Pearls before Swine?
I spent an hour and a half with an emerging leader who didn’t appreciate my pearls of wisdom. I’d like to think he wasn’t wise enough to understand my “wisdom” but that’s not true.
I always end all leadership conversations with, “What did you get from our time together?” As usual I asked.
We’d discussed several relevant leadership strategies and techniques. I was intrigued to hear the topic that got the most traction.
His response was another reminder that Frances Hesselbein nailed it when she said, “Leadership is a matter of how to be, not how to do.”
Without hesitation, he said, “Hearing your leadership journey helped me the most.”
He’d asked a couple questions about me and I’d briefly answered without thinking much of it. My story isn’t glamorous. I like to say, “If we learn more from our failures than our successes, I should be a genius.” I’m dead serious.
The real pearl of wisdom:
The principles of leadership are not as powerful as the person behind them.
Ripping off strategies and techniques might work, briefly. Leadership longevity is, however, about you first. Second, it’s about aligning leadership-techniques with who you are and the situation you are in.
Listening-skills illustrate my point. Skillful listening techniques may work over the short-term. But, you need genuine interest in others in order to help them feel listened to.
Living by techniques that don’t align with who you are eventually destroys you and your influence.
I thought I was sharing pearls of wisdom. In reality, I relearned one.
What ideas, suggestions, or questions are you thinking in relation to this article?
Yes! I call it “how you be”, the essence of your authentic connection to all and staying in the place of seeing the “person inside” always. The rest falls into place.
I love reading your posts and relating them to coaching. The marriage of a “leadership being” with a “connected to each other being” with a “spiritual being” feels right to me.
Thanks for these easy to use reminders that offer me food for thought everyday!
I think the most powerful core of leadership is Idea. Leaders create hopes and dreams and communicate it to audience. They connect them to commit to the purpose and instill a sense of courage to change the outcome. They create a good environment and culture where everyone puts his or her full capabilities and potential to achieve common goal.
I believe that leadership is people centric and unlike management, it is about initiating, influencing and inspiring to achieve common goal. I also believe that leader is a ordinary human being with extraordinary qualities.
I love articles like this that get me thinking.
I was musing just the other day about “Do we really learn more from our failures than our successes?” because if that’s so, then like you, I should be a genius.
I’m thinking that, if I’m working on an issue and get it wrong, I know not to do it that way again.
There might be hundreds of wrong ways! And with my luck, I’d probably go through all of them before finally hitting on the right way!
Whereas, if I get it right fairly quickly, I’ve learned something I can put to immediate use and can use it again in similar situations.
Of course, while trying one of the wrong ways, I have at least learned something, i.e. how not to do it. If I’m lucky (but generally i am not), I might realise that one of the wrong ways would be right for some other specific task. But is either of these outcomes more valuable than learning the right way?
Particularly when, in leadership situations, getting it wrong could have quite serious consequences. You could lose the goodwill, cooperation, commitment of one or many people.
One thing I learned many years ago is that it is easy to switch someone off. A casual remark can soon achieve that. It’s then much more difficult, and takes much longer, to switch them back on again.
Looking forward to your next post, thanks again.
Interesting post, Dan. I think the most important thing I get from this post is that your leadership style (for lack of a better word) has to be not only part of you, but it has to be you.
At the beginning you said you rattled off responses. This happens to us all. We learn rote responses and stop giving much thought to them. They are just words if they never become part of who we are. And all the platitudes we memorize are for nought if we don’t live them out.
Yes we learn from our failures and our mistakes a like. Each situation becomes part of who we are. This is not pollyanna turn lemons into lemonade, but actually taking a lesson from the good and the badIMHO, anyway.
Great post- a kudos for posting about an interview that didn’t go as you expected. I think that’s called integrity.
