Since TC tends towards shorter posts.. and I had a rant in my heart… please visit it here:
Out here in the land of corporate offsite, I’ve had reason to think a great deal about leadership. There have been books written on this - far more than I could ever read or reference. But, when it comes down to it, leadership is a simple thing:
Leaders are people who others chose to follow.
I think the operative phrase there is: chose to follow. Dictators aren’t leaders. Emperors aren’t leaders. At least, not by virtue of their title. Neither are CEOs, Kings, or Presidents.
Choice is odd in our worlds. Thankfully, we are usually not in the position of choosing between compliance and bodily harm. However, I would argue that you are not actually choosing this leader if your reasons for staying sound more like “mortgage to pay” or “kid in college” or “401K vests next month” than “I learn a lot from working from Stan” or “I think we’re going to do something awesome with this new project.”
So, I maintain that we very much choose.
Now, the second part - the following part. I can choose to hang out because my boss seems nice, but is he taking me anywhere? You can easily have a set of groupies, but there is no mountain you’ve directed them to climb. A leader has to set direction and lead the charge.
The counterpoint to all of this, of course, is that a bad “leader” (I would argue they are no leader at all), neither directs the charge nor has willing followers. They may have power - but plenty of people throughout history have had power and forced people to move, but were far from leaders.
In the embroidered pillow of leadership I’m planning in my mind, the front says “Leaders are people who others chose to follow.”
And the back says “No one can be successful if their team roots for their failure”
Agita is a word that describes organizations better than any other I can think of. Agita is a state of agitation or anxiety, rooted in the acid-reflux of heartburn. It describes a state of worry, care, concern, panic, fear, dread, anxiousness, apprehension.
I’m surprised no one has really connected the stress of the workplace with the concept of agita. Agita is contagious. Client’s worry transfers to your worry. Boss’s fear become your fears. Employees insecurities become your insecurities. The collective agita of a workplace is a contagious disease. It eats away at healthy tissues and minds. It prevents actual work from getting done.
I’ve no idea how one can ever really go to work not being able to catch a contagious disease. But it seems building an immunity in the form of replacing agita emotions with calming emotions, might be the first step. It is a real disease.
There are no Right Answers, there is only the Right Defense.
What do I mean by this?
For the longest time I’ve been obsessed with getting to the Right Answer. The Right Answer was there, if you were just hard-working enough or smart enough to get there. There are a few people who are genuinely smart enough to only operate in the realm of Right Answers. But for the rest of us, especially those in most Management jobs, there is only one thing that is important, and that is the Right Defense.
Because marketing and management jobs are mostly subjective and there aren’t often clear paths to decisions. Even with a lot of data, or maybe because of it, the data is often murky. Because senior executives will always need data to prove what’s being said in order believe it themselves and be credible to their peers and other leaders. Because senior leaders fear anything that involves a black box or blind trust. Because clients or competitors can come out of the wood work with random things that catch you off guard when you least expect it.
Rationale is the secret sauce of a successful person, not the Right Answer. Reallocating 20% of the time devoted to getting to the Right Answer to the Right Defense can increase the odds of the Right Answer actually being accepted probably 80%.
The Right Defense takes many forms - from the Voice Over on a presentation, to the preparation for Questions in a large forum, to the anticipation of Objections in either client relationships, sales relationships or even software code. It can be the Story of how you got to the Answer you got to.