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Posts Tagged ‘Defining Leadership’

Fear of losing your job is certainly valid in this economy. But unfortunately that fear often provokes protectionist behavior that is likely to backfire for both employees and their companies.

The kind of behaviors I am referring to are things like: hoarding information or knowledge; shifting the blame for breakdowns to others; keeping your mouth shut hoping you’ll stay out of the line of fire; always agreeing with your boss so you stay on their good side; etc.

The list of things we might do, and perhaps have even done in the past, to protect our jobs is endless.

But will they actually work now?

These kinds of behaviors are certainly nothing new and are not unique to the current economy. However, I believe they are far more risky than ever before.

Why? Because while they MAY strengthen your individual position, consider that they WILL weaken your organization. And if your company goes down, saving your job becomes irrelevant.

The bottom line…your job is only as secure as the future of your company.

What is the Ultimate Job Protection Program?

I say it is being willing to act like a leader whether you are THE leader or not. It is speaking up, stepping up and standing up for the things that matter to the future success of your organization. You don’t have to be THE leader to be a leader in these difficult times.

Here are 5 ways you can start leading to help secure the future of your job by helping to secure the future of your organization.

1. STOP Blaming and START Offering Solutions

Blaming is a drain on precious time and energy. Want to be seen as indispensible? Be the person who always contributes to making things better.

2. STOP Hoarding Information and START Sharing It

Knowledge may be power for an individual, but sharing it powers successful organizations. Lead the way in sharing knowledge and you can be a catalyst for creating value and opportunity.

3. STOP Trying to Do It Alone and START Collaborating

No one person has all the answers. It is time to start find ways to tap the intelligence of your entire organization not just a limited few. Include new people in what seem like old conversations and you will gain fresh perspective. Find ways to engage the people who are less likely to speak up. You may be surprised at how much you learn.

4. STOP Reinforcing the “Status Quo” and START Challenging It

We can unwittingly reinforce the very things that are not working because it is uncomfortable to challenge the way things are done. But if your organization isn’t where it needs to be, chances are the ways things are being done are not working very well.

Remember to challenge the thinking not the person and you will increase the likelihood of both being heard and making a difference.

5. STOP Protecting Your Turf and START Acting Like One Organization

“Us vs Them” relationships are rampant in organizations. They are incredibly costly, too. Time to start acting like you are on the same team.

Assigning a shared (and meaningful) goal for two groups that have historically been at odds with each other is one way to create the opportunity to experience being on one team. This can be a very powerful way to start transforming an “us/Them” relationship into a “we”.

These are just a few examples of what we can do to support the companies we work for in being successful. Consider that if you start focusing your attention on how you can contribute to the success of your company, you will need to pay less attention to securing your job.

What can you do to make a difference in securing the future of where you work today?

If you are interested in learning more about how you can cost effectively increase leadership at all levels in your organization please contact Susan Mazza at susan@randomactsofleadership.com or (772)539-7003.

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This morning I read a post by Jenny Flintoft in which she offers a great exercise for reflecting on what our heroes can teach us about our aspirations for ourselves. When doing Jenny’s exercise I immediately put Ada Mazza, my mother-in-law, on my list. Now I know a mother-in-law may seem like a rather unusual choice for a hero, but that would only because you don’t know mine.

Why Are Some Heroes “Hidden”?

If you asked her who the head of the family is she would unequivocally say, Sandy, her husband. He is the oldest living man in a family of Sicilian descent. He has clearly provided so much for the family on many levels so this is not to diminish his role in any way. Yet when we think of heroes, or leaders for that matter, we often think of the person who is out front “leading the charge” or the people with the “highest level” positions of authority.

The people who don’t necessarily show up on our radar are those who choose to stay in the background. Yet they lead and inspire us just the same. We sometimes call them the unsung heroes. I call them “hidden” because you would not see them from a surface level view. They are far too busy making everything else work and, in Ada’s case, everyone else’s life work.

More often that not they do not want to be in the spotlight. Yet they are heroes nonetheless and they provide a tremendous amount of leadership.

