All stories, including leadership stories, have a plot, characters, conflict, theme, and setting. For leadership stories or for followership stories to be authentic, details need to be added to each element. We have been awarded for best research on Followership and now sharing to the world through our programs with simple steps.
Step 1: Defining the Plot
A story’s plot provides the reason why actions are taken. As the basis for a leadership story, it can also be called the mission or purpose, and it is most likely driven by what a leader values. The plot of a leader’s story can inspire both the leader and others around him or her.
To determine the plots of their stories, leaders can reflect on what has been rewarding in their careers, what has challenged and energized them, and what they would like to accomplish. Leaders can perform five activities to help them understand and develop their leadership stories:
- Define what makes an effective leader from their own points of view.
- Understand what they believe and how it drives their behaviors, learn how others perceive what they value as leaders, and develop a plan to act differently.
- Determine the things on which they will not compromise, based on their core values.
- List those parts of their career journeys that inspired or excited them, focusing on the positive to determine what energizes them.
- Write their personal leadership mission statements, being sure to include the contributions they want to make and convey the purpose behind why they lead.
Step 2: Connecting with Key Characters
Leadership is about having the emotional intelligence that fosters a strong awareness of oneself and others. In a leadership story, the role of each character (including the leader) revolves around the quality and quantity of relationships. Leaders must be able to identify and take into account their own emotions and feelings as well as those of others.
The most important step that leaders can take toward authoring their leadership stories is to understand how other people perceive their leadership skills. Various assessment tools exist to gather anonymous and candid opinions from others. Others’ perceptions can influence a leader’s story positively or negatively, without the leader knowing it.
In every story, there are protagonists and antagonists. Protagonists believe in the leaders and their potential. Antagonists are detractors, and their desire to see leaders fail can be based on any number of factors. Leaders can even be their own antagonists if they do not have faith in themselves, fail to meet commitments, never learn or grow, or do not respect others.
Leaders can mitigate the efforts and influences of antagonists by demonstrating fairness and good leadership practices. If a leader identifies an antagonist, he or she should work to repair the relationship and learn what has motivated the person, because left unchecked, the efforts of an antagonist can irreparably harm a leader’s story.
Leaders can foster good relationships by:
*Identifying nonwork-related things they have in common with others.
*Working to build trust within each relationship.
*Connecting with three to five leaders to be trusted advisors who can provide mentoring and guidance.
*Expressing gratitude and giving credit to those who have had positive influences on their lives and leadership abilities.
Step 3: Preparing for Conflict
Leaders’ characters and abilities are revealed in how they respond to conflict, struggles, and adversity. Leaders will inevitably encounter unexpected conflicts, both great and small, and they should be prepared to deal with them, learn from them, and become better prepared by them for future challenges.
Leaders may experience negative interpersonal conflicts, which can be based on differences of opinion, personalities, or motivations. Patience and good communication skills help leaders ensure that conflicts do not damage relationships or their leadership stories. However, conflicts can also be positive–for example, among team members with differing opinions, which help great ideas to emerge.
A leader needs to assess the source of conflict, determine how he or she will respond to it, and observe how the response impacts others. Sometimes, gaining this skill requires leaders to react differently than they are accustomed to responding. To build a conflict-management capability, leaders can review how they successfully responded to conflict in the past, practice better responses, and ask for additional guidance from mentors.
Sometimes leaders struggle with internal conflicts, believing they might be exposed as leadership imposters. Such leaders can learn to manage this feeling by becoming more competent with experience and becoming more self-aware. A lack of self-awareness will leave leaders unprepared for conflict and might cause them to respond in unproductive ways.
Step 4: Developing the Theme
The theme of a leadership story is built from personality characteristics, attitudes, technical skills, and interpersonal skills. For leaders to understand what they do well and where they require improvement, they must be aware of their abilities and limitations. Each leader has a different story with a different theme; such differences give a leader credibility. Therefore, a leader should never attempt to be something he or she is not.
Effective leaders are aware of which skills, characteristics, and attributes are most needed in their organizations and how well their abilities match with those needs. Good leaders recognize that each person requires a different approach to being led, which requires leaders to adapt by using different skills. Leaders can determine how others perceive their skills, characteristics, and attributes by encouraging anonymous feedback. Candid remarks can help leaders adjust their behaviors and start repairing relationships.
