What comes to mind when you think about leadership responsibility? Taking charge? Casting vision? Setting strategy? Getting results? Every time I get to ask this question in a workshop setting, the list gets long very quickly.
Let’s make it more personal with this sobering question: are the people you lead better or worse off because of you? What is the experience of each person on the other end of your leadership?
Since there are so many leadership responsibilities, let’s focus on just a few that have enormous implications for the people in our wake.
Decisions fascinate me. Occasionally they come easily. Sometimes they are difficult. Oftentimes they’re stressful. Some have huge implications. Most have a variety of influencing factors. Some decisions turn out perfectly. Some blow up entirely.
Leaders are responsible for making important decisions that by nature aren’t easy. In fact, in a certain sense the essence of one’s leadership is the sum of the decisions he or she has made over time. Unfortunately, many leaders struggle with the decision-making process. I’ve written before about the need for leaders to have the courage to step up and make the tough calls. I’ve also shared an insightful decision-making process I’ve found.
Fortunately, decision-making skills are a lot like public speaking skills. The more you step up when others shy away, the greater your influence will become.
Below, I’d like to include a variety of factors I consider when making decisions that will have significant organizational impact. These are factors I often use – and encourage those I’m responsible for to use as well.
How exciting is decision-making?? I’ve always enjoyed the logic that goes into navigating the personal and professional crossroads of life. Sometimes things work out. Other times it’s a disaster. Did we make the right call? How can we know for sure?
I read a book a couple years ago that took decision-making to a whole new level. It was Decisive by Chip & Dan Heath. I don’t think I’ve heard as comprehensive (or creative) a thinking process as it relates to decision-making. And the best part is that is applies to nearly all circumstances, from business (should we sue a bigger company? offer a discount on our products?) to personal (should I break up with my significant other? let my adult child move back home? buy a new TV?).
Here is a brief summary of the WRAP decision-making process the Heath brothers use:
I’ll admit I’ve made a lot of mistakes over the years when it comes to identifying leadership ability in others. Some I’ve thought would be great weren’t – and others I didn’t give much consideration turned out to be amazing. It’d be a lot easier if there was a scientific method to show who could get the job done. Until then, we’ll have to do the best we can.
One of the first mistakes we often make is assuming that the person in charge is always the leader. Then, when it turns out they aren’t, we give up. But what if leadership doesn’t have anything to do with having a title? In that case, it would be possible to have an organization filled with leaders at every level.
Most organizations have core values. Somewhere anyway. They’re usually posted on the website and probably printed on a brochure somewhere. But do people talk about them individually? Does anyone know them? Are they specific and meaningful enough to make a difference?
At the end of the day, the organization is going to do what it’s going to do, right? So maybe a better question is: why do we even have core values?
We’ve probably all come across sets of core values that were easy to make fun of or were too vague to impact anyone. But well constructed, specific core values can add tremendous benefit both to organizations and individuals. In fact, here are three ways I’ve seen this happen.
Adversity is no respecter of persons. Our experiences are usually different, but each of us gets our turn. Our organizations do too, for that matter.
So what happens when adversity strikes? How can we climb our way our of it? This isn’t an exhaustive list, but here are some thinking patterns that have helped me maintain a sense of sanity and clarity over the years.
This year has just about come to a close. The Type As among us are probably wrapping up their goals and planning for the new year (if they aren’t finished already). The rest will catch up. Maybe.
I saw a great post from Mark Miller last week on New Year’s resolutions for leaders – and it really challenged my thinking. I’m not sure what your leadership goals are for the new year, but if you haven’t thought about it, I’d suggest picking something from these ideas below.
On April 21, 2003, Carolyn Jessop finally followed through on a plot more daring than any you or I have likely faced. Under the cover of darkness in the middle of the night she herded her 8 children past several “sister wives” and into a van where they narrowly escaped the quasi-totalitarianism of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (a polygamist group renounced by the Mormon Church) and her life as one of several abused wives to one of the group’s highest leaders.
Five short years later, she was called on by authorities as an expert in the initial custody process following the raid of the YFZ Ranch in Texas, which was being run by her ex-husband. The raid proved pivotal in landing the extremist sect’s leader Warren Jeffs in prison with a life sentence on multiple child sexual assault convictions.
I read Jessop’s New York Times bestseller Escape after it had just been released in 2007 as I was training for an overseas deployment to Iraq with the U.S. Army. I’m not sure what prompted me to read her story – or how I even heard about it – but I immediately thought she deserved to win some kind of Outstanding Person of the Year award and wished I could tell her as much. Jessop doesn’t lead a nation, a sports club or a Fortune 500 company, but she embodies some of the most important leadership attributes you or I could ever hope to learn.