Learning to lead leaders
You may not be the king but you can learn how to influence kings.
All leaders have trusted advisors who influence their thinking, attitudes, and decisions. William Wallace captured the power of influence by saying, “The hand that rocks the cradle is the hand that rules the world.” You can become the voice that influences the world by influencing leaders.
10 ways to become a trusted advisor
#1 – Always speak the truth, especially when it runs counter to current thinking. Your value is in your ability to “think otherwise.”
#2 – Understand the difference between being honest and being adversarial. Lobbying for your position isn’t the same as painting someone into a black or white decision.
#3 – Give personal support by understanding the unique pressures and challenges of being in the place where the buck stops. Be a person who pops the cork on pressure rather than creating it.
#4 – Within legal and ethical boundaries extend complete loyalty.
#5 – Become a broad minded expert. Experts who can’t see beyond their own field or department minimize their value.
#6 – Choose your king carefully. Unworthy kings already know “too” much, speak to frequently, and listen too little. Rule out kings who don’t ask questions, don’t interact well, and never change their mind.
#7 – Understand office, departmental, and corporate politics.
#8 – Make their vision your vision. You won’t enter this realm fighting for a personal agenda unless your agenda is helping the king succeed.
#9 – Honor the position even when you disagree with the decision.
#10 – Be the person who can hear what others can’t hear. If it makes you feel good to let others know how much you know, don’t enter this realm.
Can you list other ways to earn the ear of the king? Can you further explain something on the list of 10?
Hi Dan, I completely agree that you have to make the King’s vision your vision too. I’m reminded of that old time proverb which says, “How can two people embark on a same journey unless they first agree”. Where two or more people are focused on same achieving same results, there is always positive collaboration. A trusted advisor understands that it’s not about him but rather he/she is a steward of the platform entrusted to him by the King and he respects that. He sees his position as an opportunity to learn and grow but bearing in mind that one day at the right time and under right circumstances he will sit in the King’s chair.
I love the metaphor of being on the same journey. Two people committed to the same objective are very likely to create a bond as long as they aren’t competing.
Thank you for stopping in.
Hey LF readers, Peter’s blog – http://pewatac.com/blog/
My previous supervisor was a very multifaced leader — brilliant yet uneven.
One of my coworkers arrived at an offsite meeting once and the sup looked at her and said (in front of many peers), “Why are you here? You’re not needed.” Humiliating.
That same coworker left our organization shortly thereafter. Probably not just b/c of that one comment, but the comment can’t have helped.
When I had an opportunity to speak to the sup after that, in a calm setting, I shared that a) I had been offered the position the coworker had left for and chosen to say and b) that the comment made to the coworker could possibly been perceived as a “straw that broke the camel’s back” thing. My sup actually thought she had been asking a factual question (what are you doing here) as opposed to sending a message (what in the WORLD are YOU doing HERE??).
I think the sup valued the fact that I gave her that feedback and would occasionally, and calmly, point out situations that she was unaware of how her conduct impacted morale.
Finding the right time and place to interact with leaders on things that are delicate is part of the art.
Reading your comment made me think about blind-spots. Everyone has them. Trusted advisors can point them out. Wonderful idea.
Thanks for sharing your story and for being a regular here on LF.
Read Paula on http://www.waytenmom.blogspot.com/
Once again a good blog. Makes me think back tot the time I was MA to the Cinc of our Army.
Rules #1 and #2 set the scene: I cannot agree to rule 8. It’s not necessary to share your bosses vision, as long as you adhere to rules #3, #5 and #9 and especiallly #4. There are quite a few people who can’t distinct between loyalty and being the dog on “his masters voice”. The true test of loyalty is rule #1 in combination with #9.
It reminds me of a disclaimer on an email from the time that people used business-email (as nobody had it at home): “the ideas expressed in this mail are not necesarilly those of my boss……..yet.”
Thanks for both affirming thinking otherwise. I appreciate it. It’s people like you who leave comments that help make LF valuable to our readers.
Love the humor at the end!
Wow, Dan, great tenets to live by…work or home! They would be very useful for folks new to the work force or new to an organization.
Regarding speaking the truth (#1), there could be a qualifier as whose truth is being presented. There’s your truth, my truth and somewhere inbetween may be a/the truth. Along with 2, 5 & 10, we have to stretch and see/hear/feel the bigger picture or at least different perspectives of the same picture. It is our duty to present those observations.
