Category Archives: Leadership Skills

Thoughts on Leadership by Jonette Crowley

(Note: I found these discussions in my files and thought you would enjoy them, especially at these times when we are all stepping up to greater personal power and responsibility.)

Leadership is Not for Everyone Jonette-new-photo-blue

Leadership is not for everyone because you must be a leader 100% of the time.

Here is a useful analogy: I’m a gardener. My garden depends on me to water it, pull weeds and not step on the plants. I can water it well all the time, pull all the weeds, and talk nicely to the shoots. But if I’m having a bad day and I go out and stomp on the plants— even if my tirade only lasts five minutes out of the whole summer— my garden is devastated. Sure, the strongest plants—the ones I didn’t totally destroy, will be able to repair themselves. But even if I keep watering and weeding them, they’ll never, ever be what they could have been. And, of course, the weaker plants won’t survive at all.

I can lament, repent, apologize but the living things I hurt will always show signs of damage. When you do something that hurts another, an apology doesn’t cure the damage, it only keeps it from getting worse.

Leaders create leaders. It’s impossible to manage people into being leaders. When you show up in the power of your unique essence energy—that creates a magnetic space in which others lift to their highest essence. Leaders have a resonance and charisma that create leaders in their wake.

Power and Authority

Some organizations—organized religion, large companies, governments— hold their authority because they make the house rules. However, they lose their authority when they don’t listen to the people. By not listening, such organizations also lose the next higher lever of power—that of influence. What is sad is that many of our large organizations appear to be incapable of responding differently.

When authority doesn’t respond to the people, the people will eventually pull back their power, and leave the game altogether. For example, I was visiting a friend in St. Petersburg, Russia, I learned that nearly all educated and successful Russians keep their savings in U.S. dollars locked in cupboards. They’ll only put up with currency devaluations and unfair taxation so long before they completely pull out of the legal money markets. Something else will fill the void and there is no going back.

Here is another example. In England Queen Elizabeth and Prince Charles have authoritative power. Princess Diana had influence. People give the power to the influencer to influence them. There is nothing authoritative power can do in the face of true influence.

There can be incredible change when authority and influence reside together. We want our authorities to have the vision and human connection of an influencer. Martin Luther King, Gandhi… were influencers.

Authoritative power is based on fear. It lasts as long as people transfer their power to what they fear. No matter what, power comes from the people. Authoritative power can also be based on the culture or tradition—it is a habit to give power to the king, the boss, the chief.

Fear is the transfer of power to what you fear.


Darkness: The darkness and shadows we see in the world only seem darker because the overall  light is brighter. On a cloudy day the shadows don’t seem as dark as on a bright day.

Honor: The personal quality of honor—honoring another— is the key to ending conflict and war. It is more effective than the idea of peace, because honor is experienced personally—one-to-one, while peace generally isn’t experienced as individuals.

Clear Vision: We must not only have a clear vision of the future, we must cut the past, so we don’t drag it into the future.


12 Facets of the Collaborative Leader

Symmetry in RedLeaders need to be multi-faceted to navigate through business these days and adding collaborative leadership techniques is one way to accomplish this. Leadership is a complex skill that requires constant analysis and refinement to perform with capability. Leaders must be adaptable to changes both within and outside their organization and respond to these changing conditions in a manner that benefits their team. Often this means adjusting or tweaking their leadership style. There are times when it makes sense to be a forceful leader who makes decisions and forges the way while at other times it is appropriate to adopt a more collaborative effort. With that in mind, we bring you twelve facets of a collaborative leader from Jesse Lyn Stoner.

Collaborative Leaders…

1.  Flatten things. They flatten the traditional hierarchical chain of command and create networks. They also flatten compensation structures so the difference in pay-scale between the top and bottom is not astronomical.

2.  Allow leadership to emerge. They let go of the need to be in control because they trust in the vision and the people. Roles and responsibilities shift as the nature of the work changes, and leadership emerges according to what is required.

3.  Know the business and the landscape. Always learning, they are interested in a wide variety of topics. Not only do they understand their business, they keep abreast of events and ideas outside their own area of expertise in order to see trends and possibilities.

4.  Live in the land of curiosity. Instead of seeking quick answers, they consider the larger picture and long-term implications. They ask good questions that open up possibilities and that help people find their own solutions. They seek information from multiple sources.

5.  Ask for directions when driving. Not only are they willing to ask for help, they are not afraid to be vulnerable and fully human. They know their limitations and what they don’t know, and they are willing to rely on others for support.

6.  Genuinely care about people. They respect people as fellow human beings and care about their health and well-being. They connect with people at a personal level, regardless of their role.

