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Leadership Dilemma: The American Leadership Paradox
As coaches, we aim to support the development of our clients to meet strategic goals and to enhance overall quality of life. Coaching and Leadership intersect – In the organizational sense; Associates want value from their leaders, and desire to develop a co-relationship focused on achieving success. The current zeitgeist of Leadership is trending towards acquiring specific skills that is possessed by the coaching industry. As potential change agents, coaches must ask powerful questions about the psychological dynamics of our society at large.
- Are we at war with ourselves?
- Why are large bureaucratic organizations slow to act?
- How do we understand the complexities of the struggle?
Society demands a powerful altruistic Leader that makes quick decisions that benefit everyone while simultaneously providing security. However, America is a nation of individualists who strive to be the Leader, and are ashamed to be categorized in the role of follower. Simply, American culture frowns upon the follower and the omnipotent Leader is exaggeratedly admired.
Who do you want to be?
The Leader of course! Well, the problem is that Leaders need followers. If everyone is the Leader and no-one follows, then there is a Leadership dilemma called The American Leadership Paradox.
- Society wants community and togetherness, but explicitly yearns for a capitalist society with individualist freedom
- Society values family, but relishes in the rebel personal
- American culture is a paradox that attempts to indulge within both ends of the spectrum
Leaders are unable to lead because society chooses to scoff at instead of follow. Cognitive dissonance is displayed towards Leaders, and society at large believes they are capable of producing better results. Trust and integrity have been squandered by previous leaders which disables pre-determined respect for future Leaders.
The Nature/Nurture debate – Is it inborn or due to the situation? Current research has determined the debate to be estimated at a 50/50 split.
If there are wonderful Leaders and the situation is not conducive to leading, then the cold-hard truth is – Leaders will fail 50% of the time regardless of inborn or learned ability. Current Leadership is failing at an astounding rate (over 70%). What constitutes leadership failure? Short answer: Not meeting goals.
How do we survive in a Leaderless society if our models in family, business, politics, education, and more, require a Leader who has power that is admired and followed?
Can we all be leaders without followers or is there another solution?
Currently, the common consensus is that: our Leaders are unethical, self-centered, and ruining our economy! Americans, don’t trust the government, don’t trust commercials, and in fact, place little faith on anything. Why? Is it because Americans are horrible people, or is it because our system is coming to a breaking point? I argue for the latter.
- Why do we tolerate unethical leadership?
- Why do some leaders act unethically?
Our individualist system funneled these leaders to the pinnacle because they are the best players of the game our society has produced. They are tolerated because, if they are great Leaders, elitist, and are flawed, then the individual perception interprets an ego-boost which sends the individual’s self-esteem sky rocketing. The ego-imagination covets the positive regard of a Leader, and an unethical Leader with praise is lesser qualified for the role of Leader than the self. The American Leadership Paradox!
How do we fix the Paradox?
Fixing or modifying any paradox is a mission within a mission, which might never be accomplished, and is why venturing out on this journey is more than challenging. Albeit while complex, well worth the strategic effort because Leadership is an integral part of a successful society.
Professional Leadership Coaching
Enhancing self-awareness of cultural factors and aiding in understanding the application of value-based Leadership. Utilizing expert coaching tools to raise awareness and move Leaders through blinding dimensions. As coaches, we could participate in curbing and overcoming the deterioration of the aforementioned: American Leadership. We cannot be concerned with the system and concentration of choosing Leaders, but rather, concentrate on the coaching role in development which is integral to Leadership success. This article challenges all qualified coaches to understand the dynamics of Leadership and contribute to supporting the evolution & success of the Leadership dimension.
*This Article was published in the International Coach Federation (ICF) Coach World Publication in November 2011.
Perception of Power
The concept of power is backed in research by David McClelland:
- Need for Power
- Need for Affiliation
- Need for Achievement
- Referent Power: Charismatic Leadership
- Legitimate Power: Formal Positional Leadership
- Expert Power: Knowledge-Based Leadership
- Reward Power: Transactional Leadership
- Coercive Power: Authoritative Leadership
- Deriving Power from Others (i.e. Parents)
- Independent Powerfulness (i.e. Excessive Showiness)
- Helping Others (i.e. Executive Coach)
- Deriving Power from Higher Authority (GOD)
French & Raven’s 5 Bases of Power
*People seek to avoid Punishment & Strive for Rewards
Four Stages of Power
Power Corrupts – This basic intro is presented to get us on the same page…
We all Need Power – A Universal Human Need – Why is Power so Attractive?
Do we lack the Power we Desire?
