Leadership…a term that some believe is constantly evolving and is indefinable; also a word that thousands of books and podcasts are centered around. There are several opinions and definitions of leadership; some that contradict one another, others that are just fluffy reiterations of a previous definition or perspective. So how does one navigate the endless abyss of leadership resources? Which ones are worth reading or listening to? Who should I trust? Who should I believe? Which ones apply to me? These are all questions with answers that are rooted in your leadership philosophy.
What is a leadership philosophy? I’m glad you asked. I personally define it as a theory or attitude that you hold that acts as a guiding principle for your behavior. To provide more context, it’s the underlying current that influences how you behave, the skills you choose to learn, and the traits/attributes that you choose to adopt as a leader. Your leadership philosophy is the “mission statement” of what you believe about leadership.
Where does one begin? Determining your leadership philosophy is central around one question: what do I believe the job and function of a leader is? This is where everyone has a different opinion, which is why there are so many thoughts on leadership. I appreciate simplicity in function, and I’ve uncovered really two philosophies on leadership that other opinions derive from (yes, this is my opinion): transactional and transformational.
Simply put, transactional leadership believes that if an employee does “A” then they are to be rewarded with “B”. This relationship is very transactional and the influence that the leader has is really centered around what they can give the employee. While most may not admit it, this leadership philosophy drives majority of leaders’ behaviors. Think about it…what’s the primary way in which you try to attract talent? How do you retain your employees? Are rewards and incentives only given is specific goals are met?
This leadership philosophy is not “bad”, a leader can achieve expected results through it. It’s just a very superficial relationship between the leader and employee. Also, this philosophy is much easier to execute and is much more widely accepted.
Transformational leadership operates on the assumption that the leader will help the employee reach their goals (personal and professional), and in return, the employee will help the leader achieve theirs (personal and professional). It’s a mutually beneficial relationship that goes much deeper than what one can do for the other one. Transformational leaders not only meet expected results, they exceed them.
While I will not get into the weeds and details of this particular philosophy and how to execute it in this article, there are four things that make a leader transformational:
1. The leader leads each person differently. The leader will adapt his style to the needs of each individual employee. The leader provides empathy and honest communication to the employee, and the leader challenges the employee to be better and grow.
2. The leader stimulates the intellect of their employees. The transformational leader will challenge the assumptions, mindsets, perspectives, and ideas of the employee. They will also encourage the employee to take risks and think outside-the-box. This leader will stimulate creativity, innovation, and different perspectives.
3. The leader motivates through inspiration. There’s nothing worse than having a “boss” that hates their job or is super pessimistic about the future. The transformational leader actively inspires and motivates the employees, first, towards their own personal goals and vision; then towards the goals and vision of the team and organization. This leader provides hope and something for people to look forward to.
4. The leader sets the example. In short, the transformational leader is worth following. This person is present (emotionally and physically), transparent, shares their own failures and challenges, and is able to identify with and relate to their employees. They’re not sitting in their ivory tower.
Transformational leadership is altruistic and fluffy, but it is difficult to execute, and let me tell you right now, it will cost you something; it may be time, money, energy, a goal, an opportunity. The most influential leader in history paid for the transformation of his followers with His life. While I don’t expect that most of you will ever be faced with that particular situation, you may have to sacrifice something else. Another reason it is difficult is that it assumes that your employees want to grow and be developed personally and professionally. Getting people to this point would take more words, so, I will pass on that for now (but you can email or call us!).
So which philosophy aligns most with your personal beliefs, values, and convictions? Is there another philosophy that you hold (again, this article is just my opinion)? Do your behaviors, financial decisions, calendar, and meetings reflect the philosophy you want? What will you sacrifice so that other people can experience growth and transformation?
Here’s an article, podcast + video I’m loving right now.
- Train people well enough so they can leave. Treat them well enough so they don’t want to. Check out this short article for inspiration.
