The Essential Characteristics of Successful Leaders: Think V.I.P.

This edition of Mentor Online is adapted from an article in the Sams Club magazine.

Vision This attribute of leadership is not a matter of crafting something that is dreamy or wishful in nature. Neither is vision about arriving at a final destination. Rather vision is about a legacy, image or impact upon constituents, a community or upon gaining a “brand identity”. It is vital that the leader has a sense of where to take the organization so tht it is clear that all of the available energy and time are invested in growing forward the people and system more than in preservation of the status quo or status ante.

Innovation — This attribute of leadership is about being comfortable with novelty, the entrepreneur’s role and “coloring outside the lines”. The leader is encouraged to model a spirit of whimsy more so than maintenance of traditions and rituals from the past.

Passion — This attribute of leadership centers on what motivates the person at the top of the pecking-order to drive or motivate the system to be more effective or faithful to its core values and mission imperative.

Lessons on Leadership from Kraft’s “Big Cheese”

This edition of Mentor Online is adapted from an article in the Sams Club magazine.

Betsy Holden, a co-CEO at Kraft Foods, shares her insight for key leaders in organizations.

Finding the shoe that fits — The keys to job satisfaction are passion, fit and fulfillment. Find a job that fits your skill set and gives you fulfillment in building the organization and seeing it grow forward.

Broaden your business experience — Gain deeper insights into a variety of functions that are required in the organization to broaden your experience. Seeing any enterprise from different perspectives will help you understand the overall needs of the system and not just the need for your skill set. Taking on a task that tests you is advisable.

Maximizing family time — Try to do things away from the job that achieve multiple goals at the same time. Volunteering together and sharing the time with your family will bring not only the satisfaction of making a difference in the world, but will also enhance the bonding in the family system. This insight is not just a different spin on the “quality vs. quantity” dichotomy; what is promoted is family time that is focused on more than only focused on entertainment.

The Ten Deadly Lawsuits That May Be Filed Against Churches

This edition of Mentor Online is adapted from an article by Stephen Chawaga in Your Church (May/June 2001).

Ten of the most common lawsuits faced by churches today:

  1. Suits based on negligence — general public. Churches can be held liable for accidents caused by dangers on your property that you knew about but the general public did not. A prominently posted warning sign can both avoid injuries and absolve the church.
  2. Suits based on negligence — parishioners. To avoid this suit it imperative to both warm members and visitors about dangers but exercise reasonable care and take necessary precautions to ensure their safety.
  3. Suits based on negligence — “nuisances” that attract children. To avoid this suit it is imperative that churches attend to the duty to keep children safe from conditions against which you might expect them to be unable to protect them — even when they are trespassing.
  4. Suits based on negligence — supervision of employees. To avoid this suit the congregation must attend to the duty to protect the public and members against any violent or criminal propensities of the employee that come to your attention. This oversight duty extends only to conduct that is foreseeable by a reasonable person and only to events that relate to work done for you.
  5. Suits based upon sexual harassment. Church staff can become vulnerable to charges of sexual harassment. Anyone in the church in a position of authority can accused of an intemperate remark or even a pattern of improper conduct while supervising employees or counseling members. It is wise for church staff and other leaders to receive education about sexual harassment and other boundary issues.
  6. Suits based upon defamation. Defamation is the publication to a third party of false or misleading information that you know will cause a person to the loss of reputation or other injury. Disparaging remarks about terminated employees or disciplined members can be the foundation for a defamation suit and therefore have not place in such situations.
  7. Suits based upon apparent authority. To avoid costly and embarrassing chaos about contractual matters (written or oral) can be avoided if church has outlined, in writing, who has budget and hiring authority for these matters.
  8. Suits based on disputes over election of the pastor. To avoid litigation over selection of a minister a congregation must attend to the development of a written policy with regard to the issues of control and authority in this matter.
  9. Suits based upon disclosure of confidential information. To avoid exposure to charges of invasion of privacy and infliction of emotional distress a congregation must ensure that information that should be kept private is not made public.
  10. Suits based upon unfair acts. The leaders of congregations need to avoid the risk that it will be subjected to the requirements of relevant unfair practices acts. This is especially significant when the church is involved in money-making activities.