Self-assessments can be valuable tools if leaders are honest with themselves. Leaders can use another approach by assessing other leaders’ capabilities, negatively and positively, and comparing the results to how they themselves would respond in similar situations.
To help build their leadership stories, leaders can analyze their greatest professional or personal successes and failures and glean lessons from them. Successes show leaders what approaches and skills were used to succeed, which they can continue to use in the future. By analyzing failures, a leader can determine alternative ways to approach a situation and discover a better way to handle it next time.
Step 5: Finding the Optimal Setting
The setting of a leadership story involves the geographical location and organization in which the leader works, as well as the work itself. For many leaders, their stories have emerged from a number of different settings. Sometimes, the setting is the same, but the environment or corporate culture around the leader has changed.
Leaders need to determine how they are affected by their environments and which ones they will thrive in. Developing a plan helps leaders seek environments where they know they can be at their best. Leaders can determine where they want to be emotionally, geographically, culturally, and organizationally and make plans to guide their careers in those directions. Leaders also need to be aware of how settings affect others, and what those others need in order to be at their best. Leaders can then make the changes that are within their control to foster a better environment for others.
When attempting to “break down doors,” Baldoni recommends building confidence and leveraging it to accomplish good and effect change. Baldoni lists seven angles from which leaders can approach advocacy. Some managers may choose to focus on more than one:
- Information — Disseminating data
- Charisma — Appeal
- Participation — Engaging others
- Compromise — Bringing together diverging viewpoints
- Reason — The tool of logic
- Emotional appeal — Appealing to the heart
- Coercion — Application of force
He then delves deeper, outlining the nature of relationships within organizations, the best ways to relate to people, and most important, how to get things done:
*The View from the Middle. Middle managers must be on top of what is happening in their organizations, both above and below them.
*The View Looking Up. In communicating with senior management, managers must be solid in their knowledge of the facts, prepare their pitches well, and build supportive coalitions. They should persist, even if their ideas are initially rejected.
*Relate to People as People. Before asking people to support a point of view, it is crucial to connect with them. This may mean empathizing with alternative viewpoints and even networking with those on the “other side of the aisle.”
*Present Your Ideas. Telling a story about the benefits of a product or idea can help listeners connect. Equally important is presenting with enthusiasm.
*Respect One Another. Managers and employees need to show respect by listening to each other.
*Influence Across Borders. As organizations become leaner and more linear, it is necessary for leaders, particularly in the middle, to exert influence beyond their own departments. They should make themselves available to help in times of change, encourage others with stories of success, and even as they exert influence, remain humble.
*Make Your Case. Baldoni presents a series of action steps but cautions leaders to recognize when it is prudent to repeat steps or change the order. The steps include: taking the temperature of the organization, identifying both supporters and detractors, arguing for the value of propositions, making the business case for propositions, anticipating obstacles and then revising, engaging on an emotional level, and making people feel like they can benefit from a proposal.
*Deal with the Limits of Influence. Sometimes senior managers will dismiss an idea. The challenge for influencers is to persevere.
*Advocate. Advocacy means standing up for what a person believes in. To be the best advocate possible, leaders should provide information about the issues at hand, teach their teams how to articulate them, and prepare their teams for potential adversity.
*Stick to Your Knitting. One note of caution — leaders need to be careful about asking their people to become advocates. They should make sure that people advocating truly believe in the cause, and it is best to limit the number of people involved.
All of these strategies boil down to the fact that a team requires a leader who is not afraid to try new things to achieve great results.
Most leaders who reach the pinnacle do so later in their careers; however, this level is not a resting place for leaders to stop and view their successes. Instead, it is a reproducing place from which they can make the greatest impact of their lives. Level 5 leaders, or pinnacle leaders, strive to lift up as many leaders as they can, tackle as many great challenges as possible, and extend their influences beyond their own organizations and industries.
