The leadership shift
Great leaders know success is about others and not themselves. They shift focus from the way others treat them to how they treat others.
Sadly, some leaders focus on themselves and expect others to do the same. They’re weak, self-centered and sometimes paranoid. They have leadership-position but they’ll never be great leaders because they’re spiraling inward. They’re going nowhere.
Great leaders shift from self-serving strategies
to other-serving strategies.
You might argue that self-development, a central component of successful leadership, reflects a self-centered focus. However, it doesn’t. Great leaders develop themselves in order to enable effective service in others. Even when they focus on themselves they are focusing on others. They’ve made the leadership shift.
Focus on “you” so you can better serve “them.”
Making the leadership shift
Determining how you best enable others achieve their greatness is your path to greatness.
One step toward becoming a great leader is identifying “them.” Who are you serving? Who is your target market? Once you’ve shifted from you to them, ask, “How can I best help “them” reach their goals?”
You might say that great leaders serve everyone. I think that statement is so broad it’s practically meaningless.
Another step is prioritizing who you serve. Some organizations say “employees first.” Others say “customers first.” On the other hand, will you serve those under you before you serve those over you? Robert Sutton indicates leaders may need to ignore the higher-ups in order to protect and enable those under them (From “Good Boss, Bad Boss).
Personally, my leadership priority is other leaders and high potential individuals.
Personally, my own leadership shift is both an event and a process.
What blocks people from making the leadership shift?
I’ve suggested identifying and prioritizing as two strategies for making the leadership shift. What else can individuals do to make the leadership shift?
Culture may also affect leaders to focus on developing and serving their people. In countries where hierarchical is practiced than egalitarian, like the Philippines (where I am from) most middle managers are more focused on how they could serve the higher ups to show respect and earn trust. The executives are also wired to the fact that they are the boss hence they should do nothing but direct people to do this and that.
It is best that higher management show their middle managers that they are ready to serve them, of their needs to become successful at leading their people. This practice trickles down to the very least element in the organization.
Thanks for leaving your insightful comment. One interesting challenge of writing this blog is that a global audience has a diverse cultural orientation. It’s been a joy to learn how others approach the leadership challenge within their own culture. I have also been corrected and encouraged based on others cultural orientation. It’s an enriching experience. Thanks for reminding us about culture’s impact on leadership.
I’m glad you shared your insights and your own suggestion that higher up managers should serve middle managers.
Best to you,
Thank u for the specific suggestion which I can easily apply to myself. Since Im forgettable, I would use post-it until it get my habit.
You are most welcomed. And thank you for stopping in. Do come back again.
Inaction and expectation block people from making leadership shift. And action without expectation open people to make leadership shift. I believe, one should deserve first then desire. If you do not have power, you can not empower others. On the other hand, having power with self development philosophy would not work if you do not empower others. Here the meaning of power is not position or authority but the power of integrity, honesty, empathy and accountability towards others and yourself. One must set an example before advising others.
In my opinion, people perceive leadership is about gaining position, acquiring material gains at any cost. They do not focus on means. And this approach leads to self interested behavior. However, leadership is about social, moral and people development. So, we need a leadership shift to understand what leadership is all about. Is it a position or character ? Unless people sense it, there will be gap between leadership thoughts and leadership actions.
I agree with you that whatever may be the perspective the intention should be integrated development and inclusive growth. It is possible when we zoom in. When we grow people and surrounding around us and then we can zoom out to focus on bigger perspective.
You’ve left another potent comment. Here are a couple things I’m taking away…
“action without expectation” — says don’t demand others to be grateful or elevate you…simply do what is right regardless of how others behave.
“intention should be integrated development and inclusive growth.” — I love the power and balance of that statement.
You have my best regards,
Ajay is a featured contributor on Leadership Freak. He’s from India and enhance the LF community with his insights and perspective. Read his bio at: http://leadershipfreak.wordpress.com/ajay-gupta
The line between concentrating on yourself and others is a fine line indeed. One I haven’t mastered – I must stop and ask myself who I’m working for… or my independent nature can run amuck. I take time to reflect on the converstations I’ve had during the week.
My son is three and loves Scooby Doo – in one movie they interview Fred and ask what drives Mystery Inc.’s success. He replies – “Teamwork. I do lots and lots of teamwork.”
I’m with you. They may have something when they tell us to put the oxygen mask on ourselves first and then help others.
You’re also hitting on the real challenge of leaders who may need to act alone with vision and courage in order to create the team.
Your short comment brings up important issues.
GI Joe cartoon…”knowing is half the battle” 🙂
Dan: I personally don’t call people leaders who are self focused, regardless of their position. The definition of leader does not (ever) include title, rank or position in my mind.
I believe one of the first critera for being defined as a leader is do you have an ‘other focus’? (no = not a leader but a follower).
Regarding blocks to making the leadership shift – I have found self permission is a missing element.
Followers and supporters look for permission and validation from others. Linchpins (in an organization or a field of endeavor) don’t need permission to start performing. Mix that with caring about others and you have the start of a leader.
What other elements seperate a leader from a follower?
Alan: Thanks for your comment. Tell me how you really feel about self-focused “leaders.” 🙂
I agree completely about permission. Give yourself permission to lead. Not be an ogre but a person who enables others. I had to give myself permission to write Leadership Freak. I can think of many times in my life where I didn’t give myself permission to lead. I’m going to use your counsel when I meet with young leaders.
