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Berger Blog

Expanding the discussion of Generatonal issues in organizations, Leadership, and Individual & Professional Growth.

Non-Rocket Science Leadership

Monday, November 07, 2005

I was talking to a friend yesterday about the leader of her team.  They are ten, highly-educated people in a non-profit  R&D and Training shop.  They recently had their former boss kicked out of the group because she was such a bad leader for them.  Let’s call the former leader “Wendy”.  

Wendy had a way of being really in-authentic to the group.  She seemed to be constantly serving her own agenda, while never taking any responsibility or accountability for what she did wrong  She was quick to take credit whenever vaguely possible, and even quicker to dump the blame on the nearest person.  

It had gotten to the point where trust had eroded to nothing in the group.  Morale was at rock bottom.  Collaboration ceased to exist.  The experience was just awful for everyone.  Two team members had left, and others were threatening.  But this was all to change.  

After the mutiny and Wendy was kicked out, a new leader was appointed from within the team – let’s call her “Clara.”  Clara didn’t necessarily want the job, but she had been on the team for longer than most, knew the systems quite well, and had a sense of the political landscape in the larger organization.  Additionally, she was liked and respected, both for her intellect and her actions.

What makes Clara a great leader is not her formal training, her MBA in management, or her years of experience leading this kind of group.  The reality is that she has none of these things.  What she does have, though, is a sense of appreciation for each team member and for the process of being a leader – treating her colleagues with respect  and openness.  

Now, she isn’t the end-all answer to leadership.  Like many leaders – all of whom happen to be real live human beings – she doesn’t love conflict, but she doesn’t avoid it altogether.  She uses her judgment to pick and choose the “battles,” and is mindful about what else is going on for the individual in question and the team, in general.

Is this stuff rocket science?  Absolutely not.  It amazes me that simply listening to people – whether they are colleagues or subordinates – is often the biggest piece to enrollment and engagement of a team.  It has to be listening that isn’t  just hearing, but listening with an open mind to the things you might not know or that you may not entirely believe.  But listening to others, integrating their thoughts into the larger sense of what’s what, showing others that they’ve been heard, and then taking a slightly different action or stance, based on the thoughts and ideas of the others is a huge piece of one kind of leadership.  This is a form of leadership that is more and more in demand today, but that so many leaders at all types of organizations are unable to take on.  

Seeing the ways that Clara is this kind of leader is powerfully refreshing.  It’s also powerfully effective, both within the inner workings of the team and with the external results they produce.


posted by Michael Berger, 10:47 AM | link | 2 comments |
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