Category Leadership Styles

5 Secrets Behind Common People Becoming Extraordinary Leaders

If I were to ask you to imagine a heroic commander of a 100,000-man army, what would your mind’s eye see?

Would you picture a 42-year-old, awkwardly tall, pear-shaped, over-weight guy?

Could you imagine someone who was a failed teacher, a failed insurance salesman and a failed real-estate developer?

Well, that was Lieutenant General Arthur Currie.

During WW1, Currie was the Deputy Commander of the Canadian Corp during the Battle of Vimy Ridge and became the Commander of the Canadian Army in Europe. Postwar, with his high school education in hand became the Principle of McGill University.

This isn’t a retelling of a great moment in Canadian history. It is a story of a relative under-achiever who rose to face an unbelievable challenge and the lessons for the rest of us mere mortals.

There is only so much space in history for an Eisenhower, Churchill or Caesar and history is replete with unnamed regular folks like us who work hard and play our parts in achieving greatness.

Here are five characteristics demonstrated by General Currie, and all people, who become great leaders in their own time & right?

Uncompromising Integrity. Do not cut corners or cheat. Though others may be smarter, more forceful, and more creative, never compromised in your work and life.

Read about moral courage

Work Hard. Often when others play or waste time, continue to work. Feel like they are stealing from the company unless you give your best efforts.

Be Personally Responsible. Never blame employers and employees or complain because someone else in the organization was recognized or received a promotion.

Be Decisive. Know that slow decision-making is poor leadership and that analysis paralysis can kill an effort. Instead of living in fear of making the wrong decisions, move forward just as soon as you have sufficient information, not complete information.

Read about making decisions

Read. Good leaders read books, articles, and anything they could to make them a better person and a better leader. Ordinary men and women became extraordinary through constant and continued learning, regardless of the sacrifice.

Like General Currie, most of us are not the smartest, the best educated, or most articulate.

But Like Currie, we can hold high principles & work hard, and through these character traits, we common men and women can become extraordinary leaders.

Forget Servant Leadership – 4 Things You Need to Do To Pull Up Your Big Boss Pants & Lead!

I am coaching a client who has had a long career and should be planning his retirement. But he loves his job, and instead of retiring, he wants to continue doing good work. He rose through the ranks and was successful in many challenging roles because his employer had trust in him.

Recently there have been changes that have impacted his work. He hired bright, smart young people and he is trying to figure out the millennial workforce. And, he recently got a new, younger and aggressive boss who is a proponent of Servant Leadership.

Read about millennials

Figuring out millennials and servant leadership was causing him to question his every action. He was beginning to have a crisis of confidence.

Read about the tyranny of servant leadership

Before we could deal with managing millennials and Servant Leadership, I helped him regain his confidence through a 4-step process:

1. Focus on strengths. Confidence emerges from doing good work combined with a great attitude. I have reminded my client to stay on-task and focused, regardless of politics or rumours.

One of the best ways to build confidence is to understand and lead from your strengths. Remind yourself of how you got to where you are in your career and what are the things you do better than anyone else, ask yourself how you can use those strengths to do your job.

When you’re engaged and energized, you are self-assured.

 2. Believe in yourself. If there are weaknesses that are affecting your confidence, make a plan to work on them. But don’t obsess — making a diligent effort to overcome your weaknesses will boost confidence.

 If you have a track record of being a good boss, tell yourself “I did this before, and I can do it now,” and believe it.

 3. Your confidence will be threatened. You are a boss and if you thought it was going to be all sunshine and roses – forget it. Accept that you are destined to be on the receiving end of stuff that will shake your confidence.

 But when that does happen, give yourself time to recover before responding or making any important decisions.

 Be proactive by getting feedback from colleagues, friends or even your supervisor about how you are doing.  Ask them to identify your strengths and places where you could do more.  Often others see more in us than we recognize in ourselves.

4. Consider your reaction. One of the most effective ways to gain confidence is by lowering your emotional temperature. Try to understand the actions of your boss and co-workers as they may be acting out because they are stressed or frustrated.

 Develop a strategy to partner with people by understanding their needs and wants. And take control of your part in that.

Read about partnering

You, like my client, need to understand that you got to where you are because you have skills, competencies and you know your job.

Now pull up your big boss pants and start demonstrating what got you there – confidence that others will want to follow.