Separating leader from follower. Leaders get their heads out of the day to day and look into the future. All leaders are future focused, vision driven individuals. No vision = no leadership. Followers get stuck in the problems of the moment. (using follower in this case as a negative thing, which it doesn’t have to be)
Best to you,
Alan is a featured contributor on Leadership Freak. You can read his bio at http://leadershipfreak.wordpress.com/alan-hill
Greg Mortenson has written two books about his experiences in Pakistan and Afghanistan facilitating the construction and implementation of schools for girls. In the more recent book (Stones into Schools), Greg talks about one individual leader in the US military who singlehandedly changed the way Greg viewed our military (previous view had been skeptical re: the military’s relationship with Pakistan) by listening — to the spouses (mostly wives in this case) of officers who had read “Three Cups of Tea” in their book clubs — and understanding that he had to expose the soldiers in his command to this perspective of Pakistan/Afghanistan. I can only imagine in our military how very difficult it must be to say, “hey, let’s look at this from a different (unpopular) angle.” But he did, and as a result hundreds of our military were able to be more effective (and more human). There is more on that topic here: http://www.gregmortenson.com/2009/12/christian-dec-04-09/
I admire that admiral on the Joint Chiefs of Staff for having his own moral/ethical “north star” that gave him the courage to expand his viewpoint. Leadership.
You never know what angle or perspective a comment might bring. Thanks for a great comment and leaving a link that adds value.
Have a great day,
Paula is a featured blogger on LF. Read her bio at http://leadershipfreak.wordpress.com/paula-kiger
Many leaders will continue to do what they always have done well. They don’t grow as they get promoted into larger roles. The need to enable and develop others becomes more important as people move from technical roles into leadership roles. Those that were successful in smaller roles without developing others and don’t change will continue to focus on what matters to them.
Your comment about moving from technical roles to leadership roles is important to this conversation. The further up you go the more people skills matter while your technical skills become less significant’
The shift from what “I” do to what “other” can can be tough.
I’m always delighted to see you in the comment stream.
Best to you,
Again going back to old cartoons…who is ‘them’, Pogo once said, “we have met the enemy and he is us!”
Leaders may lose their perspective and end up viewing people as product or even a set revenue. One variation might be, ‘is this the way I would want my mother, father, son, daughter, loved one treated?’
Leaders have to the ability to shift focus or have ‘double vision’, seeing long term and short term while integrating the impact of both in a moment.
One role of leaders is to serve employees a vision of what can be and bring in real time examples what the best can look like for each person, whether employee or customer.
Love the pogo cartoon and it’s usually true. Thinking back on my own leadership experiences, I’ve frequently been my own worst enemy.
You bring an added perspective when you bring family to the discussion. Treat others like family.
I’m currently working on crafting clear descriptions of concrete behaviors that best exemplify our mission and vision. It’s a worthwhile challenge.
best to you Doc,
Doc is a featured contributor on LF. Read his bio at http://leadershipfreak.wordpress.com/doc
Respectfully Dan, you can create ownership of the values (behaviors) by enlisting your team to create it instead of yourself.
Ask them the questions:
“what behaviors tell you when someone is acting according to our vision or mission?”
“What behaviors will tell you when someone is not acting according to our vision or mission?”
Who does this apply to? Our team? our customers? our vendors? Our partners?” “How exctly will it apply to them?”
I think you are right on. We started surveying folks this week. We chose the positive route on the questions but I like the .. “not acting according to our vision” approach also. I think it has real potential.
All the best,
What blocks people from making the leadership shift?
Power and Control…
What else can individuals do to make the leadership shift?
Another quote from my mentor, Russ Ackoff.
“Spend more time managing the ‘interactions’ of those you lead than their ‘actions’ and you will realize a remarkable improvement in getting things done.”
I hear you on the power and control issue. One of the books I’m reading right now is “Open Leadership.” The author explains that social media is breaking a leaders ability to control. Interesting read.
I love the idea of managing interactions rather than actions. Are you thinking of team work? Or is this a broader idea?
Best to you Jim,
Jim Leemann is a featured contributor on Leadership Freak. You can read about him at http://leadershipfreak.wordpress.com/james-leeman
The “Interactions” I am referring to here are all interactions to include teamwork, both within and outside the organization.
Great thoughts! It’s true, one must reflect on who it is they are leading first. Being an effective leader is an ever evolving process. If you feel you have learned everything you need to know- it’s time to move on. You are no longer getting out of what you should. There is always something new to learn- both on the leaders side and those they are leading.
thanks for your comment. YOu are so right…if you think you already know you aren’t going very far until you change something.
Best to you,
Focusing on one’s self as a leader is kinda like losing the overall picture. It’s like a developer falling in love so deeply with his creation to start writing it just for his own use rather its real users, the customers.
It never stops surprising me how a process like focusing on your real goals is so often abandoned in favor of a single leader’s greed.
I agree, I think leaders can and lose the big picture when they sink into themselves.
Sure we have to nurture, lead, develop ourselves. But all that’s done in the context of serving others.
Thanks for your comment,
Hi, Great thread here. To be a leader, ‘give yourself permission…” I also have read ‘Three Cups of Tea’, so appreciate Paula’s contribution. I’ve been studying Tribal Leadership, by Dave Logan and John King. They distinguish five stages of culture worth bringing to this conversation. In particular is the shift from stage 3 (self is great, and others are not) to stage 4 (we’re all in this together, doing more than none of us can do alone). I highly recommend a peek at http://www.culturesync.net. If you really get into this, I might see you on their teleconference call on the 17th March. To me, the inquiry into the nature of this shift, from self-serving management to impassioned commitment, wow!, that is what we’re all craving.
Thanks for leaving what appears to be your first comment on Leadership Freak. You gave us all plenty to think about.
Thanks also for extending the conversation with useful resources.
I feel the passion in your comment.
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