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Thursday, April 30, 2009

Leadership Survival Guide Part 4 (FINAL)

This is part of a long series in a number of postings based on the Spring 2009 Issue of OnPoint (from the Harvard Business Press) dedicated to Risk Management.

Specifically, this particular post is the 4th and FINAL relating to my review of the article: A Survival Guide for Leaders by Ronald Heifetz and Marty Linsky (both professors at the Kennedy School at Harvard and authors of Leadership on the Line).

Offense: Internal help:

1. Avoid having to be right and always “in control” …just to be in control. Organizations need room to change and it’s not always a neat process. It’s a bit like making sausage…you might enjoy eating the final product, but probably would not enjoy watching it made!

2. Avoid over-dependence on yourself. If people get dependent on you, you’ll end up tired (making all the tough decisions) and with a flawed, single point of decision making. You need others to point out the shortcoming. Over-dependence is like over-delegation. At first if feels good, but can be a trap you set for yourself.

3. Take care of yourself. Leadership; and making substantive change is not for sissies. It’s tough work and requires you stay in psychological shape.

a. Develop safe havens: a place (your car on the way home or a favorite chair) for you to reflect on the day; working out, talking to friend or family member.

b. Develop a confidant. Someone you can be completely open with about your hopes, fears about “being judged and betrayed.” Venting and input are two values of this process.

c. Avoid using a work colleague as confidant. They’ll support you until it no longer supports their agenda.

d. True confidants support you always. They pull you up when your down and deflate you when you get too big for your britches.

4. ***Opposition and pushback by others to your leadership—if truly adaptive leadership—is almost always about the issue and your role…not usually about you—the person. \

a. Don’t take things personally (easier said than done). If you blow up, then YOU become the issue and that eventually does you in.

b. Staying in control under what feel like personal attacks is difficult. But in the end keeping the focus on the role and issue keeps you above the fray.

c. The authors offer an interesting proof about how it’s more about the change than you. They discuss how quickly people forget to call you when you’re gone…a sign that it’s the role you serve that people respond to. Think about how many former vice presidents or secretary of state names you can list quickly!

My Advice: Read this article in its entirety and give it to a new leader who’s getting slammed for making changes. Then when you’ve finished, read Heifetz and Linsky’s book: Leadership on the Line. *Note: I’ll be reviewing their latest book Adaptive Leadership (2009) on this blog soon.

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