Emotional Life of Leadership Matters Deeply To Performance

emotions, Goleman, leadershipEmotions…those pesky things that keep showing up. For many leaders, they are to be contained or masked but not really spoken about, particularly those emotions that reveal fears or vulnerability. Yet, in much of the most recent leadership development literature, there are exhortations to be more authentic, more human. At the very least, be better understood so they don’t adversely affect the leader’s performance as well as the behavior of  the employees/ followers.

What we’re beginning to learn about emotions and performance

While it’s true that psychological research has connected emotions and behavior, there has been some insights gleaned from neuroscience.There are neurochemicals that affect how positively or negatively we view things and act. Edward M. Hallowell writes about how feelings of disconnect and reconnecting are tied into certain parts of the brain. Our neocortex, amygdala and hormones like cortisol and dopamine not only influence our behavior but also our physical health.

Leaders’ expression of emotions infect their employees/ followers

There’s a  saying that “if mama ain’t happy, then nobody is happy” which points out how influential a leader’s mood can be. There have been studies done in which strangers can “infect” each other with their mood without even speaking one word. If you’re familiar with Daniel Goleman’s work on emotional intelligence, then you know he has been talking about this concept for a number of years. More recent studies are able to point to how leaders influence their followers’ emotions and consequently their engagement. As Goleman identified in 2001, even if a leader is masking his/her feelings, they are still communicated. It seems that whether the leader is feeling calm, anxiety, exhilaration or anger, there is an impact on the employees.

When we believe our emotions are facts, we handicap ourselves

In a Harvard Business Review article, Susan David and Christina Congleton wrote about how leaders “stumble not because they have undesirable thoughts and feelings—that’s inevitable—but because they get hooked by them, like fish caught on a line.” In cogntive-behavior therapy, this is called emotional reasoning. But we do it all the time. Sometimes it’s positive because it reinforces our confidence and ability to perform. Other times, well, it results in attacking oneself for being inept.

Could the disconnect workers feel be related to how their leaders manage their emotions?

In the 2013 State of the American Workplace survey produced by Gallup, it was discovered that 70% of workers are disengaged. Some of that is a result of how they are led. According to David and Congleton, there is a need to develop emotional agility which is recognizing “…your patterns; label your thoughts and emotions; accept them; and act on your values.” By developing these behaviors, leaders are able to perform well and inspire others to follow suit.

With all of the leadership development literature pointing to raising emotional intelligence, what keeps leaders using dominance and fear?

What are the implications for performance if we learn more about how the brain works?

What responsibility do followers have to manage their response to the leader’s mood?

How does mindfulness support developing emotional agility?

 

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Beyond Leadership – What If Decision-Making Is More Than Data and Options?

leaders, decision-making, leadereshipIt is easy to forget how multilayered decision-making actually is. We are not always conscious of how our personality, culture, experience and circumstances combine when we are faced with choices. You can find, at any time, several blog posts and media reports of good decision-making and bad decision-making. (Although we hear more about bad decision-making).

Current reports

If you have been following the news lately, you are well aware that the US government has been shut down due to a major impasse between the two political parties. There was a mega-deal between two semi-conductor companies (Applied Materials and Tokyo Electron) which is awaiting anti-trust approval. Sears, an large American retailer, has sold off a number of its more successful locations to raise cash. Finally, there is an interesting review of the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Knowledge@Wharton blog.which asks if culture may have adversely affected how decisions were made.

Experience vs inexperience

One would think that more seasoned leaders would be more competent in their decision-making processes. Certainly, inexperienced leaders might miss pieces that need their attention. According to a post written by Wendy Lea on Venture Beat, there are two areas that could cloud or outright prevent the most effective decision-making:

  • Fixating on the grand vision
  • Focusing more on the valuation or exit strategy and not the product

For more experienced leaders, there are other possible interruptors:

  • Too much reliance on past experience or honed skills
  • Politically motivated factors
  • Disengaged from value system
  • Mismanaged resources
  • Inability to recognize opportunity
  • Lack of trust in self

Are we ignoring underlining influencers?

Most of the time, a leader’s focus is on the available data, question and possible choices. But there are other influences at hand which may need to be recognize. In the Knowledge@Wharton post, “Lessons in Leadership from the Fukushima Nuclear Disaster“, there is an interesting discussion that culture, a strong desire to make sure the plant got built and a lack of attention to long-standing historical records identifying the dangers of earthquakes and tsunamis. While the Fukushima disaster occurred in Japan, it raises the question when one looks at leaders in other parts of the world as well. The potential for a sort of social blindness or deafness coupled with ambition, greed, enthusiasm, desire and other emotions exists.