General Electric is often cited as a top-ten organization for leaders. For many years it was led by Jack Welch, a Level 5 leader, who emphasized developing other leaders to become Level 4 leaders — or leaders who produce other leaders. Level 5 leaders like Welch can cross lines out of their areas of expertise to speak with authority. People respect them for who they are and what they represent. They often advance the cause of leadership, redefine it, and pour themselves into the next generation of leaders.
The Downside of the Pinnacle
One of the greatest dangers for pinnacle leaders is thinking they have “arrived.” No matter how good they have been in the past, they still need to strategize, weigh decisions, plan, and execute at a very high level. Their leadership momentum can overcome many problems, but even momentum cannot continually compensate for arrogance or stupidity. Level 5 leaders must not treat their organizations as their personal properties. Leaders cannot make decisions with only their personal interests in mind.
When people excel to a high level, a certain mythology grows up around them. They become larger than life in other people’s minds. However, a Level 5 leader must never forget that he started at the bottom as a positional leader. If he becomes successful, it is only because many other people helped along the way.
Best Behaviors on Level 5
Level 5 leaders make room at the top for other leaders. This creates a cycle of positive change in an organization by increasing its size and power. Level 5 leaders also aggressively give power away to other leaders. This comes from their ability to see people not as they are or as others see them, but as they could be. If there are potential leaders in the organization, Level 5 leaders must dedicate time and effort to mentoring them. The best potential leaders will not remain in the organization unless they are helped to climb up to the next level.
True leaders put their egos aside and strive to create successors who go beyond them. They plan to hand off the baton when they are still running at their peak. Leaders must not hurt their organizations’ momentum by staying too long just for their own personal gratification.
Pinnacle leaders are respected outside of their organizations and industries and have reputations that offer high degrees of credibility. The key is leveraging their abilities for the benefit of others outside their direct spheres of influence.
PEOPLE DEVELOPMENT : denoted as Level 4 leaders, they invest time, energy, money, and thought into growing others as leaders. This practice of identifying and developing people accentuates the positives of the organization. Bringing out the best in a person is often a catalyst for bringing out the best in the team.
People development is transformative. It invites people into the process of leadership. When new leaders are developed, they become better at what they do and they help everyone who works with them do the same. With the addition of more great leaders, an organization’s efforts improve. Growing the leadership of the organization gives it the ability to expand territory and take on new initiatives.
The Downside of People Development
To lead at Level 4, leaders must focus 80 percent of their attention on others and help them to grow, learn, and achieve. If their focus remains on themselves and what they want, then other people become an obstacle.
Leaders can tell if their egos are obstructing their ability to move to Level 4 simply by observing what happens during their team meetings:
*Do team members freely share their thoughts and ideas?
*If the leader contributes ideas, does the discussion move from his idea to the best idea — and is he happy about it?
*When the team succeeds, do other team members get the majority of the credit?
*Is there a shared sense of pride in the work that is being done?
*When things go wrong, does the leader personally accept the greatest share of the blame?
People development requires patience and big-picture thinking. Helping another person become a competent leader almost always takes longer than expected and is more difficult than anticipated, but the Level 4 leader does it anyway. Otherwise he limits the potential for himself, his people, and his organization.
Best Behaviors on Level 4
To develop people and help them become good leaders, their capacities can be assessed in these areas:
*Stress management: The ability to withstand and overcome pressure, failure, deadlines, and obstacles.
*Skill: The ability to complete specific tasks.
*Thinking: The ability to be creative, develop strategy, solve problems, and adapt.
*Leadership: The ability to gather followers and build a team.
*Attitude: The ability to remain positive and tenacious amidst negative circumstances.
In order to equip others to succeed, Level 4 leaders must follow a five step process:
*Step 1: I do it (competence)
*Step 2: I do it and you are with me (demonstration)
*Step 3: You do it and I am with you (coaching)
*Step 4: You do it (empowerment)
*Step 5: You do it and someone is with you (reproduction)
To create a leadership development culture that cultivates Level 5 leaders, current leaders must:
*Champion leadership: Define and model good leadership.
*Teach leadership: Train leaders on a regular, frequent, and consistent basis.
*Practice leadership: Help emerging leaders to plan and execute.
*Coach leadership: Review new leaders’ performances and correct their errors.
