Wednesday, November 28, 2012

It's a Hard-Knock Life

As a student of human behavior and motivation I have researched one topic more than any other - How Leaders Motivate Themselves.  I'm am fascinated by what differentiates great leaders when they are faced with what seems like insurmountable odds and how they overcome them; often alone.  Let's face it, sometimes, many times, leadership is not a team sport.  There is no pow-wow, motivational rally or heart-to-heart for the leader when times get tough.  Instead most leaders are left alone, face in a mirror working their way through difficult situations on their own.  I know this both by observation and experience.

Why is that?

As a leader I believe we need to tread lightly when focusing on the 'why' of a situation.  It's useful to examine how a situation came about, what factors may have attributed to it, etc. but getting sucked into 'why' can be as deadly as walking into quicksand and just about as productive.  Yet in this instance I feel it is important to remind all of us that the one drawback of leadership is that most of the time others see leaders as so capable they don't need any help.  Let's bust that myth right now and make a mental note to keep an eye on our leader friends for signs of struggle and come alongside them in support when needed.  It's a lonely and dangerous place for even the most capable leaders when they are faced with personal and professional challenges alone so be aware that your leader friends are people too and in need of companionship and support and make an effort to be there for them in their times of need.


Ok Let's get Back on Track:

So how does it happen, this mystery of self motivation and pulling oneself up by the bootstraps and moving forward?  I believe it happens the same way it happens when leaders motivate others, but this time the conversation is with yourself.  I love the proverbial picture of the devil on one shoulder and the angel on the other because I believe that we have two voices that speak to us; one that speaks defeat and one that speaks encouragement.  The two things that leaders do best are to speak out encouraging and motivating words with conviction and strength and weed out and dispose of things that can bog you down in nonsense.  So when a leader finds herself in that dark place, alone, nose-to-nose with the mirror she says to herself all the things that she would say to anyone else she was trying to motivate.  Things like, "you can do this" or "you were made for this" or "if anyone can figure this thing out you can."  She also talks sense into herself by asking those how and why questions, stepping back and examining that problem from the perspective of a capable and qualified problem solver.  She may say, "this is not your forte, but you know what?  I know exactly whose forte it is - I'm going to sit down with that person soon and discuss this."  Essentially she steps outside herself and handles her own stuff just like she would handle like anyone elses.

Now at this point you may be saying to yourself - that's it????  I thought there was going to be something profound here!  Well folks that is it and yes it is quite profound.  How easy it is to have a pity party when you find yourself solo - who would even know?  How easy is it to get angry, blame others or quit when you are alone?  How many people do we see do that every day?!  How easy is it to run to something to mask our fear, bury ourselves in something that gives us comfort and hide from big scary problems?  People do that all the time!  But to stand companionless and wrestle with giants - to speak faith and encouragement, strength and wisdom to yourself when it's so much easier to run away scared is HUGE!  Sisters (and brothers) if you can lead yourself when it's just you, your demons and some big problems in a room - you can lead people, you can lead.

In The End

Think back with me and remember the times you have done just that and in the end you overcame.  There is no better place to be - no other times I have had more confidence in my abilities than when I have struggled alone and came out on top.  Those are the times that my inner little girl steps aside with a big sloppy grin on her face and says to herself  "WOW!  You SO rock lady!"  And those are the stones I bring with me when I face down new giants - that's my arsenal and some powerful stuff it is.

So yes it can be a hard knock life, especially when you run in front of the pack.  But to have survived blow after blow, time after time, makes us stronger and builds our confidence in ways circumstances can never hinder.

It's Your Turn:

What are your thoughts on my perspective here?  Is there something you do when you face your toughest challenges that you would like to share with others?  Today I want to offer you encouragement, Leader to Leader.  If you are struggling I believe you are the best person for the job to handle whatever it is you are facing and if you persevere in the end you will find your reward - even if it's nothing more than being tougher than you were when you started :)  Peace friends!

image courtesy of

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Take Me to Your Leader

photo courtesy of

Well here we are again facing another Presidential election and the last few months have been filled with debates, speculation and Facebook posts about each candidate.  As a student of Leadership I'm amazed at the things that have been publicized that are most important to voters.  My biggest concern over this election is the obvious swing towards choosing a candidate that supports each voters personal agenda.  This is alarming because that isn't how we should elect our leaders - yet it does appear that this is how our society undertakes the privilege of voting.

The Purpose of Governance

In the last decade we have seen the fallout that happens when those in positions of leadership use their authority to achieve the goals of a select few.  Governance is not a process of order taking but is designed to promote leaders who can look at the big picture make decisions that do the most good for the majority of people.  Social responsibility is an area where the long view is key and good leaders attempt to leave things in a better state than when they arrived.

Corporate Leadership vs. National Leadership

What are the qualifications of an able leader?  Are they different for those in the corporate realm and the political arena?  As I've mentioned in previous posts many people elect leaders based on the Trait Approach to Leadership.  They see traits such as charisma, intelligence, persistence, self-confidence and sociability as the traits that determine able leadership.  But possessing those traits doesn't necessarily qualify a leader to effectively lead.  Traits don't ensure that a leader is capable of effectively and efficiently governing and most businesses would require more a more practical, defined set of qualifications when hiring for a position of leadership. As voters should we require anything different?

Societal worldview has a great influence in determining what the public deems important.  In this era of celebrity worship I think it is important to remind us that the office of President is a position of public service.  Public servants are obligated to pursue service to their constituents rather than working toward their own self-interests (or toward the agendas of lobbyists).  This requires humility and a willingness to become deeply accountable to the public for the results of their decisions.

Effective leadership also builds credibility when it develops the capacity to liberate leadership in others.  When analyzing political leadership let's be reminded that our American government is a government For the people and By the people.  This means leaders and constituents are mutually responsible for the same effects.  Leaders that encourage shared decision making and promote collaborative, team-oriented discussions build public confidence and corporate responsibility.  Leaders that empower that same ability in those they lead create a culture of strong, collaborative leaders capable of the same types of leadership for the next generation as well. 

Lastly, effective political leaders are qualified for the positions they hold by experience.  They should have a track record that speaks to their ability to effectively govern.  We should be looking at what governmental positions they held previously and how well they fared in those roles.  I'm not sure this in an area where transferable skills are plausible, at least they shouldn't be considered as valid as those true experiential qualifications.

Now What?

We are so fortunate to live in this great country and if you have the ability to vote I encourage you to do so.  The future of this country is entirely up to us so take a look at our candidates and vote for the one you feel is most qualified for the job.  Should you think that we have choices that don't meet those qualifications it's up to us to make sure that next time we have a more qualified selection. 

It's Your Turn:

What are your thoughts on this post? (Please no political endorsements) Was there something here that made you think?  Did you find that this perspective was different or similar to the position you have held regarding political leadership?  I look forward to reading your responses!