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Leaders are always a work in progress
November 3, 2014 | By Neil Ducoff | 1 Comment
Over twenty-one years ago, I founded Strategies to coach and train business owners in the disciplines of leadership, performance and growth. I am proud beyond words of my company. In 2008, I wrote a book called No-Compromise Leadership. It won the 2010 IPPY Award for business and leadership. I am also proud beyond words of that book. Guess what? After 40+ years of doing classes, keynotes, countless articles, three books, and coaching leaders … not to mention writing 354 Monday Morning Wake-Ups … I am proud to say that as a leader, I am still a work in progress. I still have much to learn and many disciplines to master.
One of the most challenging aspects of coaching leaders is getting them to lower their “shields” and objectively assess their leadership abilities. Most often, a leadership coach is hired to “fix” problems, which typically means that the leader wants us to fix people (the culture), financial challenges and performance issues. But all business challenges occur on the leader’s watch. The leader is always the common denominator – the one constant in every situation. That’s what I try to explain to a potential client when he or she says, “I’ve hired coaches before and nothing ever changes.” My response is always, “You are correct. Nothing will change until you, the leader, change first.”
It’s revitalizing to be a work in progress because it opens up a world of opportunities that cannot exist when a leader’s shields are up and closed. Every leader has a unique collection of beliefs and behaviors. There is no one-size-fits-all strategy for upgrading who you are as a leader to No-Compromise status. Some leaders are open to new ideas, systems and concepts. There are leaders who recognize that their skills and abilities need improvement, and these leaders seek out the best education, mentors or coaches to help achieve that end. In contrast, there are leaders who are extremely closed off to new ideas and reject any attempts to change their thinking. Their minds are locked and inaccessible … and they prefer to keep it that way.
For leaders, few challenges eclipse the need to objectively examine one’s basic beliefs about leading people. Leaders must do this in order to harness and organize collective efforts and achieve the right outcomes. Beliefs act like an internal guidance system. It doesn’t matter if you’re headed in the right or wrong direction; your beliefs are what keep you on course. For a leader to change his or her beliefs requires an extremely high level of openness and contemplation. But, I caution you – no matter how open you perceive yourself to be, your beliefs will continue to filter and reject conflicting input and data unless you truly allow your mental shields to come down.
To become a No-Compromise Leader (and stay a work in progress), you must unlearn many of your past practices.
- You must find innovative ways of challenging your beliefs, so you can be open to new ideas and opportunities.
- You must create your own compelling value proposition for change. Begin by answering two simple questions.
1. If you continue your current leadership thinking and behavior, will you ever achieve the results you seek?
2. If you change and adopt new leadership thinking and behavior, what would the possibilities look like?
- You must avoid resisting new ideas, concepts and points of view that differ from those that supported your past successes. What got you here could be obsolete tomorrow.
- You must adopt a mindset that helps foster more fulfilling relationships in your organization. Lead to serve. Lead to win.
- You must believe that it’s not only possible to find a more enlightened path as a No-Compromise Leader – it’s your responsibility to your company, your employees, your customers and yourself.
Knowledge can be defined as information organized in a framework that renders that information useful. Simply put, it might be that your context for viewing information about leadership is significantly reducing, or even preventing, its effective use. Very often, your mindset stands as an invisible shield to innovation and learning. Your mindset can make you informed, but not knowledgeable. To become more knowledgeable, you will have to accelerate a process of self-examination and resist the temptation to seek simple answers. To accomplish that, the No-Compromise Leader must keep his or her ego in check. Otherwise, any attempt at self-examination will be pointless.
CONCLUSION: “Open” leaders are receptive to the perspectives and points of view of those they lead. Not everything you hear may fit in with what you want for your company, but there are always new insights to be gained by listening. “Closed” leaders are just that – closed to the opinions, perspectives and points of view of those they lead. Closed leaders are more “command and control” … and therefore are inflexible and resistant to change.
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