There are hundreds of assessments for leaders. The content and quality of these assessments vary greatly. You can spend a lot of time and money taking surveys to tell you the quality of your leadership.
There are a few leading indicators that can be used to give a pretty good picture of the overall quality of your leadership. These are not good for diagnosing problems or specifying corrective action, but they can tell you where you stand quickly. Here is one of my favorite measures.
How People Treat Each Other
You can tell the caliber of a leader instantly when you view how people in the organization treat each other. A good leader insists on constructive and helpful behaviors that model high trust and even affection.
Some people believe the word affection is too strong for the working world. I disagree. Groups that work for a great leader learn to really appreciate each other for their good qualities. That does not mean that everyone always gets along with no quarrels; that would be a phony environment.
Just like a family, people will eventually find some things to cause friction, but there is sincere affection behind any tension that shows trough as people work to resolve differences without doing emotional damage.
Good leaders teach their people to, as Ruth Bader Ginsburg suggested, “Disagree Without Being Disagreeable.”
Where leadership is weak, squabbles between people lead to childish behaviors that can cause permanent damage to relationships. It is easy to witness this in most organizations.
As Lou Holtz observed, “you can find a thousand things to not like about somebody but you need to look for the things that you do like, that support the team effort.” In an environment of support and affection it is easy to become a close knit team that is hard to beat.
Good leaders insist that their group generates a set of specific behaviors. It is important to be able to point at these things and call each other when the behaviors are not being modeled. The leader always works to model the behaviors and actually verbalizes them frequently.
It may sound like this, “Thanks for your comment Frank, I appreciate how your words supported Mary’s effort because that is a value and behavior we cherish in our group.
Watch for the signs of a group that, while there are differences, handle those disconnects in a mature and loving way. A group like that is being guided by an excellent leader.
Bob Whipple is CEO of Leadergrow Inc., a company dedicated to growing leaders. He speaks and conducts seminars on building trust in organizations.
Several years ago I generated a list of rules for success. It is important to write down a set of rules for yourself, just as it is to document your values.
Having a list of rules gives you something to hang on to when there is too much confusion. Another benefit of a list like this is that it helps other people know how you operate much quicker.
I would review this list and my passion for each item whenever inheriting a new group. People appreciated that I made a special effort for them get to know me in this way.
1. The most important word that determines your success is “attitude” – how you react to what happens in your life. The magic learning here is that you control your attitude, therefore, you can control your success.
2. Engagement of people is the only way to business success.
3. Credibility allows freedom to manage in an “appropriate” way (which means if you are not credible, you will be micro-managed).
4. Build a “real” environment – maximize trust – This requires honesty and transparency.
5. Create winners – help people realize their dreams of success (which means, grow other leaders).
6. Recognize and reward results at all levels (reinforcement governs performance).
7. Operate ahead of the power curve (which means, be organized and get things done well ahead of the deadline).
8. Don’t get mired down in bureaucratic mumbo jumbo, negotiate the best position possible, out flank the Sahara. However, feed the animal when necessary (which means pick your political battles carefully).
9. Enjoy the ride – when it is no longer fun – leave.
10. Admit when you are wrong and do it with great delight. Beg people to let you know when you sap them and thank them for it (which means Reinforce Candor).
11. Provide “real” reinforcement that is perceived as reinforcing by the receiver. Build an environment of reinforcement.
12. Keep trying and never give up. You will succeed.
There are many other things that could be mentioned, but if you can master the things above, most other things become subcategories of them.
For example, another bullet might be “Treat people as adults and always demonstrate respect.” That is really a sub item of the second bullet.
Or another bullet might be “Always walk your talk.” That is one thing (among many) you need to do for bullet four to happen.
I believe every leader should have a documented set of beliefs such as the one above. I am not advocating that you adopt my list. Think about it and develop your own list.
Don’t worry about being complete, just start an electronic file and add to it over the years as you grow and encounter new ideas. You will be amazed how this simple task enables you to operate with congruence and grow in your leadership skill.
The preceding information was adapted from the book Leading with Trust is like Sailing Downwind, by Robert Whipple. It is available on http://www.leadergrow.com.
Robert Whipple is also the author of The TRUST Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals and, Understanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online. Bob consults and speaks on these and other leadership topics. He is CEO of Leadergrow Inc. a company dedicated to growing leaders.
I confess, this title was not made up by me. My wife saw a bumper sticker with this sentiment and shared it with me.
I think the basic wisdom in the phrase is great and wish there was a way to get some managers to understand the simple logic here. Why is it that some bosses feel compelled to bark when wagging is a much more expedient way to bring out the best in people?
The barking dog is simply doing its job. The dog only knows that to defend his territory, he needs to sound off at anything that might encroach.
The frequency of barking is an interesting aspect. Why does the dog bark at intervals less than about 10 seconds?
Is it because he has a short memory and can’t remember that he just barked? Is it because the potential invaders of his territory need to be reminded every few seconds that he is still around? Is it because he simply enjoys keeping the neighbors up all night?
Is he showing off his prowess or having some kind of dog-world conversation with the mutt down the street? I think all of these things could be factors in the frequency of barking, but I suspect the primary reason is a show of persistence.
The message we get from the barking dog is “I am here, I am formidable, I am not going anywhere, so keep your distance.”
In the workplace, if a manager sends a signal, “I am here, I am formidable, I am not going anywhere, so keep your distance,” the workforce is going to get the message and comply.
Unfortunately with just compliance, group performance and morale are going to be awful, but the decibel level will at least keep everyone awake.
When a dog wags its tail, that is a genuine sign of happiness and affection. You can observe the rate of wagging and determine the extent of the dog’s glee.
