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Recall the Scenario

In my last article I introduced you to a scenario where two people, Ben and Chris, are very different types of leaders. At the end of the article I asked for feedback about some leadership elements at play. Thank you for all who responded. Much of the feedback was empathetic (“Are you writing about [fill in the name]? Because ‘Ben’ sounds exactly like them?”)

Other feedback was critical (“I would say that neither of them are leaders, they are just control freaks.”) It’s not easy when you are forced to choose between two imperfect options. But, that often is reality, isn’t it? What you can do to keep your sanity and make the best of things is to understand the natural laws of leadership that are at play in the situation that you are facing and adjust accordingly.

As a leader, you will likely find yourself in a situation where you are in charge of someone who is challenging or difficult to lead, as was Chris in the outlined scenario. You will also likely find yourself working for someone who isn’t the strongest leader, as is Ben. In either situation, the question to you as a leader is this: Are you going to allow the inadequacies of another to determine your own success as a leader?

As a leader, you have the responsibility to demonstrate your versatility and adjust to the situation, both up and down the organization, to ensure you are as effective as possible.

This is why it is helpful to understand what I call the Natural Laws of Leadership.


Natural Laws of Leadership: Empowerment Though Inaction

Just as there are laws of nature (objects will fill fall to earth at the same speed, water will follow the path of least resistance to the sea, smoke rises, etc.), there are also natural laws of leadership. Despite our best intentions and desires, we can’t change these laws. They simply exist.

Leadership is an inherently interpersonal endeavor. Because of this, the natural laws of leadership intrinsically deal with people’s behavior. One of the key natural laws of leadership at work in the scenario described above is the Law of Empowerment Through Inaction.

Let me describe it this way. A person looking to get something will find the easiest way possible to get it. They will follow the path of least resistance to reach their goal. It’s human nature. Ask any parent of a child who wants some candy how it works. The child will go to the parent who they feel is most likely to agree to the request. They will even work one against the other to get the answer they want. The same thing is true of people in a professional setting. Look at the way the staff has learned to adjust to Ben’s micro-meddling in the previously described scenario.

The converse of this behavior is also true.

Any behavior, however inappropriate or unacceptable, will be continued until enough pressure is applied to force the behavior to change.

Therefore, as a leader, one of your jobs is to recognize and respond to behavior that shouldn’t be continued. Part of a leader’s job is to put up the appropriate level of resistance (organizationally, interpersonally, within a team, etc.) at the right place to drive the right behavior and outcomes. If a leader fails to do this, the net effect is no different than if they were to officially endorse the undesired behavior.

What is tolerated and accepted is perpetuated and becomes the norm.

This likely explains why Chris, in this scenario, continues to demonstrate unprofessional and dysfunctional behaviors. This also clearly illustrates, in very real terms, the Law of Empowerment Through Inaction.

Stay Tuned for More

I’ll introduce more of the Natural Laws of Leadership in the coming weeks.

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This post, as well as others from Dave, can also be found at http://linked2leadership.com/author/dhasenbalg/

Dave Hasenbalg is President of Customized Solutions, LLC and does coaching and public speaking on Leadership, Team Effectiveness and Operational Excellence.
He can be reached at dhasenbalg@customized-solutions.com

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Natural Laws of Leadership: Motion

Recently I was coaching a senior leader on the topic of operational improvements underway in the organization. There was general frustration that changes and new procedures weren’t being widely adopted by the staff in the department. He asked why people weren’t doing what they were being asked to do. I asked, “What he was doing to motivate a change in their behaviors to ensure people were doing things differently?” He said that he thought that the right solution should be enough to get people to want to adopt it.

While that idealistic thought might work in the fantasy of a Disney movie , it isn’t realistic in real-world leadership.

One reality of leadership is this:

Unless inspired or motivated to do so, people don’t generally possess the desire to do things any differently tomorrow than they did today.

In other words, just because you say something, or present a good idea, or a more efficient way of doing things, it doesn’t mean that people will jump to do it. It requires more than that from the leader. It requires the right amount of force in the right direction.

 

As a leader, your job is to know what direction you want to take your team/organization (have a vision) and to know those whom you are leading well enough to understand the proper amount and type of force to apply in the right place to change the direction (tension) I wrote about this topic in an earlier article.

 

This reminds me of the scientific truth of Newton’s 3 Laws of Motion . There is absolutely a Leadership correlation to those laws. I recently read an article by Vivek Mehrotra where he does a good job of identifying some basic correlations between Newton’s first two laws and leadership. I’ll elaborate on those thoughts here and add perspective to Newton’s Third law as it applies to leadership.

Without a doubt the leadership correlation to each of Newton’s laws are as true as the Laws of Motion themselves.

Newton’s First Law of Motion: Every object in a state of uniform motion tends to remain in that state of motion unless an external force is applied to it.

 

First Law of Leadership: An organization in its current state (status quo) is in an organizational “state of motion.” Things won’t change unless you apply force to cause them to change. Without that leadership force, it will continue to operate along its current path.

 

Newton’s Second Law of Motion: The relationship between an object’s mass (m), its acceleration (a), and the applied force (F) is Force = mass x acceleration.

 

Second Law of Leadership: The force needed to bring change to an organization depends on the size of the organization and the size of the change. If you want to make big changes fast, then you need to apply lots of force. If you don’t mind changes taking lots of time, then smaller but consistently applied force over time will work. The converse of this law is also true. If you expect big changes to come from the part time efforts of a few people, then get used to disappointment.

 

Newton’s Third Law of Motion: For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.

 

Third Law of Leadership: Even when you provide the right direction and motivation, there will be a force that acts to negate the action you are undertaking. So, don’t be surprised when there seems to be resistance to changes you are trying to implement. Particularly in light of the First Law of Leadership, it means that you must continue to exert the right amount of force to continue to make things move until your goals are achieved.

 

Understand for yourself:

What kind of force is required to get your organization to achieve the results you have in your vision?
Are you aware of the reactions to your actions? Do you understand how your actions are driving the reactions of your people?

Always remember the natural laws of leadership.

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