Orchestrating Success

Orchestrating Success

OS 117: 5 Top Challenges for Today's Leaders

March 18, 2019

Top Challenges for Today’s Leader

Leadership is a general topic that people understand in different ways; in fact people have contrasting and conflicting perceptions of how leaders should behave and what leaders should do. Therefore, there are many gaps between theory and effective performance for leaders. Over the past 31 years in working with leadership in many types of organizations doing different kinds of work and leading different sizes of groups, I have observed these 5 things that are my vision of why many leaders don't make the progress that they are capable of and don't’ get into a stride of continuous improvement that propels them into the place they deserve. So, consequently leaders are over stressed with too many demands on their time, have lower performing teams than expected, and earn less income than possible.

Here are my thoughts as to why these leadership gaps and ways to address each one:

1) Not Understanding True Leadership: We have had leadership bad models and have been taught things that aren’t working today, and may have never worked. The “Boss” or autocratic leader is a thing of the past. Many people in positions of authority use power of position as the leverage to get people to perform. If we truly have a team of competent people, then it’s crucial to let them perform, as they are capable. Telling people what to do isn’t the answer to getting the best results, unless the leader only wants to be around to boss people all the time and do nothing else. This doesn’t develop capacity for anyone and wastes the energy, time and talent of the leader. True leadership in my world is Transformational Leadership where the leader is the influencer, visionary, and empowering agent for others to perform. Leaders lead. Others do. Whoever taught us that we should be willing to do anything we ask others do to most likely didn’t mean that we had to actually do it. If so, why have others anyway?

2) Not Being Vulnerable: Fear of being wrong comes from the misconception that leaders must have all the right answers. It’s more important for leaders to ask good questions and empower others to have the right answers. Saying, “I don’t have the answer” is a true way of being vulnerable. One strength of leadership is being vulnerable by letting other know we don’t have the answers and that we don’t have all the skills. We lead by example and not by bluffing. When we bluff, then people intuitively know it, so we lose credibility. Being authentic is a top trait of the Transformational Leader. In face, we should have a team of people with contrasting skills to ours and people who fill in the gaps of our competencies. What a novel thought, eh?

3) Not Understanding the Value of Relationships: Leadership is based on relationship. Always work on relationships with those in your charge. This is misunderstood by many as having to be “friends” with employees. No, that not the only choice. And it does not mean that the leader must make decisions so that people will like them. The inverse is true. Make principle based decisions so people will respect you. Value and respect people over results, then they become more focused on results along with you. Leadership is relationships. Communication is also enhanced through good relationships.

4) Not Understanding How to Manage Self: Writer Richard Rohr says that, “Transformed people transform people.” He also says, “Wounded people wound people.” Not managing self is a start of building a dysfunctional team. If the leader is anxious, then the team is anxious. If the leader is dishonest, then the team is dishonest. You get the idea. Having a value driven, principle-based personal practice is key to high functioning as a leader of others. The team is a reflection of the leader. Not having a high level of self-awareness and self-control is going to drive results that are not desirable. Murray Bowen’s theory of leadership is based on “Differentiation of Self.”  It’s critical to manage self to be a high functioning leader.

5) Not Having a Plan:Chasing the “shiny object” is what entrepreneurs are accused of doing. That scenario is not limited to entrepreneurs, however. I’m surprised as to how many leaders are leading without a plan. This is a form of control due to insecurity. If others are dependent on the leader for action directions, then the leader is always in control. This is a system that greatly limits activity and is dependent on one person. With a written plan, everyone knows what to do and when to do it and can function at an optimum level. The leader then guides the process.

Reversing these dysfunctions is moving from “Push” leadership to “Pull” leadership. The musical conductor pulls music out of the ensemble by letting others perform up to their highest standard. This is no different in the workplace.