Read more at 12 Things Collaborative Leaders Do

Leaders need to have different styles of leadership that they can seamlessly work into their office persona to weather the changing environment. Being a multi-faceted leader does not mean that you are Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Rather, you are able to deftly switch modes and command your team's attention and also give them free reign to accomplish tasks. It is a difficult but worthwhile balance. A leader is someone their team looks up to and should be depended upon to offer both guidance and a helping hand. Embracing the twelve facets of collaborative leadership will enhance your leadership and gain you trust and respect from your team. 


5 Ways Leaders Can Build Trust in Teams

Half Dome Cables, Yosemite National Park

Image by SteveD. via Flickr

Every good leader understands the role of trust in relationships among co-workers but might not know what they can do to help build or even solidify that trust. Trust is essential to any relationship whether in or outside of the workplace. Trust must be gained to start laying a proper foundation of mutual respect and awareness. Leaders can help monitor the workplace environment and assess the level of trust among employees by having frank conversations with them or simply engaging their team in conversations and gauging the interactions that take place. Every leader can lend a helping hand to their team no matter what level of cooperation and trust your team may have. Here are five actions to do from Nan Russell to build trust.

1. Operate with respect. Respect is an essential trust building component. If you don't offer respect to others, why would someone give you their trust? The respect component operates as a transparent window giving others a glimpse of who you are. In the words of Malcolm S. Forbes, “You can easily judge the character of a man by how he treats those who do nothing for him.” What are your actions communicating about you?

2. Eliminate the blame game. Finger pointing, assigning fault, or condemning others' mistakes diminishes trust. That ferret-out approach instills fear, not innovation; reduces engagement, not errors; and reinforces scapegoating, not accountability. But people who step up to accept their mishaps and acknowledge their mistakes build trust, enhance accountability, and enable future-focused solutions.

…More at Five Trust Building Dos | Psychology Today

Trust is greatly enhanced with active involvement among all parties and leadership should be providing the path to a respectful and trusting team. Leaders need to be aware of the relationships among their team and should monitor them to head off any problems before they occur. One way to do this is to routinely engage employees in trust building exercises that emphasize the five methods presented above. Leaders can take these five to-do items and put them in their toolbox for their next retreat or seminar as a way to build trust in their teams.


Leadership is Earned and Not Bestowed

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Image by Victor1558 via Flickr

Leadership must be earned through hard work which lead to results and is not simply bestowed on a person. Leaders must have taken the time to earn their title in order to foster respect and camaraderie with those they will be leading. A position of leadership that is bestowed will be looked at with skepticism by those that must follow this unknown leader. This is a situation where a leader must act quickly and decisively in order to gain the respect of those they are leading. Teams look to leaders to provide guidance and friendship so a genuine interest is essential for those looking to lead. Two esteemed individuals in the leadership realm shed some more insight on leadership as Dr. Rodger Duncan interviews Mark Sanborn

I’d begin by asking, “Why do you want to lead? What difference do you want to make?”
Leadership has become trendy and many want to be “leaders” but don’t necessarily have compelling reasons. Leadership should be borne out of a desire to contribute rather than simply achieve. Leadership done right benefits both the leader and the greater good: followers, the organization, and/or the community. Know why you want to lead because without compelling reasons, you probably won’t be able to pay the cost of developing your leadership abilities and maintain your commitment in the face of challenges.

…More at Mark Sanborn: You Don't Need a Title to Be a Leader :: Doctor Duncan

This wide-ranging discussion touches on a great many aspects of leadership but the first item mentioned is about earning the title of leader. Many leaders will work their way up the corporate ladder to achieve leadership by gaining responsibility gradually as they go. This is a great way to gain the respect of colleagues and peers. If you are results driven and show a flair for success then people will respect you and trust you to lead them in success as well. This contrasts sharply with those that get assigned a role of leadership and assume that this bestows a pass to behave poorly. Quite the opposite is true, a person who has a title bestowed on them must work doubly hard to earn the respect of their team. A leader who understands that true leadership is earned through service and a drive to succeed will go a lot farther than those that attain a position through bestowal and settle into it with complacency.


Leadership Skill: Asking Not Telling


sensitive noise / obvious 2

Image by milos milosevic via Flickr

Leaders need to ask not tell. Ideas and collaboration are greatly hindered when a relationship switches from being a partnership to master and subordinate. In order to fully tap into your resources you must be able to phrase any requests in the form of a question rather than as an order. Marvin Marshall tells us more about asking vs. telling. 

No one likes to be TOLD what to do. Think of a time when someone told you what to do or told you that you had to do something. Notice how it conjures up a negative feeling.

