LEADERSHIP CANNOT BE TAUGHT.


Leadership cannot be taught, it has to be encouraged. That is my view of the world and nothing I have seen in my very short lifetime has shown me otherwise. The problem of leadership in American culture is a complex challenge. We have bought into the idea that leaders are created in business school with ever more specialized management degrees. This philosophy could not be further from the truth. Leadership is about getting those around you to perform above their own expectations and to feel included and empowered. Leaders are great managers, unfortunately great managers are not necessarily great leaders. Business school can turn poor managers into great managers, but cannot create leaders.

The education that creates leaders starts in early childhood. It starts in the home at play. Creating leaders is about allowing your toddler to make decisions. It is about allowing her to be her own change agent. It is about explaining why. It is about explaining your yes and no answers equally. It is about recognizing that our toddlers learn from us. They are sponges and their best and worst habits are learned long before they can explain their decisions. Early training prevents later correction.

As the father of the two smartest daughters in the world I can attest to the strength of character of toddlers. My girls are now 3 and 5 and it is clear that they have very different personalities. In spite of their differences they both are confident and insist on making their own choices. They don’t readily follow the crowd. They, like little girls everywhere have been infected with the princess bug, but I smile when they choose the “boy” toys or face paint patterns. I am happy that they have been allowed to make their own choices and will not follow the other girls to the dolls but more often than not want both the doll and the truck. Having a community that supports our  girls is vital for the development of future female leaders.

For me, growing up around equally strong men and women instilled a powerful sense of place and robust confidence. This is what I want for my daughters and all our daughters. However, there is a noticeable lack of strong female leadership in our country. I would consider myself a feminist and believe that my girls are capable of doing and achieving anything they desire. Because there are physical limitation does not mean that she is not capable. The question is, are we willing to design and improve so she can express her full potential? This is the key question that needs answering. I know what my answer to that is. My daughters will never be told by me that they cannot. No one in my presence will go unchallenged if they suggest that my daughters cannot. I will lovingly push and challenge them, because they are just as capable as their male peers. It is time for us to use technology to level the playing field and allow all who would to be challenged by all this worlds has to offer.

MANAGEMENT IS A CONTACT SPORT


Employers have for too long been stuck using coercive methods to get employees to complete the requires task.
These methods have in general been a failure for both employers and employees. The resentment created leads to low productivity. This low productivity as resulted in employers requiring more work for the same pay resulting in even more resentment, malaise and apathy. The foundation of the problem is in a management class that often has inadequate direct experience in the industry that they are supposed to manage. This leads to unrealistic goals being set.

The lack of coupling between the persons establishing goals and the persons required to accomplish them is road block that has not adequately been challenged.
The failure to do so is more systemic that individual. The frustration of managers in not meeting their goals is understandable but does not engender sympathy. Employees are not sympathetic because they are the ones being asked to do more with less and managers often dig in and reach for the old solutions bucket.

A meeting is called to discuss the problem and most often no solutions can be agreed on and another meeting is scheduled. Before the meeting is adjourned a subcommittee is established to discuss and report to the next meeting. The committee is often too large and composed of the persons with the least creativity. In addition the committee is often given poor instructions and is without the power required to make the changes that would be most beneficial. A fuzzy deadline is set and the problem is considered solved.

The committee reports and one of two things happens, the recommendations are ignored or the committee asks for more time.
The endless committeeing of problems is a recipe for paralysis. We all recognize the problem and further we all recognized that the endless committees is not a route to a solution, but what alternative do we have?

I do not have a better way, but I would suggest that we often know what the problem is and what should be the solution. Where we go astray is trying to accommodate the wants of the many and not their needs. Good solutions are allowed to wither to accommodate the disruptive behavior of our friends or the influential. Even worse, good solutions are not used to solve a global problem, but used to punish the disliked. Such is the influence of work place politics.

If we want to solve problems and create more efficient work places we need to remove the pettiness and the politics. The question is, how do we do that? This is where effective management is vital. The goal of leadership is to; create a work space conducive to efficiency, identify problems in the system, and support the best solutions. Unfortunately, most of the management class gets side tracked by their goals and fail to realize that their primary function is to get the best out of the talent that is available to them.

You may think the people subordinate to you should answer to you, but you are grossly mistaken. You are answerable to them. Leaders are answerable to the people they lead. It is the function of the leader to create an environment in which goals can be met. The constant attention to the petty and insignificant takes the focus away from the real problems.

Keep the focus on the tasks that you have been assigned. Keep the people under you focused on the larger picture. keep the personal life of your staff out of the discussion. Keep focus on the tasks. Employees can be like delirious patients, their behavior is erratic and will not be corrected by restraints. The only solution is frequent and directed re-orientation. It is time-consuming but needed. Management is a contact sport. Lets play.