While there is much written about best leadership practices and leadership styles, it is clear that people continue to make lousy decisions. Fortunately not all of these decisions result in scandals, disasters or failures. However, questions remain…what if decision-making is more than the immediate data and options?

 Join us on Friday, October 11, 2013 at 5pm GMT/12pm ET/9am PT on the Twitter chat, #KaizenBiz to take a closer look at “Beyond Leadership – What If Decision-Making Is More Than Data and Options?”

What are the primary elements in the decision-making process?

When do you keep the focus on the question at hand vs when to look at larger picture?

How could culture actually set up environment for bad decisions?

How do we encourage leaders across industries and organizations to expand their self-awareness?

Bonus question: How could game theory support more effective decision-making?

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Is It Feminine Leadership We Crave Or Just Less Ego-Driven Leadership?

men, women, leadership, businessSince the Great Recession, there has been this conversation about male versus female leadership. A great many people have said that it wouldn’t have happened if there were more women leaders in business and politics. Now the conversation is being framed in terms of female and male traits and which ones are more desirable in the current environment. One of the voices in this conversation is John Gerzema, who has co-authored a book with Michael D’Antonio, The Athena Doctrine; How Women (and the Men Who Think Like Them) Will Rule the World, which details their global research about how traditionally feminine leadership and values are now more popular than the macho paradigm of the past. They surveyed 64,000 people around the world who responded with a message that leaders who exhibited feminine traits were more desired and needed.

Backlash against men and/or male traits.

It does get oversimplified but the conversation typically demonizes men as leaders and expresses a wish that more women were in leadership roles. Interestingly,  many of the leadership theories that have emerged since the 1970′s and current research suggests that the most effective leadership styles incorporate emotional intelligence and many of the “”feminine” traits identified in The Athena Doctrine. In the comment sections of blog posts like HBR’s ” ‘Feminine’ Values Can Give Tomorrow’s Leaders an Edge”, Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In or women leadership, you see tension present between the cultural norms that encourage the traditional male-female roles and the emergence of a more androgynous model.

It’s easy to get sidetracked into attacking the other

Given that social roles are changing and the Great Recession has such far reaching consequences, it is easy to get lost in feeling oppressed. It is quite likely that the Great Recession will have far reaching sociological implications and there isn’t a road map to show us how to create equitable opportunities for everyone. The way things change in Chile are not going to be the same as the way they change in Korea. But…global research points to leadership and business success being dependent on men and women leaders developing certain traits to respond to current conditions.

There are real leadership failures and lessons must be learned

There are examples of bad leadership all over the world that led to scandals and financial ruin. The Anglo tapes in Ireland provide an excellent example of “masculine” leadership traits gone wild but they aren’t the only ones. The challenge will be looking for ways to have conversations that avoid polarization, gender wars and encourage learning what traits will work in a given situation. As we look at how leadership styles have morphed over the years, we see that some of the desired traits haven’t changed at all. It may be that we don’t have the words to describe how leadership has to evolve with the times. It may even be less and less about gender at all.

What makes cooperation/collaboration, empathy, vulnerability, flexibility and/or patience much more desirable in current & future leadership?

How is language complicating the discussion about which leadership traits will be most effective in the future?

How are we blinding ourselves by posing leadership skills as male or female?

Are we setting up more dichotomies that polarise the discussion about leadership? Why or why not?

How do discussions of leadership actually illuminate male and female identities?

At what pace do you see business adopting and adapting to leaders with “feminine” traits?

 About the author:  Elli St.George Godfrey, founder of Ability Success Growth, small business coach and executive coach, is the host of KaizenBiz. I’m passionate about business becoming a more human-centered place so I host this chat to connect business ideas and develop people.This passion shows up in my work with my clients. Whether you are expanding locally or internationally, Ability Success Growth guides established small to mid-sized business owners and executives to unlock the CEO within during times of transition and growth.

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The Strategy Misunderstanding

Welcome to our inaugural guest blogger post. Periodically we will be featuring members and friends of the KaizenBiz community. For this post, we are featuring John Richard Bell, a KaizenBiz community member, retired CEO of Jacobs Suchard’s North American coffee/confectionary business and former strategy and branding consultant to several of the globe’s most respected blue-chip consumer goods companies.

            Let’s start a conversation…

Strategy has to be one of the most misused words in business.business strategy, misunderstood, tactics Continue reading

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Boundary Work: Missing Link in Ethical Leadership Development?