Successful Delegation

This edition of Mentor Online is adapted from Delegating for Maximum Rewards by Bob Nelson, Ph.D.

Tips for successful delegating in leading employees & volunteers:

Communicate the task. Describe exactly what you want done, when you want it done and what end results you expect.

Furnish context for the task. Explain why the task needs to be done, its importance in the overall scheme of things and possible complications that may arise.

Determine standards. Agree on realistic and attainable standards that you will use to measure the success of a task’s completion.

Grant authority. You must give employees and volunteers the authority they need to complete the task without constant roadblocks or standoffs with other employees.

Provide support. Provide the resources that your employees and volunteers need to complete the task. Successfully completing an assignment may require money, training, advice and other resources.

Get commitment. Make sure that your employees and volunteers have accepted the assignment. Confirm your expectations and the employees’ or volunteers’ understanding of and commitment to completing the task.

The Fearless Executive

This edition of Mentor Online refers to the book The Fearless Executive by Alan Downs.

There are three themes for this book: Trust your talent. Follow your passion. Silence the fear.

The fear factors are the focus of this edition. Alan Downs denotes two kinds of fear. There is the state of fear and the trait of fear.

The state of fear is the condition when encountering something that is unexpected that has the potential for harm. If there is danger associated with the situation one can be said to be in a state of fear. A rule of thumb for the state of fear is that you experience danger and then you feel fear.

A trait of fear is an enduring attitude of fear. The trait of fear is not connected to any present or potential danger. It is about an imagined danger. A trait of fear is when you feel the fear first and avoid risk or harm altogether.

The author indicates that there are nine basic properties of fear.

  1. Fear lives only in the mind. Fear is something that you do to yourself. No one can make you afraid except you.
  2. Feeling fear is not the same thing as acting upon fear. Feeling at risk or vulnerable is ordinary. No one is immune to this feeling. Permitting fear to restrict or prohibit your moving forward is not ordinary.
  3. Even the most successful executives feel fear. Since feeling fear in stressful times is ordinary, the extraordinary step is to determine how you will handle fear rather than letting fear handle you.
  4. Fear is about imagined catastrophes, not present danger. It is wise to avoid true danger. Wiser still is avoiding the dread and panic of the fantasy that depicts all potential outcomes into harmful negatives that go beyond reality.
  5. Fear is a breach of trust in yourself. Not only does fear cause you to imagine dire traumas, it keeps you continually doubting your ability to prevent or avoid them.
  6. Fear grows in the vacuum created by ignorance. Knowledge is power. The more we know the less fuel there is for fear.
  7. Fear is the opposite of growth. To believe that something (anything!) is absolute and unchanging is to hold an illusion. To try and stop something from changing is to stop growing and to start dying.
  8. Fear feeds upon itself. When you are afraid and take an action to alleviate fear, you feel a sense of relief. That sense of relief gives you the feeling that you have done the right thing, when all you have really done is alleviate your feeling of fear. This actino pattern is repeated for the relief rather than to dispel the source of the fear.
  9. Fear often attracts what it attempts to avoid. Often leaders fear they will fail and they subsequently act in ways that cause them to fail.

Breaking the Cycle of Fear

  1. Acknowledge and confront the irrational beliefs that underlie the fear.
  2. Make a conscious effort to push past the fear even though you continue to feel it.
  3. Take positive action in the direction of your fear.

Reading the Resistance

This edition of Mentor Online is adapted from “Reading the Resistance: When Your Vision Meets Obstruction, Which Way Do You Go?” by Wayne Schmidt in Leadership.

Change is the price of vision, and with change comes resistance. If there is no resistance, there has been no change; we’ve simply gotten around to doing what others were expecting to take place. The greater the change, the greater the resistance.

There are four stages to most transitions:

Denial — Holding on to the illusion that nothing will change and the pressures to do so will go away.

