The Four I’s Of Affective Leadership

The legacy we leave behind is more than the impression created by our impact, rather it is found in the still depths of the imprint we leave on those we connect with and how we determine to fill those still depths.

We have been led to believe that leadership is Influence.  And very well it is.  It is that and much, much more.

It is Influence, Impact, Impressions, and Imprints.  Each affecting the other…

When our leadership is not mindful, we often fail to recognize that our influence has an impact, creating an impression, an imprint upon those we serve and the organizations we lead.  Mindful leaders acknowledge the power of that impact and stay attuned and vigilant to the impression it creates.

Attuned to our words.  Our actions.  What we model.  What we fail to model.

Understanding the ramifications of our leadership…

To make the most of our influence and impact, leaders have the tendency to place well-intentioned efforts into accomplishments.  On what we can achieve and attain.

Unfortunately, what we fail to understand about our leadership encompasses a much greater impact than the sum of any accomplishment or accolade that could ever be reached…

The Four I’s of LeadershipInfluence, Impact,  Impressions, Imprints

Which resides in what we give, not what we achieve.  The impression of our influence and the impact is found when we invest ourselves in and for the benefit and betterment of those we lead.  It is here that we fill the imprint and impression of our leadership.  When we invest deeply in the success and growth of others.

When leaders create access, when they pour themselves out and into others, they open the door to expanding their influence and impact.

Whereas, when we don’t provide access.  When we fail to invest in others.  Our impression and imprint is just that, a hollow space we’ve placed upon others.

Leaders who make a lasting impression and imprint are the ones that choose to invest in us.

Our imprint and how we fill it is the crux of what leadership should be about.  Our leadership should transcend beyond ourselves to grow others.  To  take what we’ve been given and pass it on to others.

Our responsibility is to allow others to stand on our shoulders as we have stood on the shoulders of those who mentored and supported us.

One stone dropped in the water creates a ripple, while a handful creates a wave.  Whereas, when your leadership is self-focused, your ripple will tend to quickly fade away.  Allow your leadership to create the wave… 

Leadership And The Bankruptcy Of Deficit Spending

“Your greatest impact upon this world is when you choose to serve others…you create an imprint and influence of exponential proportions…pushing out in wave after wave.”

While it is never completely cut and dried, very often leaders fall into one of two camps…

Givers or Takers.

Servants Leaders or Self-Serving, Positional Leaders.

The interesting thing is that both styles of leadership can be incredibly effective in creating highly successful organizations.  The difference lies in the journey, the path, the doing of the work that takes them to their success…

One mindset is additive, creating a positive surplus.

The other mindset is subtractive, creating a deficit.

When a leader is self-serving and subtractive, they slowly deplete and drain away their principal resource…those they serve.  Self-serving, positional leaders are constantly deficit spending towards that resource and it is just a matter of time before their leadership ends up bankrupt.  Unfortunately, usually after they have depleted the organization and those within.

When leaders continually refuse to…

  • Honor the ideas, expertise, and talent of their people
  • Give credit and celebrate the work and success of others
  • Treat others with empathy and compassion, while employing a harsh and demeaning manner
  • Treat others as valuable members of the team, rather than as a commodity or resource to be used

They fail as leaders to serve their organizations and those within…

They are leading on borrowed time.  Borrowing resources from which they have built no reserves.  In doing so, they are deficit spending.  And eventually their deficit spending will leave their leadership bankrupt.  Devoid of all value.

Servant leaders…in contrast, are constantly building up reserves.  A reservoir of resources that they can borrow against if necessary.  Their leadership is additive, rather than subtractive.  They understand that their greatest asset is those they serve and constantly look to build up and preserve that resource.

Eventually you have to account for your leadership and determine…

How is your leadership affecting your organization?  Your people?  Are you building up a cache of resources and reserves?  Or are you depleting, diminishing, and draining away your assets?

In other words…is deficit spending leaving your leadership bankrupt?

The Ever-Evolving Leadership Mindset

“The stream has an impressive ability to adapt, to change the configurations, to let the power shift, to create new structures.”  -Margaret Wheatley

We don’t often take the time to consider our systems…especially as dynamic, flourishing structures.  As leaders, we have a tendency to view them through a more controlling lens…approaching them as stagnant, stationary processes to repress and restrain.  As complex compositions that can run amok if not aligned in an orderly manner.  Structures we interface at…instead of navigating and networking within as if they are living, developing, and ever-evolving.

As we look to the future…that leadership mindset will have to change…will have to evolve forward.

As a child, my friends and I loved to play and explore in the mountains behind our house.  Especially after a heavy rain…the mud, puddles, and streams were irresistible sources of natural inquiry and entertainment.  We especially loved to determinedly collaborate our efforts around damming up the water that streamed heavily down the mountains from these heavy downpours.  And to no avail…our efforts were always in vain.  The water would eventually find a way around or through our best efforts.  We eventually faced up to the fact that we could not bridle back and control those streams of water.