Dan, you’re absolutely right that the principles of leadership are not as powerful as the person behind them. I have believed for a long time that our belief in a right or best way is usually incorrect; in fact, of any array of possibilities many could be workable, and right depends on circumstance. So find the way that works for you. As a leader, you’re never as good trying to be someone else (John Maxwell, Dan Rockwell), as you are being yourself. Use the talents and skills that got you the job, and find the techniques that maximize those.
Techniques are like gloves. They either fit you or they don’t. And even more; different jobs require different gloves. So chances are that in at least 75 % of your challenges, the other guy’s gloves won’t fit. Lesson learned; look at other peopls hands, but knit your own mittens.
Awesome – I love it.
As Dan would say “Kaching” another one for the quote book. thanks,
Quick and to the point….just great! I would add…but as the leader don’t be so proud that you ignore the fact that the gloves on the other guys hands could be employed to solve the challenge you are now facing to the benefit of all.
Thanks! And Joe; I’m more than willing to try them on. Otherwise I wouldn’t be visiting leadershipfreak 😉 .
…..myself as well.
This reminds me of watching American Pickers with my wife the other day. She remarked it is amazing that these guys will go into a place and bypass stuff that she (you, me, the owner…) might think is valuable and zero in on what they realize is a diamond-in-the-rough. You never know what someone might take away from an encounter.
Hi Dan – I think that the response to our mistakes/failures is what separates good leaders from the rest. Everyone knows we will make mistakes – what they will be watching for/learning from us are lessons in character, integrity and ownership. Too often I have seen leaders bask in the limelight and be no where to be found when things go wrong.
Geez, Dan, the emperor sure has nice set of new duds! The mirror is up again folks. Thanks Dan for being very open about your encounter.
Who is to say he didn’t appreciate your gems Dan? Maybe you perceived that ‘in that moment’ he did not shout, “Eureka!”, still could happen tomorrow, next week, next year… He absorbed what he could absorb ‘within that moment’.
My take away is that it is more often about the connection ‘in the moment’ than the content we are presenting.
The other take away is when we ‘own’ techniques and values that are not aligned with who we are, there has to be friction.
So who sees it first, the leader or those led?
Great final point, Doc, because we both know often the team sees first. There’s really very little we can tell our people about ourselves that would surprise them.
I am reminded of Dilbert: “Change is good. You go first.”
“We have met the enemy and he is us.”
And from Catch 22 – “Nothing made sense, and neither did anything else.”
There is a LOT about this management stuff that I do not understand, and I have been trying to explain things to companies and leadership since 1978.
Does it make sense yet?
I love this post. I used to work in student affairs at a university, one of my primary tasks being student advising. We often discussed leadership. I always did my best to listen to their ideas and views because, as you said, people need to align with techniques that align with who they are. Authenticity and congruence are extremely important in leadership. So often people are told that they need to try to be more like other people, when I would argue that they really need to be more aligned with themselves.
Have you read The High Impact Leader: Moments matter in accelerating authentic leadership development? It is written by Gardner & Avolio. Love this whole topic. It talks about identifying important moments that have shaped an individual into the leader that he or she is.
Dan, great post. I too often end my coaching sessions with what was the most important thing you learned, or was the most helpful? If I have shared a private story about myself to illustrate a point or help them to feel a little less alone, that tends to be what resonates. As one client put it, “Your willingness to share and be vulnerable gave me the courage to do the same.”
As I heard it said about people in leadership we may not always remember what they did, but we will remember how they made us feel.
Hi Dan. Very “revealing” post and timely for me since I just had my Board performance review. I won’t belabor the positives but will share some interesting “areas for improvement.” (talk about learning from failures and correctly Doc states that perception in the moment plays an important role.). Apparently the “Pace” of change is important and disturbs those “led” since they feel it is too fast. My perception of let’s make some decisions albeit with incomplete information does not fly. I was asked to keep them informed but not rushed! We read about sense of urgency needed especially in healthcare where every day one wakes up and there is a new wrinkle i.e. 6 primary care physicians suing CMS for following AMA recommendations allowing significant reimbursement disparities between specialists and PCP. Do we wait for the outcome of the lawsuit and not review our own specialty-primary care reimbursement? I am obviously missing something or not effectively communicating and my guys don’t want the umbrella on deck although the clouds are looming! Question for community? How does one create a sense of urgency at a pace that can be accepted and at the same time not feel responsible and guilty when the lights get turned off because the utility bill was not paid on time? I guess one way to do it would be to slow down hope for the best and have a kerosene lamp in the closet just in case. Thoughts?