Lacking Power creates a Love of Rules to get Closer to Power
Is there such an item as Ultimate Power?
If you had Complete Power, Would you be Corrupt? (i.e. Saddam Hussein) Of Course you say, NO…
Is not having “Ultimate Power” a Universal Law that Protects Humankind? (i.e. Law of Motion)
Is Power as Conceptual as Time? It exists whether we acknowledge it or not
What is the Perception of Power? Is it Objective or Subjective?
Is Power about Control or Giving-up Control? (i.e. Empowering Others)
How can you Maximize Possession of Power without Hurting Anyone? (i.e. Senate vs. President)
A very important question that is unanswered!!!
Who Controls the Perception of Power?
*Are we controlled by Institutional Power? (i.e. Parking Tickets, Taxes, etc…)
Is it Ethical? (Food for Thought)
Is the One who Controls the Perception of Power the Most Powerful?
Daily activities abide by rules governed by environment – Most are Man-Made to Control & Keep Order – Power Corrupts so it needs to be monitored. No one should have Ultimate Power because it will lead to destruction – Have you seen any movies lately?
Those who control the Perception of Power have the Ultimate Power over the Immediate Environment & the Human Need for this Power causes Institutional Struggles that have Reformulated Successful Societies over the Existence of Humankind – Have you read Machiavelli or 48 Laws of Power?
Power is Elusive – Power Controls – Power Dictates
Maybe that is why we want it….
Business Plan: Follower Development
Leaders need followers and developing an exceptional program for comfortable followership is important. Empowerment enables the follower to do their job more efficiently and implementing empowerment begins with creating more involvement, a fun environment, offer development programs for succession planning, provide information on how their input is making a positive difference for the organization, and autonomy which will provide enhanced overall commitment.
A training session for leaders with positional power aimed at informing them of proper procedures when dealing with followers such as being clear in communication, accepting honest feedback, not to kill the messenger who presents negative news, and to incorporate the art of enthusiasm. 67% of employee stress is attributed to the manager’s style & behaviors which is why most employee resignations are due to poor leader-member relations.
Followers want to be liked, rewarded, and aim to avoid punishment. Trust is an integral concept of being a leader and trust begets trust. Additionally, I would suggest a personal development program to enhance social-emotional skills of leaders in order to improve relationships with followers because a leader’s social skills ultimately affect the overall climate of the company, and impacts the clients who directly support the organizational operations. I would suggest implementing reward systems for leaders around their follower’s upward feedback and team accomplishments upon completion of the program.
The desired results would aid in loyalty, commitment, and enhance support of the organizations functions as well as displaying a distinct honest employee voice that benefits the company as a whole.
Mary Parker Follett was born three years after the conclusion of the U.S. Civil War and during a time where women didn’t have a voice she expressed a vast vision that has impacted the field of leadership. She introduced the concepts that define the situational context of leadership which consists of what is required at the moment. According to Warren Bennis, She called for a shift from a command & control style of leadership to a more empowered, democratic, and shared vision between leaders and followers. She expressed a need for leaders to exert expert power rather than the chosen method of the time of coercive power.
Additionally, she was the first to document the importance of the follower’s role for the leadership situation which was described as “Good Followership”.
Her greatest contribution stems from identifying the overarching fact that leadership is not inborn, but rather, a learned discipline. She described this dimension as an important facet for proper leadership because the individual who believed they could learn to be great leaders went on to become leaders in their own right, and those who believed that they were not born to be leaders remained in subordinate positions. She spoke about social interactions with people where she expressed the importance or knowing how and when to praise, how and when to point out mistakes, and what attitude to display towards failure.
Fortunately, Ultimate Power does not exist – We all desire Power because it Creates a Sense of Self-Worth and a Sense of Control over the Environment. As Humans, we are Blessed with conscious awareness and the ability to Perceive the Complexities of Power. Power is unseen & formed in our Collective Unconscious. We are controlled by Power whether we like it or not.
Change, Vision, and Leadership
21st Century Competition: brings the concept of change to the forefront in Business, Education, Entertainment, Finance, Life, and is pervasive throughout all group processes effecting society at large and universally. Change brings stress on all levels but is inherently mandatory in our current society.
