Humility in Leadership

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Humility is defined as the quality or state of not thinking you are better than other people: the quality or state of being humble. I’d like to focus on the words quality and humble because those two words are the essence of what true leadership is all about.
I’m amazed to read stories of how people who rose to a leadership position start behaving differently and end up mistreating their constituents. Here are some of the examples in recent times:
1) Dominique Strauss-Kahn, former head of the International Monetary Fund and a leading French politician, was arraigned on charges of sexual assault.
2) Hewlett-Packard CEO Mark Hurd resigned for submitting false expense reports concerning his relationship with a contractor.
3) US Senator John Ensign resigned after covering up an extramarital affair with monetary payoffs.
4) Tiger Woods extra-marital affairs that caused his decline.
5) Just last week, Bubba Watson was in the news for his behavior on how he treated his caddy and his boorish attitude at the PGA.
One can argue that the degree of severity is different, but the root cause of their behavior is the same. They all starting feeling they are entitled and are above everyone else. I understand that there are a lot of demands on a leader day in and day out, but it is not an excuse to lose their humility. Here are some methods I believe would help you stay grounded:
1) Practice self-reflection – this will enable you to step back and reflect on your activities for the week and see where you did not do well and identify room for improvement.
2) Ensure you have an inner circle – your inner circle will be your confidant. They will be the people that guide you through the process.
3) Prune your inner circle – make sure none of your inner circle are pushing you in the wrong direction and giving you the wrong information. If they do, let them go. Make sure you’re surrounded by “yes man”.
4) Make tough decisions – leaders always make tough decisions. Sometimes it means letting someone go because you don’t share the same vision.

As C.S. Lewis said, “Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself less.” It means focusing on others and practicing the servant leadership. True leaders always aim to serve rather than be served. Sometimes what causes us to stray from our path is our thinking that we need to act tough. As Simon Sinek said, “Great leaders don’t need to act tough. Their confidence and humility serve to underscore their toughness.” It is important to be yourself and not lose yourself.

Writing is a labor of love. If you like my post, please share it with others. In addition, I also would like to hear your perspective.

Plan your career like planning your vacation

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travel plansIn the recent class that I taught on 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, I pointed out to the participants that while the 21 laws is a leadership program, the underpinning of the program is personal development.

The class participants were a cross section of individual contributors to mid-level managers.   My objective was to let them know that even if you don’t manage anyone right now, you still need to learn what it takes to be a leader. More importantly, that self-improvement is crucial to their future success.   What they do now will greatly affect their future.

When I taught the third session, I asked the participants by show of hands, how many created their ‘DO NOT DO LIST’.   I was surprised that less than 1/3 created their DO NOT DO LIST and created a plan of action on how to improve themselves. I then followed up with a question: How many hours do they spend planning their vacation? Their eyes lit up and I could see the excitement and enthusiasm.     On average, they spent 20 hours preparing for their vacation; that’s almost three days spent to plan a vacation, but they could not be motivated to create a plan to help improve themselves.

Canadian personal development expert, author, and public speaker, Brian Tracy, once said, “If you wish to achieve worthwhile things in your personal and career life, you must become a worthwhile person in your own self-development.”     Remember that you can only harvest something if you plant the seeds.   Everything takes time to grow and develop; without proper planning you will always be at the wrong time even in the right place.   Imagine being in the right place, but at the wrong time; it means that you don’t have what it takes to get the job done.

career directions

As I look back to that moment, I decided to reiterate the value of planning. I stressed the importance of planning for your future.   I asked them the question: Would the fear of failing now be greater than the fear of failing to achieve your dream? It is a question only they can answer.   Remember that regret is always in the end.

Writing is a labor of love for me. If you like my blog, please share it to someone who need to read it.   It is through sharing that we can make this world a better place.   Also, feel free to share your thoughts and perspective.

Leader must give up

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give upA leader is often the person that helps a team reach a goal that they otherwise thought they could not achieve.   They inspire everyone around them to act and persevere until the goal is achieved.   In many ways, their constituents look to the leader for encouragement and direction. Their guidance is what helps the team overcome adversity.

At times, people think that the leader has all the answers and is knowledgeable or a subject matter expert. If a leader falls into the trap of being all for everyone, they will not be successful.   In order for a leader to be effective and efficient, they need to give up and let go certain things.

Here are some of the things a leader must give up:

  • Making all decisions – leaders must empower their people that are closest to the problem to come up with solutions or recommendations, because they are the domain experts.
  • Let go – at times we are tempted to do everything ourselves, because we can get it done faster.   Also we deemed that the times spent on teaching someone can best be served addressing the issue. But that is a false expectation. If we don’t teach everyone around us to fish, they will always expect us to give them the fish.   It is best to invest the time to teach someone; this way they can help in the future.
  • Talking at all times – it is important to communicate, but it is equally important to listen.   By listening to your constituents, you will learn more about your audience and understand their challenges and identify opportunities.
  • Control – extend the ropes for your people to prove to you that they can get it done. However, always be there to support and nurture them. Be there to catch them when they fall, but let them learn the lesson before they move on.
  • Assuming perfection – you can try to be on top of the situation at all times, but you don’t have to be. You need to surround yourself with the right people to get things done. Knowing who to seek help from or tap to get things done is more important than trying to be the expert.

 

At times it is okay to give up; a leader must give up for the right reason. Empowering their constituents and investing the time to develop them will be key to the overall success of the organization.

Writing is a labor of love. If you like my post shares it with your friends or share your perspective, because it will help me grow and develop.

When grades no longer apply

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gradesGrowing up we spend many years in school. During those years, we have quizzes, group projects and final exams. Back then it was easy to know where we stood and how we were doing.   At the end of the school year, we got a Grade Point Average to depict our performance for that school year.

As parents, we help shape the future of our children by sharing our knowledge, perspective, and providing guidance.   We can also provide them the foundation of what is it that they need to focus on. Like doing the right thing, religious foundation, be cordial, be respectful or striving to get A’s as symbols of academic excellence.   By focusing on getting A’s, we might influence what they would believe is the goal.

Few months back, my eldest daughter asked me what I meant by doing your best. Does it mean getting A’s? I took that opportunity to impress upon her that what I meant by doing your best is really doing your best at all times.   That would mean that sometimes your best is not an A and that would be okay.   The grade point is a guide and I want them to aim to get better grades each time, but doing their best is what matters the most.

Once they finish college, they are off to the real world in which there are no quizzes and grades to guide them throughout the year. In my opinion, without a proper transition, they are ill prepared to face the challenge of real world.   In the same light that I believe college should provide a course in personal finance, I believe that they also need to provide a course in entering the workforce.   Understanding that they need to be accountable for their career and own it.   How to receive a performance review and ask and receive feedback. Managing expectations and creating a career plan are all essential to enable them to succeed.

Do we want to create a workforce that understands that patience is a virtue and that you own your career.   Without that foundation, they will fail to realize their potential because they will expect other people to take an interest in their growth and development.   These days, doing more with less is the norm that leaves managers less time to focus on growth.   If we leave it to others to map our career plan, chances are it will not get done and we’ll be disappointed.