-Support

Being connected, and showing care and concern for yourself helps you develop passion for who you are and what you stand for. Being selfish and engaging in self-care and self-support is not self-absorption or being narcissistic or self-serving. It means taking care of your needs so that you can meet the needs of others. It gives you clarity about the intentions and motives that underlie your actions. No longer tolerating limiting critical or demeaning self-talk leads to judging yourself and others less harshly. Being selfish in this sense means that you accept that you and everyone else are imperfect. Treat yourself as you would a respected colleague or trusted friend. Self-care and self-support increase resilience, self-confidence and self-esteem. Self-care and self-support create the environment of deep trust in you that leads to a willingness to trust others

Focus on Improving Your Relationship with Yourself

A huge part of leadership is seeing the potential, talents and purpose in others and nurturing and developing those in them. Having trust in one’s self means to explore, value, practice, recognize and develop your gifts, talents, and skills. Finding purpose for your life and following your inner path enables you to be open and encouraging not only with yourself, but those around you. Trust creates an opportunity to create a sense of “being in the flow” – that mind-body connection where things seem to come naturally and without having to try not to try. Trusting and focusing on developing a great relationship with yourself does not mean minimizing your flaws or perfecting yourself. It means being fully open to exploring and behaving in ways that create who you are in actions, words and deeds. This all leads to being whom you say you are. Creating the space for you to become the best version of who you are and trusting that you have the ability to do that opens up the path for you to trust others. Trusting yourself paves the way for discovery.

By embarking on the journey to attain or master self-trust means that you are on the pathway to creating the level of trust you need to offer to others. Focusing on the areas where you need to improve will give you the wisdom you need to become a person others can trust. Trusting yourself gives you the courage and the willingness to risk the betrayal of your trust by both yourself and others. No doubt there will be missteps along the way, however, trusting in your ability to learn from the mistakes creates a renewed basis for building trust in yourself. Trust underpins every decision, communication and situation you are engaged in. Once you have the self-awareness you need to trust fully in yourself, you will be able to consistently demonstrate the character and competence you have worked so hard to achieve. Once you trust yourself, you have everything you need to offer that trust to others and unleash their potential for success.

How do you develop the self-trust you need to be the person others tend to trust? Please share your successes with me in the comments field below.

Leaders Do More Than Manage – They Lead!

Oct 14

Leaders LeadWhat do successful leaders know?….   They know the difference between management and leadership is more than semantics. In today’s business world the words management and leadership are often used interchangeably, but they are not synonymous.  The concepts of leadership and management are not mutually exclusive and successful leaders are excellent managers however, not all successful managers are leaders. The key to becoming a successful leader lies in understanding the distinctions and embracing the challenge to go beyond good management to leadership.

Management refers to one’s ability to oversee the process, procedures and operations within an organization or team that result in the delivery of products and services to the marketplace. Managers possess a high degree of technical expertise, institutional knowledge and cognitive capabilities that enable them to direct the day-to-day operations and functions within the organization. They are focused on the short-term perspective… what is needed to get others to complete the tasks at hand rather than the vision and trajectory of the organization toward future success. Their source of power within the organization comes from the formal power awarded them by title, how much effect they have on others opportunities for growth and control over resources. People follow managers, even good ones, because that is what is expected of them and delivering what is expected ensures the individual’s success. Management involves short-term planning and goals. The primary focus and effort of management is directed towards organizing and supervising the process, people, systems and resources that result in the achievement of specific tasks on a daily basis that are repeated time after time. Good management is about ensuring that things go smoothly and right.

Leadership on the other hand is distinguished by a high degree of emotional intelligence anchored by technical skill, business acumen and expertise. Leadership is about demonstrating in word and action a set of emotional and social skills that impact and drive outstanding performance within the organization. Leaders have a high degree of self-awareness. They are keenly aware and recognize how their mood, emotions and drives effect others. Leaders have the ability to understand the emotional make up of those around them and treat them accordingly. They leverage this understanding to build, develop and retain talented people. Leaders develop power and influence as the result of building rapport and establishing relationships, finding common ground and persuading others to follow them because their strategies and ideas have merit.   Leadership is about continually communicating the why, where, when and what while refraining from dictating the how. Leaders are clear in their intent and create the framework that supports creativity, collaboration, agility and diversity of opinion. They recognize the potential within others and foster independent decision-making and action that supports the leader’s intent and mission.

Leaders use influence to motivate and inspire others to follow and support them as they move the organization beyond its comfort zone. Challenging beliefs, ideas and strategies along with accepted ways of doing things are all hallmarks of leadership. Leaders hold a long-range view. Good leadership is about doing the right things.

How does someone move beyond management to leadership?  The answer is… you have to broaden your mindset and begin thinking and behaving as leader each and every day.

