Think Leadership Ideas

Artful Leadership

Complexity and Leadership Style

Few would dispute that an essential element of leadership is acquiring the power to accomplish goals. What is less conventionally accepted is that collaborative, facilitative styles of leadership will be increasingly valuable as the means to gaining that power as we move deeper into the 21st century.
This entry explores different types of complexity, and why a facilitative leadership style is required for success.

What Is Leadership?

I believe there is a definite answer to the perennial question, “what is leadership?” But it’s not one that follows conventional thinking.
I believe that leadership is most effectively understood from a multi-faceted perspective, not a unidimensional one - that we are best informed about leadership by looking at the five categories, or dimensions, as a whole. Taken together, they span roles, actions, and individual qualities to form a coherent and actionable concept of leadership.
This article looks at each of the five dimensions as they express differing definitions of leadership, then see how they hang together to inform us about leadership in the 21st century.

Accelerate Meeting Results

The key to being an effective leader or manager is working with people. And for better or worse, the venue where most of us work with other people is in meetings. I find that most leaders and managers conduct meetings by pulling people together and starting a conversation about a particular topic. They may make good use of tools like agendas, but otherwise rely on the collective dialog skills of the group to achieve results. Following are three simple techniques that I believe any leader or manager can add to his or her toolbox and apply in a meeting. Read More...

Leading for Innovation

Does the future success of your organization require ongoing innovation? Let me ask another way, if you keep doing things exactly as you do them today will you be just as successful in five years?

If your organization is dependent on knowledge work and professional competencies it’s highly unlikely the winning formula will remain unchanged. Innovation is essential! The challenge is that leading a team or organization for continuous innovation requires different structures, processes, and culture than managing for continuous high-performance operations. Read More...

Motivation Wisdom

“How do I motivate the people in my organization?” It’s a question I hear often; but what’s really being asked is how to get people to do more on their own – to be “self” motivated. Is there a way to get people to go beyond what is minimally required?

Motivation, like morale and loyalty, is not something you operate but a condition you cultivate. There is no magic lever to pull that turns on motivation. Rather, motivation is like a garden and will grow on its own with proper conditions, care, and cultivation. Read More...

Empowerment - When Are You Ready?

Empowerment is a concept easy to embrace and hard to execute. Any organization which relies on knowledge, creativity, and effective problem solving to achieve its purpose needs empowered people to be effective. Leaders are only likely to empower people they believe will make good choices.

So how do you assess the capacity to make good choices? At what point should leaders empower others? What should a person do to demonstrate to leadership that they are ready for higher levels of responsibility?

I coach leaders and high-potential professionals to pay careful attention to three choice points: what kind of action is taken; whose interests are served; and how dissent is managed. The way people handle these choice points are important indicators of the value that they can contribute and the readiness for high levels of empowerment. Read More...

Leading Change

Effective organizations always have a creative tension between leading and managing. During times when big changes are being asked of employees, the heightened uncertainty and corresponding hunger for stability cause this creative tension to be accentuated. Good managing is critical, but to make changes effective, good leading is vital. Read More...

Leadership Tools

I can’t tell you how often I’m asked, “Can you make a leader?” Usually this is expressed as a challenge, immediately followed by, “Aren’t leaders just born?”

Well, consider athletes. Do you think athletes can do their sport significantly better with practice, coaching, training, or proper feedback? Isn’t this as true for recreation league softball as it is for Olympic stars? We could apply this same line of reasoning to art, music, or any number of endeavors? What is worth noting about Michael Jordan, Mia Hamm, Tiger Woods, or Picasso is what they did to develop their inborn talent.

Yes, when it comes to leadership I believe there is inherent talent that plays a significant role. Nevertheless, whatever talent you start with, you CAN make a significant (big, huge, gigantic, life-changing, did I say significant) improvement in leadership. Like everything else, it takes the right effort, support, and tools. I don’t know whether you can make a leader, but I firmly believe you can indeed develop leadership. Here are some ways to do it...

