Monday, June 11, 2018

How do leaders be both bold and brave during difficult times? - part #2

During the Fall 2017 From Vision to Action Executive Roundtable, those who gathered entered in to a discussion about the difference between resistance and opposition. The consensus of the leaders present was that resistance is really a form of feedback while opposition is a form of going against something in order to stop it from happening.  As I reflected on all that was shared, I realized that during the Spring 2018 From Vision to Action Executive Roundtable we needed to explore and understand the difference between discernment and judgement.

In order to get greater perspective on the difference between discernment and judgement, I turned to the small group of people who I call my “Kitchen Table Cabinet.” These are the people I go to for a big picture perspective on a variety of subjects. They are the ones who make me think and who ask really good questions.

During my first meeting with one of my older cabinet members, I asked the question “What is the difference between discernment and judgement?” 

He smiled and replied, “It is the ability to sort the wheat from the chafe, or the ability to sort the the goats from the sheep.”

I chuckled because this is a typical answer for him. However, as we dived into the subject at a deeper level, he said discernment is “the ability to organize your thoughts after participating in a series of listening post experiences.” As he explained, by listening carefully, a leader is able to discern what is the path forward.

Next, I went to another member of my Kitchen Table Cabinet who has traveled extensively in different parts of the world, and has a long term career in healthcare. He shared that “judgement is your conclusion. It is binary in nature. On the other hand, discernment is about exploring a range of questions and perspectives.” As he continued, when someone is involved in a discernment process, they have to ask the question, “What else could it be happening here?” This requires an individual to have the time and a space to reflect. “The main problem is that people jump to conclusions, judge or decide something without having all of the facts. This rush to conclusions will cause problems or result in unwarranted conclusions.”

After careful thought, I think this is the problem. There is not enough discernment in decision making. There is not enough careful thought being put into place before action. It is as if the world is addicted to going faster and faster, and to choose urgency without reflection. All of us as leaders need to define and schedule time for reflection and to defend this space like a mother with a new born child.

This week, schedule time for in-depth reflection. And then, give yourself permission to take.

As for me, I will now take my annual, late June time for reflection. I will be back in touch with all of you on Monday morning, July 2. 

Geery Howe, M.A. Consultant, Executive Coach, Trainer in Leadership, Strategic Planning and Organizational Change Morning Star Associates 319 - 643 - 2257

Monday, June 4, 2018

How do leaders be both bold and brave during difficult times? - part #1

When working in these unique times, we need to be bold and brave in spite of all that is happening around us. Boldness requires us to not be afraid of the difficult situations before us. Brave requires us to have the courage to face the challenges of this time. Bold and brave leaders are transformational leaders.

When I think of transformational leaders, I think of the work of Bennis and Nanus who say that these kinds of leaders are managers of meaning, attention, trust, and self. 

But, when I reflect on the transformational leaders I have met and worked with, I have observed that they role model executive presence and compassion on a daily basis. Executive presence begins with self awareness about one’s appearance, words, physical health, and body language. However, it is greater than just self-awareness

Leading with executive presence means being confident and calm in spite of external circumstances. Having inner clarity creates confidence in others to follow. It also means leading with inner clarity rather than external ego.

Leading with executive presence starts with showing up and being clear on the inside. It requires us as leaders to give our complete attention to others and being mentally present when we do it. It also means understanding that others read our reactions and actions very carefully, not just our words. In essence, executive presence is that rare combination of being confident and calm plus being present and attentive. 

Upon further reflection, I believe there is a relationship between executive presence and compassion. Compassion from Latin means “to suffer with.” It is an emotional response of sympathy and a feeling and desire to want to help. Compassion arises from an open heart. It requires us to show up and pay attention to all that is needed.

Executive presence also requires us to understand the difference between self-help and self-knowledge. Self-help is being able to achieve something on one’s own. Self-knowledge is understanding oneself or one’s own motive or character. For us to stay humble and role model executive presence as leaders, we need to know the limits of our knowledge and to realize we can become misguided by incomplete information.

It also requires us to recognize that there are always two models at work in the world of leadership. The mechanical model sees everything as systems and replaceable parts. The gardening model focuses on the culture/environment around those serving and tries to create a more favorable environment for proactive growth. From my perspective, leadership and management based on a mechanical model has the potential to result in leadership and management without a soul. There is the potential for no presence, attention, kindness, or compassion.

When leaders embrace the gardening model, then leadership becomes a craft from German word, kraft, which means “the power that comes from knowing.” Here, leaders learn to be leaders not only by being taught, but by doing it, and by being mentored. This is where you have to get “a feel” for it.

Furthermore, this kind of leadership requires people to be a part of a community, namely a group of knowers who pass along their knowledge in a step by step way from simple to complex.

Finally, leadership also is an art, because like true art it is based on the interaction between the artist and the subject/object, i.e. the follower. It is learned by knowing when to speak up and when to be quiet, and by knowing where to look and what to avoid.

This week, reflect on executive presence, compassion and the gardening model of leadership. Find your community of fellow leaders and embrace the journey of sharing, listening and reflecting. It will make a world of difference.

Geery Howe, M.A. Consultant, Executive Coach, Trainer in Leadership, Strategic Planning and Organizational Change Morning Star Associates 319 - 643 - 2257