Resistance — Bouncing back and forth between denial and resistance. This stage is far more painful than denial, it interrupts sleep, makes us angry, tempts us to withdraw.

Exploration — Searching for options for the future for individuals and the organization.

Commitment — Resolving to pursue a new or renewed vision in spite of the risk that is latent in pursuing the preferred future option(s). Sometimes some will want to go back to the past even if the future is perceived to be a better destination than stagnation or death.

Nostalgia is a powerful force that holds captive many organizations and individuals. History should be claimed — with all of its positive and negative elements. But the history that is claimed should be an honest narrative that celebrates victories, acknowledges failures and shares secrets. Many times the power of nostalgia blinds the view of the past so that legends replace facts and myths replace reality.

Organizations and individuals are more inclined to return to a former existence that might have been imperfect — even dysfunctional! — rather than risk progress.

“We are going to try some new things in the next few months. Some of those new things we will perceive as change and reject. Others we will perceive as progress and embrace.” — Charles Boone (1997)

Adapted from “Reading the Resistance: When Your Vision Meets Obstruction, Which Way Do You Go?” by Wayne Schmidt in Leadership.

Leadership Types

This edition of Mentor Online is adapted from a variety of sources, primarily a paper by Michael R. Rothaar.

The following are sketches of several leadership types or categories: autocratic, authoritarian, transactional, transformational and integrated.

Autocratic — This person makes all the decisions and seldom listens. There is apparently no care expressed or felt for the needs of the individuals of the institution. This type of leader requires passive or dependent followers… so no new leaders are developed or mentored. If new leaders emerge it is the result of a coup or uprising of “the masses”.

A positive element of this type of leader is that they are most often viewed as charismatic (style, gifts, energy and other characteristics) and are frequently excellent communicators.

Authoritarian — This type of leader tends to reduce relationships to power equations, e.g., “me + him = recognition” (good) GO! “he + me = doubt” (bad) STOP!

The authoritarian consults others (on occasion) before making a decision… but often frames questions with stated or expected responses embedded in a request for information. This category of leader does not require dialogue… but does encourage conversation (sometimes one-way). The followers most likely to be associated with this type of leader are those who takes orders and thereby ensure security or at least lessen risk.

Transactional — This type of leader looks for mutual benefit in situations. And can actually honor the fact that situations in life really can be “win-win”. This category of leader is more inclined to strive to meet other people’s needs than the two types above.

At the worst this style tends toward moralism or legalism… “You will benefit by seeing my way in this thing” or “Doing it your way will not produce the positive results that we need”.

Looked at positively, these leaders are inclined toward a “serving” orientation. And often these leaders have great negotiating skills.

Transformational — These leaders are builders. They have a personal goal of never leaving people the same way as they were before they got together. They also encourage people to grow. This type of leader has a personal mantra that reads: “Be all you can be”. They are about equipping people for action.

On the negative side the persons of this leadership category lack an ability to discern that there ARE situations where positive change is unlikely now or ever! This means that this style of leader may have to settle for some very small gains (victories) if any at all.

Integrated — This type of leader is the toughest or most difficult to be for it demands exceptional flexibility. For being in this mode of leadership requires doing what is best for others or for the situation. This stance is doubly difficult because it can often mean that outcomes do not benefit the leader’s reputation or material rewards.

Six Styles of Procrastination

This edition of Mentor Online is adapted from It’s About Time! by Linda Sapadin.

Each of us is a procrastinator at one time or another in our lives. And the procrastination is not just about not getting around to it. Rather we approach a task, assignment or deadline… or just about any other human endeavor… from one or the other of the six styles of procrastination.

