Leadership


On the growing list of Facebook questions that inspired tremendous response is the one from a few days ago: What is the LEADERSHIP QUALITY that you most ADMIRE?

What I like about crowd-sourcing these universal questions is that the medium inspires gut-level answers.  People see the question, an answer pops into their head, and in some cases, they are willing to share.  The response rate isn't terribly high, about 1.5 per cent, but when you have a large number in your network, the results can be pretty interesting.

CARING - ENCOURAGE THE HEART - LISTENING

Former Alberta Energy Minister Murray Smith suggested to us that the best politician is the best listener.  When you feel like you are really being heard, it resonates very differently than when you feel that you're just being allowed to rant.  Active listening is an essential ingredient in being a good leader.

I sometimes struggle with remembering names, which reminds me that I have to do a better job of listening.  There are a number of people in my world whose names I trip over almost every time: Robin, Laura, and Tracy's husband whose name still eludes me.

"What is the first letter in your first name?" I often ask when my mind is blank.

The person either spouts out their full name - which always disappoints - or they give me the letter and my brain sets out to sort the data.  Nine times out of 10 the right name pops into my mind's eye.  It's a simple matter of math.  Before I know the letter, the brain searches through all 26 letters and all possible permutations.  Narrowing the choice of names down to one letter brings the cranial-cogs into brilliant alignment.

I can't remember which boss said it - either Jim Blundell or Stan Taylor - but one of them suggested to "catch someone doing something right." That advice has served me incredibly well over the years, at work, at home and in the community. A compliment, a kind word, encouragement sincerely given,can be so powerful. Try it and see what happens.

The next time you are at the gas station and the attendant attempts to up-sell you a couple of chocolate bars for some extra AirMiles with a bright smile on her face, complement her on doing such an awesome sales job.  I guarantee that even if you decline the offer, you will have encouraged the heart.

SERVANT-HOOD - MODELING THE WAY - HUMBLE - MODESTY

When I think about the leadership moments that matter to me, the ones that rise to the top don't involve a fancy suit, corporate boardroom or top-level meeting.  More often than not they are moments in the trenches, cleaning up after a big event, struggling through a major project, or God help me, making a big mistake (I've made many).

"Model the Way" is one of the pillars in the Leadership Challenge by Kouzes and Posner, published by Jossey-Bass, the book that has been a big part of Leadership Wood Buffalo, the leadership bible for graduates of this community leadership program.  It's really all about doing what you say, living your values.

Don't expect someone to do something you wouldn't be willing to do yourself.  There are a million ways of saying it, but sometimes you need to get your hands dirty.

CONVICTION - INTEGRITY - STRENGTH - LEADING

At the core of the matter, leaders have to believe in what they are doing, with their whole heart.  They need to act and lead with integrity.  They have to be strong.

Martin Luther King Jr. once said that "the ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy." It's one of my favourites.

COMMUNICATION - COMMUNICATION - COMMUNICATION

I often say that bad communication is the root of all evil.  Great leaders are adept at being understood and taking the time to understand; it truly does go both ways. Part of great leadership in my view is being able to recognize when things are going off the rails because there has been a failure to communicate.  Sometimes all it takes to fix things up is to back up the train so you can get back on the right track, with due apologies for the horrible railway metaphor.

Thank you for the great suggestions and insights about leadership. It is a conversation worth having, often.

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