*Reward leadership: Reward good leadership withfair pay, resources, and recognition.
The production level 3 of leadership communicates the vision of the organization through action. Level 3 leaders help people see what productivity looks like. This encourages team members and validates their efforts. Productivity also helps people recognize that they can actually accomplish more than they believed was possible.
Many leaders who reach Level 3 tire of leading because of the weight of responsibility they feel. Level 3 leaders also must make the difficult decisions to:
*Be successful before trying to help others be successful.
*Hold themselves to higher standards than they ask of others.
*Make themselves accountable to others.
*Set tangible goals and then reach them.
*Accept responsibility for personal results.
*Admit failures and mistakes quickly and humbly.
*Remove themselves from situations where they are ineffective.
Best Behaviors on Level 3
Vision casting is an integral part of Level 3 leading. Productive leaders must create a clear link between the visions of their organizations and their teams’ daily production. They must show how the short term impacts the long term. Level 3 leaders employ the five Laws of Teamwork:
1. The Law of Significance: One is too small a number to achieve greatness.
2. The Law of Mount Everest: As the challenge escalates, the need for teamwork elevates.
3. The Law of the Catalyst: Winning teams have players who make things happen.
4. The Law of the Bench: Great teams have great depth.
5. The Law of Dividends: Investing in the team compounds over time.
People want to succeed. If they are not succeeding, they want to know what adjustments they need to make in order to succeed. Most people are willing to change if they are convinced that changing will help them win. Productive leaders take responsibility for guiding team members through this process.
Leaders who reach Level 3 always experience success, but not all of them capitalize on that success and move on to the next level. To do that, they must remain focused and productive — all while cultivating and preserving positive relationships.
Guide to Growing through Level 3
In order for Level 3 leaders to move onto Level 4, they must:
*Think about things that help others become better, both individually and as a team. They can do this by turning the focus outward from their own production and helping others become high producers.
*Define each team member’s area of contribution and figure out how they all work together to make the team most effective.
*Meet with the team daily (or at least weekly) to give feedback on performance. They must praise people’s efforts, help them learn from their failures, and reward their successes.
*Find challenges for people to win together as a team. The greater the number of wins, the more they can increase the difficulty of the challenges.
*Know who is who on the team, including:
*Momentum Makers: Producers who make things happen).
*Momentum Takers: People who go along for the ride.
*Momentum Breakers: People who cause problems and hurt moral).
*Be responsible for making the decisions and initiating the changes needed for the team to succeed. This can be done by setting aside an hour a day to think of five new ways to change things for the better.
Simply understanding the source of innovative opportunities is not enough. People must understand the principles of innovation and how to use new ideas successfully. The principles include several do’s and don’ts. The do’s include:
*Thinking through the sources of innovation.
*Going out to observe, seek, and listen to the trends of public opinion.
*Producing innovations that are clear and simple.
*Aiming toward leadership. If innovations do not aim at leadership from the beginning, they will unlikely be innovative or capable enough to establish themselves in the market.
The don’ts of innovation include:
*Trying too hard to be clever.
*Being unusable without necessary training.
*Diversifying into too many things at once.
*Innovating for the future. Unless there is an immediate application of a product or system, it is unlikely to be successful.
The last piece of advice Drucker offers on the subject of learning the skill of innovation is the importance of three conditions:
- Innovation requires work, ingenuity, focus, and talent to be successful.
- To succeed, innovators must build on their strengths.
- Innovation must be focused on and driven by the market.
The first step to understanding entrepreneurship is realizing that it is futile without innovation. Innovation is the means by which an entrepreneur exploits change as an opportunity for a new or different business or service. As such, innovation is very much a discipline that can be learned and should be practiced.
Learning the discipline of innovation starts with the seven sources of innovative opportunity. While they could be considered symptoms, they are actually highly reliable indications that changes are happening in any given industry.
Source #1: The Unexpected
Perhaps the richest of opportunities for innovation success comes from unexpected success. This is the path by which entrepreneurs meet the least amount of risk and least arduous pursuits. More often than not, unexpected success appears in an existing company’s blind spot. Currently, management teams are trained to comb through reports that highlight expected results, so that unexpected success is left unexplored and vulnerable for exploitation. Drucker advises that reports must be revamped to include all results so that people can analyze their businesses properly and, more importantly, look for innovative opportunities.
