archive, leadership

Leadership is a balancing act, on a very thin tightrope

I recently read a great interview with Tom Peters, a legend in leadership coaching and development. He has written some of the most important leadership books of our time, including “In Search of Excellence.” You can read the interview here:

http://www.mckinsey.com/insights/organization/tom_peters_on_leading_the_21st_century_organization

In the article, Tom eloquently discusses the balancing act leaders have to manage:

1) Leaders need to work within a structure, and sometimes need to be firm:

“I want to drive across a bridge where there was a project manager whose alternate name was ‘son of a bitch.’”

2) Leaders need to create a nurturing culture and develop their teams

“Unless you were born with a very, very silver spoon, you’re going to spend the majority of adult life at work. Why shouldn’t this be a joyful experience or an energetic experience or a vivid experience?”

If you’re a leader, your whole reason for living is to help human beings develop—to really develop people and make work a place that’s energetic and exciting and a growth opportunity, whether you’re running a Housekeeping Department or Google. I mean, this is not rocket science.

It’s not even a shadow of rocket science. You’re in the people-development business. If you take a leadership job, you do people. Period. It’s what you do. It’s what you’re paid to do. People, period…. Not my fault. You chose it.”

I have a few thoughts about how leaders can make the tight rope a bit wider and more forgiving. I think they are captured in a couple of our core values:

RESPECT – Respecting each other means we can be firm without being demeaning. We can demand of others because we demand of ourselves more and we all believe that the payoff for achieving our ridiculous goals is satisfaction we can’t get if we didn’t push ourselves and each other. We can disagree and still move forward to achieve more together than we could separately.

TEAMWORK – If a leader thinks they can do the job of their area alone, they aren’t a good leader. The longer I am in leadership positions, the more I think I don’t know much at all. And that’s a good thing, it means I am starting to gain the skill and ability to leverage the amazing talents of all of you around me. I often tell young leaders, at some point they will learn they can’t do it all themselves; the question is whether they will acknowledge it now and start working within that universal law or whether they will be dragged kicking and screaming.

To our leaders, and my aspiring leaders, I hope this post gives you some food for thought. To our wonderful staff, I hope you appreciate a little more what your leaders are trying to accomplish, and please help us through feedback and participation in our team activities that help us find that balance.

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