- Podcast: Story Brand interview with Horst Schulze, co-founder of the Ritz-Carlton. You can also read about the time I had chips and queso with Horst here.
- Video: 5- minute TED-Ed What would happen if you didn’t sleep. While you’re at it, check out my personal power nap strategy. Naps can be a game-changer!
Have a great week, y’all!
Punch the Performance Factor in the Throat.
For as long as I can remember, I have been driven by the need to perform. I’m not talking about doing my best; I’m talking about the idea that I had to be the best at anything and everything. If I wasn’t the one standing on the proverbial mountaintop, then I was a failure. For instance, if I spoke I would immediately check social media to see what people were saying about it and if I didn’t have any mentions, then I was a failure. Yes, it was vain I know.
I would also constantly check the numbers for our organization on
a weekly basis and if we were down or had not grown by 15% from the previous
year… I would want to crawl into the deepest cave. I would feel like a failure for days or until
the next week when the numbers were up and I was back on top. I lived for the approval of man and I loved
the pat on the back.
This constant need for approval just created an arrogant monster
that was fed by approval and the applause of others. If I performed well, I was their hero. It was all about me. However, if I didn’t perform well it led me
down the slippery slope of excuses and the passing of blame.
My own 12 year old daughter began to see it and one afternoon
drive she could tell I was irritated and frustrated. She is not your typical 12 year old. She enjoys politics and science and has an
incredible heart for people. The words
that came out of her mouth were blunt, to the point, and as sharp as a straight
razor. “Dad, what if it wasn’t all about
the numbers or about you at all, what if it was about the people? You can’t control who shows up and I’m tired
of you being angry and frustrated all the time.”
I was broken. That conversation rocked me to my core for the next
several weeks and months. It took my
daughter calling out my arrogance and need for approval to make me realize I
had focused far to long on performance, results and perfection. Enough was enough, it was time to punch the
performance factor in the throat and pursue humility and excellence.
We all deal with the performance factor, no matter how big or
small our workplace is. The need to
perform and achieve results is often discussed in staff and leadership
meetings. But what if we changed our
perspective? What if we focused more on
humility and excellence in our companies and organizations? Would they change? Would it have such a great
impact that it actually changed the world?
I believe so, but how? How do we
pursue humility and excellence and still succeed in the business world and in
life? I want to look at pursuing humility first. I will save pursuing excellence for the next
CS Lewis said, “Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it’s
thinking of yourself less.” This
definition of Humility is simple, but holds so much power. In it we find that thinking of yourself less
is a key ingredient to a fulfilled life, free from the need to perform for
others. If we don’t need to perform,
then we don’t have to think we are better than we are or exaggerate our
results. We can be free to serve and not
worry about the result, because the result will take care of itself. Yes, if you pursue humility with everything
you have I fully believe no matter what happens in your organization or
business you will be a success. So what
does pursuing humility really look like?
Pursuing humility gives you a quiet confidence that when you are
asked to take out the trash you do so with a thankful heart and to the best of
your ability. Pursuing Humility allows
you to say “I know who I am,” and you don’t have to take the credit for a job
well done, and in fact you enjoy giving the credit away. Pursuing humility is knowing your calling,
which gives you patience and keeps you in your current position until you are
elevated in due time. Pursuing humility
is being ok with not being right even if you are right. Pursuing humility is showing you care enough
for your employee or employer to take them a meal when times are rough, even if
it’s not convenient.
Can you imagine what would happen if corporations and
organizations had employees pursuing humility like that? Let’s approach our work with a different
mindset. Let’s pursue humility and PUNCH
the performance factor in the throat this week.
#1. How to break a habit (3 minute video)
Key takeaway: Before breaking a bad habit, first pay attention to the cues and triggers influencing that habit (environment, time of day, and overall patterns)
#2. Three unexpected reasons people don’t ask questions:
Key takeaway: We often assume that when someone comes to us with a question, we must know and give the perfect answer on the spot. Not true! This assumption leads to excessive, unhelpful advice-giving instead of probing deeper, finding the root issues, and letting the problem-solving process take place.