Rules for Successful Change Practice
1. Victory is not certain until the complete change process is complete
2. Leadership must be fully committed to the process of change
3. Incentives are integral for short term wins by removing complacency
4. Effective Communication is Key to change efforts and needs to be clear and focused
Transformational Leadership Conveys Vision; Directs the Movement; Aligns Motives; & Inspires Action
5. Refrain from frustrating employees with micro-managing daily processes
6. Develop and display a keen ability to adapt to the ever changing environments
7. Never underestimate forces that reinforce complacency which maintain status quo
Old Leadership: Command and control (Not Flexible)
New Leadership: Teams and creativity (Very Flexible)
Adversarial Factors against Change:
1. Inwardly focused culture
2. Paralyzing Bureaucracy
3. Parochial Politics
4. Low Level of Trust
5. Lack of teamwork
7. Lack of leadership at the middle management
8. Fear of the unknown
(Information on these factors 1-8 derived from John Kotter’s, Leading Change)
What factors implement setbacks in organizational change?
Arresting Supervisors, Incongruent organizational structures, Incentive system, cultural norms, and Long-term peer relationships, HR Systems
Getting Change Projects to Work
Mid-Level Leadership towards change is critical and enabling this effective Leadership is a Key component to the Change process.
Who do you, he, she, they, I care about? Myself? Change has to be in one’s best interest or it will be rejected!
Leadership Keys to Change Success
1. Incorporate a sacrifice into the mission that everyone can get behind
2. Promise higher benefits in return for change loyalty
3. Provide clear vision that makes sense for all involved after completion of change
4. Make ambitious goals look easy to implement
Questions to ask yourself and others involved
- Do you agree with and follow blindly what you are told?
- Do you candidly voice your position with charisma and tact?
- Did you know that the employees that are candid in an appropriate way climb the corporate ladder faster and earn more money than their peers?
- Are you alarmed about the current economic situation we are facing globally?
- Why not?
Because: Put a frog in warm water, slowly heat it, the frog will stay in the warm water until it boils and they die. They don’t get out when it gets too hot. Why?
Because: They are unable to sense immediate danger due to complacency and by the time they felt like getting out of the hot water – It was too late.
Build an Elite Efficient Team
Based on – Harvard Business Review on Teams That Succeed
There are three (3) types of teams
1) Recommend things (task force or project group)
2) Make or do things (operations or marketing)
3) Run things (oversee functional activity)
Leadership must Link teams to performance & do not let these terms (Teams & Performance) become a cliché.
Needed team skills
1) Technical or functional expertise to handle specific tasks
2) Problem solving & decision making skills
1) Effective communication
2) Constructive conflict
4) Active listening
5) Recognizing interests
6) Achievement of others
We need to be accountable as a team (mutual accountability)
“We hold ourselves accountable”
“When teams work together toward a common objective trust and commitment follow”
- Achievement must be mutually shared
- Teams need to have a common purpose
- Shared leadership
How do we get Individual and mutual accountability?
- Open ended communications and active problem solving meetings
- Need to establish performance goals that relate to overall purpose
- Objective measureable goals
Failed teams rarely develop a common purpose
How do we get higher levels of productivity?
Groups are more creative and productive when:
- They achieve high levels of participation, cooperation, and collaboration
- Real time learning is important for teams to develop faster
- Continuity of team members builds familiarity
- Clearly express urgency and worthwhile purposes
- Clearly express expectations to new team members
Build group emotional intelligence = enhances overall effectiveness
Emotional Intelligence Factors
Trust among members, sense of group identity, and sense of group efficacy (effectiveness)
Attitude and behavior need to support above factors
- Leaders need to admit fault when they are wrong
- Leaders must be available
- Leaders need to ask for input
- Open-mindedness, enthusiasm
- Ability to introduce new methods so team can learn from trial and error
Teams where members feel comfortable making suggestions
- Try things that might not work
- Point out potential problems
- Leadership needs to reassure this is safe
- Essence of a team is shared commitment
- Not a singular event – It is a process
- Inquiry process (getting everyone involved)
- Provide Constructive feedback
- Variety of options
- Serious consideration to all view points
- Know when to bring deliberations to a close
Leaders and managers need to make sure they keep contact with teams to see what is going on and that everything is okay because if contact is lost then teams feel disengaged from management and create their own rules which lead to failure.
The best teams lull their leaders and managers to sleep.
Ways to prevent
- Performance measures
- Reward structure
- Hands on presence from leadership
Behaviors of a Leader
Are you a leader or do you desire to be a leader?
What qualifies a leader?
Do you fit the mold?
