Is Leadership a Genetic or Learned Behavior?

Is Leadership a Genetic and Learned Behavior

The question of whether we are born with leadership skills or learned them has always troubled me. When I was nine years old, I remember taking the hands of younger 4-H members and teaching them the sewing skills I learned the year before. My father told me I was bossy. I thought I just cared about people, but as I matured, I found myself increasingly in leadership roles. Was genetic make-up to blame? Perhaps it was simply the fact that I was the youngest of five children and had to fight my way to the top.

Who are the relevant teachers in our lives that teach us leadership abilities? Our parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, and school teachers help us understand society rules, ethical behaviors. They drive us to learn and speak-up for ourselves. Most leaders have a role model in their life who believes in us no matter what we do. At some point, if we turned out to be a leader, we committed to constructive behavior. We developed ethical values and beliefs that help us think as a leader would and behave as a leader would behave. We are aware of these thoughts and feelings, and we make a conscious decision on how to address situations that require our leadership commitment.

Successful leaders are often successful because they choose to believe they will succeed. They have a positive self-image, which manifests itself into self-confidence and is contagious to those around them. They courageously apply their abilities and strengths, and others see them as winners in the game of life. However, they can sometimes reflect arrogance and overate their performance as compared to their peers. They also have difficulty accepting feedback from their peers and supervisors because the opinions expressed are inconsistent with their image of success.

Successful people walk the talk and consistently reflect the behaviors they preach. They are self-determined and possess a sense of ownership and personal commitment to the projects or activities they accept. They require consistency that unfortunately leads them to resist change. They feel like the real “me” cannot make these changes to the business. They hold that feeling to themselves and move forward as a leader would by supporting the company plan. Successful people. Communicate success to their co-workers. They are persistent in the face of adversity and have a high internal focus of control. They often have a hard time letting go of failures and easily over-commit their time. They like to win!

Can anyone be a winner, or do they have to possess the genetic make-up to be one?. Leaders can be developed through exceptional role models, self-confidence, and a positive coaching environment. However, being an excellent leader takes courage, humility, and discipline. If you believe you can be a better leader, contact me at mary@goldenprofessionalcoaching.com to discuss a coaching engagement.

Attributes That Make A Great Leader

Have you ever wondered what you could do to be a better leader? Try Marshall Goldsmith’s Global Leader of the Future 360 assessment and compare your results to this article on attributes that make a great leader!

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Attributes That Make a Great Leader

Building leadership skills take humility, courage, and discipline. When I think about the attributes of the best leader I have ever worked with, I realize he used a servant leadership philosophy to manage his team. Traditional leaders exercise power to achieve results. By comparison, the servant-leader shares power,  puts the needs of others first, and helps his/her people develop and perform as executives. Servant leaders use their power to benefit the people they lead.

The foundation of a servant leader is integrity, which inspires trust. If a leader trusts his/her team, their team will believe in them. Successful leaders show stamina and are tactical, strategic and maintain a positive attitude. These managers empower their team to make decisions, set expectations and evaluate performance. They listen to their staff and serve them. As a result, their teams follow them.

The best leader I ever worked for was not perfect, but he was consistent in his approach and allowed me to do my job. Below is a list of competencies that he possessed that I believe were the most valuable in making him successful.

  1. Leaders remain focused and control their emotions

We face a million distractions in the office each day. If we allow ourselves to lose focus on the priorities, we will become overwhelmed and fail. If we plan our goals, define how we will achieve them, and follow up on the progress regularly, we will stay focused on the targets and be successful. Controlling our emotions plays a significant role in remaining focused. When we lose our temper, we lose focus.

2. Let go of the past

So often in business, we believe we have tried something once and if what we tried failed we think we should never try it again. The industry needs change, and they are cyclical. What did not work ten years ago may easily be what is needed today. One example of this was the demise of Montgomery Ward. In 1872, the retailer opened as the first catalog retailer in the world. The company served the needs of the rural customer and quickly became the largest mail-order company in the world. They never changed their approach and ultimately closed the mail order business rather than take the leap that Amazon made to put all their merchandise online. This may be an extreme example, yet we all have examples where we have said, “we tried that once, and it did not work.” I say time to try it again using a different approach. 