Sometimes the wag is slow, which indicates everything is okay, and life is good. When you come home at night and the dog is all excited to see you, most likely the wag is more of a blur, and it seems to come from way up in the spine area.
The wag indicates, “I love you, I am glad you are here, you are a good person to me, and will you take me for a walk?”
Dogs are incredibly loyal, even beyond human reason. For example, I am reminded of the picture of a Labrador Retriever lying next to the coffin of his master who was killed in Afghanistan. The dog refused to leave the area.
Even when a dog is not treated well, it does not become critical or judgmental. The wag is not withheld because the dog had a bad day. The dog looks for the good and appreciates it. The dog is ever hopeful, ever optimistic, ever grateful. The wag is still there unless the dog is seriously sick. It is amazing.
A manager who wags more and barks less gets more cooperation. Life is better for people working for this manager, and they simply perform better.
Showing appreciation through good reinforcement is the more enlightened way to manage, yet we still see many managers barking as their main communication with people. Look for the good in people, and appreciate it. Try to modify your bark to wag ratio and see if you get better results over time.
How do you feel about being you? Be truthful with yourself, and think about how much you like yourself right this moment. This article, hopefully, will shock you into a different frame of mind relative to your happiness and the quality of your life.
I teach many online courses, and deal with students from all over the world. I recall one interchange between a student living in a frigid part of the USA and another student in Hawaii.
At one point, the student who lived in Detroit was lamenting another dreary day, and he had reached the breaking point. His comment to the student in Hawaii was, “Well, I have to take responsibility for my own misery. After all, I chose not to live in paradise.” I immediately wrote to the complaining student reminding him that “paradise” is a state of mind rather than a state of the Union.
There are numerous things that gauge the level of satisfaction and happiness we milk out of living. This article focuses on one’s perception of self. Most of us are in the middle of a long progression of the days of our lives. It feels like we have been around forever, and we have a long way to go before somebody puts us in a pine box. We live each day reacting to the forces and challenges that hit us. Some days are good, and others are bad.
We are what we are because that is what we have chosen to be. Many people go through life being unhappy with themselves and blaming others or circumstances (like if I only had a smaller nose). We have such a short time on this planet, and it would be smart to be happy with ourselves first and foremost.
Nobody else has to wake up with you and be with you 100% of the time, so if you are not happy with yourself, the quality of your precious life is diminished. Who would be to blame for that? Hmmm…let me think.
My observation of our lives in the grand scheme of the universe and the ages is that human beings are all like little worms. You have to go up only a few miles and look down through a telescope, and you can observe us all wiggling around all over the world as we move through our day.
We show up and wiggle around for a fleeting 80 or so years, and then we are gone. Eighty years in celestial time is hardly a blink. Better make sure you are enjoying your wiggle. Our possessions that we covet, our money that we lust after make very little difference in the end. All that matters is how much of an impact we have managed to have on others, how much love we have generated, and how much we have enjoyed our wiggle.
What are some of the things that contribute to enjoying your wiggle? Here are a few examples. (Note, this list is not exhaustive.)
Making a contribution: We all make contributions, both good and bad. If you have provided one shred of thought that has been recorded and provided value to other people, you have made a contribution. Two shreds counts for double that value, so provide many shreds of value to the advancement of society.
Finding honest love: If we feel deeply in our soul that we have loved the people in our lives, then we go to our grave reflecting on a life well lived. This, of course, includes family, but it also includes heroes, mentors, classmates, pets, friends, grocers, ducks, lamps, books, and any other person or thing that we truly love.
Believing in an Infinite Power: Many people think of this as religion, but it really covers the entire realm of spiritual awareness. I do not know about you, but I really do believe that something is guiding my steps at times, and it is not just me. There have been too many remarkable surprises handed to me in life for me to take credit for thinking them up or for them to be just random coincidences. You can call it what you wish, but there is an Infinite Presence there somehow.
Helping others: Whenever you give of yourself to help another, you feel great about yourself. That effort is a really good wiggle in your daily routine. The help can come in any form, and the only criterion is that at that time you were thinking more about the other person’s situation than your own. The help could be financial, physical, emotional, or even comical.
Making something: To create a thing of beauty, or even ugliness since beauty is subject to interpretation, is a good wiggle. Some people are really good at this, like my father, who painted over 2000 fine watercolor paintings after the age of 55. Some people create great food or fine woodwork. To shape the elements into a new configuration that has never been done is intrinsically rewarding. Most creations are not marketable, but they are physical evidence that we were around and wiggling happily.
Teaching or mentoring: As we seek to impart some of our wisdom onto other people, we give the gift of knowledge. It is a subset of helping others, but this one is special, because we target the help on an individual who benefits from it. For a person with great insight and knowledge to keep it to himself really wastes his wiggle time. I think it is really difficult to mentor from the grave, although some people do believe strongly in doing it or receiving it, which is part of their own wiggle.
Appreciating what you experience: This attitude is all about not being numb to the beauty all around us every day. Seeing the small acts of kindness of one person toward another brings us joy. Marveling at the beauty of a flower, the taste of raspberry Jello, or the Bach B Minor Mass provides deep joy, but only if you are awake and paying attention.
Loving what you do: The ability to look at each day as an adventure into the possible instead of a drudgery of our current agony is what lifts us up. Hope is there when you enjoy your work and your play. There is a choice you make every day as you wiggle through it.
Those are just eight examples from the top of my head of how to make the most out of your 80-year wiggle. Who knows, you might beat the odds and wiggle until you are older than 100, or you might check out in your 20s. You will notice the absence of wealth or possessions on my list, because I think those things dry up and blow away very quickly after we stop wiggling. In the grand scheme of the world and the eons of time, the only thing that really matters is what you did with your opportunity to wiggle, not how big a pile of clutter you were able to generate.