Alice MacGillivray, boundaries in ethical leadership

This is guest post is by Alice MacGillivray is a Fellow with the Institute for Social Innovation at  Fielding Graduate University and based in western Canada. She help people in organizations and communities gain new insights, adapt to changing environments, lead and learn through the concept of an ecosystem-like work environment. Please join us on the Twitter chat, #KaizenBiz, this Friday, April 12 at 5pm GMT/12pm ET/9am PT as we focus on Boundary Work: the MIssing Link in Ethical Leadership Development

In Human Systems Management, the brilliant systems thinker C. West Churchman wrote a thought piece called “Poverty and Development.” It is as difficult to convey insights of this piece through excerpts, as it is to convey the richness of a tapestry through threads pulled from its fabric. But I will try to illustrate with Churchman’s words: Continue reading

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When Good Leadership Means Stepping Down

CEO shows good leadership by stepping downThis past week, there has been quite a lot of discussion about how Pope Benedict XVI announced he was retiring as head of the Roman Catholic Church. This is an extraordinary step as no pope has stepped down for almost 600 years. In this case, Pope Benedict believes that good leadership means stepping down.

For the good of the organization

There are very few leaders, never mind popes, who recognize when they are no longer serving the good of the organization. This is often true when an organization is struggling to find its way as is happening in the Catholic Church today. While it is more complicated than a CEO stepping down, there is something worth discussing about leadership here.

Join us for the Twitter chat, #KaizenBiz on Friday, February 15, 2013 at 5pm GMT/12pm ET/9am PT and discuss “When Good Leadership Means Stepping Donw”. Not sure how to participate? Please click here for tips and advice.

Sometimes it’s not about ego

Regardless of your personal view of the Catholic Church, its doctrines or its policies, this pope has thrown a monkey wrench into a well-established organization. Most popes only leave their positions when they die. Now, you might say he left for less worthy reasons but, for the sake of this conversation, let’s presume that Benedict became aware that he couldn’t get the job done.

3 questions

John Baldoni wrote a post asking three questions for leaders who may be considering what  is next:

  • Can I still do the job?
  • Who can do the job better?
  • What is best for the organization?

Answering these questions honestly takes a level of honesty and self-knowledge that many leaders don’t possess.When someone has been in charge for a long time, it’s hard to acknowledge that one’s performance has declined.One’s identity, sense of self-efficacy and routine is disrupted.

Could serving the organization be too idealistic?

A friend of mine is slated to become CEO of the company she works for. She was chosen by the current CEO because of her talent and his high regard for her. However, one of her worries is that he won’t know how to let go of the reins because he has been the leader for many years. Perhaps it is human to be so wrapped up in one’s job that the organization takes a back seat. It is easy to say that a leader serves the people in the organization or simply the organization. It is also easy to say that the board should provide good governance and let the CEO know how he/she is performing. Yet, it may be more true that a relationship with an entity (the business, in this case) isn’t as fulfilling as the glamour of being the leader or surpass relationships forged over time with board members.

Good leadership does mean knowing when to step down

Leadership experts will tell you about how to express your humanity, inspire people or be a good mentor to rising stars. It is also important to identify when to quit. Pope Benedict does show us that it is possible to know you are not the one to bring your organization through its next stage. Not only know it but act on your knowledge and get out of the way of your organization.

What factors should a leader consider when it may be time to step down?

How might a leader comes to terms with not being effective in his/her position?

When should a leader begin searching for a replacement?

Who determines a leader’s legacy?

About the author:  Elli St.George Godfrey, founder of Ability Success Growth and small business coach/trainer, is the host of KaizenBiz. I’m passionate about business becoming a more human-centered place so I host this chat to connect business ideas and develop people.This passion shows up in my work with my clients. Whether you are expanding in your own backyard or into another country, Ability Success Growth guides established small business owners to unlock the CEO within during times of transition and growth.

iStockphoto by Robaina

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Exploring the Value Of ROWE Based Leadership

Business, ROWE, leadership and Stephen AbbottThis is guest post is by Stephen Abbott is a brand strategist who is based in Vancouver, Canada, who helps organizations tell a story that is authentic, compelling and a competitive advantage . Stephen has worked on diverse brands—from grass roots organizations to Royal charities—giving him a healthy perspective on what is known as the soft side of business. Please join us on the Twitter chat, #KaizenBiz, this Friday, November 9th at 5pm GMT/12pm ET/9am PT as we focus on how Results Only Work Environment and Leadership.

