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When It Comes To Leadership, Who Leads The Leader?

by Richard Norris on December 18, 2014

Dog Sled Leader 300x200 When It Comes To Leadership, Who Leads The Leader?

When It Comes To Leadership, Who Leads The Leader?

Be it at work, rest or play, change, growth and success does not happen without good leadership. But a leader can only take things so far if they are leading on their own. A good leader knows that their leadership depends on them being led to change and grow too. Leadership without leadership will fail.

Leadership brings change. Change leads to growth. Any CEO of any leading organization knows that he or she must continue to grow and change to be a success. They know they cannot lead without help. CEOs from Home Depot to Disney to the latest angel-backed new business know they need to be led. They need the accountability. They need new knowledge and ongoing education. If you’ve ever watched Dragon’s Den, you’ll know that young businesses seek out not just funding, but wisdom and experience.

In business, the value of coaches and mentors is widely known to add significantly to the performance of leadership. Coaches are proactive and more involved in your leadership. They help you come up with and execute the game plan. Mentors act more as a resource you go to as and when needed. They act more as a guide.

When I invested in a business coaching franchise back in 2003, having a coach was mandatory. Every franchisee had a coach’s coach. Their role was to help us grow personally and as a business. How could we promote coaching if we did not have a coach? These coaches were already successful and could lead by example. Integrity demanded it. From then to today, I still ask would-be clients if they are responsible for leading their people and helping them fulfil their work potential. All of them say they are. I then ask them who leads them. A significant number get uneasy at that point…

Who is actually leading you?

If you don’t have anyone, just be warned.

If you’ve ever watched the Iditarod sled dog race stretching some 1200 miles across  Alaska you will know that to finish, let alone win, demands leadership. That leadership comes in the form of a lead dog. He or she sets the pace and keeps the others in line. But who leads the leader of the pack? The driver – the man or woman guiding the sled. If you were to ask any of the drivers, they will have mentors too.

Great leadership requires a great leader. A great leader just doesn’t show up. A great leaders knows that they have to lead themselves well first. They are self-aware and know they need help to become their best. When you read biographies of any great leader in sport, politics or business, there is always mention of one or more coaches or mentors. Roger Federer. LeBron James. Churchill. Edison. Jobs. Buffett. To be their best they’ve learned from those better than them and/or those who have gone before them. They’ve bought into the value of their wisdom to boost their careers.

It’s arrogant to think you know everything and/or have nothing to learn. Yet, this is an area where many men struggle. I know I did. We don’t like to admit we don’t have it all together and/or don’t know everything (even if we act like we do).

As I’ve learned (it took years!), true leaders seek and takes wise counsel. Often they don’t wait. They never presume they know everything and can do it all themselves. They lead with humility and a drive to improve. They, therefore, surround themselves with wisdom; those who have gone before. Napolean Hill, in his book, Think & Grow Rich, discusses the power of the mastermind group. Such a group could be real or virtual. My coach’s coach, like Hill, had a mastermind group that were mostly virtual. Some were from history – presidents, generals and leading businessmen. Some of modern day fame. Some they knew personally. Some they didn’t. The mastermind’s power came from presenting a challenge to the group and asking them what they would do. I do this. I often ask what my dad (who died several years ago) or a particular athlete would do in a given situation.

An effective coach or mentor helps you keep things in perspective. They can be objective. They are detached from the emotion of your leadership. They provide necessary wisdom that will help keep you from making mistakes and help you to grow in your role. Know this, that you do not have to agree with your mentor or coach for your leadership to benefit. I recall Abraham Lincoln surrounded himself with his political opponents. His assertion was that his opponents views challenged his thinking and helped him to see things from a wider perspective.

I want to plant a seed right now. When it comes to leadership, if coaching and mentoring work in sport and business, what about at home too? If the leadership at work seeks leadership, then surely the same principle should apply at home? Yet, how many husbands and wives struggle in their marriage and family leadership because they go it alone. They don’t or won’t consider seeking outside help. That could be a coach, mentor, counselor, pastor etc. Sadly, this realization only dawned on me a few years ago (I’ve been married since ’91). I used to be that man, that leader who never liked to admit his weaknesses. I thought I could do it all by myself and failed miserably time and again. I now have mentors (on and off-line), my pastor, my wife and even my kids to help me grow in my leadership as a man, husband and father. If I can do it, so can you. I actually wonder, how many marriages and strained family relationships would be helped if more men and couples took a similar approach?

Whether at work, rest or play, your leadership is only as good as the person leading you. If that’s you, you’ll only grow so far and those you lead will plateau. When that happens, your leadership will begin to stagnate and those you lead begin to leave – physically, emotionally and/or mentally.

No matter how good you think your leadership is, wherever you lead, you can still be better. What got you where are today, won’t get you where you desire to go tomorrow. Your leadership must continue to grow. That means you must invest in being led yourself – even if you are at the top of the heap.

Your Powerplay

Seek out the wisdom and experience from those leaders who are ahead of where you want to go. Listen, learn and lead.