The consortium of emperors like their new clothes? Are Al’s folks are asking if we can slowly have a sense of urgency!?
My gut reaction is that a true continuous improvement mindset cannot wait for the perfect practice or perfect storm, because, by the time you implement the perfect solution, the problem has shifted or what you are doing is obsolete. All indicators are that this pace is increasing not decreasing. Board members need that perspective.
That those led are resisting, speaks to the pace of course and perhaps to limited perception of the realities of the world. It does include the level of engagement or lack of. Finding a time and place to talk pace and change might be useful. (Strategic planning retreat?) To have some sort of common agreement/consensus that there is an elephant on table is a good thing. Validation of concerns of course works too as long as it is not tied to catastrophezing (sp?).
One might get Socratic and start asking lots more questions of those ‘led’…”If you ‘had a friend’ who was struggling with this, how would you wise counsel him/her?” or maybe even bring up real worst case scenarios and then ask, what if it happened here, what should we do? While that, to a degree is retrospective, it can lead to what do we need to do in the future to get to a place that can handle these complications and challenges. What can we do now to not have it happen? What can we do now to make something different happen?
At the same time, who in your cadre has stepped up and has received some acknowledgement for dealing with a negative situation well. They may be overt or covert advocates for positive and necessary change.
Tough work there Al, do appreciate you being there and being open about it here! Keep us posted.
Doc, thank you for your refreshing encouragement. We will be having our strategic planning meeting in several weeks and I think that is where the “rubber meets the road” conversations will take place. The overarching concern is basically fear of the unknown and comfort with the status quo. I particularly like your “Socratic” suggestion and will definitely plan my presentation immersed with it. Hopefully I can piece meal the information so no big gulps choke anyone. I will keep you posted and thanks again..
That’s a tough spot to be in, Al. As you have pointed out in the past, assuming a mutually-agreed-upon set of goals, most things come down to communication. I guess I’d start by comparing my goals to the boards to see if they match up. If they do, I’d give them exactly what they asked for — information.
Consider some adaptation of the old war room model, which gets dusted off when organizations find themselves in worsening situations. The war room concept uses visual management tools to portray objectives and progress toward objectives. The key piece for you: It also tracks threats to progress and gives a “routine” method for reporting on changes in threat conditions or new threats.
My (possibly limited) understanding has always been that urgency comes from an understanding that goals are threatened.
Not much help, but maybe there’s a seed of an idea in here somewhere for you.
Greg on the contrary your thoughts are very helpful and I need to brush up on your “old war room model” and see how I can tag that along with Doc’s “Socratic” suggestion. I agree with you that urgency comes from understanding that goals are threatened but having lived in South Florida I can tell you that some folks see the hurricane coming and decide to “wing it.” One thing is understanding the urgency and another is acting on it. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.
Great point Greg…understanding is a pivot point for urgency. I think that is one we all can build on. All too often we whine, ‘why don’t they get it!’
Obsessing a bit about your scenario Dan…
Did you let this emerging leader off too easy? While he did identify a global, for that amount of time, seems there could be more substance his answer.
One of the standard joke responses when someone goes to a two day training and you ask how was it or you ask for feedback on a presentation that you did, you only get, “It was great.” Huh?
Seems like there might be an appropo drill down to know some specifics that helped his perspective along so that you can focus on those a bit more in the next dialogue.
We don’t know our own power.