And if you are not dialed into #8 at least a little, then it may be time to freshen your resume.
I find #9 of great value. It is a variation on, ‘every person should a voice, but not every person gets a vote’. We are responsible and accountable to voice our perspective, however, the leader ultimately has to be decisive (earlier posts). When that goes against our perspective, that may be a test of our allegiance to the king and to the vision.
If we went with a musical analogy, the conductor is the one who must keep the tempo and follow the sheet music in his/her interpretation. If we are not the conductor, we, as musicians can choose to play in tune and in sync…otherwise its just noise. (have been re-reading Max DePree’s Leadership Jazz lately)
An affirmation from you means a lot to me. And I see what your observation that great advisors have to stretch their perspective and orientation to maximize their usefulness.
I’m a bit embarrassed to say I have never heard of Leadship Jazz. You must recommend it… correct?
Guess I may be dating myself, ha!
Yep, great core elements to consider and the creating, making, playing of music is a metaphor that strikes a chord…sorry bout that 😉 Max was in charge of Herman Miller for years. Leadership Art was the first book, out of print I think and Leadership Jazz has been updated from ’92. The reason it resonates for me beside the music is that his perspective seems to incorporate some of the EI tenets which seem to be a deficit area for some leaders.
Here’s an interesting Max quote from Leadership Art…
“The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality. The last is to say thank you. In between the two, the leader must become a servant and a debtor. That sums up the progress of an artful leader”
The Max quote is music to my ears. 🙂
I have several books on the burner right now and I’m reviewing a friends third book right now so I better not buy anything YET. But Leadership Jazz is on my list. Thanks for mentioning it.
Have a great weekend.
Dan, good points. Thanks for posting.
I would add ‘be willing to admit what you don’t know rather than lead astray’.
You and your readers might enjoy this post about manager blind spots – “Manager Scotomata” – http://tracyelpoured.wordpress.com/2010/04/04/manager-scotomata/
Thanks for your comment and link. I’m following you on twitter.
Another excellent and practical post, Dan. Thank you!
I agree with Hans about disagreeing with #8 as written. However there are two thought seeds in there worth nourishing. (Whoa, sometimes I get a bit carried away with this language thing.)
The first is that you don’t have to buy the vision, but as a trusted advisor you do have to believe and act in concert with “it’s all about *them*.” We support the leader / client / boss.
The second seed is a variation on the first: company success is our primary objective. We succeed when the company does well, not the other way around.
In a support role, which an advisor is in by definition, we: must allow and prefer for the spotlight to shine on someone else; look down the road for potholes, and fill them in before the wheel rolls over that spot; and realize that while both of the above may make us feel under-appreciated, folks know what we do. And we certainly know, and should take time to appreciate ourselves!
Enjoy the weekend!
I’m so glad you’re back to share with the LF community.
I love that you brought up the issue of feeling under appreciated. I think it’s very relevant to this conversation and it can be very difficult to deal with.
I feel a future blog coming on 🙂
Jeremy’s website: http://brombergllc.com/
Whatever you say, say it in love…
thanks for your first comment on LF. .. Short, sweet, and true.
Work on solving problems that keep the king awake at night…
Thanks for leaving your first comment on LF. Very practical like a person from Maine should be.
Best to you,
Great post Dan. Agree with all of the comments and bullets. I particularly like the comment about honoring the position. I also have placed Leadership Jazz on my list. Regards Alecho
Thanks for leaving your first comment on LF and thank you very much for the good word.
I hope you’ll keep coming back to LF
Great suggestions and dialogue. Point #9 reminds me of a quote from the movie Band of Brothers–“Salute the rank, not the man.” In other words, you might not always see eye to eye with your boss, but you still need to respect the position.
Great to see you again Shawn and thanks for leaving a useful quote. I’m sure all the Band of Brothers fans will remember it.
LF readers, stay tuned. Next week Shawn is writing a guest article and we’re giving away his book.
Shawns blog – http://courtingyourcareer.wordpress.com/
your post describes the work I do. I have found that ‘kings’ prefer people who come to them with possible solutions rather than problems and also they prefer people who don’t know all the right answers but do know the right questions. It is also important to know when you’ve gone far enough for the time being…my ‘king’ invariably catches up with me but sometimes needs time to get there!
Thanks for leaving your first comment on LF. You’ve listed three useful suggestions for leading leaders. I particularly love the second suggestion, “know the right questions.”
All the best to you,