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Archive for the month “December, 2011”

Be the Enabler

When you hear the term “enabler” there is usually a negative connotation associated with it. If you know or are associated with someone who has a destructive habit (drinking, gambling or drugs, for example) and we allow it to continue without challenging the problem, we are feeding the problem. By ignoring the problem we can become an enabler of the problem because we enable the problem to continue without a resolution. We can become as culpable for the problem as the person with the problem. In this instance being an enabler is bad but it’s causation has a seemingly good rational:

Enabling behavior is born out of our instinct for love.   It’s only natural to want to help someone we love, but when it comes to certain problems — helping is like throwing a match on a pool of gas. – Pam’s Planet

We permit the destructive behavior to continue because we love and care for the person and we don’t want to hurt them by confronting the issue head-on. Negative enabling can also happen within our organizations as well. For example, if we fail to confront people who breed negativity and dissention, we are doing a disservice to the organization and the people within it. By failing to correct the problem, we are enabling it.

As leaders, we are called to care for and serve the people around us; whether it be in our family, our church, our workplace or in our small groups. We are called to show empathy and compassion. We are called to influence and guide. We are called to empower and ENABLE. Oops, there is that word again. However as leaders we are called to be Enablers, but this time we have a positive connotation for the word “Enabler”.

An Enabling leader is passionate about finding ways to actively engage people in working on the issues that affect their organizations and themselves. – About Enabling Leadership.

There are two ways that we as effective leaders can be Enablers.

  1. Create an environment where others can grow and become the best they can be, to maximize their potential.
  2. Create an environment where potential leaders can grow to become exceptional leaders themselves.

The first way is to create a culture of openness, communication, empowerment, clear expectations, risk/reward and support. These concepts allow persons to have a greater sense of comfort with their position. We can help them understand their role in the big picture, to help bring meaning to their work and to feel comfortable with the choices that they make in doing their job. Leaders as Enablers, can create more effective and confident employees.

The second way is to create a culture of introspection, challenging thought, empathic consideration and service. We must teach potential leaders to delegate and empower others, to create a culture of accountability and responsibility for decisions made and unmade. We must also train them to communicate and engage those around them. As effective leaders, we are called to create more leaders, to reproduce ourselves. We are called to teach others to be Enablers, to teach them to empower and serve others.

 Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it. – Proverbs 22:6, (KJV)

So we see that the term “Enabler” can and does have a positive connotation; that it can mean adding value to someone. With apologies to Pam’s Planet, – For effective leaders, Enabling behavior is born out of our instinct for love.   It’s only natural to want to help someone we love. Enabling someone is like throwing a match on a pool of gas, igniting the passion for service. Your challenge is to be the Enabler and to empower the people around you, wherever you find yourself.

Leadership Lesson from Captain Picard

Captain Picard

Leadership lessons come from all sorts of different places.  Persons, events, articles, conversations, quotes, scriptures. Some intended as motivational and inspirational, some happenstance and epiphanic.

As a fan of the sci-fi genre, I have spent too much time traveling “where no person has gone before.”

While those hours at first blush may seem like time lost that could have been “sharpening the axe”, there is, however, at least one leadership lesson that can be learned from Captain Jean-Luc Picard of the Starship Enterprise.

With the immense scope of the universe laid out before them and untold adventures and dangers awaiting them, the crew poised at their posts awaiting the command to go to warp, Captain Picard stands stoically on the bridge and barks out the order, “Engage!”

A recent poll by Gallup describes the incredible challenge that faces business leaders.

According to Gallup, a majority of American workers are not engaged at work, only 29% of workers polled are engaged at work, 52% are not engaged and 19% are “actively disengaged”. These results are similar across many demographics, are not influenced by earnings level and have held relatively steady for years.

Years ago I took an executive position at company that had been profitable for years but lacked effective leadership. Within the company I found several persons of influence that had “checked out.”

As I began to connect with them, to understand where the company had been, where it had been successful and get a history of the company; I heard a lot of “whatevers” and “don’t cares.”

Those responses showed the depth of the indifference within the company. These individuals had become disengaged.

“The opposite of love is not hate. The opposite of love is indifference. Indifference is the complete lack of passion.”