As you develop the mindset of a leader you increase your leadership capabilities and create the character and competence needed to lead. Here are some ideas to consider integrating into your skill set to do more than manage and lead:

  • Focus on connecting authentically with the thoughts and feelings of those you interact with, lead or serve so that you can motivate and inspire them to achieve great things
  • Commit to being clear and to acting with integrity as a means of developing your credibility
  • Walk your talk… be congruent inside and out have the courage to act in alignment with your deepest values and beliefs
  • Be present and completely in the moment, and be agile enough to handle unexpected situations
  • Build relationships by reaching out to others with empathy, and always establish, grow, and offer trust
  • Engage in behavior that is ethical…doing what you should do rather than what you can do in difficult or challenging situations
  • Be concerned with acting on good ideas rather than having goods ideas and be more concerned about what is right rather than being right.
  • Build a solid team. It is about what you and those you lead want to accomplish and how you can all benefit from the group effort
  • Acknowledge that you don’t have all the answers. Embrace new positions and truths rather than become entrenched in defending outmoded positions or strategies
  • Communicate tirelessly, have the courage to confront the unknown
  • Have optimism in the face of failure
  • Advocate for change and be the voice of clarity in ambiguous situations

With persistence and practice the capabilities of a leader can be learned. The success of any organization requires that those in key roles possess both the skills of leadership and management. These skills go hand in hand and are connected and complementary.

Are you committed to becoming a leader who can inspire confidence in others? Please comment on how you plan to practice and embody the leadership capabilities discussed above.

Innovative Leaders: What Gives Them An Edge?

Sep 16

Innovative LeadersInnovative ideas don’t come to light fully formed…. they require individuals to craft, shape and will them into being. An innovative mindset combines key behaviors with the belief that a great idea can come from anywhere. The innovative mindset lies at the heart of what distinguishes a leader from a follower. Innovative leaders continuously contribute to society with their creativity; search for wisdom and out of the box thinking. The popularity of the television show Shark Tank and the success of companies like eBay, Apple and Amazon demonstrate the power of innovative ideas to revolutionize industries and create tremendous wealth for the innovative company and their innovative leader. In today’s global and challenging marketplace leaders are looking for new ways of being, thinking and doing to create a competitive edge. Innovation has become the lifeblood of those leaders who operate and succeed in the global marketplace.

Becoming an innovative leader is more than just a function of the mind or genetics. It is a set of behaviors that when practiced regularly are the catalyst for imagining unique new future states and figuring out the path to get there. This is good news for all those in leadership. It means that changing your behaviors can improve your creative impact. Employing an innovator’s mindset and leadership strategy will give you and your organization a indisputable competitive edge. Innovative leadership extends beyond just thinking differently …. it extends to translating thinking differently into acting differently. So right now you must be asking yourself, “What is it that innovative leaders do?”

Innovative leaders systematically practice the behaviors of connecting, observing, questioning, networking and experimenting. These behaviors ignite new ideas, innovate processes and create new ways to resolve challenges.  Innovative leaders are not reliant on past experience or known facts but use creativity and discovery to answer the question “What if?”

Here is a more detailed look at the behaviors employed by innovative leaders. By staying curious and mastering these behaviors you can create the mindset necessary to elevate your natural creativity and out of the box thinking to the innovative level.

Find the Common Threads and Make Connections

Innovative leaders discover new directions by developing connections across seemingly unrelated fields, situations, problems or ideas. They synthesize diverse and seemingly unconnected information to spark creative insight and leverage a diverse knowledge base to carve out new paths and options for resolving challenges. Participating in this type of creative thought and encouraging others to do the same fosters the atmosphere that promotes connecting distinctly different ideas, technologies, and disciplines to develop new and innovative solutions. As a leader, consistently seek out diversity of thought across industries, fields and disciplines so that you hear the best and brightest thinking on current challenges and how to solve them. Diversity of perspective allows you to develop an inventive solution from a vast array of possibilities, perspectives and viewpoints. Be willing to explore what might initially appear to be foolish or an unrelated set of facts and circumstances. A disconnected set of facts can offer unseen common threads when looked at with a curious and open mind. Combining seemingly unrelated facts can often lead to new approaches or be leveraged to surface a new business idea

Be An Avid Questioner

Innovative leaders pursue wisdom through questioning. They unswervingly ask questions that challenge the status quo thinking and uproot ideological thinking. Innovative leaders ask powerful, thought-provoking questions that are specifically designed to push boundaries, challenge assumptions and disrupt the conventional wisdom. They seek to turn thinking inside out and expose what has not been seen before. An innovator’s questions explore fully ‘what is’ and then ask questions that expose ‘what might be’. Questions are the mechanism through which the innovator discovers what might be possible instead of what is possible. Expand your model of the world by seeking answers to questions that cause you to rethink or reinvent how you see the world. Get over the fear that asking questions will make you look foolish or disagreeable. Be humble as a questioner and genuinely curious about seeking others knowledge and insight. Lastly, ask good question after good question and make sure that each new question builds upon or expands upon the information gleaned from your previous question. Good questions asked with no expectations about the response allow you to gather the depth of information needed to translate and contemplate a new or unique approach. To be an innovative leader means that you question boldly even when you believe you know or have the answer.