#3. EntreLeadership Podcast – Everyday Millionaires
Key takeaway: Ordinary people (even teachers!) can achieve extraordinary wealth. Follow Chris Hogan on Instagram for extra inspiration.
If you want to lead others well, you’ve got to start by leading you. Leading yourself to become a better leader and a better person requires humility, commitment, and self-awareness. Today, I’m focusing on the self-awareness piece.
None of us can see ourselves clearly. We need people outside of us who are willing to tell us the truth in love. We need to be radically honest with ourselves – Where are we weak? Where do we need to grow? If you can’t quickly name at least 3 weaknesses you’re working on right now, you’re missing out on your growth as a leader.
Here are some suggestions to enhance your self-awareness. Yes, sometimes the truth hurts. It’s never fun to be confronted with our character defects. But the truth beats self-deception. Only by seeing the truth can you change and become better!
Step 1: Ask trustworthy people what you could do better. Try friends, co-workers, bosses, your spouse—or all of the above. Don’t put them on the spot. Give them some advance notice so they have time to think about it, process it. Be careful how you word the question. Not, “Are there some things I could do better?” (yes or no question, makes it too easy to say no). Ask “What are some specific things I could do to make me a better leader?” Don’t settle for a “nothing—you’re great!” Press in until you get at least one constructive response.
Step 2: Thank them for their honesty. It’s hard to give honest feedback! Don’t bite their head off or get defensive. You are here to learn. Once you’ve demonstrated humility and self-control in your response, it’s time to take some time to process their feedback. Were you already aware of this weak spot? How do you think it might be present in other areas of your life? Once you’ve done some introspection, it’s time for step 3.
Step 3: Create a plan for change. Ask for accountability. Have your leadership coach check your progress at each meeting. Tell a friend to text you once a week to ask how you’re doing with your patience/attitude/communication, etc… Create a plan to improve, share it with at least one other person, and watch your leadership capabilities rise with each new improvement.
January is a chance to pause and start fresh. If you’re like
me, you’re brimming with hopes and plans for the new year. More sleep, focusing
on health, organization, time management…the options are endless – and
If you have your goals in mind and are ready to amplify your
outcomes, try these three tweaks. Apply just one, or do all three for a real
Step 1: Delete social
media apps from your phone. It doesn’t have to be forever, but trust me,
you can do it for just one month. When the impulse to check something or post
something arises, replace it with a different behavior. Read a few pages of a
good book. Pray. Do some push-ups. Go to bed. Endless options ensue!
Step 2: Take a month off TV. This is a tradition my husband Trevor and I started last year. January means no Netflix, no TV, no Hulu, no Amazon Prime. You can read more here about my experience last year, but one good outcome you’ll like have is more sleep. Without the temptation to stream “just one more episode,” you will probably go to bed earlier. A month where you’re finally getting enough sleep? Now that’s how to jumpstart the year! (You’ll probably also have more conversations, finish more books/podcasts, and try some new recipes, but the sleep alone makes this one worth it).
Step 3: Stop snoozing
on week days. You’ve stopped staying up late scrolling through Instagram. You’re
no longer binge watching The Great British Baking Show past bedtime. Now you’re
ready for step 3: no more snoozing.
Commit to your alarm time and honor that commitment. Perhaps
you want to get ready for the day without feeling rushed and stressed. Maybe you’d
like to take time for a morning workout or coffee and devotional time. Whatever
you do with the time, take charge of your morning instead of stumbling into it
after one too many snoozes. Need help? Text a friend for accountability. Don’t
pick the nicest, gentlest person you know. Ask someone who will hold you to it
and check in with you (spouses can be great at this).
If you want to make an even bigger impact, invite your significant other to join you on your jumpstart.
Wishing you and yours the best of new years!