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There is no app for leadership
February 18, 2013 | By Neil Ducoff | 7 Comments
There’s an app for just about everything, so wouldn’t it be nice if there was an app for leadership? It could tell when you’re not paying attention, make decisions for you, handle your fierce conversations, and play a special ring tone when you should stop talking and listen. It could negotiate contracts, leases, and other deals for you. It could keep you from overspending so you stay on budget. It could even motivate your team to achieve extraordinary levels of productivity and excellence. An app for leadership would certainly have its advantages, but would you really discipline yourself to use it?
If you think about it, leadership is really more abstract and unique to each individual. Some leaders are quiet while others are loud. Some are deep methodical thinkers while others are all about taking action. Some are extremely disciplined while others are totally out of control. Some are fearless while others live in fear. The only absolute about leadership is that there are no absolutes.
Your effectiveness as a leader will never be determined by an app on your smartphone. It will be determined by your unique patterns of thinking and behavior. It’s your thinking and behavior that defines you; how you process information, communicate with others, make decisions, and handle tough situations – all are specific to you and only you.
Since there isn’t an app for leadership, here are some no-compromise thoughts on leadership thinking and behavior:
- Blockages: All leaders have a collection of things they just don’t like to do. I call them blockages. If you avoid tough conversations like the plague, you have a blockage when it comes to confrontational situations. If you hate financial reports and cash-flow plans, you have a blockage when it comes to numbers. Leadership blockages are emotional barriers for business disciplines that are outside your comfort zone. Like fear of flying and public speaking, all emotional barriers can be conquered to some degree. You don’t have to become an expert – you just need to commit yourself to step into the unknown. There is no greater feeling of accomplishment than breaking through a blockage.
- Time: I hate being late for anything. Likewise, I don’t like it when others are late. As individuals, we each have our own perspective on time and how we manage it. For some, a deadline is a non-negotiable event that cannot and will not be compromised. For others, a deadline is an approximation. Of course, there are those that view deadlines as an indicator of when work should begin. For leaders, time is a precious resource. You must take command of your time first in order to manage the time of those you lead.
- Commitments: Every time you say you’re going to do something, it is a commitment. Think of it as a binding contract to perform and deliver as promised. Your commitments are the foundation of trust. As a business coach, I work to fix contaminated cultures that almost always have broken commitments from leadership as the root cause. It doesn’t matter how much your employees like you as a person, they need to trust you as their leader to deliver on your commitments. Large or small, a broken commitment is a broken promise.
- Being liked: Leadership is about making decisions and not all decisions will be liked by everyone. Sometimes you will have to make tough and unpopular decisions for the wellbeing of the company. No matter how badly you want to say “yes,” sometimes you will have to say “no” and disappoint an employee. You are the voice of your company. Invest the time to offer clarity on your decisions. It still may not smooth ruffled feathers, but it will help your team to understand and respect your decision. For leaders, respect based on openness and clarity is more important than being liked.
- Be present: It’s so easy for leaders to get caught up in their many projects to the point where they distance themselves from their employees. You can come to work every day and still be disconnected from your people. Allow this disconnect to go on for too long and your tribe will get restless. It doesn’t take much effort to engage with your employees and show that you care and appreciate their contributions. No-compromise leaders keep the connection to those they lead alive and intact.
No app will ever make you the leader you are capable of being. Being an effective no-compromise leader will always be about your individual thinking and behavior.
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