Be Observant

Innovators are keen observers of the world around them. Their questions and observations help them discern options, opportunities and connections between seemingly unrelated things. Innovative leaders are powerful observers of how things work and more importantly they are intensely aware of what isn’t working. They constantly look at how others solve challenges and look for common threads and methods that could be leveraged to solve problems in their world. Consistently looking for the surprises and the unexpected helps innovators steer clear of facts or information that confirms the status quo. Be an ardent observer of people, trends, products and technology. Observation of people’s needs and desires lead innovators to identify, ignite and create opportunities for new products, ways of doing things, thinking, technology and systems. Seek to incorporate better ways of doing things even if it comes from outside your industry or discipline. Constantly look for even better ways to do something even if at first it seems to defy all reasonable thinking. Brainstorming what is possible no matter how implausible can spark new thought and spotlight a starting point for creating something never before seen but desperately needed. Use all your senses so that you can discover what others have yet to realize they are missing, as of yet unknown needs and the solve for a solution to those.

Network to Test Ideas

Innovative leaders look to connect and share ideas with people outside of their comfort zone or sphere. By sharing ideas and solutions with a profoundly different group of people innovators learn new and often surprising things about their ideas and themselves. Innovative leaders look to build connections with people whose backgrounds, skills and experience are dramatically different from their own. They seek a diversity of ideas and perspectives through networking. Networking for the innovative leader is not focused on selling themselves or their ideas/solutions but instead focused on testing ideas and gathering perspectives from others. Building bridges with other people whose outlook and thought processes challenge yours leads to exploration beyond the usual places or people. Reach out to experts in other fields and identify different approaches to problem solving that might prove useful. Leverage experiences from all aspects of your life both personally and professionally. People see different possibilities, options and outcomes in situations use this to your advantage. Respect and be open to another’s perspective it is the way to build the information-sharing pathway. Ideas and strategies are exchanged freely and without judgment when you hold others in genuine regard and they trust you. Choose people in your inner circle specifically because they have different experiences, knowledge and backgrounds. Have a diverse and trusted group of people, friends and advisors who are open to seeing the world in an inside out way so that when testing ideas you have the broadest sounding board. Valuing the difference in others learning methods and problem solving strategies helps counter our own confirmation bias about how things need to be accomplished.

Experiment and Learn Quickly from Mistakes

Innovative leaders actively pursue new experiences and opportunities to test hypotheses and ideas. They are willing to experience failure on the way to success. Innovators routinely employ experimentation to find out and hone what is possible. Experiments are a smart risk way to make things happen. Experimenting creates the opportunity to test and adjust in real-time and in the real world.   Innovative leaders embrace the learning that comes from experimenting and learn quickly from mistakes. They see more value when experiments turn out differently from the way in which they expected. Mistakes and surprises provide the opportunity for new learning and invention. Innovative leaders have a willingness to experiment with strategies that are not necessarily directly linked to the overall outcome and leverage learning in all areas of their life. They value all learning and believe strongly that one never knows when what you’ve learned in an experiment in one aspect of your life can inform another. Disassembling processes to learn and understand how they work and why they work the way they do is a staple in the behavior of an innovator. This forms the basis for turning the known inside out and reinventing the process. Even when they have arrived at an innovative idea and launch a solution or product innovators continue experimentation to improve upon what has been created. Using the other skills as a basis for creating experiments ensures that the experiments innovators conduct are able to generate the information needed to ignite new ideas. Connecting, questioning, observing and networking all help to minimize random experimentation and get innovators closer to where they want to be. As a leader, experiment with new experiences, tools, ideas, strategies and products in an open-minded way and support those around you who are willing to look at the world differently. Continuously and consistently shift and reframe your ideas along the way. Enthusiastically seek out information about new trends and thinking. Awareness of the trends leads you to create new theories and form the genesis for the experiments. This process allows you to take the trend one step further or invent something that solves an as of yet unknown need created by the trend. Adapt an experimentation approach to all situations. Be open to looking for learning in failure and leverage knowledge gained in one area of your life to influence and bring a new perspective to the matter at hand. Learn to take things apart as a way to create something better. Understand how something works and then look for a way to do it better or differently.

Innovative leadership creates opportunities and makes ongoing success a realistic endeavor. Adding this to the leadership skill set of analyzing, planning and executing on strategy are how, you as a leader, gain and maintain an edge.

Are you willing to challenge yourself and build innovation capabilities as a leader? Let me know what you are doing in the comments field below.