Friday, November 22, 2013

teaching leadership

Last night I had the opportunity to work with one of The Concordia MBA cohorts in San Antonio guiding them in the process of learning about leadership.  This group is in the middle of  the Leadership:Self class and I was invited to come down from Austin to "guest lecture."  I put those words in italics because I did anything but lecture as they got to talk much more than I did - and I was  learning right along with them.  By the end of the evening (which was around 10:0 PM) we had become friends and colleagues on a journey of learning about leadership together.  Here's what happened:

  • they had read some great writings about leadership characteristics, failure in leadership, and using one's strengths in leadership - the readings gave us theory and context in which to talk about deep things
  • they were a small group that allowed everyone to talk in depth about the readings and their personal experiences
  • they had been together for awhile (The Concordia MBA uses a cohort style of learning) and had developed trust in which they could go deeper in their sharing and learning
  • they had done some reflective work ahead of time, both in the form of journaling as well as their Passionography assignment, giving them something on which to base their dialogue
  • they had read about and practiced the power of DIALOGUE and how that type of interaction is so much better than mere discussion
  • they had sought feedback on themselves from others through their Passionography assignment, allowing them to more fully reflect on their personal leadership
  • they had developed trust among them, knowing that when they shared personal "stuff" it would remain with the group and there would be no judging
  • they cam from a variety of backgrounds and experiences, all of which made for a very rich conversation among them
  • I asked a lot of questions, let them talk, then guided them in thinking deeper about what they had just said by asking more questions
  • I used my experience and knowledge to merely add to their experience and knowledge
  • I allowed them to teach me - my "aha's" during the evening only added to their "aha's"
  • they were humble in their learning process, knowing that they had a long way to go in this journey of learning about leadership
As you look at that list, consider how you might help others develop their leadership potential - what kind of environment can you create so others can grow? what kind of readings can you give to them? how do you pull together a group of willing learners? do you approach the group with a learning attitude of your own? how can you help people reflect deeply so they better understand themselves? what type of work assignments can you give that help develop leadership?  do you engage in dialogue or discussion with others?  finally, what have you done to grow in your personal leadership - how are you a different/better leader today than you were last year?

Kudos to Dr. Charita Ray-Blakely for her leadership of this class and of The Concordia MBA program in San Antonio...kudos to Dr. Linda Ford who helped shape and build The Concordia MBA to include this type of class...kudos to Roger Clark, admissions specialist at the Concordia San Antonio Center for recruiting this great group of students...and kudos to each of the students in this cohort who gave of themselves for two hours last night so that they - AND I - could learn more about leadership...and about ourselves.

Friday, November 8, 2013

what it takes to motivate others

I knew that title would grab you...everyone wants to know how to motivate other people.  Bosses want to motivate employees...teachers want to motivate students...parents want to motivate children...husbands want to motivate wives (and vice-versa).  So I am going to reveal in my blog to day the one thing you can do to motivate others toward top performance...and here it is:


That's right, you can do nothing to motivate anyone else.  You can only motivate yourself.  Everyone has the choice to do or not to do.  I consistently watch students choose to do their best work or not...choose to engage in class or not...choose to attend class or not.  It is their choice and there is nothing I can do to make that choice for them.

That being said, leaders have the opportunity everyday to create the environment and culture in which others will choose to do the right thing and motivate themselves into top performance.  The literature is full of what people need to be self-motivated (one of my favorite books on this subject is Daniel Pink's DRIVE: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us).  If we as managers and leaders take this information to heart, it is not hard to create the right environment in which those we lead and manage can perform at their very best - and will choose to do so on a regular basis.

Yesterday I sat in on a class that is led by Dr. Shane Sokoll, one of our faculty here at Concordia University Texas.  Shane is one of those teachers who is always trying something new and working hard to engage students in the teaching and learning process.  For this class (Principles of Management) he walked in the first day, told the students what the learning objectives were for the course, then asked them to develop what they were going to do to best learn and master the concepts and ideas that led to those outcomes.  Mind you, he did this with fear and trepidation as he was giving up control over what would happen on a day-to-day basis in the course.  Without going into a lot of detail, the students choose to present to each other a series of manager development workshops which they would create and teach to each other.  I watched a presentation on employee motivation - and let me tell you, these students were motivated!  Dr. Sokoll sat back and did NOTHING for 45 minutes of the class other than take notes on what was happening so he could debrief with everyone afterwards.  The students were engaged, they were learning, they had fun - and they OWNED the teaching and learning experience.