  1. Take ownership

Leaders are only as effective as how much they put on their plate. That does not mean doing the work but does mean owning the results good or bad. If something goes wrong the leader steps in and helps fix the problem. If the team or team member makes a mistake, the leader is responsible and must take ownership, and then ensure the team or team member learns from his/her mistake.

  1. Stay out of your own way (Build a mature ego)

When we first begin as leaders, our egos are immature and we often try to show off our success to our superiors. In some ways doing so works because the acclaim we receive is part of what motivates us to succeed.  However, showing off can also be a problem for us as we take our eye off the ball and start worrying about winning and losing our status. Rather than worrying about the commendations you might receive for doing something special, just do the work and your reward will come later as your ego matures.

  1. Communicate and praise

I can’t say enough about how important it is to communicate to your team. Communicate your goals and strategy. Recite the company’s mission and vision at every opportunity. Meet with your staff members one-on-one on a regular weekly or bi-weekly schedule. Provide your employees with feedback and praise.  Walk the floor and say good morning or afternoon. Learn about your employees likes and dislikes and any personal info they want to share. Talk with them about what makes them happy and they will be happy employees and know that you care about them as a person as well as an employee.

  1. Support your team

The team is the whole game and everyone on the team needs to feel as important as the other guy. The moment the leader or others are out for themselves and their own win, the leader and the team loses. Make sure the work is spread around to all team members and not just to your favorite team member. The only way employees learn effectively is by doing. They can’t do if you play favorites and give the work to only one person.

  1. Simplify – Business can be simple.

We deliver something people want and charge them for the service. But how we do that can get complicated in a hurry. Here’s the catch: A complicated plan is hard to communicate with our teams, and that makes it hard for them and us to win. Look at your business processes and see what you can eliminate. Get rid of checking the checkers – people who check to see if other people did their jobs. Hold people accountable for what they should be doing and streamline the processes. You will find the improved execution of the processes and reduced cost by eliminating the labor used for complicated processes.

  1. Empower your people.

Leaders delegate. That’s a fact. However, they don’t just delegate, they train, empower and communicate in clear effective language employees responsibilities and expectations. Empowerment allows leaders to take on more tasks than one person can do. When leaders do not empower their people they will fail or get frustrated and quit.

  1. Listen to your stakeholders

We all have stakeholders. Stakeholders could be our boss, customers, direct reports, peers or anyone that we work with on a regular basis. Completing an annual 360 evaluation with your stakeholders would provide you with some outstanding feedback that you could use to improve your skills. This 360 can be as simple as sending out a note to ask for feedback or a little more professional by contacting a certified coach to prepare and send out an anonymous request for feedback. The most important step is to provide a response to your stakeholders after receiving the feedback as to steps you will take to correct any deficiencies that were pointed out to you.

  1. Admit when you are wrong

When you are wrong admit to your team that you have made an error and want to correct it. This shows you are human and provides some confidence to your team that they too can try something new and will not get chastised if they make a mistake. They will see that you have humility and courage and will value you more as their leader for admitting you made a mistake.

Final Thoughts

My favorite boss was a class act guy who was a leader with courage, humility, and discipline. He displayed all the competencies I have listed about, yet it is important to note that there were still a few actions he took where he could have had a greater sense of awareness about what his stakeholders needed. This is an important distinction because we learn to be better leaders every day by the actions we take. The next time your leader does something that you think is not right, remember that he/she too is still maturing his/her ego and method of leadership.

 To find out more about Marshall Goldsmith’s Stakeholder Centered Coaching for leaders on the rise, contact mkuniski@me.comor go to http://www.goldenprofessionalcoaching.com.

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 Presented by Golden Professional Coaching LLC

A Marshall Goldsmith Stakeholder Centered Coaching Company

We Build Tomorrow’s Leaders

 

Unrecognized Ineffective Habits of Successful Leaders – Part Four

Did you ever think upholding boundaries as a leader could hinder your leadership effectiveness? No, well think again. Read this blog to surface boundaries that may hurt instead of help!

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Four weeks ago, I began this series with a list of 20 ineffective (unrecognized) habits of successful leaders. This issue is the last installment of those 20 habits. This series is intended to provide, even the best leader, one or two ideas of areas in which he or she can improve his/her leadership style. To read the previous three blogs on this topic, log on to MaryKuniski.com and enter your email address to follow my blog. This week’s blog covers the problems that occur when leaders withhold the necessary information from their teams.

