Napoleon Bonaparte believed that the leader’s role is “to define reality, then give hope.” Within this prescription lies a formidable challenge to leaders. How can you focus on the challenges and opportunities of today and, at the same time, maintain the spirit and effectiveness to lead your team forward?
In today’s business environment, there are high hurdles that stand between you and leadership success. The ability to leap over them through lifestyle design and talent development separates the truly effective from the ambitious or charismatic. The three hurdles are:
Distraction: Today’s technology makes it nearly impossible to work without distraction. Think about right now. Some of you are reading this post, and will stop to check your email that just dinged. Before you can get back to reading this, a text comes through on your smart phone, requiring a quick call. After it, you return to grazing on a budget spreadsheet, which you were working on before you booted your internet browser, clicked around and found this article. Sound familiar? You may call this multi-tasking, but really, it’s LWD (Leading While Distracted).
SOLUTION: Work on one task at a time. Turn off email notifications and instead, schedule times during the day to read-respond (and only do that during that time!). Put your smart phone in Airplane Mode. Push back on anyone that invades your scheduled focus time. For more on this, read Focus: The Hidden Driver of Excellence by Daniel Goleman
Abstraction: Too often, leaders rely on verbal communication to convey complex ideas. They often do this via email or written memos. Words often don’t work, and in turn, there is confusion, requiring you to repeat the attempt and grow frustrated. You cannot define reality or give hope if you cannot reduce abstractions into concrete ideas. Your bullet point slides don’t solve the problem, they just summarize your wordy attempts to get through.
SOLUTION: Show them, don’t tell them. Find visual ways to express your ideas. You can find images on Google or iStockPhoto. Better yet, create prototypes of a proposed process or product. They could be simple diagrams or rough sketches. At innovation consultancy IDEO there’s a saying: A prototype is worth 1000 meetings. For more, read Blah Blah Blah: What To Do When Words Don’t Work by Dan Roam.
Dissatisfaction: This is the highest hurdle, especially if you’ve been leading for a while. Skillsoft’s Taavo Godtfredsen has spent time with hundreds of leaders and leadership experts during his career and has discovered that career dissatisfaction (burnout, resentment) is a supreme challenge to effectiveness. Long after the luster of the title and power has faded, the pressures of leading and chasing made up goals crushes the best of leaders. Never assume you’ll stay motivated!
SOLUTION: Find work-life balance, even if it means more delegation. Design you lifestyle to recharge your spirit as well as physical health. Revisit the purpose of your organization, and periodically read your ‘fan mail’ to understand the significance of your work. For more, read Fully Charged: The 3 Keys To Energizing Your Work and Life by Tom Rath.