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Are You Leading Like an Alligator?

It’s not every day I meet an alligator in a building lobby – that gets your attention!  I recently had an opportunity to facilitate a team building session at a client site in alligator country.   This alligator was stuffed and buffed so you could see every bony plate.  My Google search told me these plates are what make the alligator’s skin very hard to penetrate.

We humans have a similar armor. In Dare to Lead Brene’ Brown lists 16 examples of armored leadership and 16 daring leadership responses.  One of those armored leadership examples is hiding behind cynicism.  We see this in people who aren’t brave enough to say what they really mean or those who need to put someone else down so they can feel better about themselves.

Effective leaders don’t tolerate this behavior on their teams and they model the appropriate response — being clear and kind.  The challenge for the cynic is identifying and dealing with their underlying anger or fear of inadequacy so they can say what they mean and mean what they say.

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Can You Have Too Much Charisma?

During election season there is a lot of discussion about which candidates have the most charisma.  Dictionary.com defines charisma as a personal quality that gives an individual influence or authority over large numbers of people. We often assume that the most charismatic leaders are also the best leaders but a Harvard Business Review study indicates that too much charisma may actually hinder a leader’s effectiveness.  When self-confidence becomes narcissism or persuasiveness turns into manipulative behavior, that isn’t effective leadership.

Here are some ways to demonstrate the right level of charisma:

  • Make a good first impression – you have less than a second to do so. The way you walk, dress, shake hands and make eye contact speak volumes before you ever open your mouth.
  • Focus on others – express genuine interest by asking questions and listening to the answers without thinking about what you’re going to say next.
  • Be appropriately passionate – talk with enthusiasm about what excites you and tell compelling stories.

How can you leverage charisma as one element of Executive Presence to be a more effective leader?

Expert to Leader

“He is a genius with 1000 helpers,” the CEO said, quoting the business classic Good to Great to describe one of her direct reports.  “He has to move from being a technical expert to a leader and focus on developing his people.”  This is a very common scenario in my coaching practice.

When a technical expert who has been rewarded for his knowledge and results is promoted to a leadership role, he can feel woefully unprepared.  That can lead to fear of failure and a tendency to fall back on what has served him well – being an expert who solves problems.  Except that even a genius can’t solve every problem and a leader’s job is to coach and empower others.

How do you do that? A recent Gartner survey concluded that the most effective style for developing high performers is a Connector.  Instead of being too hands-on or too hands-off, the Connector asks the right questions, provides tailored feedback and connects team members to others who can help them.

A technical expert is usually good at connecting dots.  If he can evolve into a leader who connects his people to the right developmental resources, he will no longer be a genius with 1000 helpers.

Humble Leadership

If you list the top five attributes of an effective leader does humility make the list?  Research confirms that humble leaders are more effective.  Admitting you don’t have all the answers creates opportunities for learning and builds trust, establishes credibility and provides an example of how to deal with uncertainty.

Humble leaders:

  • Check their egos at the door
  • Share their mistakes
  • Forgive failure
  • Empower and inspire others
  • Make decisions for the greater good
  • Invite feedback
  • Attract top performers and engender loyalty

Rick Warren explains that “true humility isn’t about thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less.”  Picture Abraham Lincoln, Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela and Malala Yousafzai.  What humble leader might you emulate?

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Could Your Team Land a Plane?

What is most important to you as you are heading into an operating room?  Is it the skill of the surgeon or how well the entire surgical team works together?  Surgeon and Harvard Medical School professor Atul Gawande’s research says teamwork is most important. In his book The Checklist Manifesto: Getting Things Right, Gawande describes the most common obstacle to effective teamwork in an operating room:  “silent disengagement, the consequence of specialized technicians sticking narrowly to their domains.”

In my work with leaders and teams in complex organizations, I often hear complaints about siloes and finger-pointing.  It can be hard work creating a culture that relies on everyone believing their job is to help the team get the best possible result.

How can you overcome “that’s not my problem” syndrome?  Research shows that something as basic as asking people for input can increase their willingness to offer solutions.  If you know the story behind the movie “Sully”, input from every member of Captain Sullenberger’s team made it possible for all 155 passengers on board the plane that landed on the Hudson River on a freezing January day to make it home.

What difference could active engagement and teamwork make in your world?

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How Does EQ Impact the Bottom Line?

The CEO was fed up – if she got one more complaint about the VP Operations she was going to have to fire him.  It was obvious when he was in a bad mood because he yelled at people and slammed doors.  Then they were upset and distracted which affected their productivity and how they dealt with customers.  The ripple effect of his bad moods was negatively impacting the bottom line.

Human behavior is like an iceberg.  We see how people behave but we don’t always understand what drives behavior.  Using Emotional Intelligence, or EQ, is like putting on your scuba gear to check out what is hidden beneath the surface.  Once you know which emotions are influencing your behavior, you can use those emotions more effectively.

In his book Primal Leadership, Daniel Goleman cites research indicating that leaders whose styles had a positive emotional impact on their teams generated measurably better financial results.  Teams with higher engagement have lower turnover, above average productivity, higher customer loyalty and higher profitability.

If you want to positively impact your bottom line, contact cheryl@csbryan.com today for an assessment and suggestions for improving EQ for yourself or someone on your team.