I grew up with a friend who, when told what to do by a parent, would find an excuse NOT to do it. Even if it was something he wanted to do, such as going outside to play, he would find an excuse to stay indoors just because he was TOLD.

Depending upon the other person’s mental frame at the time, when we tell a person what to do—regardless of how admirable our intentions—the message is often PERCEIVED either as an attempt to control or as a criticism that what the person is doing is not good enough.

…More at Telling vs. Asking

Nobody enjoys being commanded to do things. Being told to do something often feels belittling which puts us in a defensive position. Leaders need to understand this frame of reference when they approach any topic, but especially sensitive ones, with their followers so that they can avoid putting people on the defensive. A spirit of cohesion that can be brought about when people feel a part of a team where everyone works as equals can go a long way in keeping employees happy. Special care should be taken to ensure that you are phrasing your requests as questions rather than commands to make the most of your relationships with your team. Just remember: ask not tell.


Project Leadership in 5 Components

Desert Leader

Image by Hamed Saber via Flickr

Five components can help you with your project leadership. Project leaders are those who possess an understanding of the scope of a project. They know the required objectives and have the knowledge required to complete those objectives. Project leaders are the true drivers of teams despite the fact that they may not be in a management position. James L. Haner tells us the five important components of project leadership from Dr. Peter F. Drucker.

Management guru Dr. Peter F. Drucker said that the performance of the project leader determines the success or failure of the project. The number one reason that project team members stay or leave is how they are treated by their project leaders.

Dr. Drucker described these five key elements of project leadership:

  1. Leader-follower:  project leaders influence the behavior of team members, and vice versa
  2. Influencing:  project leaders and team members using knowledge and competence rather than position and status to influence each other
  3. Project objectives:  outcomes that project leaders and team members want to accomplish
  4. Change:  needed to achieve project objectives
  5. People:  project leadership is about leading team members

Project Leadership is the process of influencing team members to achieve project objectives through change.

…More at Five Key Elements of Project Leadership I Learned From Peter F …

Project leadership is essential to project completion. The success of a project relies heavily on the ability of a project leader to influence their team and keep them moving forward with positive momentum to conquer project objectives. A project leader is responsible for ensuring that the outcome of a project is aligned with the objectives that were put forth in the undertaking of the project. To ensure success with your project keep these five components of project leadership in mind. 


Conversation Skills in Leadership


Image by suzi54241 via Flickr

Are conversation skills in leadership declining? Communication, particularly, conversation has changed a great deal over time. While face-to-face and handwritten communication may have been the bread and butter of earlier generations, today is guided through e-mail, text, and other electronic formats. Generation Y joins the workforce with more electronic than face-to-face or fully written text. So how can leaders help?

Mary Ann Allison, an assistant professor of media studies at Hofstra University, has her students keep a log of their own communication habits.

“By paying attention to it, they say, `Wow, it’s a really different conversation when you’re talking with someone and listening to them,” Allison says. They key in on body language, facial expressions and tone of voice – all cues that you lose when you can’t see or hear someone, or when you’re distracted, even in person, by a gadget.

Sternberg, at Fordham, asks her students to give up one form of electronic communication to see what kind of difference it makes in their lives.

She also has them practice simple tasks such as standing up in a room full of people and introducing themselves. Many of them hate the drill, she says, but later tell her how useful it was, especially in the workplace.

Interestingly, Anna’s mom, Joanna Schiferl, is more worried about the effect that texting is having on her daughter’s writing skills than her social skills. Anna tends to rush her writing and pays less attention to grammar, or uses abbreviations she’d use in a text. It is a common observation among parents….More at Text Messaging: Is Texting Ruining The Art Of Conversation?

Schiferi is correct – the effect on writing skills may be the biggest concern. Prime example is a young man I worked with that wanted to move into a leadership role. He had the knowledge, the passion, and the vision needed to lead. Unfortunately he couldn’t get past the abbreviated texting and tweeting format and informality for his  communications, written or verbal. He lacked the art of business conversation as he spent the majority of his time texting and tweeting.

Comunication – effective communication is key to leaderships role in conveying the vision and knowledge  to inspire and mentor others. A key in this is conversation skills in leadership.

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Great Leadership Depends On the Right Mindset

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Great leadership depends on the right mindset, whether it’s in the office or on the field.

Robert Sutton, author for the Harvard Business Review has written this article which explores the concept that great leadership depends on the right mindset. Whatever your mindset is, that’s what your team will mirror. They will follow your lead. If changing your mindset is something you think will make you a better leader, remember slight adjustments go a long way in my experience so don’t try to change everything at once.

