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Leadership Intangibles


Leadership Intangibles

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Does this sound familiar? People are lining up to see you outside of your door more and more. Tensions are high among people who normally seem calm and reserved. Something's wrong but you don't know what. Faces tell you that words of reassurance are not congruent but you don't know why. And, you experienced these things before and found out later just how right your feelings were? Well, welcome to the world of leadership intangibles. This is the place where some things don't make sense, and while we struggle with our emotions, we know when things are just "not right." If we act on our feelings, there is a pretty good chance we will be doing something right and, if we don't, we will miss an opportunity. Answers to follow...

Books galore have written about the characteristics of superior leaders. We are all schooled in worthwhile things like Covey's "7 Habits' and Kouzes and Posner's

leadership thought bubble"The Leadership Challenge.' We have heard from the best authors like Jim Collins with "Good to Great,' and Marshall Goldsmith with "What Got You Here Won't Get You There' and there are many more. These books are great reads and in each there is a recurring theme that creeps through, which is each good leader is steeped in the intangibles. You know; that whole "they get it" thing that we know so well in the best of those who lead us. Simon Sinek (you can find Simon on Ted Talks) often refers to people who value or believe what we believe as people who "get it." As an example of not "getting it," view the actions of our beloved elected officials. How many times have you watched congress posture, puff and bluster with accusations regarding the other side of the aisle for the all the debilitating issues of the day. As you watch the evening news how many times have you thought to yourself, "They just don't get it!"

Here is how it works. Some things people/leaders just "get' and some things they simply don't and it appears to be pretty important in this whole leadership equation. We know that there are some things that people do when they simply "get it' and there are some clues when they don't. The point of this quick article is to talk a little about those things that people do in either case. So how do we "get it' better as leaders?

Before I start erupting in advice, allow me to go at this a little differently and speak to the obvious things. No special tricks or technique and no gimmicks or lists to attach to your bulletin board. Simple stuff is the answer, but discipline seems to be the real issue. How about this?

Remember what Mom told you?

Listen More - No three-step formulas please, just listen. Mom told us we had "two ears and one mouth for a reason' and as usual she was right. But, let's not just turn on the technique. This time let's really listen to not only the words but also to notice the inflection and the body language. While we are at it, why don't we paraphrase what is being said for clarity and ask questions to make sure we understand the depth of what is being said. Maybe we should turn away from our computers, compartmentalize our minds and find a safe distance to face people and really, really, pay attention.

Thoroughly decide at a reasonable pace!

Look for corroborating evidence - once you "get it," is it time to scan the environment for more information? Another intangible I have noticed in good strong leaders is their ability to make good thoughtful decisions at a reasonable pace. Jumping too quickly to action is efficient but not necessarily effective. Take deep life giving breathes and then squeeze your brain just a little harder. Assumptions can rule your decisions if you're not careful. The advice is always the same from observes and advisors - check assumptions before you act. Thoroughly is a good word and thoughtful advice.

How do you feel... how do they feel?

It is what the best leaders can do - for all of you who might be thinking that is just a bit too "touchy feely for me," you may want to check in on this part. Leadership is truly about people and they experience these "feely" things in large quantities. People care and have real passion around issues, work, and life. They often feel "looped out" at work and know that your time is premium and want to make the biggest impact in the shortest time they can. The way they get our attention is much like a child we have not paid enough attention to. They can exaggerate, place heavy emphasis on places that may or may not deserve that emphasis and may even take on a bit of the "chicken little' affect. Remember him?

Part two is harder for some. Pay attention to, and be a strong manager of, your emotions. We all have our hot buttons and knowing what yours buttons are and managing your responses pay dividends and makes you a much more approachable leader. Only you will know if part one or two is hardest.

Calm is contagious...

People are drawn to leaders who stay cool - In this world where we seem to be going at a full tilt all the time and we still flock to people who have their "cool on." How do you measure calm and under control? The old saying "we know it when we see it" applies and, as you all can attest, we are all drawn to those cool, calm and collected leaders. So, you are asking how, how, tell me how, right? My best advice - we know about how habits are developed and we know how stress is managed and the answers may live there.

Think remedy not behavior change at first. For instance, ask, "How do I eliminate the things that make me run in tight circle and look like a wild person?" Once identified, start to tackle them in a proactive approach to keep them from ruining your day.

Care out time every day to be flexible and slowly increase it until you start to feel more in control of your pace, demeanor and approachability. It will turn into an imbedded habit if you persevere.

Let people know you are on a journey to be more relaxed and deliberate in the effort to be a better model for leadership and seek their feedback as you apply the new habits.

The intangibles have become a hot button for me. As I interact with more and more leaders, I pay close attention to their social connection with people and consequently how effective they are. We all know that being a student pays off, so my final thought for you is to pay attention to other leaders who do these intangible things better than you do and those who are not doing them well at all. Keep a score card in your mind of what works and what doesn't based on those leaders' effectiveness. Not only will you be able to apply the best practices, you might steer away from avoidable mistakes. Please share your thoughts with me, because I am truly a student and love to learn.

Talk more in August.

Warmest regards,

5 (4)


Ralph Twombly
Priority Learning

In the 20 years since starting Priority Learning, Ralph has facilitated countless learning experiences and has conducted training for thousands of managers and leaders. With over 30 years of leadership development and organizational development background and work, Ralph continues to build relationships with client companies all over the U.S.



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