5 Steps to Reduce the Leadership Power Gap

reduce gap

The Leader Architect

 

Recently I read The Leader Architect by business leader Jim Grew. It was a practical guide written by someone who has clearly wrestled with the issues facing many leaders. In one section of the book, he discussed the need to reduce the power between leaders and followers. I reached out to ask if we could excerpt that section with his permission as I believe it is insightful:

 

Reducing the Power Gap

The doorway to change is reducing the power gap and the communications gap between you the leader and your people.

Here are five steps you can take to reduce the power gap in your organization.

 

Get over your title.

It’s an invitation to contribute, not a statement of rank. Colin Powell, one of the highest-ranking generals in the United States, said, “The day soldiers stop bringing you their problems is the day you have stopped leading them. They have either lost confidence that you can help them or concluded that you do not care. Either case is a failure of leadership.” If you imagine yourself as helper instead of leader, you’re off to a good start.

 

“Leadership is solving problems.” -Colin Powell

 

Don’t lean on your ability to fire people.

That ability looms in the background of all employees, but it is of tiny consequence to the business. It is not an element of leadership; it’s emotional blackmail. If you rely on it, you’ll get the response of people who feel blackmailed—all defense and no initiative. Usually, if you must fire a person, it’s your failure for hiring them or not training them. Occasionally, folks self-select out, but not often.

 

Apply railroad leadership.

When you walk around, stop, look, and listen (especially listen). You don’t have to produce brilliant anything, other than thanks.

 

4 Ways to Practice Conspicuous Humility

humility
This is an excerpt from Leading With Edge by Jose R. Costa. Jose is currently the CEO of For Eyes, a leader in optical retail.

 

Practice Humility

It may sound counterintuitive, but humility is a quality that often needs to be put on display. If you believe you have all the answers, think you are always right, or are somehow above others because of your position, or if the people around you perceive that, then they aren’t as likely to come to you with their knowledge, ideas, or opinions—not unless they have to.

 

“Pride makes us artificial and humility makes us real.” -Thomas Merton

 

So, how do you do this? There are acts of humility that you can make a point of practicing that will help people feel more comfortable around you, encourage them to be open and honest with you, and make it easier for them to contribute their thoughts and ideas. You can convey a sense of humility in big ways and small. Here are some simple ways that any leader can incorporate humility into his/her day-to-day work:

1) De-emphasize hierarchy

I never state my title when I introduce myself to someone, especially someone junior to me. Saying I’m the CEO or in charge of such-and-such only reinforces a feeling of hierarchy or superiority. So does sitting in a big corner office while your team members crowd together in cubicles. That’s why, when I became the CEO of For Eyes by GrandVision, I moved my desk, as well as those of all the company’s managers, out to the floor so we could sit with our teams. In an article for The Washington Post, Paul Polman, CEO of Unilever, was once quoted as saying: “The moment you discover in life that it’s not about yourself, that it is about investing in others, I think you’re entering a steadier state to be a great leader. Because above all, I think the main quality of a leader is to be a human being. There’s no reason you are special because you happen to have this job.” (“The Tao of Paul Polman” by Lillian Cunningham, The Washington Post, May 21, 2015.)

When I was in marketing at a quick-service restaurant chain, there was a franchise owner who was very successful. He owned close to one hundred restaurants in a region where the chain was very popular, and his business did very well. Over the years, he became a very wealthy guy and it showed. He drove an extremely expensive car. He dressed in extremely expensive, tailored suits. He always wore a big gold wristwatch. Everything about him screamed money and ostentatiousness. And this was how he would present himself when he walked into the fast food restaurants he owned—where the people working for him were only making about $7.00 an hour. Many of these people were barely making ends meet, so it was no wonder that his employees often seemed to lack energy or enthusiasm for their jobs. Based on what I saw, they were always polite to him, but I got the feeling that they didn’t really like or respect him. He was successful, sure, but I always wondered how much more successful he could have been had he practiced humility in the way he presented himself to his team.

After meeting with the franchisee a few times, I became more conscious of how I dressed and presented myself around different people. I have nothing against you enjoying the fruits of your labor, but I do think that should be balanced against an awareness of and respect for other people’s positions and circumstances. It’s important for people to know who’s in charge, but that’s different from rubbing their faces in it.

 

“Success is not a function of the size of your title but the richness of your contribution.” -Robin Sharma

Being Decisive is Overrated

decision making
This is a guest post by Karen Martin, president of the global consulting firm TKMG, Inc. Her latest book, Clarity First, outlines specific actions to dramatically improve organizational and individual performance.

The Problem with Quick Decision Making

Most leaders agree, it’s important to have clear ideas about the issues that matter to them and their organizations. Yet, leaders are praised far more often for making quick decisions than for thinking clearly.

In such a fast-paced, noisy world, leaders understandably feel the pressure to think and act fast—but this can be to their detriment. Today, more so than ever, it’s critical to give oneself the time needed to assess a situation fully, gather on-point information, and develop a thoughtful position.

