5 Top Leadership Articles for the Week of January 23, 2017

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Each week I read a number of leadership articles from various online resources and share them across social media. Here are the five (plus one more bonus) articles readers found most valuable last week. I have added my comment about each article and would like to hear what you think, too.

The Secret Ingredient for Extraordinary Leadership by Jane Perdue at Lead Change Group

Do you (or your organization) use the vending machine approach to leadership?

That approach is when someone asks the boss a question (inserting the coins) and out pops (like the candy bar, soda, or bag of chips) the correct answer.

This “all-knowing” expectation is common in many organizations: you, as a leader, are rewarded for looking smart by quickly providing answers. Because what gets rewarded gets done, you adjust your actions to fit the preferred mold.

My Comment: Until they learn a different way, most managers fall into the vending machine tendency Perdue describes. Unfortunately, when you always give them a ready answer, the learn quickly that you will willingly do their thinking for them. Soon, you have no time to do your own work as you have a parade of people waiting on you for answers. Worse, they never develop the critical thinking and problem solving skills they need (and that you want them to have). Perdue gives you sound ideas to avoid this mindset and foster your own curiosity. We share more on how to coach your employees, develop their critical thinking, and build a loyal team of problem solvers in chapter 14 of Winning Well.

7 Strategies for Employee Engagement by Toby Savill

Motivating and engaging the people who work for you shouldn’t require bundles of policies and procedures. All it really takes is the willingness to do things differently, communicate better and be more collaborative.

Here are our 7 top strategies all of them low-cost and easy to start implementing today that can help you engage your people and improve your working environment.

My Comment: Sometimes I’m concerned about the employee engagement fad. Too often, I see managers and executives focus on their employee engagement score, rather than the behaviors that actually engage employees. When it comes to engagement, remember that it is a product of healthy leadership – not an end to seek on its own. As we say in Winning Well: play the game, don’t game the score. Savill’s suggested strategies are a great place to start.

Why Real Leaders Have Strong Egos (And That’s a Good Thing) by S. Chris Edmonds at Fast Company

Ego tends to get a bad rap in leadership circles, and it’s no wonder why. When somebody is said to “have an ego,” it’s typically meant that they’re arrogant, condescending, or self-absorbed. The best leaders are popularly cast as humble servants, visionaries who’ve managed to shrink their egos to make room for other people, ideas, and ways of doing things.

Executives are routinely coached to turn away from ego altogether. They’re led to believe their egos will only get in the way of their credibility and effectiveness, and spell certain doom for their ability to forge a purposeful, positive, productive work culture.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

My Comment: Edmonds does leaders everywhere a great service by disentangling the difference between healthy ego and its darker counterparts. In short: you need the awareness, pride, and productivity that a healthy ego brings you. Unfortunately, in our language, the notions of ego-mania and narcissism muddy these conversations. Even the definition of ‘pride’ in the dictionary has two conflicting meanings. Edmonds takes the argument for healthy ego a step farther, suggesting that your team and organization also have collective egos. Healthy leaders are aware of both their own and their organization’s egos and work to support them both.

The Challenge with Motivation by Steve Rizzo at C-Suite Network

One of the biggest challenges that people in business and in life face today is keeping themselves motivated to be at their best. I believe the challenge lies not just in knowing how to get motivated, but how to stay motivated and optimistic to be at their best for more than just a few days.

Most companies put a great deal of time and energy in hiring people who they believe are qualified to fill a particular position. But there is no guarantee that even a highly qualified person will always be motivated to be at their best. It simply means they have what it takes to get the job done.

My Comment: Rizzo takes a fun look through the lens of circumstances that interfere with motivation. He encourages you to be aware of these causes so that you can do something about them. Fair warning: the ‘what to do about them’ are left for his new book: Motivate This!

As I share with every audience, every client, and every leader I meet: you cannot motivate people. People’s motivation, as with yours, comes from within. Your job is to cultivate an environment that releases people’s energy, strength, and talents toward the mission. You can do the same for yourself as well. (In fact, taking responsibility for your own motivation this way is a foundational leadership characteristic.)

The One Characteristic That Makes You a Great Leader by LaRae Quy at SmartBrief

The FBI spends a great deal of time, effort, and money in training agents to be great leaders because agents need to be able to land on their feet when confronted with the unknown.

They also need to know how to get people to trust them with their lives, persevere when challenged with adversity and always come out on the right end of a terrorism case. Great leaders understand how to keep moving forward when roadblocks threaten their success.

The one characteristic that makes FBI agents great leaders is honesty. Lack of candor will get an agent fired quicker than any other mistake or transgression.

My Comment: Don’t let the simplicity of the word ‘honesty’ fool you into complacency. Quy takes a deeper look at what real honesty looks like for leaders. How often and how readily do you own your mistakes? How conscientious are you? Do you cultivate the Winning Well values of humility and confidence in yourself? These are the hallmarks of an honest, and truly trusted, leader.

Leadership Speaker David Dye

David works with leaders to get results without losing their soul (or mind) in the process. Have David keynote your next event or deliver corporate training: Email today or call 303.898.7018!

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