So...what does this mean for us as leaders and managers in our own places?  Obviously, Dr. Sokoll did not do nothing - he worked hard to create the right environment and culture in which the students would motivate themselves to do a great job and to own their learning...he worked hard to wrap his head around the idea that he did not need to be in charge of the classroom all the time...he worked hard to listen and watch so that he could provide proper feedback which would motivate the students even more...he worked hard to not jump in and "fix" things when they did not go according to plan...and he continues to work hard in maintaining this culture and environment which is different for him and for his students.

So look around - ask yourself what type of environment and culture is needed for those who work with you to do their very best - talk with people to see what will matter - give them options as to how they will own their outcomes - and then let them go.  You will be surprised that in order to motivate others, you just have to sit back and do NOTHING.

Friday, November 1, 2013

the hiddenness of leadership

I am currently attending the Faith & Learning Symposium at Baylor University, an event I have been wanting to attend for the past several years.  Sponsored by their Institute for Faith & Learning, this year's Symposium is focusing on the work of Soren Kierkegaard, a Danish Philosopher who is often referred to as the father of existentialism.  Kierkegaard grew up as a Lutheran and much of his thinking and writing reflects this worldview...I think that is probably why he resonates so much with me.

One of Kierkegaard's ideas revolves around the hiddenness of Christianity - that the Christian lives his or her life hiding their faith (so it, in and of itself, does not become the good work which creates pride) and lives out their faith in serving others because it is the right thing to do. ***quick caveat...I am by no means a Kierkegaard expert (not even a novice yet) so I might be wrong...please bear with me.

As I listened to the speakers talk about Kierkegaard and this concept of hiddenness, I began to reflect on a concept that dealt with the hiddenness of leadership.  The great paradox of leadership is that once you have to tell people you are a leader, you are no longer a leader.  I am not a leader because I say so...or because others put me into a leadership position...or because there is a nameplate on my door that says "leader."  I am a leader because what I do causes others to want to follow.  

Many of my colleagues will say to me, "I'm not a leader" when clearly they are...people listen to them, they respect them, they follow them - and that makes them a leader.  Others I know declare, "I'm a leader" and when I look around the room, no one is listening to them, respecting them, or following them.  While their words and actions are not hidden from others, they also are not leading.

So what does it mean (and what does it look like) when your leadership is hidden?  Here are a few thoughts:
  • I don't talk about titles, I talk about roles
  • I don't micro-manage, I set up a culture in which others can manage themselves
  • I don't refer to myself with a title, I use my given name
  • I don't sit at the head of the table, I sit in and among my colleagues
  • I am not the center of attention, I give others the opportunity to be the center of attention
  • I don't refer to myself as a leader, but I do see myself as a leader
  • I don't speak about achieving my personal goals, I help others achieve their goals
  • I don't tell others how to lead, I invite them into a dialogue about leadership
  • I don't try to make others lead like me, I encourage them to bring their whole selves into a leadership role
  • I don't talk about positions that are higher or lower, I speak to the way we work together to accomplish the goals and mission
  • I don't talk about what I have done, I talk about the accomplishment of the mission
I think you get the idea.  This is not as easy a task as it might seem, especially when you feel as if you are no longer being recognized for your work and leadership.  The temptation will be to stand up and say in a loud voice, "Hey, look at me - remember that I am the leader!"  I encourage you (and I remind myself) to keep leadership hidden, remembering that this is my calling...this is my vocation...and as a good friend of mine reminded me this week, my calling and vocation from God is irrevocable.  Therefore I must lead, and I must do so in a way that brings glory to God and serves the neighbor..and I must do so in a way that my leadership never gets in the way of leading.