Upholding Boundaries

According to Z. Hereford in essential life skills, personal boundaries are the physical, emotional and mental limits we establish to protect ourselves from being manipulated, used, or violated by others. They allow us to separate who we are, and what we think and feel, from the thoughts and feelings of others. The presence of personal boundaries helps us express ourselves as the individuals we are, while we acknowledge the same in others. (Herefore, Z, www.essentiallifeskills.net)

In business, we see the strong need for boundaries, so employees understand his/her limit, which in turn helps them maintain focus on their tasks. Unfortunately, these boundaries sometimes get in the way of a supervisor in providing the employee with the best workplace they can have. For example, supervisors are often required to maintain certain secret information, and it is up to the manager to determine what that might be. Some leaders go so far as to stop communicating with their employees for fear they are crossing boundaries. Listed below are five common areas where supervisors should break through the barriers and recognize their employees.

Withholding Information

Leadership often assigns special projects or reports to their staff to develop the talent of the associate to move them to the next level. There is a delicate balance between giving the associate enough information to complete the task or project and not giving enough information so the employee cannot complete the project.

I once worked for a leader who refused to communicate with me. He had a picture in his mind as to what he was looking for as an output for a project he assigned to me but refused to share his thoughts with me. I spent many hours reformatting the same data over and over again and never did “get it right.”  The refusal to share information with me appeared to be intended to maintain an advantage over me. What was meant to be a learning experience became an immense frustration and all I learned was not to trust this manager when he assigned projects in the future.  What I should have asked him to do was sketch what he thought the output should look like so I had a starting point. Because I did not ask those questions, we both failed in our communication.

Failing to give proper recognition or express gratitude

Many managers cannot praise or express gratitude to their employees because they fear doing so will take away their power and break boundaries with the associate. This behavior is the most basic form of rude behavior, yet we see it all the time with leaders. According to Gallup, employee engagement has been static for the last three decades. Gallup also claims that one of the most common areas of employee dissatisfaction is the inability of their leadership to praise and reward them for a job well done. In our interactions with others, we often miss opportunities to show genuine appreciation and recognition. So often, the only time employees hear our praise is during their performance review. Recognizing the strength of others requires a conscious effort, and it does not take much time. If we commit to doing so regularly, we will find it becomes a positive habit, increases morale and creates a confident culture.

The best formula I have found for giving positive recognition is by using the acronym TAPE, written by Dale Carnegie. T stands for THINGS. Perhaps the individual is particularly proud of something they own – could be their baseball collection, jewelry or clothes. Leaders should be aware of their associate’s pride and joy activities and things and talk with them about their interests in day-to-day conversations.

A stands for ACHIEVEMENTS, which can be research, projects, or anything that takes a focused and concerted effort. These achievements are the most often the areas of praise given in the business world. Achievements should always be recognized publicly and promptly.

stands for PERSONAL TRAITS and are the favorable characteristics individuals possess that make them valuable to you and your organization. When leaders recognize their employees for these characteristics, they are providing the most potent praise of all. When giving praise to employees, one needs to be careful to include evidence of the reason for recognition. For example, if the leader walks up behind his/her employee and says you did a great job today, the employee may wonder whom he/she is talking to and what they did to deserve the praise.

Therefore, the final letter is and stands for EVIDENCE.  When offering praise or recognition to one’s employees, the conversation should go something like this: Look the employee in the eyes and state his/her name. Tell him/her what they did well and provide evidence that what you say is true. Close by thanking the employee one more time.

Example

Jane, you offered the executives an excellent presentation today on your project. I was pleased that you included facts, figures, and projections. When presenting to executives, it is vital that you always back up your theories with numbers. Thank you, Jane, for your hard work.

Punishing the messenger:

Have you ever gone to your leader, presented bad news and felt the lash of his/her tongue. This situation occurs much more often than we think. The poorly misguided manager feels like he/she needs to lash out to someone and attacks the innocent person who is usually only trying to help. The result is that the employee will most likely never present lousy news or offer a suggestion to that supervisor again.

A more appropriate response to this type of news is a simple thank you, and according to Marshall Goldsmith, is the only appropriate answer. Although I agree with Marshall that the response should be simple thank you, I believe asking additional questions, in this case, would be appropriate if asked in a respectful manner.

