Would you share the story about “going up the stairs two steps at a time” and how it impacted your view of leadership and culture?
Yes, of course. Back in 2006 I had a meeting with Jim Bolt, the founder of Executive Development Associates (EDA), to discuss how I would run the company. Jim had been developing senior leaders since the early 1980s and was a renowned expert in the field. I knew I had much to learn from Jim and hoped we could work together. I didn’t know at the time that the very first piece of advice he would give me would shape and inform every leadership decision I have made since. Before I left that meeting, Jim handed me a book from his shelf called Let My People Go Surfing by Yvon Chouinard, founder and CEO of Patagonia, a sports clothing company.
The book is the story of Patagonia with an emphasis, almost a plea, for sustainability. Jim wanted me to start thinking about how we could help with this effort, I read the book but it was something else within that captured my attention. The CEO of Patagonia wanted to build an organization where employees were compelled to come to work. Yvon Chouinard wanted a company where employees were a part of their environmental mission. He wanted employees to be wholly engaged and committed. He said, “Work had to be enjoyable on a daily basis. We all had to come to work on the balls of our feet and go up the stairs two steps at a time” (Chouinard 2005, 45).
That statement struck me as extremely important. Imagine the creativity and courage and productivity that would come from a workforce like that. The power of it is immeasurable. That is what visionary leadership can do. It can unleash the power of the workforce.
Visionary leaders create a clear picture of a positive future state.
A visionary leader is a person who steps out and creates a clear picture of a positive future state. It takes a lot of courage because creating a vision for the future is basically imagining what could be and what should be. That feels very risky for leaders. It is stepping out of the norm. There are certain things they will need to do. In the book we explain further by putting it into 4 Cs. They must:
Build connectedness, and
Shape the culture.
What advice do you have for a leader struggling with creating a compelling vision?
What are some of the signs of an ineffective leader’s communications?
Ineffective leaders tend to place great trust in their own expertise and control. Their thinking seems to follow the old adage: “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” So most of their communication is one-directional—telling. By contrast, more effective leaders like to get input from several trusted sources. They listen with an open mind and weigh facts and ideas before rushing to accept or reject these ideas as valid. The majority of their communication is collaborative.
Ineffective leaders often communicate with vague abstractions so as to avoid offense and blame on sensitive issues. More effective leaders, however, understand when an ounce of specificity is worth a ton of abstraction.
“Effective leaders understand an ounce of specificity is worth a ton of abstraction.” -Dianna Booher
While ineffective leaders may communicate directly and frequently (good habits), they often focus on controlling processes and people. Consequently, these leaders often come across as manipulative and uncaring. In addition to direct and frequent communication, more effective leaders are tactful, compassionate, and passionate when it comes to people.
Although ineffective leaders would probably never see their communication lacking in this way, they focus on detail—the “how” of a job, doing things right. More effective leaders communicate the bigger picture—the “why” of a job. And communicating that “why” to team members tends to inspire them to do their best work on the right things.
“What we’ve got here is a failure to communicate.” -Cool Hand Luke
Publicly or privately, when you praise someone, watch what happens. I’m talking genuine praise at just the right level and delivered at just the right time. Too much and it loses its power, but it’s next to impossible to hit a “too much” level.
“A ruler should be slow to punish and swift to reward.” -Ovid
When you teach concepts and share examples, it makes a difference in your organization and in your people. The best leaders are teachers. Not always obviously or in your face, but everyone is learning because the leader is teaching.
When you model the way, it inspires everyone around you. You simply cannot say one thing and do another. Do what you say you will do. Don’t ask your followers to do one thing while you are doing another.
“Consistently doing what you say you will do is the foundation of integrity.” -Skip Prichard
When you promote and advocate on someone’s behalf, it creates loyalty. That person knows you have her back and that you are advocating on her behalf. Publicly sharing successes and attributing someone’s good work makes a difference.
Have faith that things will work out if we do what we are suppose to do.
Don’t whine, complain or make excuses.
Do your best.
John Wooden didn’t cut corners, and he didn’t let his values slide in order to win. His consistency was legendary. I often read his inspiring quotes. He is known for winning ten NCAA national championships in twelve years. With his attitude and wisdom, I am certain he would have been successful at nearly any endeavor.
His many quotes continue to inspire. Here are a few of my favorite John Wooden quotes:
John Wooden Quotes
“If you’re not making mistakes, then you’re not doing anything.” -John Wooden