Not convinced? Think of it this way: clear thought is a precursor to making good decisions, acting decisively, solving problems, and seizing opportunities in a way that consistently fulfills the organization’s goals.

But, as most leaders will attest, this is much easier said than done. You have to be patient and possess disciplined thinking habits.

Here are three ways to start:

Be mindful.

Mindfulness means paying attention purposefully, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally. It’s a state of being that allows its practitioners to lead with greater clarity by developing a calmer and more focused mind. It introduces a pause between receipt of information and your reaction to it, and it slows thinking processes enough that they become observable.

Mindfulness and the practice of mindfulness meditation is a trending topic in leadership and management literature for good reason: there’s a growing body of scientific evidence showing that mindfulness meditation changes the brain in a powerful, performance-enhancing way. It develops areas of your brain responsible for self-regulation, allowing you to more effectively place your attention where you want it, regulate your mood, and manage your response to information.

Here’s another bonus of mindfulness: it helps create more healthful stress responses and more effective ways for the brain to process large volumes of inputs.

 

“Mindfulness helps create more healthful stress responses and more effective ways for the brain to process large volumes of inputs.” -Karen Martin

 

Ask questions.

Outsmart Change and Future-proof Your Career

flexology

Marketing Flexology

 

If you want to be a successful marketer today, in the middle of constant change, you need to be prepared. If you have a business, you want to stay ahead of marketing trends and be ready for what’s ahead.

Last month, I interviewed Engelina Jaspers about her new book, Marketing Flexology: How to Outsmart Change and Future-proof Your Career. Engelina is a 30-year marketing veteran who helps business leaders build nimble marketing organizations with customer insight and speed to execution at its core. Though the book may be targeted primarily to marketers, I found it full of great advice for individuals and businesses in the midst of change.

 

What is Marketing Flexology?

Our world, our markets, and our customers are in constant evolution. Consumers are no longer as homogenous as they once were in the baby boomer era. If we continue to use the marketing practices of the past, we will fall behind. Marketing success today requires a new management capability and a new marketing model to keep pace, which I call the Marketing Flexology management framework. It’s a nimble structure that allows you to quickly and easily change directions without missing a beat, breaking a sweat… or losing your job!

Copyright Engelina Jaspers. Used by Permission.

 

“There lives in each of us a hero awaiting the call to action.” -H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

 

5 Marketing Shifts 

You share five key shifts in marketing. Is there one that is more challenging for leaders than others?

Marketing has undergone significant transformation over the past sixty years of our young profession. I believe the most seismic has been the shift from “art and science” to “insight and agility.” The need for high-speed listening, learning, execution, and iteration has never been greater, nor the challenge more daunting. Yet we still endlessly debate whether creative and artistic sensibilities, or analysis and measurement are most important. (Do a Google search on the words “marketing art or science” and you’ll see what I mean!) Frankly, customers don’t care what blend of art and science goes into our marketing strategies and programs. They only care how well our message hits a nerve and fulfills a need. And that requires real-time customer insight and the ability to turn that insight into action faster than our competitors. That’s why I believe “insight and agility” is the new “art and science” of marketing and requires a new management capability and framework.

 

“Frankly, customers don’t care what blend of art and science goes into our marketing strategies and programs. They only care how well our message hits a nerve and fulfills a need.” -Engelina Jaspers

 

Prepare for the Unexpected Shifts

Understanding Leadership in the 21st Century

leadership

21st Century Leadership

How can today’s business leaders keep up with the seismic geopolitical and economic shifts in the world?

What do these mean for their own leadership narratives?

In their newly-released book, The Leadership Lab: Understanding leadership in the 21st century, author Chris Lewis and megatrends analyst Dr. Pippa Malmgren set out to help leaders navigate these changes successfully. Covering everything from how to build a new type of leadership trust when other spheres of public power have been overturned to robots overtaking companies, this book explains not only why the old rules no longer apply, but also how to blaze a trail in this new world order and be the best leader you can be.

I recently had the opportunity to ask the authors about their new book and get their thoughts on some of the most important challenges facing leaders today.

 

“’What do you think?’ are the four most powerful words in a leaders armory.” -Lewis and Malmgren

 

Embrace Uncertainty

What are some of the skills required in the 21st century that are different from previous generations of leaders?

The Leadership Lab front coverThere is but one skill required today that is different from previous generations. That is the willingness and ability to embrace uncertainty. Once a leader has abandoned certainty, they are on the path to excellence. The fact-based, research-led, ‘drill-down’ analytical approach that has historically been followed in the pursuit of efficiency is no longer enough. There’s nothing wrong with this, provided it is not at the expense of a ‘look-across’ big picture view. The reductionist model with one right answer at the back of the book promulgated by the infallible (often male) leader, is disappearing. This means the leader can no longer afford to predict one outcome but must now prepare for all outcomes.

 

“There is but one skill required today that is different from previous generations. That is the willingness and ability to embrace uncertainty.” -Lewis and Malmgren

 

What are some of the dangers of over-relying on data analysis when it comes to leadership?