While we did not recognize it at the time, we were learning wonderful leadership lessons…

First, despite our best efforts…the water could not be controlled.

Second, while the water could not be controlled…it could be guided.

Once we learned that the water could not be controlled…we stopped putting our misguided efforts into creating bigger and greater obstructions to hold the water back.  We stopped running back and forth plugging the holes that constantly and inevitably burst through.  Instead…

We learned to guide the process…to guide the stream.

We approached the process through a new lens…with a new perspective.

When we fail to recognize that our systems are fluid rather than stagnant.  When we fail to realize that our systems are changing, evolving, and ever-renewing…we continue to spend our time creating obstacles.  We spend our time plugging holes.

Rather, we need to spur our efforts towards creating the path of the ‘stream’…staying in front of the flow.  Creating the conditions that will move the system forward…influencing the path.

We must allow our leadership to serve as a support and guide to the system.  

Loosening our command and control grip…understanding that the system will eventually seep through our grasp.

Less time spent on plugging holes.  Less time attending to the urgent and scrambling to keep our structures secure…and more time focused on what is most important.

Accept that our leadership is part of these living systems…and with any living system, the humanity has a way of leaking out.  Seeping through despite our best efforts.  People are messy, as is life.  So why would our systems be separate and different.  They are made up of us and what we have created.  It can be messy.  It will be messy.  And it should be welcomed and embraced.  Celebrated.

We can continue to build and erect structures, walls, and obstacles to provide some semblance of control.  Or we can accept the fluidity of our systems and determine to guide and direct them.  Loosening control in favor of momentum.  Movement over stagnation.  To allow our systems to evolve, change, and reinvent themselves.  Continuous and ongoing.  Or we can struggle to keep them as they always were…a facade of safe and controlled.

It may be worth remembering…

Systems are like our children…they do not remain the little lovable bundles that were first placed into our arms.  Rather, they grow and involve into toddlers, teenagers, and adults.  We can’t control that process, rather we have to look to engage and enjoy each level of it…each stage of growth and transformation.  Guiding and coaching forward.

“Water answers to gravity, to downhill, to the call of ocean.  The forms change, but the mission remains clear.  Streams have more than one response…”  -Margaret Wheatley


Wheatley, Margaret. (1999). Leadership and the New Science.  San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler Publishers.

Finding Our Safety Nets

“Don’t give in to your fears.  If you do, you won’t be able to talk to your heart.”  -Paulo Coelho The Alchemist

Easier said than done…

We can talk about getting over our fears.  We can discuss all of the strategies that will help us overcome those things that grip our heart like a vise.

Until we are in the moment…

Frozen with fear.  Fear that wraps us tightly in its overwhelming grip.  Riddling our mind with anxiety as rational thought dissipates into flight or fight responses.  Just the thought initiates cold sweats and frantic excuses.  The kind of fear that is…deep rooted,  entrenched, all consuming.

For some fears are just too oppressive to rationalize away.  They just don’t disappear that easily…

While some fears will never go away entirely, we can maneuver our way through them when we understand our safety nets.  Tools we enable that allow us to work our way through those fears.  Fears that handicap our ability be effective…that immobilize us.

The fear of heights and pubic speaking have always been possible immoblizers.  Fears I’ve had to learn to deal with and work through.  While they may never fully disappear, they can be held at bay or made manageable.  Even turned into strengths once I learned how to cope…once I learned how to find and incorporate my safety nets.

As a child I was never fond of heights…an issue that has not improved with age.  However, I have discovered that heights become tolerable when I am enclosed or surrounded by some form of railing or wall…I can cope with the fear.  I understand and acknowledge it…and incorporate the safety net that allows me to deal with the fear.

Like heights, public speaking is another of those fears.  Yet, one that I have effectually moved into the realm of positive by incorporating my safety net…turning the audiences attention away from myself.  To focus it in another direction.  So instead of spending lengthy and extended periods eloquently pontificating…I look to be concise.  I work to incorporate visuals, videos, and other clips that channel the focus away from me.  A safety net that has turned a negative into a positive by forcing me to incorporate strategies that make my speaking more engaging.

As leaders, we have to be able to decipher…for ourselves and for those that we lead…those fears that may be holding us back.  Immobilizing our effectiveness.  Especially when we venture into times of change.

Fear causes push back.  Fear keeps us anchored, stationary.  When leaders can create safety nets that allow others to manage those fears…they make those they lead and their organizations more effective.  More attuned to forward momentum.

Leaders who create safety nets have a better opportunity to create organizations that are better equipped to…incorporate the new, the innovative…to challenge themselves and those they lead to be more creative, more inventive, more forward thinking.

More inspired…to handle change.

What fears are holding you and your organization back?  What safety nets are you creating to move past them?