An Example of What Our Hidden Heroes Provide?

In Ada’s case she sets the tone for every family gathering and every happening. There is no drama around her, only love and gratitude for what we have. She is the most genuinely and consistently positive person I know. She has a level of energy that defies her years and a brightness of spirit that makes you feel instantly welcomed and known. Perhaps that is because she is truly grateful for every little thing in her life.

For the last 2 years she has been the caregiver to her husband who is now in the last stages of cancer. Every time I am alone with him he remarks on how amazing she is and how lucky he is to have her. She does not waver in her positive attitude and gratitude for every last minute she has and whatever help anyone can offer no matter how small.

At one point the only thing they could do together was watch football games. She went out and got “Football for Dummies” so she could enjoy the games with him. This is just one very small example of the way she thinks and approaches life. She is always at work on how to make the best of every situation and how to make every interaction the best for others. She is even now hard at work on a project to honor Sandy’s father by telling his story as an immigrant to this country.

Do you see that as leadership? I certainly do. She continually sets the example for us all through her words and actions.

Today I want to express my love, admiration and appreciation for Ada, my “hidden” hero. For even just one moment I hope that she can appreciate herself for being the leader that she is in our family.

Who is one of your hidden heroes? I’d love to hear about them. And make sure you tell them, too!

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…does not exist.

There is not one agreed upon definition in the world despite how much leadership has been studied and written about. As of today 316,641 results returned when searching Amazon for books on leadership. According to Warren Bennis in Leaders (1997) “academic analysis has given us more than 850 definitions of leadership”. I think it is fair to say that defining leadership will be studied and debated for a long time to come and it is likely we will never all agree on THE BEST definition.

Although that is the question I have been asked and challenged about the most.

A very good friend even wrote to me having spent a good deal of time reading what I wrote, thinking and searching the internet trying to help me do a better job of defining leadership. The definition I offered in one of my posts was “Translating vision into reality” by Warren Bennis. Yet she strongly believes that “Vision is not a catalyst for leadership.” Essentially the definition I had offered in her worldview was just wrong. Yet the most interesting thing of all was that everything she said to make her point completely validated what I was trying to say to begin with about leadership and leading.

Could a definition actually be getting in the way?

Perhaps offering a definition of leadership was a mistake. Not because I offered a “wrong” definition. Warren Bennis is well known as an expert in this field so it certainly wasn’t wrong. But because I tried to define something that perhaps cannot be adequately expressed with the simplicity and accuracy expected from the definition of anything.

So why do we keep trying to define it?

People expect you to be able to define the thing you are writing about or teaching. It is a valid expectation so naturally I have offered one. But definitions rarely help you understand and/or do the very thing you are trying to define. For example, I can define balance, but does that help me to achieve the balance necessary to ride a bicycle? In the case of leadership I have never seen a definition that has helped anyone instantly know how to lead.

What do we seek when we ask for a definition? I think we are seeking “the truth” about it. Yet trying to define leadership is a bit like trying to define beauty: it has many interpretations, although we know it when we see it. It is also said that beauty is in the eyes of the beholder. In fact, beauty does not look the same in all cultures. And perhaps neither does leadership. This points to the power of context in shaping our interpretations of “truth” about anything, including leadership.

What could be more useful than a definition?

The notion of a “random act of leadership” is my attempt to take leadership out of the realm of theory and develop a rich context for leading that can give EVERYONE access to leading in their day to day work and lives. My purpose is not to define leadership. It is to empower more people to see and seize opportunities to lead more readily and more often in everyday work and life. My focus is on identifying the actions of leading so we can do it more and make a bigger difference ourselves rather than waiting for “the” leaders to make things happen.

So now what?

I say we create a context for leadership that helps us see opportunities to lead – to take actions that will make a difference in the things that matter to us. So I invite you to start thinking about and sharing your context for leadership. The question I’ll use to start the inquiry is this:

What does leadership look like? I look forward to learning from your responses!

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