Not Listening

Not listening is likely the most passive-aggressive form of disrespect for colleagues. Why don’t leaders listen to their teams? The leader may be embarrassed by what he/she might hear. Alternatively, his or her ego is so immature that they think they know best. In Marshall Goldsmith’s stakeholder centered coaching program we show leaders how to listen and respond to their teams. Doing so is not easy. It takes hard work, humility, and discipline. If you are interested in experiencing Stakeholder Centered Coaching, contact me at mkuniski@me.com.

“Daring to set boundaries is about having the courage to love ourselves even when we risk disappointing others.”   Brene Brown

Final Thoughts

Firm boundaries, such as prohibiting the use of inappropriate language or verbal abuse in the workplace are entirely appropriate. However, associates should be encouraged to speak in a respectful manner that is not condescending or abusive. With clearly defined boundaries regarding communication, associates use the appropriate tone and language with one another, which improves workplace interactions.

Boundaries discourage inappropriate behavior by setting rules of conduct within the workplace. Codes of conduct define what behavior is appropriate on the job and what behavior is unacceptable. It is a leader responsibility to set boundaries for all and then enforce them for all. However, leaders need to ensure their limitations do not take away from the ability of their workforce from receiving the required information and recognition to complete their jobs.

To find out more about Marshall Goldsmith’s Stakeholder Centered Coaching for leaders on the rise, contact mkuniski@me.comor go to http://www.goldenprofessionalcoaching.com.

 Presented by Golden Professional Coaching LLC

A Marshall Goldsmith Stakeholder Centered Coaching Company

cropped-Golden-with-plain-C-2.pngWe Build Tomorrow’s Leaders

Reference: “What Got You There Won’t Get You There.” Marshall Goldsmith, pg. 40

 

 

 

UNRECOGNIZED INEFFECTIVE HABITS OF SUCCESSFUL LEADERS – PART THREE

Having a bit ego is not necessarily a bad habit as long as the ego has matured. A leadership coach gives examples of how leaders can be more effective when working to mature his/her ego.

Empowering the Ego

Most leaders I have worked with have their egos in check, but we know they are proud of their accomplishments. Their behavior surrounding their ego is somewhat expected and helps drive their self-confidence. Conversely, when their ego gets in the way of humility, great leaders can fall very quickly. Last week we reviewed the behaviors of leaders who use anger, negativity, clinging to the past, excuses and playing favorites to rule their organization. This week we will study the effects of empowering the ego. To read last’s Part Two, click here https://wordpress.com/read/feeds/75996734

An excessive need to be “me”

Have you ever worked with someone who appears to know it all? To them, admitting they made a mistake is a significant challenge because they want to avoid “losing face”. However, in the eyes of other people, a person who can admit to mistakes and move on from them is more likely to garner respect than someone who blusters and pretends they weren’t responsible. Ultimately, continued refusal to face up to being wrong or causing a problem can take a toll on one’s reputation, relationships, work, or professional life. If a person is not already used to admitting their own mistakes this new skill can liberate them and allow them to move on to better relationships and outcomes.

Get ready to own your errors!

 Looking at many leaders, we have to ask ourselves, can his/her ego honestly think, feel, say, and act that way? They may think they can run the company by themselves and do any job in this organization that their team is doing today, but is that reality or just ego. Believing they are good enough to do it all is not necessarily a position of arrogance or superiority. Instead, assuming they can do anything can be representative of a mature ego. The ego needs to mature to build a leaders’ self-confidence. When a leader heals and develops their ego, their career begins to transform, and the way they view the world lifts to a higher octave.

A leader with a mature ego is done pretending they are not good enough, and he/she discovers something shocking. They have grown to the point that they are secure, creative, connected, confident, intuitive, and wise enough to do anything they want to do. They realize if they try and fail at something they do not lose face by admitting their mistake and moving on to the next idea. They only have developed a new habit that says I have the self-confidence to be a leader, make decisions, make mistakes and move on.

Passing the buck

“The most important mark of a leader other leaders can trust is never passing the buck.”