Value Their Difference; Value Their Choices

by Richard Norris on December 15, 2014

Crossroad of Uncertainty 300x200 Value Their Difference; Value Their Choices

Value Their Difference; Value Their Choices

Everyone is different – no question. As a result, people make different choices. As a leader, that can be hard to swallow. But, how else can people grow? With every choice comes a lesson – good or bad. The lesson needs to be learned.

Decision-making is a key leadership skill. Most leaders attain their positions by showing they can consistently make good decisions. The only place that may not hold true as much is in marriage and in the family. You choose to get married but any leadership is not necessarily attained by the choices you have made, make or will make.

But then…no one is perfect anyway. What a relief! And that assertion is worth remembering be it in a team and, perhaps, especially at home. When it comes to making choices, we may think, believe or even know how to make the right or better choice. However, our way may not be their way or the best way for others. What works for us may well not work for them or help them learn and grow.

As I work mostly from home, the responsibility largely falls to me to help the kids with their homework (or homefun as we call it). When it comes to their math work I can get frustrated watching them struggle with something that to me is very logical. When they go about things the wrong way (real or perceived) I go into man-mode. I want to fix it. I want to give them the solution (whether it’s right or not; whether it’s right for them or not). I slot into my default setting…THIS-IS-HOW-I-DO-IT. (Read that as “THIS IS THE WAY YOU WILL DO IT!”) I am ashamed to admit that when I have done this, it’s no longer fun and not helpful for any of us. I was making choices for them. Wrong!

How well do you value and allow those who matter most to make choices different to what you would?

We are meant to value our kids. We are meant to value those we lead. Just as each of them is unique, their decisions, choices and they way they make them will be different to ours. And as the French say, “Vive la difference!”

I’m sure we all know those parents who are pushy. It’s their way or no way. School. Cheerleading. Football. Hockey. Basketball. Etc. Such parents can be dictators. We men particularly are prone to being solution-focused. We can have an arrogance believing that our way, the choices we would make are the best. When it comes to making a decision, a choice, our way is the only way. Such an approach, however, crushes potential, freedom and uniqueness in our kids.

Other parents can be duplicators. They are the sports parent who makes their kids do what they did. They assume that their sports interest and ability is that of their kids too. This only makes those kids miserable. Trying to live through their kids and forcing them to do something they don’t want to do, is surely a passion killer. Sure they may have enjoyed it at the start, but when mum and dad start taking over, they lose the passion.

Equally, I’m sure we know the director type. They micromanage. They direct your every step. They value conformity rather than difference. Such approaches inhibit creativity, development, progress and growth.

I’ve seen all of these in me at times. And I don’t like it. And I’m doing something about it. If I can, then so too can you or those others you know like me.

One of the best nuggets I learned fairly recently is that as a leader, as a parent, it’s best to guide rather than direct. Guidance gives those you lead more freedom to themselves to make their own choices. The key is to ensure that you equip them as best you can to do so.

If we had not each been made unique, we would all be redundant.

Whether as a parent or a leader elsewhere, we are to live our own lives. We can best value those we lead by helping them to discover and live their own lives.

My wife and I made the choice in the past week to invest in a home-based student support service. It works alongside the kids’ school curriculum. As we were informed, the goal today in education is for the children to gain understanding. When they achieve that, they consolidate what they are learning far better. Consolidation is necessary for true progression and growth. Education is like building a skyscraper. The higher you want to build it, the deeper and stronger the foundation needs to be. This principle works as well in the workplace or on the playing field.

Rather than dictate, duplicate or direct, it’s better for us to educate, encourage, equip and empower our family or team to make their own choices. We provide the foundation and the tool-kit – the beliefs, values, education, training etc. When we do a good job of that, the choices they make are likely to be more consistent and better for them and even for us. Sure this creates risk, but how else will one and all learn to make better choices? They may not always make the best or the right decision, but your support speaks volumes and strengthens your relationship.

I wonder how many relationships at work and at home would be different today, with such an approach?

Just as no two individuals are the same, no two choices are (or at least the route to them). Just as two sail boats can leave the same harbor heading to the same destination, the route or path will not be exactly the same, neither will it be for two people and the choices they make. As leaders, we are to teach those we lead to sail. We must then give them the freedom to choose their path – even it it’s different to the one you would take; even if it’s the wrong one.

We are to give people the freedom to make their own choices. When we do that, we open the door to trust and acceptance. Allowing those choices to be made can be difficult. However, valuing their choices can build your relationship, their self-esteem and their ability to make ongoing better choices.

Your Powerplay

Allow those you lead an opportunity to make a choice for themselves. As required, debrief what they learned as a result of their choice.



Is There Really Something To Fear?

December 11, 2014

Is There Really Something To Fear? Everyone at some time has been afraid of something and, perhaps, still is. It’s okay to be afraid, but you cannot let your fear control you. To live and lead your best, fears must be confessed, confronted and controlled. Fear is something we all face at some point in […]

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