  • The Perfectionist: “But I want to be perfect!” Perfectionists can be reluctant to start — or finish — a task because they don’t want to do anything less than a perfect job. Once they have begun a task they can’t resist spending far more time and energy on it than required. This delays the task by overworking or over-functioning.
  • The Dreamer: “But I hate all those bothersome details!” The dreamer wants life to be easy and pleasant. Difficult challenges that confront the dreamer can automatically provoke resistance. Grandiose ideas are seldom followed with tactical plans and a timeline in the dreamer’s fantasy existence.
  • The Worrier: “But I’m afraid to change!” Risk is a four-letter word for worrier procrastinators. The “what ifs” of their thinking immobilize them. The fear of the unknown or of failure causes them to put off beginning or sometimes completing a process or project once it is commenced. The worrier resists the change that they know intellectually is likely to improve life for them.
  • The Defier: “But why should I have to do it?” The defier is proud of the tendency to buck the rules of measure up to the norms others tolerate or observe. Their pattern is to set their own agendas and schedules and defy others to force them to comply with other arrangements.
  • The Crisis-Maker: “But I only get motivated at the last minute!” In an almost addictive behavior pattern the crisis-maker loves to feel the rush of adrenaline that comes with putting off things until the last minute. They see their lifestyle as one filled with adventure but they often lose the dash to the finish line of many of their projects. This is the “classic” style of procrastination category that most people recognize.
  • The Overdoer: “But I have so much to do!” Unable to make choices between alternatives or to establish boundaries or priorities the overdoer takes on too much and does poor or late work. Or they never complete some of the many things that they say “yes” to in their lives. The overdoer lacks the discernment to measure their own ability against the time available and the scope of a project. The overdoer is a prime candidate for early burnout.

What each chronic procrastinator needs to cultivate is a more nature, more fluid transition from mental activity to physical activity, so that an appropriate amount of time and energy gets allotted to each step or phase of a project or process. To do this though, the procrastinator needs to understand the internal conflicts that produced one of the six styles of procrastination sketched above.

Another helpful step is to develop a relationship with a mentor who will monitor the patterns that have been destructive and assist the procrastinator to develop a realistic and healthy self-image as they initiate a process that can result in improved action patterns.

Emotional Intelligence at Work

This edition of Mentor Online is borrowed from “What Makes a Leader?” by Daniel Goleman from Harvard Business Review (November-December 1998).

Self-Awareness — The ability to recognize and understand your moods, emotions, and drives, as well as their effect on others.

Self-Regulation — The ability to control or redirect disruptive impulses and moods. And the propensity to suspend judgment — to think before acting.

Motivation — A passion to work for reasons that go beyond money or status. And a propensity to pursue goals with energy and persistence.

Empathy — The ability to understand the emotional makeup of other people. And skill in treating people according to their emotional reactions.

Social Skill — Proficiency in managing relationships and building networks. And an ability to find common ground and build rapport.

Decision Traps

This edition of Mentor Online is adapted from Decision Traps: The Ten Barriers to Brilliant Decision-Making and How to Overcome Them by J. Edward Russo & Paul J.H. Shoemaker.

Plunging In — Getting started before you have started to review the issue you are facing or to think through how you believe decisions like this one should be made.

Frame Blindness — Setting out to solve the wrong problem because you have the “auto-pilot” engaged.

Lack of Frame Control — Failing to consciously define the problem in more ways than one or being unduly influenced by the frames of others.

Overconfidence in Your Judgment — Failing to collect key factual information because you are too sure of your assumptions.

Shortsighted Shortcuts — Relying inappropriately on “rules of thumb” such as implicitly trusting the most readily available information or anchoring too much in inconvenient data.

Shooting from the Hip — Believing you can keep straight in your head all the information you’ve discovered, and therefore “winging it” rather than following a systematic procedure when making the final choice.

Group Failure — Assuming that if many smart people are involved, good choices will follow automatically, and therefore failing to manage the group decision-making process.

Fooling Yourself About Feedback — Failing to interpret the evidence from past outcomes for what it really says, either because you are protecting your ego or because you are tricked by hindsight.

Not Keeping Track — Assuming that experience will make its lessons available automatically, and therefore failing to keep systematic records to track the results of your decisions and failing to analyze these results in ways that reveal their key lessons.

Failure to Audit Your Decision Process — Failing to create an organizational approach to your own decision-making.