Thursday, March 28, 2013

Leadership is NOT for Sissies

Leadership is a privilege that comes with a tremendous amount  of responsibility.  At 48 years old I am just now learning how to become an effective leader.

What I now know is you can't be a great leader in a vacuum.  You have to be visible to lead.  You have to inspire and engage your employees/volunteers.

I also have learned you can't be a great leader until you look in the mirror.  I mean a long hard look. What has served you well in the past and in other situations may not be your formula for success in your current situation.

I have been holding that mirror up now for almost 4 months.  I have learned that I have some great leadership characteristics around getting things done, crafting a vision and possessing a lot of credibility and integrity.  Those are all great and I am proud to have them.

Just like the old adage goes...ok what's the bad news.  Well, there is no bad news when you are dealing with leadership development.  It's all "good news" as my business partner said, because now you are aware of what issues need to be worked on.

I have a big personality and more than my fair share of confidence.  I see a goal and I will get there until it kills me or leaves dead bodies.  That style doesn't work for long and it certainly doesn't foster creativity, collaboration and idea generation.  People are too afraid to speak up, disagree or challenge me.  In certain situations my confidence fades to arrogance which is not a desired situation for me or those that I lead. The only emotion I show at work is anger, frustration and aggravation because individuals don't meet MY expectations.

If you think about my style it is very Jack Welch like, very hard charging CEO like.  I lead like a man.  I believe I learned this style coming up in industries where it was male dominated and I felt I had to be "one of the boy's" to survive.  I developed a very tough exterior, I did not want anyone to see me sweat.   My personality obviously is perfect for this role.  I have heard I need to read the new book, Lean In, by Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, as it describes some of these same situations.

Fast forward to today...not such a great way to lead.  I have now learned a few things about leadership from the best in the business, The Turknett Leadership Group.   You have to balance your emotional mastery with your responsibility (task) and all of that is grounded by integrity.  Check out their leadership model here.  Well, at least I have two out of the three.

So for now, I am on a journey.  I have taken the first step, "Hi, My name is Cathy and I am low on Emotional Mastery."  It's interesting that I have discounted the people side of the leadership equation and I am in Human Resources.  But, if I look at my work in HR it's all about strategy, metrics and performance management.  I have never been good at employee relations...go figure!

I write this today, because now I am experiencing how difficult leadership is.  When we see excellent leaders you have to wonder, have they been down this same path of learning to be great?  I guess it goes back to; is it nature or is it nurture? In my situation I have to say its both.  I encourage those of you that are inspiring leaders to start this journey sooner rather than later.  Get that mirror out!
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