The Millennial Leadership Series : How do you grow your leadership?


This is a question that I am frequently asked by the students of the two business schools where I am a visiting faculty. Knowing about my decades of corporate experience, they assume that I carry nuggets of experience based wisdom that can grow leadership. I do not have the heart to tell them that my so called “experience wisdom” seldom if at all played a role in my leadership initiatives. In fact if truth be told, my leadership situation most of the times was akin to, “I have no idea where I am going”.

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So how does one grow into great leadership?

Well for a start, one cannot think one’s way into great leadership.  It really comes down to putting our feet on the ground, being a “Do- er” under all situations, never mind the nay-sayers and doomsday prophets.  The essence really is “DOING”. We grow when we do things, as we tweak our path and approach intuitively.

Leadership is really about our impact on others. Many of us though confuse this with the great intentions that we hold.  But intentions, which is all about us, has little or no alignment with impact, which is all about others.  So how does one create this alignment? We do this by seeing our self through the eyes of those we serve. I like to see this as a kind of empathy working in reverse.

Literature is full of how empathy is an intrinsic part of great leadership.  Which is all about what we need to do with getting into the other person’s shoes and looking at a situation from his / her perspective. But how often do we think of allowing the other person to get into our shoes and providing a fresh perspective from our vantage point?

Feedback from others who watch our ability ( or otherwise!) to impact others is  really the fuel that can ignite our leadership transformation.

Ask the following questions of your team.

  • What did I do that led to a positive impact?
  • What did I do that negatively impacted the team’s initiative?
  • What Could I do better to encourage the team to perform?

 

………. In Learning

Shakti Ghosal

 

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How can I use my Context?


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In my last post ‘My Context uses me’, I had dwelled on how my Context, that omnipresent meaning making machine in all my situations, uses me. How my context wields the power to put me on rails and makes me react in predictable failing ways. I was left wondering whether I could do something about shifting away from such almost certain failures.

The “Being a Leader” course, attended by me recently, revealed a pathway.

As we saw in the last post, our context does function as a cognitive lens, a filter so to speak, through which we view the world, others and interestingly, even our own selves. As we look at a situation, our context highlights some aspects, dims a few and even blanks out yet other aspects. So what makes up our context? It’s our Worldview and frame of reference for the situation at hand. It is our beliefs, biases, prejudices and assumptions which play a part in the context’s meaning making and filtering process.

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Now let’s consider what constitutes our beliefs, biases, prejudices and assumptions. In a nutshell, it is our past experiences. Our brains are adept at using this past to create a default context which comes automatically with the situation at hand. This default context, coloured as it is by our past concerns and fears, restricts us and our actions. As the context is decisive, one can see the wisdom of the old French proverb, “The more things change, the more they stay the same”.

The “Being a Leader” course went on to show that a critical part of our effectiveness in leadership and life arises from our ability to replace the default context by a created context for the same situation. This created context, unencumbered by anything from the past, allows us to see possibilities which were not being allowed so long by our past.

So how does the above work? To understand that let us revisit the situation which we had talked about in the earlier post, ‘My Context uses me’.

“Whenever I notice someone, be it a family member, relative, office colleague etc. not doing it ‘my way’ or voicing disagreement about my way or style of functioning, I feel that the person is actually trying to prove me wrong , undermine me, not giving me the respect which I deserve etc.”

.My default context was, ‘Disagreeing with me implies proving me wrong, undermining me, disrespecting me etc’. This context led to situations occurring for me negatively and made me react in negative, hurtful ways.

As I review the above situation, I realise that I do hold the power to create a new context for myself. A context which says, ‘Getting the job done is what counts and it really doesn’t matter if the way adopted by others is different to mine so long as the job is done’.

As I think of this created context, I can see that it allows me to hold the big picture of getting the job done and get people to align their focus and actions to that. I also begin to see that with this context, I am no longer getting undermined, proved wrong and getting disrespected.
I now see that I hold the power to use my context to my advantage.
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On a lighter note, I append below an extract from the ‘The Phantom Tollbooth’ by Norton Juster, which highlights how one could mis-use the context to the other person’s disadvantage!

“I don’t think you understand,” said Milo timidly as the watchdog growled a warning. “We’re looking for a place to spend the night.”
“It’s not yours to spend,” the bird shrieked again, and followed it with the same horrible laugh.
“That doesn’t make any sense, you see—” he started to explain.
“Dollars or cents, it’s still not yours to spend,” the bird replied haughtily.
“But I didn’t mean—” insisted Milo.
“Of course you’re mean,” interrupted the bird, closing the eye that had been open and opening the one that had been closed. “Anyone who’d spend a night that doesn’t belong to him is very mean.”
“Well, I thought that by—” he tried again desperately.
“That’s a different story,” interjected the bird a bit more amiably. “If you want to buy, I’m sure I can arrange to sell, but with what you’re doing you’ll probably end up in a cell anyway.”
“That doesn’t seem right,” said Milo helplessly, for, with the bird taking everything the wrong way, he hardly knew what he was saying.
“Agreed,” said the bird, with a sharp click of his beak, “but neither is it left, although if I were you I would have left a long time ago.”

In learning…….. Shakti Ghosal

Acknowledgements:
1) “Being A Leader And The Effective Exercise Of Leadership: An Ontological / Phenomenological Model” by Werner Erhard, Independent & Michael Jensen, Jesse Isidor Straus Professor of Business Administration Emeritus, Harvard Business School.