Agility, Time, And Our Aging Organizations

“As the end of the century approaches, all our culture is like flies at the beginning of winter.  Having lost their agility, dreamy and demented, they turn slowly about the window in the first icy mists of morning…[then] they fall down the curtains.”  -Charles Baudelaire

No matter how ageless something or someone appears, time will eventually invoke its toll…

The weight of our years has a tendency to hang upon our shoulders with the gravitational pull of the Mariner’s albatross.  We can stall it off for a time, but even the grandest of our efforts can stave it off forever.  It is just the nature of things.

The boundless energy of our younger years slowly depletes…regressing into small portions that we allot out more and more frugally.  The energetic bounces and springs of childhood fade slowly into creaks and groans of adulthood.  Not much we can do to fend it off.  It is just the nature of things.

The grace and agility of our younger years has become grounded in the conscious realization that the memories of what were stand in stark comparison to what is.  What was once so effortless now necessitates great mental and physical fortitude.  Our pace, grace, and agility has slowly waned over time.  It is just the nature of things.

And while time takes its certain toll on us physically…we have to be deftly aware of how easily we can allow time to reap its own toll on leadership and our organizations.

Unlike our aging bodies…we control how our organizations will age.  It is not the nature of things.  It is what we allow.  We affect the nature of things.  We determine if we will allow our organizations to grow soft…complacent.

Our very leadership determines the aging process of our organizations.  It is found in the leader’s mindset.  A mental mindset.

When a leader’s mental agility goes the way of their physically aging agility…so goes the organization.  The bones of the organization become brittle.  Creaking and popping with movement.  Agility gives way to comfort.  Movement and change become difficult and arduous prospects to entertain.  Eventually, bogged down in the baggage that time has heaped upon its structure.

And unlike our bodies…our organization’s can ill afford to lose the agility that alludes us in our later years.  Today’s organization’s have to determine to remain agile, nimble, fluid…in thought and action.  They have to remain both mentally and physically agile to keep pace with the rapid rate of change in our world.

Organization’s that are unable to cut free from the baggage collected over time…

Organization’s that fail to remain both physically and mentally agile…

Will go the way of the Titanic.  Large and unwieldy.  Slow and stubborn.  Unable to turn in time.  Unable to avoid or acknowledge the iceburg they are bearing down upon.  Unable to maneuver the behemoth they have created.


The Kids Are Waiting…

“When educating the minds of our youth, we must not forget to educate their hearts.”  -Dalai Lama

It is never simple…

Rather, it is quite complex…

But one thing is quite clear…

In the business of educating our children, we spend an awfully big chunk of our time and energy solving adult issues.

And in the meantime, our kids are waiting…

  • Waiting for us to put aside what we want for what is best.
  • Waiting for us to put aside what is comfortable for what is needed.
  • Waiting for us to apply what is necessary over what we have always done.
  • Waiting for us to put aside our adult issues.  

To get past ourselves.  Our needs.  Our concerns.  Our ways.  To move beyond what we have always done for what needs to be done.

For we come to you each day trusting you…

  • To lead us.
  • To guide us.
  • To care for us.
  • To nurture us.
  • To protect us.
  • To motivate us.
  • To inspire us.

To be the biggest cheerleader of our future.

For each day, please remember, through all of the other stuff…

We will be here waiting…

How Visible Is Your Vision?

“Take my hand, embolden my heart…awaken within me the vast, undiscovered possibilities that are yet to touch my dreams.”

Imagine if an uninvited guest arrived at the gates of your institution tomorrow morning…

Now imagine…

How would they be received?  What would they would notice first?  What would be their initial reaction?  Would it be a positive first impression?

What if they continued in and were given access to walk the entirety of your organization…

What would they hear?  What would they see?  What would they feel?  What would stand out?  And, why?

Now imagine that very same guest stopped by your office on their way out and noticed the beautifully framed, well-articulated vision hanging prominently on the wall…

Would they acknowledge that vision with a slight nod and sly smile of approval?  Or would it be met with a puzzled look of confusion?  Would they be baffled by the disconnect, from the walk to the words…from the visible to the vision?

Which takes us to the core question…

How visible is your vision?  Is it just a document hanging on your wall?  Or is it a living and breathing part of your organization?  And, what examples exist that point to your vision being visible?

Great organizations make their vision visible, even when it is hidden….

Disney is a stunning example of one of those organizations.  Their vision lives and breathes within everything they do.  Whether hidden or prominent, subtle or overt, their vision is woven into the very design of everything they create…from the rides, to the attractions, to the movies, the products, and every inch of their theme parks.

You cannot visit Disneyland without experiencing their vision.  It touches and influences every inch of their organization.  It is a living, breathing part of them and what they do.

As leaders, we need to be that guest.  We need to walk our institutions and organizations as outsiders…honestly assessing whether our vision and our reality connect.  Looking for ways to infuse and weave that vision statement into a living, breathing part of the organization.

When our vision is visible…we feel it across the organization.  We welcome visitors.  We look for chances to show them our work…what we do, who we are.

Which may be the very reason that Disney’s motto is…“Be Our Guest.”