Problem or Possibility?

We all know it would be foolish, even potentially suicidal, to ignore illness, cost controls, or defects. Achieving excellence, however, requires going beyond problem thinking, and operating from a perspective of possibility thinking.

This key principle applies directly to leaders who aspire to achieve outstanding success for their businesses or organizations. Extraordinary organizations are not created simply by solving problems. Leaders need to be skillful at problem-solving, yes, but to be outstanding they also need to be competent at possibility-building. Read More...

Dual ACTION Leadership

What is leadership? I encourage would-be leaders to think ACTION. While there are dozens of definitions of leadership with perhaps thousands of nuances, the fundamental concept to keep in mind is that leadership is about ACTION – specifically, action taken with people.

Here's the kicker: the more an enterprise is dependent on brainpower – i.e., people sharing knowledge to create innovations and bring them to the marketplace – the more leadership is important. Leadership action is comprised of two complimentary parts: leading and managing.

In some ways leading and managing are inseparable, like two sides of the same coin. And like ‘heads or tails’ on a coin, these two types of leadership actions have intrinsically opposed objectives.

Vision and Leadership

The conventional and over-celebrated view of vision is that it's something a good leader first must “have” and then convinces followers to adopt.

I do not subscribe to the conventional view….

Leadership and the 8th Muda

As a leader in your organization, do you add muda or subtract it?

Muda is a Japanese term for waste. One of the prime tenants of the Toyota production system, to which much of that company’s outstanding quality and profitability can be attributed, is to reduce muda. The organization is built on constant striving to identify and eliminate anything that does not add value for the final customer. The Toyota processes are now used worldwide, often called LEAN processing.

Seven mudas are traditionally recognized: overproduction, waiting, unnecessary transport, over processing, excess inventory, unnecessary movement, and defects. Jeffrey K. Liker, in his excellent book The Toyota Way, adds an eighth muda – unused employee creativity.

Liker describes the eighth muda as the waste of “losing time, ideas, skills, improvements, and learning opportunities by not engaging or listening to your employees.” Too many organizations suffer from CEOs or owners that inflate the eighth muda, rather than contribute to its elimination.

Leadership for Third Graders

Recently I was asked to speak on leadership to the third grade at a local school, not as a leadership consultant but in my role as Mayor. The third graders were studying biographies of leaders, and wanted to know how my life shaped my understanding of leadership. Here’s the three main lessons that I believe are important for leaders of any age. Read More...

Collaboration Across Boundaries

In an increasingly complex world you will be more likely to face the challenge of working across major organizational boundaries. Maybe it will take the form of cross-functional teams or cross-departmental projects within an organization. Maybe it will take the form of several companies working together to realize a business opportunity.

Whether your project crosses functions, silos, organizations, or industry sectors, to ensure success you’ll want to find coherent answers to these 5 key questions... Read More...

7 Leadership Actions

There is indeed a command-and-control aspect of leadership. However in today’s knowledge-based environment, most value is created by bringing together specialized know-how from interdependent sources. The head of almost any organization needs the knowledge of customers, matrixed team members, vendors, professionals, or other stakeholders over whom they exert little power. Executives, business owners, and team leaders find themselves needing to bring out knowledge rather than impart it.

So in a knowledge, service, and interdependent environment, if you are not actually telling people what actions to take, what is it that leaders DO to get results?

The following are seven leadership ACTIONS other than telling someone what to do: exemplify, acknowledge, articulate, frame, follow, facilitate, and presence. (Yes, the latter is intentionally used as an active verb - read on to see why...) Read More...

Resolving Issues

Does your team incessantly talk about the same issues? Does it seem that too many issues never get resolved?

I find that most groups get stuck in one or more of three areas, discernment, design, or discipline - i.e understanding what is going on, crafting a satisfying response, and following through with meaningful action.

Following are twelve questions leaders can use to stimulate progress on those persistent issues that plague your team or organization.