For generations, “work” meant showing up and being in place; doing your job in a space determined by the organization and comfortably similar to everyone else’s. It’s still so ingrained that some managers still believe the traditional work environment is actually important to the work. Forgetting the limits that demanded those traditional work spaces—communication, filing systems, meeting rooms, industrial economy—they seem to ignore how technology has removed those barriers and offers new possibilities.

What is ROWE?

Results Only Work Environment (ROWE) is one of the first team leadership styles to disrupt decades of one of the most familiar practices in management; face time.  Officially, ROWE is a human resources management strategy developed by Jody Thompson and Cali Ressler, who have since formed a consultancy, CultureRx, focused on implementing ROWE at corporations. Like many other strategic or management theories explored over the past few decades (360 Management, Six Sigma, Blue Ocean Strategy, Lean), many leaders are unofficially adopting the underlying theory—or some version of it—to their own workplace.

Rooted in trust

As a concept, it’s a distinctly hands-off approach to management—a style rooted in trust and respect of skilled teams and clear objectives. This is in contrast to the discipline and control—however well intentioned—of the more familiar ‘assign-report-analyze-influence-adjust’ methods found in other styles of management.

Proponents and advocates

Proponents of ROWE are quick to point out the implied benefit. More flexibility + less distractions + work excellence = a happy team achieving desired results. What could be better than more productive employees meeting required targets?

Those who question ROWE are just as quick. There’s a lack of direct accountability and a lack of opportunities to collaborate if people are free to “do as they please”. If team members behave in unpredictable patterns, it’s difficult to coordinate efforts and leverage the full skill of the team efficiently. What could be worse than not being able to manage results without responsible oversight?

Both sides have valid points, and yet both sides make silly claims, too.

Advocates of ROWE imply that traditional managers are out-of-touch, stuffy old clock-watchers and everyone works in cubicle hell. It defines “working-for-the-man”. The other side believes that ROWE workers spend all day in their pajamas, ignoring phone calls and spending billable hours running personal errands with no regard for the demands of their colleagues. It’s ‘free-love’ with a paycheque.

The reality lies somewhere in between, and is as much as reflection of your organization’s culture and processes as it is about value and competence. It’s important to define what results (R) mean to you and your organization. Think beyond the bottom line. ‘Results’ may very well include time in team settings merely for the collaborative value of working together. ‘Results’ doesn’t only imply the end product, but must include important milestones along the way—logical points to share and contribute.

Sitting at the heart of leadership

I will be honest—I am an advocate of this style of management whether its officially declared or simply honoured by leadership. For me, it is the one style of management that sits at the heart of leadership, encouraging individual excellence while focused on shared goals. It demands a level of professional respect and true collaboration that is refreshing, especially in my world of strategic creativity. That being said, I recognize it’s not for everyone.

ROWE shattered the traditional expectations of some work environments and productivity, and the results have shown both success and failure. Is ROWE a viable management theory, or simply a passing fad?

 Q1 Does ROWE style leadership contradict the concept of clear organizational teams and shared goals?

Q2 As an employee or a leader, why do you prefer ROWE style leadership or more traditional management approach?

Q3 Do you think it’s possible for one organization to have similar teams mixed with ROWE style and more traditional style practices?

Q4 What are your concerns with ROWE style leadership style in your organization?

Q5 Which industries or professions better suited to ROWE style leadership?

About the author: Stephen Abbott is a brand strategist based in Vancouver, Canada,  helping organizations tell a story that is authentic, compelling and a competitive advantage. To do this, he focuses on the four critical functions of brand strategy; leadership & culture, communications, brand experience, and operations. Stephen has worked on diverse brands—from grass roots organizations to Royal charities—experiencing a variety of industries and organizational styles first-hand. This exposure has given him a healthy perspective on what is known as the soft side of business; capturing the excitement of visionary leadership while remaining grounded in realistic goals and being accountable to bottom line success.

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Leadership-Perfection is Highly Overrated. How About Just Being You?

Teamability, roles, Dr. Janice PresserThis is guest post is by Dr. Janice Presser, CEO of The Gabriel Institute. She is the architect of the technology that measures Teamability™ and is a recognized thought leader in qualitative assessment and human infrastructure management concepts.  Please join our guests, Dr. Janice Presser and Paul Sevcik on the Twitter chat, #KaizenBiz, this Friday, October 26th at 5pm BST/12pm ET/9am PT as we focus on how Role-fit and team synergy will trump individual ‘perfection’ every time.

Leadership isn’t easy, but there are a lot of people who can tell you how it’s done! You can find about 69,000 of them on Amazon.com. Read a few and soon you will be ready for the fitting of your halo and wings.

