Good morning, good afternoon or good evening, wherever you are.
I stole the title of this month’s newsletter some time ago from an article by the same name by Robert Goffee and Gareth Jones (September – October 2000 edition of the Harvard Business Review). Their trick (that’s what they called it!) was to ask a room of executives this question and observe how the room immediately went silent. I thought that was a good idea, so I have from time to time tried the question with several of my coaching clients over the years. It’s a really tough question to answer but a question every leader needs to get clarity on. For many of my clients it’s as if, instantaneously, they realise that their kneejerk thought (typically something akin to “because I’m the boss”) just won’t cut it. Then what!
Their deliberation after that, is the important part. There generally seems to be two camps. Leaders in the first camp normally look internally to themselves – what their strengths are – as the reason others should follow them. Those in the second camp describe what they do for their followers – how they try to empower them – and the impact this has on the organisation and results. Of course, some of the answers from each of the camps overlap but generally the members of the first camp look in the mirror and those of the second tend to look at how others are better off with them around. And, typically, the need to achieve results is in the equation somewhere.
So which camp is right? How would great leaders answer the question? I’m going to answer this by asking another question, this time belonging to a well-known South African leadership development consultant, Etsko Schuitema, who apparently asks leaders “Do you use your people to get results, or do you use results and the work environment to enable you to care for and grow your people?” The power of this question, like the one raised by Goffee and Jones, is that it almost shocks leaders into a realisation of the kind of leaders they are. Most leaders are doing the best they can with the knowledge and experience available to them; yet, when they start exploring these questions, their real strengths and capabilities are released.
As Myles Downey has said: “Individuals join organisations so that they can achieve some of their goals…Organisations employ individuals so that the organisation can fulfil its mission and achieve its goals…A successful relationship between an individual and an organisation is achieved when both parties achieve their goals.” In my view, that successful relationship is the consequence of leaders caring for and growing their people rather than using people to achieve these goals. Don’t be fooled by this – this is not a soft approach; woven into Schuitema’s approach is some tough empathy in the form of accountability. No free lunch here!
So, how can I help you become the Leader You Want to Be? If you are in a leadership position, no matter at what level of your organisation, why not use the month of April to explore these questions in determining the Leader You Want to Be! As the answer begins to emerge, stay focused on the Leader You Want to Be daily by setting the alarm on your mobile for, say, every three hours during the day. When the alarm rings, reflect for 15 to 30 seconds to what extent you have been the Leader You Want to Be in the previous three hours and how you can be the Leader You Want to Be in the next three hours. Stick with this practice for at least three weeks – and notice what happens to your leadership!
I’d really be interested in hearing how this works for you so please feel free to press the “Comment” button below and let me know.
Until next month