Love and hate are both passion words. Both indicate strong emotions or passion regarding the subject. Both can be channeled into positive actions. Indifference can not be controlled or predicted.

“Indifference is a cancer to your organization.”

As leaders we are compelled to engender interest, excitement and passion in the persons within the organization. For the good of the individuals and for the good of the organization. Curt Rosengren at Passion Catalyst , defines passion as

“The energy that comes from bringing more of YOU into what you do.”

The natural question then is this:

What can we do as leaders to engage our people, to engender passion in them, to get them to bring more of themselves into what they do?

The leadership trait best associated with this is charisma.

Charismatic figures almost indescribably draw people to their cause, make people want to follow them, to believe in their purpose, to go beyond normal means to assist.

Fortunately for us mere mortals, charisma is not simply a God-given gift, it is not an angelic stream of light that shines from above illuminating the head and shoulders of the anointed few. Charisma is the ability to:

  • Be genuine
  • Be caring
  • Be communicative
  • Be passionate
  • Be “other person” centered
  • Be committed to a common-good goal
  • Be tireless in seeing that all individuals are rewarded equally

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On Leadership and Dominance

I recently had the opportunity to interact with a “successful” local company and they asked me to review a questionnaire that they require prospective hires to compete.

There were 8 or 10 sort of boiler plate, interview-type of questions, which were all well and good but there was a particular question which stood out to me as curious.

The question was:

Assertiveness & DominanceThe ability to express one’s ideas and opinions with conviction and authority is a key element in building the confidence of other people. How have you used these to get a group to do what you wanted?

This question quickly conjured up a couple of mental images. The first was the scene from the movie Snow Dogs where Cuba Gooding Jr. bites the ear of the lead dog to establish his dominance. The second was of a smoke-filled conference room with employees caught in an epic struggle to shout the others down in a cage match for control.

  • As I pulled myself back to reality, I began to wonder have I softened over the years?
  • Is it possible that assertiveness and dominance have a place in strong leadership values?

Those terms certainly seem antithetical to the concept of servant leadership.

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Courage or process: Your decision!

Recently, I have been watching an organization in transformation attempting to make significant decisions. Decisions that will impact the direction and effectiveness this 80 year old entity. At the core of this transformation is the competing and oft times conflicting interests of two groups. Add to this a new leader, coming to the organization within the last year and half, put in the position of having to mediate the years old disagreement.

Leadership requires that we make difficult decisions that come to us at a cost. According to John Maxwell, knowing the right decision is easy, making the right decision is hard and I would suggest that living the right decision is hardest. Having courage is not the lack of fear but rather the belief that there is something more important than fear. Having courage to make a decision, that you believe in your heart is the best decision for the organization, is the onus of all great leaders. This is one of the reasons that they say that it is lonely at the top.
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Lead from within

Leadership can be a baffling concept to some and elusive to others. How can I lead when I am “just …”? How can I lead when I don’t know how? Leadership is not a position or status. It is a calling of the heart to lead those around you by example and with principle.

To be an effective leader you must first earn the trust and respect of those you wish to lead. A trust and respect that can only be earned through servant sacrifice. As it says in Mark 9:35,

Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, “Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.”

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Anointed to Lead

Anointed to Lead

Now it was so, when Moses came down from Mount Sinai (and the two tablets of the Testimony were in Moses’ hand when he came down form the mountain), that Moses did not know that the skin of his face shone while he talked with Him . . . Afterward all the children of Israel came near, and he gave them as commandments all that the Lord had spoken with him on Mount Sinai.          Exodus 34:29, 32

When Moses brought down the commandments, his face shone with the glory of God. The nature and character of God had begun to rub off on Moses, and the glory took such a tangible form that he had to wear a veil over his face. The Israelites sensed both God’s presence in Moses’ leadership and a divine anointing to lead.

Do others describe your leadership as “anointed”? What does it mean to be anointed? Here’s one way to break it down. Anointed leadership is characterized by:

  1. Charisma – The anointed enjoy a sense of giftedness that comes from God. It seems magnetic.
  2. Character – People see God’s nature in your leadership. They trust you.
  3. Competence – You have the ability to get the job done. Your leadership produces results.
  4. Conviction – Your leadership has backbone. You always stand for what is right.

The Maxwell Leadership Bible

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