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

Resource:

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.

Unable…

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.”

Is Your Leadership A Wreck?

Is your leadership a wreck?  An accident waiting to happen?

Is the intense gaze of those you lead held from influence?  Or fueled by a strange allure to having front row seats for the impending collision that is hurtling your way?

We have a strange fascination and curiosity when it comes to accidents.  Whether it’s a car crash or a train wreck.  It seems to be built into our very nature to take a look, to see what happened.  Like passing by a mirror…we just have to sneak a peak.  It is one of those odd features we find difficult to explain and understand.

Which is why much of the traffic and congestion we experience has less to do with the accident itself, than it does with the allure of seeing what happened.  To catch a glimpse.

And if we are not careful, our leadership becomes that car crash or train wreck.  The watching eyes have less to do with our leadership influence and more to do with a fascination of what is to come…

When leaders are neither reflective or others-centered…they lack self and organizational awareness.  They are not cognizant or conscious of the calamity that they have created.  Often leaving others to provide clean up and repair in the aftermath of their poor leadership direction and decisions.

Which is why emotional intelligence remains critical to modern day leadership…

When leaders concentrate on increasing their EQ, their level of emotional intelligence…they enable the skills that allow them to avoid the crashes and wrecks that can stall their leadership.  Self awareness and social skills serve as just two of those EQ tools that can be learned to enhance and increase your leadership capacity.

When leaders choose not to improve – to not continuously increase their skill set – they open themselves up to those collisions, crashes, and wrecks that others so readily see coming.  Leaders who remain learners increase their capacity to influence and lead effectively.

When leaders choose the wrong route, they often become visual fodder for their fascinated followers that can’t avoid the view of the impending collision bearing down upon them.

Ultimately, we have two choices, two routes…which will you choose?

Leadership: Driving (Out) Miscommunication

“The art of communication is the language of leadership.”  -James Humes

Communication serves as the cornerstone of any leader’s ability to create and maintain influence, impact, and significance.  It is the brush that paints the bold strokes of a vivid and radiant picture of the future.  A finely-tuned instrument that amplifies and echoes a song that resonates throughout the minds and souls of the organization.  A delicate tool that gently chisels, sculpts, and shapes direction, creating alignment and foundations.

Whereas, the communication pulpit bestowed into the wrong hands can cause dissonance, discord, and disharmony. More harm than good.  More chaos than clarity.  A platform for unpainting the picture, dismantling progress and momentum, and erasing the vision of the future.  A grand venue to drive miscommunication and misalignment across the organization.

When communication fails, stalls, or lacks clarity…the results can be devastating.  Rumors, gossip, misunderstandings, and erroneous information can create confusion and chaos…running rampant across the organizational landscape.  Leaving those within caught up in a web riddled with misinformation and anxiety, eventually leading to an ineffective and unproductive workforce.

Which is why a leader needs to vigilantly and reflectively tend to and monitor the effectiveness of their communication.  Creating organizational clarity by constantly stamping out the murmurs of misconceptions and misinformation.  Driving out miscommunication that unsettles and agitates, stirring up turmoil and turbulence.

When communication fails a leader, it can have devastating effects on their leadership and their organization.  Which is why a leader must closely monitor the causes of communication failures, such as;

  • Communication fails to exist.
  • Communication fails to hit its mark.
  • Communication fails to provide clarity. 
  • Communication fails to match up to the audience.

Communication is a leadership necessity and responsibility.  When utilized effectively and consistently, it will positively influence their leadership and the organization.

And when it fails, when it misses its mark, it can have long and far reaching effects of monumental proportions for the leader and their organization.

Always remember, when it comes to communication…serve it well and it will serve you back.

Stretching Your Box

“As a leader, you can never really know the limitations of your framework, or your situation, until you push on those boundaries, until you stretch the box.”

We function, operate, interact, and maneuver through a world riddled with systems, networks, structures, and frameworks.  Interweaving throughout our personal and professional lives.  Defining and confining who we are, what we do, determining the direction and actions we take.  Often much more than we would like.

While they permeate our very existence, it can be very easy for us as leaders to feel frustrated by those very same systems, structures, and frameworks.  We can find ourselves spending an inordinate amount of time bemoaning the limitations and confines that these systems, structures and frameworks place upon us.  What we often fail to realize is that the grass is not greener on the other side of the fence.  It might be a different kind of grass, a different type, but no greener.

We all have structures and systems that frame the scope and expanse of our work and leadership.  And while they might be different from organization to organization, they still exist in each one.  When we fail to realize this, we unfortunately spend vast amounts of our precious time lamenting with frustration over the limitations and boundaries of the framework…rather, than determining how to lead effectively within.  Beginning by laying the groundwork to not only lead effectively within those confines, but to expand the walls that frame, surround, and limit our work and leadership.

“Many leaders spend their precious time bemoaning the framework they have been given or placed within, when they should be looking at innovative and creative ways to work within and expand it.”

When leaders become overly frustrated and allow their leadership to be constricted by these systems, structures, and frameworks…they diminish their leadership capacity.  They spend less and less time creating and innovating, with more and more time focused on implementing.  It serves neither to expand the framework, nor does it support their leadership.  For when we fail to expand the walls of the structures that limit the scope of our work, we disable our leadership capacity and relegate ourselves to that of an implementor.

“Most leaders work within a framework, how you maneuver within that framework will relegate you to being just an implementer, or herald you as an innovator.”

Leaders who understand the limitations and confines of the framework for which they find themselves, don’t just look for ways to think outside of the ‘box,’ they actively look for ways to expand the ‘box’ itself.  They push on the walls and boundaries that encapsulate their leadership and the work of their people and their organization.

Innovative, creative, and resilient, understanding that pushing the boundaries is not a one time process.  It is an ongoing push, pull, stall, and push again.  One step forward, two steps back.  A never ending cycle and an ever present function of their leadership.

A framework can be viewed from two different perspectives, as a shell to create and innovate within, or as a carcass that traps and smothers our ability and capacity to advance and improve.  Both perspectives reside in the mind of the leader…

Ultimately, a leader will have to choose, to lead or manage, to innovate or implement, to create or contain.  A choice that will ultimately define their leadership, for themselves, their work, their people, and their organization.

The question is, are you willing to stretch your box?

“Real leadership lies not in the managing of what you have rather, it is moving beyond what you have been given to mold and create something better.”