Last year, I answered a question about Leadership on Quora.com. I have a special place in my heart for this website. The questions that people ask and answer there can range from tough to touching. The question I picked was, ‘What are the top 10 interpersonal skills found in great leaders?’ It was irresistible because I’ve met a lot of people who seem to believe that a team is only as good as its leader, and that is just not so!

Here’s my ‘Top 10’:

  1. They are team players.
  2. They are coherent (neither rigid not diffuse) in all their interactions with others.
  3. Depending on what they are leading, they are either highly inspirational, in which case people are drawn to follow them and their vision, or they are excellent at shepherding people toward the goal. Occasionally you find people who are good at both.
  4. They take initiative, especially in innovation companies – they seize the moment and go for the opportunity.
  5. They clearly get that other people have a point of view that may not be an exact mirror of theirs. (They might not like it, but they definitely get it.)
  6. They aren’t consumed by greed. Their ambition and desire to win extends to their team, organization, stakeholders, and especially their customers.
  7. They aren’t know-it-alls, even though they are generally smart.
  8. They know how to be able depend on other people – their trust is highly desired and valued.
  9. They respect all living things. (That includes ‘silicon-based life forms’ – the technology that runs the company.)
  10. They openly express their faith in their team, that together they can achieve the vision.

After I posted it, I had to ask myself if I was only feeding into the perfection myth, but they checked out OK, especially #7 & #8.

Acknowledging imperfections

Leaders need to acknowledge their imperfections and that is actually the perfect team’s scenario. Everything you do not do well calls for someone on your team who does do it well and loves having the opportunity. This gives the team, as an entity in and of itself, a much greater chance of being perfect than a ‘perfect’ leader ever could, or should.

Leadership is not a formula, or a style, or a canon. Neither can it be adequately described as a series of traits or bits and pieces of experience. Leadership is intertwined with situational context, and thus leadership is a team sport. In the end, all that matters is that, collectively, your team is pulling together to achieve its mission.

Roles as filling needs of the team

There is a way to describe what any team needs, in terms of the people who are attracted to fill those needs. Each has a Role. Not a ‘role’ – like a job title or a set of responsibilities – but Role in the language of Teamability™: the manner or mode in which a given person seeks to make a meaningful contributions to meet team needs.

Not perfect and yet better

When you understand that you cannot do all of these things well, you may feel angry, or cheated, or sad in your imperfection. Or, you may suddenly realize that your moments of greatest joy and fulfillment have come when you were entirely immersed in contributions that were aligned with Your Role – and that in those moments, you were grateful for the others on your team who were also experiencing joy in performing their own ‘life’s mission.’ When people and teams function this way, they generate tremendous positive synergy and performance, producing real business value for an organization.

How do you define perfection? How has being perfect – or imperfect – impacted your life at work and beyond?

What are the absolutely basic requirements for your job? Do you like doing all of them? If you don’t, how do you deal with that?

When you have to work with someone, what happens? Do you mesh? Do you feel you give and get? What do you do when it doesn’t work?

What happens when you want to lead but no one is following? Or when people want to follow you but you really don’t feel comfortable ‘leading’ them?

What do you do when other people on your team frustrate you?

How do you best serve your organization or team? How does that bring you joy?

About the author: Dr. Janice Presser is the CEO of The Gabriel Institute and the architect of the technology that measures Teamability™ and is a recognized thought leader in qualitative assessment and human infrastructure management concepts. Her new book, slated for release in November of 2012, will explore the theoretical and physical foundations of ‘teaming,’ and their profound impact on the structure, development, and leadership of teams.

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The Role Of Follower in Leadership

During our #KaizenBiz chat last week, Miriam Ahern tweeted that “…it would be a big mistake to assume your most influential leaders are at top of  hierarchy [sic]” This was a brief side thread. The gist was that while the nominal leader may be the one with the title president, CEO or managing director, true authority and leadership may lie elsewhere. Typically, the obvious top of the hierarchy is followed by everyone else. This got me wondering about the role of the follower. Continue reading

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Is Leadership Harder Now Than Ever?

It might be said that leadership was easy once upon a time. You told someone to do something and it was done. Of course that works better if you’re medieval royalty and there is fealty involved. Or maybe we think our leaders should be some sort of archetypal hero who will save the day.

The obvious scandals of  Lehman Brothers, LIBOR or the News Corp phone hacking  undermine authority. But it isn’t just the public scandals that are eroding our understanding of leadership. Continue reading

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