A Leader's Privilege

Leadership is not for the faint of heart. Or know-it-alls.

Leadership Fail

Flash to a conference room in Anywhere, U.S.A. for a weekly project meeting. A leader is sitting at the head of the table with his project managers all around. The project hit a snag and a 2 week adjustment to the plan is in order. The leader has a plan and is prepared to communicate it to the team.

The leader convenes the meeting, communicates the change in plans and a project manager raises a concern. The leader explains his reasoning for the particular course of action he selected.

The project manager considers the leader’s reasons and offers his operational perspective on another option. The leader restates his reasoning.

The project manager identifies pros and cons of the two options and requests a change in direction. The leader restates his reasoning.

In the next 30 seconds, employee engagement would be lost.

When the project manager spoke again, it went something like this, “I recommend, and prefer, an alternate course of action  . . .  but you are the boss. If you want us to do it your way, we will.”

Did anyone else just see what I did? Absent the project manager throwing his hands in the air, it was a clear declaration of defeat.

I looked to my left, I looked to my right and I looked to the leader - just in time to hear him restating his reasoning again.

Leadership Lesson

Leadership is hard work. Leadership is about inspiring people and leading change. It's about being present in the moment to influence options and approaches to new or long-standing issues.

The 2 week change in plans would not determine the success and failure of the project; it was a matter of preference and approach. The leader did ultimately agree to accept the project manager's suggestion, but it was too late. Presented with an opportunity to engage the team in jointly solving a problem, he chose to hold his ground.

Leaders have the benefit, and responsibility, of position. Rank does have its privileges but being right is not one of them. Leadership is not about self, it’s about others and leaders are judged by their actions. How a leader views, and acts upon, their leadership privilege speaks volumes.

What are your actions saying about you?

Photo credit iStockphoto

Leadership Lessons from the Classroom

Leadership. Sometimes it's so quiet that if you didn't know what you were looking for, you'd miss it.

My daughter started middle school and has had so many opportunities in just the first 4 weeks. One of those was election for student council. So, with 9 students in her homeroom interested in the coveted leadership spot, each set out to create a poster . . .

. . . and prepare a speech to solicit votes from their peers.

"Hi, I'm Tarah and I'm running for Student Council. I am reliable and responsible and would like to represent you. I am also able to to do something kind of unusual. I can do this <insert freaky finger trick here.> I'm sorry, I just had to make sure you were awake. Like I said, I would like to represent you on the student council. I appreciate your vote and respect your decision. I also brought in some treats for your enjoyment." <parent note: this line was overridden by the teacher and the Fudge Stripes were not mentioned or shared until after the vote!>

When my husband and I saw Tarah later that day - she was psyched. She LOVED giving the speech and friends told her she was funny, she did not talk too fast and she seemed so comfortable. Giggling and unable to contain her excitement, she wanted to do it again - even though she did not get elected. 

"We're so proud of you for going for it" we said, "look at the wonderful experience you had." Playing with the kid we said, "At least you know you got one vote - your own."

"No," she said. "I had 2 votes and I did not vote for myself."

What?! Turns out she took her 2 votes and used 1 vote for friend A because she was nervous and did a great job on her speech and the other vote for friend B because she thought she'd be a great representative.

Wow, I thought, as I settled back and took a close look at the young girl sitting beside me. Mistaking my pride for doubt, she asked if that was the right thing to do.



The story doesn't end there.

A few days later she came home sad. It seems a friend told her she lost the election because she didn't vote for herself. <darn kids> I could see the struggle between for self and for others multiplied by middle school drama.

We talked about not knowing how the votes were distributed, remembering how psyched she was after the presentation and how good it felt to support her 2 friends. We talked about winning vs. being a good person and about how we were so very proud of her.


Leaders bring out the best in others and, when it's all said and done, that's who people follow. 

I know leadership is not about pomp and circumstance yet I have to wonder, is there still a place for quiet leadership in the loud world we live in today?