The Leadership Paradox

by Larry Timm, AAIM Employers’ Association

AAIM’s CEO Phil Brandt recently shared with his team that although leadership begins with him, it is not about him. If he does not forget that, he believes he can take his team’s performance to a new level. What is leadership about, then? It’s about the mission and the success of the mission.

Phil went on to say that for leaders to get out of their own way and allow the mission to succeed, they would do well to consider this mode of thinking:

  • If attitude reflects leadership…
  • and engagement is an outcome of attitude…
  • then engagement is a result of leadership.

There is much talk today of identifying one’s own leadership style—and that is acceptable until it becomes all about the leader. There is value in understanding the leadership style that someone else is (knowingly or unknowingly) demonstrating to you. To which of these styles do you default?

The Napoleon Leader

  • I am the Leader—you are not. Just look at the title on my card.
  • This leader gets the least of what their followers have to offer—the least amount of their abilities, skills and mind. At best they get malicious compliance.

The Facebook Leader

  • You like them, and they like you. Rather than developing you, this leader will remove obstacles so you’ll like them. It isn’t about business results; it’s about being liked.
  • While more effective than Napoleon, it doesn’t bring the collective potential of the group together. Individuals don’t become problem solvers; only the leader fills that role—at their peril.

The Momentum = MV Leader

  • If someone calls you a rhino, take it as a compliment. Or, at least know that you are personifying the formula of “Momentum equals Mass multiplied by Velocity.”
  • What is the end game of momentum? Results. That is effective because the leader produces by example, and that attracts people who are productive. At this level, the leader creates momentum with such velocity that it becomes the problem solver. The rhino, the train—whatever the metaphor is—it cannot be stopped. We’ve all seen it in sports, business and politics.

The Leader as a Developer

  • This leader accomplishes growth by developing people, even to the point that the leaders will knowingly create people better than themselves.
  • Don’t look at head count; look at capacity between the ears. When people capacity grows, business capacity grows.
  • Since the Developer Leader counts on growing people, he or she must be good at assessing potential, then putting that potential in the right place. Why? Because it isn’t about them. It’s about the results of the team and the mission.

The Einstein Leader

  • No, not the dog in the movie Back to the Future. That Albert guy.
  • Einsteins have done “it” so well for so long that people just follow them. Think Steve Jobs, Jack Welch, Warren Buffett. When they speak, people listen.

Leadership: The Paradox and Irony
The leader is critical, but it isn’t about the leader, it’s about the mission. The irony is that it starts with “the who” (the people) rather than “the what” (the mission). Where’s Abbott and Costello? Is it any wonder that leadership is so hard to define?

Most of us already work for a company that has an established mission. But the right people come first, because the reality is that they determine mission success. Do I hear the door of Jim Collins’ Good to Great bus opening so the right people can not only get on, but get in the right seats? iBi


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