These ideas below are modified from John C. Maxwell’s book, 21 Laws of Leadership
Here is a list of behaviors that are most effective and reminiscent of a leader
- Lead by example
- Provide a worthy vision that others will follow (imagination)
- Never accept defeat and do anything to avoid losing (other than cheating)
- Rise to the occasion during crisis
- Stay positive
- Strategically prioritize
- Have an instinct that predicts opportunity
- Sincere enthusiasm
- Proper etiquette
- Inspire others to realize their potential
- Constant development of professional & personal skills
- Ability to transfer knowledge
- Understand your limitations and the range of your potential
- Have an ability to influence others (A call to action)
- Understand the environmental, social, and cultural dynamics affecting your leadership direction
- Add value to those that follow you (enhance their standards of living)
- Keen ability to read people and situations
- Positive attitude and gain the attraction of other positive people
- Must possess trust, integrity, respect for others, & consistency
Finally, and most importantly:
To be a leader – you don’t need to possess all of these traits but you must work toward each one to become the best leader.
Performance vs. Development
Special Development Assignments (5 Assignments: Doing more increases learning)
Protect High Potentials by getting them a mentor and Job rotations
- Job rotations
- Mentoring: Understanding political process or organization, Higher up in different department of concentration – Offsets functional operations and competition complexities
- After Action Reviews (AAR) Project Accomplishment (Examines outcomes & Processes)
- Multi-Rater Feedback: Feedback workshops
- Developmental Assessment Centers: (Process of Assessment) Used to validate selections or predict potential leaders
- Action Learning: (Group Dynamics)
Performance (using potential leader strengths at the moment instead of developing their strengths) usually wins over development because of the instant gratification.
Development: Long-term Thinking
Coaching & Mentoring is beneficial to Career Development (Individual makes own choice
Assessment Centers: (Remote location) 5 days: Workshop/Assessment
(Helps predict success at next levels)
- Personality: MBTI or Hogan Personality Instrument (HPI)
- Multi-Rater Feedback (360) : Behavioral
- Exercises: Workshops (Small Groups) Tasks & Goals (Observe Behaviors) i.e. who becomes a leader – Task example: Budget decisions (Emergent Leader)
- Intrapersonal skills, integrity, emotional stability, Big 5 Factors
- Interpersonal Relationship Skills, Empathy, Compassion
- Business skills: Finance, budgeting, marketing etc.
- Leadership skills: Vision, empowering others, etc.
Create a Competency Model: Clusters of behaviors that have meaning for what the organization considers effective
Four fundamental values in all fortune 500 companies
Multi-Rater Feedback: Not done very well – Structured way to provide feedback –
Create Behavioral Statements: Written statements creates image (Effective Statement)
Burke found cloning effect in organizations
Managers mimicked potential candidate on 360 feedbacks
People put forward high potentials that were similar to the boss
- Challenging Assignments – Developing experiences
- Learning: 70 experience – 20 Role models – 10 Training (Morgan McCall)
- Help them learn (Coach) have an experience and then reflection
Multi-Rater Feedback + Personality & Behavioral Assessments increase Self-Awareness
Compares the Self with how other sees the Self (Compare & Contrast)
Receiving Multi-Rater Feedback does not harm performance – By itself, it does not increase performance either…(Needs Coaching for improvement)
Three (3) Kinds of Feedback:
- Highly rated (10-20%) Satisfied
- Bottom Rated (10-20%) Incongruence – either devastated or regret data
- Middle Group (60%) Mixed Feedback (High & Low) Don’t know what to do – Confused (Don’t know priorities) (NEED COACHING)
In order for Multi-Rater Feedback to work – Coaching needs to be attached to it.
The hardest part of reading and learning from Sun Tzu is deciphering the information.
Good news for you – I do it for you here in a quick concise easily digestible format.
How to Win
Anyone can become a soldier – even you
Keys: Discipline; Fear; Motivation
Leaders need to give clear orders and directions
Communication is vital
All warfare is deception and those who win battles without fighting are truly noble
Get double agents to work for you – this provides an intelligence advantage
Foreknowledge and secret intelligence provides a strategic advantage which provides enhanced timing and improved momentum
If double agents are vital for your success: Provide them with lavish rewards for their services
We do our best when there is no retreat available; when there is no opportunity to give up
Manager’s mange – Leaders lead
Political context is more important than war
Entice the opposition with bait; control their effort by providing a need
Use deception: have the opposition focus on a decoy and when their attention is distracted implement your direct attack on the real objective
Know your enemy and know yourself
Avoid what is strong and attack what is weak (guerrilla warfare)
Achieve goals with minimal use of effort and resources
These keys to winning in all situations need to be adapted to your specific situation
When used correctly, they are the laws of winning that have found no enemy that could overcome these advantages.
This has been a condensed identification of ancient tactics that have provided success for the greatest winners and stood the test of time and showed victoriously in multiple situations.
The messages above have been interpreted from the great text, Sun Tzu: Art of War.
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- Our Purpose: To develop better Leaders, better People, more Career Satisfaction & more Successful Living.
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