For today's reading, we turn to a December 2007 FastCompany article by
William Taylor, The Leader of the Future. In this piece Taylor, one of the founders of FastCompany, reports
on a discussion with Ron Heifetz, director of the Leadership Education
Project at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government. You will likely
remember that Heifetz is author of one of the views of leadership we
studied early in the leadership program.
Although at eight pages this article is somewhat longer than the usual
Tuesday Reading, it says some very important things about leadership
that I thought should be shared with you. Some of the key things that
caught my eye are:
Leaders question reality:
- What values do we stand for? And, what are the gaps between our
values and our actual behavior?
- What skills and talents do we have? And, what are the gaps
between our resources and what we need?
- What are the opportunities we see in the future? And, what are
the gaps between these opportunities and our abilities to act on them?
Leadership means influencing the organization to face its problems and
live into its opportunities. Mobilizing people to tackle tough
challenges is what defines the new job of a leader.
People learn by encountering differences (another word for conflict).
Hand in hand with the courage to face reality comes the courage to
surface and orchestrate differences.
The work of the leader is to lead conversations about what is
essential and what is not.
The leader must help people face the internal contradiction between
the values they espouse and the way they live (behave).
Leaders must know how to listen, want to listen, and want to know what
the real difference is in what is being said.
Leaders face danger when they challenge people about their priorities,
their values, and their habits. When you do this you have to pace the
rate at which you challenge so that you do not frustrate people to the
point of inaction on everything.
When a person is attempting to lead and is either without authority or
seen to be without authority, people's attention spans are very short
when you try to communicate with them. Use what attention you can get
wisely and planfully.
Leaders should not take things personally. While it may sound
personal, its the issues you represent that people are after.
Look for something in this leadership template that would represent a
new, useful practice for you to have. Begin to use it, and adopt it
for your own.
. . . . . jim