MICHAEL HYATT

 Blaming others for their own mistakes is the antonym of leadership and a mature ego. How often do we face employees who are afraid to admit to their errors for fear of the punishment? I once talked with a CEO who was frustrated because her team was afraid to use their critical thinking skills and make logical decisions. The employee’s lack of self-confidence put a significant burden on the CEO because her employees would ask her advice on every single decision, which wasted a tremendous amount of her time. They feared deciding on their own because her punishments were harsh.

As leaders, we need to evaluate the method in which we communicate the action we asked our employees to take and reframe the communication in our mind to determine if someone less experienced than we are would perceive the conversation in a different way. Real leaders need to take complete ownership when things go wrong. That’s what a leader does even if it means getting fired. If a leader throws someone under the bus, they lose the trust of his/her team making it impossible to lead them.

Refusing to express regret

 The inability to take responsibility for our actions and admit we are wrong eliminates our ability to recognize how our actions affect others. Leaders often fear to show regret thinking falsely that a regret is a form of weakness.

Often as leaders, we are required to take actions we don’t necessarily want to make, but it is our job to do what is expected of us. I can think of many occasions over the years when I had to lay employees off due to a change in the business. When I was young and had an immature ego, I was able to complete those lay-offs without any thought to the individual.  I realized how important it was to consider the reaction that would come from the employee and allow them to save face as my ego became more mature.

 Winning too much

 

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Can you think of any sports professionals that need to win at all costs and in all situations? They go after a win when it matters when it doesn’t matter, and when it’s entirely beside the point. Have you experienced any leaders that will take the opposite view of any discussion point and fight to win it even if they don’t care about the solution? I have difficulty thinking about my college football coach, who was a revered faculty member. I worked in the dining hall during college, and we were not allowed to enter the room when the football team was eating for fear we would overhear strategy and pass it on to the competition. At one point, the milk ran out in the dining area, and no one would go out and fix it for fear of the coach. Since I didn’t care much about football at the time, I took the initiative to go milk the cow. Such meritocracy was just uncalled for but was a regular occurrence during that time.

Now, years later we find out that the assistant coach was molesting boys in the football locker room and the coach knew all about it. Rather than go to the police with the information, the coach chose to force the retirement of the assistant coach and continued to coach his precious team to protect them from the scandal. The evidence is clear that many individuals were aware of what was going on and gave no thought to the young boys who had their lives ruined.  Where was the coaches’ ethical values and where were the rest of the coaches and players? Think about Lance Armstrong and Tonya Harding; where were their values when they decided to do whatever they had to do to win.

The challenge is not with the desire to win. We all should want to win and increase the visibility of our business due to our success. The challenge is winning while maintaining our ethical values and validating that our winners are doing so honestly. Leaders have to own the integrity of their business and win but not at any cost.

Telling the world how smart you are

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Do you remember the international game show called,  “Who Wants to be a Millionaire?” This was a show where contestants were asked trivia questions and had the opportunity to call a friend or use the audience’ response to win the million dollars. The show aired for months before the first winner was announced. The first winner, who happened to be an IRS agent,  was a true expert on all facts. His answers seemed to come out of nowhere. On the final question, he used his lifeline to call his Dad and rather than ask him a question he said, “ hey Dad I am going to win a million dollars, the answer to the question is x.” Confetti flowed from the ceiling and it was an exciting moment.

We often face individuals who appear to be self-proclaimed experts and talking with them can be extremely irritating. However, let’s be clear that there are true experts in every field. As a leader, we are much better served to show off our listening skills than our expert skills. However, if you really want to be an expert on anything simply google “how to be an expert on anything” and you will come up with over a million hits telling you how to do so.

Final Thoughts

This week’s’ blog has everything to do with our ego. As leaders, it is important that we build a mature ego.  Some individuals take offense to leaders who have egos. However, it is my contention that natural leaders start with an immature ego that allows poor behaviors like winning at all costs, controlling every conversation, acting like they are an expert at everything, or refusing to express regret. If a leader will allow their ego to mature as described in this blog, they will be rewarded with faster and larger success as an executive.

Are you looking forward to Part Four? Next week will review upholding boundaries. Be sure to click follow to be notified of a new posting.

 Presented by Golden Professional Coaching LLC

A Marshall Goldsmith Stakeholder Centered Coaching Company

We Build Tomorrow’s Leaders

Reference: “What Got You There Won’t Get You There.” Marshall Goldsmith, pg. 40