Quinoa & Servant Leadership – 3 tips for you to serve through listening

Fad Diets & Servant Leadership – Listening

Last week I gave you three tips to help get out from under Servant Leadership and reclaim your role as a boss. In the coming weeks, I will unpack the characteristics that Robert K. Greenleaf developed in his “Servant Leadership” model that Servant Leaders should possess: This Week: Listening Unpacking Servant Leader Characteristics

Like quinoa, paleo and glutton free diets, when concepts like servant leadership are taken to an extreme, it becomes unhealthy and a bit crazy. That is not to say there isn’t value in Servant Leadership, but as the adage goes: if the only tool you own is a hammer, everything becomes a nail.

Proponents of Servant Leadership argue that traditional leadership needs to be reinforced by a deep commitment to listening intently and identifying the will of a group.

The will of the group? You are the leader!

As the leader, you have the responsibility to guide and focus the will of the group solely on your mission and objectives. To ensure that people are focused on the right work and contributing to the achievement of your goals, you must listen to them. But how? Use Silence.

Silence is power. With silence, we can hear what is being said but also what is not being said. With silence, it can be easier to reach the truth. (click here to read the full blog on communicating with silence) Use one of these tips to use silence to improve your conversation skills:

  1. When someone has answered a question, you asked, pause.

Just as nature abhors a vacuum and rushes to fill it, most people cannot stand silence, and they will quickly fill those silent parts of a conversation with talk. You will learn the most remarkable things if you just let people talk. Everyday immigration officers prove this at the border. They ask a question, you answer, and then they go quiet and look at you. Most people prattle on about their trip, how much extra booze or smokes they have brought home, or they fidget and give off body language that says to the officer that they are hiding something.

2. Losing control of a conversation? Ask a question and shut up.

Studies have shown that a person can think twice as fast as they can talk. When you need time, ask an open-ended question and wait for the answer. Invest that time, they are talking into thinking the issue to move the conversation towards the outcome you want.

3. When someone asks you a question, pause silently.

Nobody likes a know-it-all. When you answer too quickly, people think you have not considered their question. If you are not 100% sure of the answer, pause. Then answer.

You, as the leader, must ensure every action, word, and silence must contribute to meeting your objectives. That is how best you serve as a leader!


The Tyranny Of Servant Leadership – 5 Things You Need To Do To Free Yourself

I was a Sergeant Major in the Canadian Army.

I held the second-highest non-commissioned officer rank and had a role that I loved and aspired. It was a job of power and influence. I carried a responsibility to my soldiers and, most importantly, to my leaders.

Imagine my surprise when I learned that the Latin root of the words ‘Sergeant Major’ was ‘Head Servant.’

Once I got over the indignation of being a servant, I realized my job was one of service.

Introduction to Servant Leadership Theory

Servant Leadership is a leadership philosophy first espoused by Robert Greenleaf in his 1970 essay “The Servant as Leader,” in which he states that servant leaders are servants first and leaders later. This is in sharp contrast to what many see as traditional leaders who aspire to lead through power and acquiring material benefits.

Many management thinkers such as Blanchard, Covey and Senge have since then reinforced the Servant Leadership Theory. More recently, Simon Sinek has made millions with his Leaders Eat Last book by encapsulating the importance of service to achieve your results.

The essence of servant leadership—serve the employees first and success will follow—is thousands of years old, dating back to hundreds of centuries to India and China, the Bible and texts of Islam. In contemporary practice, it means actively listening to employees, treating them as people with needs, interests and failings, and respecting their roles in the company and the world.

Unfortunately, the concept of servant leadership tends towards philosophical musings with little practical application. Worse than that, many people read into the concept that as leaders that they must cede power and authority to their employees.

5 Ways To Free Yourself From The Philosophic Tyranny

Servant Leadership does not mean you prostrate yourself to your employees but there are everyday habits leaders can incorporate into their management routines that can have powerful results.

Listen. Pay attention to how you interact in face-to-face conversations, large groups and meetings. Find meaningful ways to invite feedback and suggestions. (Read more about using silence)

Appreciate. Instead of assuming people will do things wrong, shift your attitude to look for people doing things right. Learn to appreciate that no one shows up to work to do a poor job and tell them you appreciate them. (Read about saying thank you)

Respect. Do you treat the janitor the same respect as the CEO? You, as the leader, set your team’s culture of respect.

Develop. Do you offer your employees the tools to become the best they can be? Provide training, professional development, book clubs or other personal growth tools? Emphasize coaching over controlling.

Unleash. People have power and energy so how can you help them develop it? Decentralizing as many decisions as possible so employees can help you achieve your results.

What’s Next?

Over the next weeks, I’ll unpack Servant Leadership in more detail.

I hope to turn those philosophical nuggets into practical and applicable tools you can use to get results.

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