Great Leadership Depends on the Right Mindset

…At the same time, I’ve come to conclude that all the technique and behavior coaching in the world won’t make a boss great if that boss doesn’t also have a certain mindset.

My readings of peer-reviewed studies, plus my more idiosyncratic experience studying and consulting to managers in many settings, have led me identify some key beliefs that are held by the best bosses — and rejected, or more often simply never even thought about, by the worst bosses. Here they are, presented as a neat dozen:


  1. I have a flawed and incomplete understanding of what it feels like to work for me.
  2. My success — and that of my people — depends largely on being the master of obvious and mundane things, not on magical, obscure, or breakthrough ideas or methods.
  3. Having ambitious and well-defined goals is important, but it is useless to think about them much. My job is to focus on the small wins that enable my people to make a little progress every day.
  4. One of the most important, and most difficult, parts of my job is to strike the delicate balance between being too assertive and not assertive enough.
  5. My job is to serve as a human shield, to protect my people from external intrusions, distractions, and idiocy of every stripe — and to avoid imposing my own idiocy on them as well.

Read the Full Article Here…

I disagree slightly with number three, of course a great leader will empower their people to do their best work and accept that progress comes in small achievements but the goals of the team are what drives the work forward so don’t forget the big picture and occasionally remind yourself and the people you are leading what the goals are and that you believe they can reach those goals. See for yourself how much great leadership depends on the right mindset and let us know how it works out.


Musings on Leadership – Recognition

James, I think your cover's blown!

Image by laverrue via Flickr

Everyone wants recognition. Don’t believe me? Think about it – a desire for recognition starts early. As an infant we cried for recognition that we needed something. As we became toddlers and could voice our needs and wants, we said “mom” repeatedly or may be poked our mom until she stopped what she was doing and paid attention to us.

In large that is all that we are looking for in recognition. It isn’t just about getting praise for a job well done. It is about being acknowledged.

Shift your focus from yourself to the team.

All great leaders put their team’s interests ahead of their own. As Jack Welch counsels new leaders, “It’s about them, not about you.” Think about why each person is involved and what’s in it for him or her if the team succeeds. Set up touch points that have value for each team member – financially, professionally or intrinsically. For example, before sending your next email, think about what additional value – such as information sharing, recognition or coaching – you can add beyond addressing the specific task at hand. Can you share an update on a related project? Maybe you can provide a strategic view of how this work fits into the bigger picture. Is there something the team has recently done that deserves praise? Moving from a task focus where you manage others to a mission-led focus where you serve your team opens up the potential for deeper engagement, better alignment and higher performance….More at Managing Virtual Teams: Three Keys to Success

Trish Gorman’s suggestions apply not just to the virtual team, but to any team. Further, recognition can be as simple as awareness of the individuals on your team. If you know your team and put them first, you will find greater success. Recognition big and small count in their eyes.

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Leading an Increase in Productivity

Productivity: Wrapping up the First Stage of a Special Project

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Less man power, over loaded schedules, constant connection to electronic communication and stimuli, tight deadlines = higher expectations in productivity. Do you feel you are leading an increase in productivity for your team? If not, what can you do?

In this excerpt Dolly Garland suggests awareness is a key factor

Before you can improve anything, you must have awareness of where you are.  Awareness is the first essential step in any kind of development, and you could break it down into various types. But there are three particular types of awareness which relate to productivity, and journaling can help you achieve these.

. . .

Time Awareness

Many of us do things on auto-pilot. If you are always driving on the same route, at the same time, you probably don’t even think about where you are going. You sit in your car, get lost in your thoughts, and arrive at your destination. That applies to how you spend your time. You have to do certain things during the day, and most of the time, you do them the way you know how.

. . .

Task Awareness

How aware are you of the things you do daily? You might have a big to-do list, and you are diligently crossing things off it, but are they the right things?

Are those things taking you closer to the things you really want to achieve, values you want to nurture, and the life you want to live? Are you applying the 80/20 rule?

. . .

Result Awareness

You are filling your days doing tons of things. You are always busy, and your schedule feels like it’s unending. But what are you achieving? What are the tangible end results you can claim? Most good things take time to achieve, but if we are always in transit, working towards something but never quite getting there, then there is something wrong. For example, if you want to write a book, maybe it will take you 6 months to a year to write 90K words novel. But by the end of that year, you should at least have a finished first draft. That is your end result….More at 3 Types of Awareness That Can Improve Productivity

Productivity is not just about the end product your company presents. Your values and happiness are part of productivity. I challenge you to be aware of how you are leading an increase in productivity.

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