Unexpected failures rarely go unnoticed; however, they are seldom seen as symptoms for opportunity. Executives typically call for more reports and more studies to analyze failures, but instead should be stepping out to investigate possible situations. Understanding customers’ experiences (i.e., the true reality of a product) is how to exploit opportunities of an unexpected failure.
Source #2: Incongruities
Stemming from unexpected failures, the second source, incongruities, appears when there is a dissonance between what is and what “ought to be.” It invites innovators to investigate why results are not lining up with expectations and what can be done to exploit opportunities. The only major downside to this source of innovation is that it is largely only apparent to industry insiders. Someone from the outside is not likely to spot or understand any type of incongruity, no matter which form it takes. Incongruity appears in several different ways, including:
*Incongruity between the economic realities of an industry.
*Incongruity between the reality and the assumptions about an industry.
*Incongruity between the efforts of an industry and the values and expectations of its customers.
*Internal incongruity within the rhythm or the logic of an existing process.
Of all the incongruities, that between perceived and actual reality may be the most common due to the fact that producers and suppliers almost always misinterpret what customers actually buy and why.
Source #3: Process Needs
New and existing businesses alike can lead innovation in their industries using process needs as a source for opportunity. Here, existing processes are perfected, replaced, or redesigned around newly available knowledge. Sometimes it gives light to a whole new process by providing “missing links” for different industries. Drucker, however, advises that the most common place to look for process needs are not missing links, but demographics and incongruities–both of which give ample opportunity and are largely overlooked.
Innovators seeking to exploit process need opportunities must understand that they will not be successful unless their processes are self-contained, there is only one missing or weak leak, clear objectives and solutions are defined, and there is a widespread belief that there could be a better way to do business. Without a thorough analysis and strategy of all these criteria, innovations are likely to be unsuccessful.
Source #4: Industry and Market Structures
Next, Drucker moves onto the sources of opportunity that can be seen by industry outsiders–the most critical of which are the structures that comprise industries. Indeed, industry and market structures appear so solid to people within specific industries that they are likely to consider them certain to endure forever. However, Drucker points out that most industry structures are actually quite brittle. To most outsiders, industry structures are highly visible and predictable and can innovate under the radar quickly and with relatively low risk. Meanwhile, insiders continue to assume their positions are permanent. There are four near-certain indicators of industry structure changes that individuals must keep an eye out for:
- Rapid growth of an industry.
- Changes in the way the services or products are perceived in the market.
- Convergence of technologies that before had seemed distinctly separate.
- Rapid changes in the way business is conducted.
Innovators must always scan for these four indicators if they want to be at the forefront of their industries’ structural revolutions.
Source #5: Demographics
Demographics are part of the external changes that lead to innovative opportunities. Of all the external changes, demographics are the most unambiguous. They include any changes in population, including its size, age structure, composition, employment, educational status, and income. Executives in any industry typically do not pay close attention to demographics because they have the most lead time; that is, they occur over such a long time span that they appear to be of little concern.
Source #6: Changes in Perception
Changes in perception include any shift in public opinion. While the facts often do not change, their meaning to the public does. This can lead to innovative opportunity, but Drucker warns that it is a dangerous source because it is hard to distinguish between a genuine change and a short-lived fad. However, done correctly, this can be an excellent source of innovation for entrepreneurs.
Source #7: New Knowledge
New knowledge is perhaps the flashiest of all innovation as it gets the most publicity. While most sources for opportunity have overlapping themes with one or more other sources, new knowledge differs greatly from the rest. First, it has the longest lead time because innovations are essentially started from scratch. Secondly, knowledge-based innovations are almost never based on one factor, but on the convergence of multiple knowledge sources. Not until these sources of knowledge are analyzed and understood will innovations be successful.
Knowledge-based innovations also carry great risks. They must be solid both in product and business structure when they hit the market, otherwise a company will have introduced a new technology which other, more stable businesses will couple with their strengths to render the new business obsolete.
Convincing high-achieving, independent, autonomous engineers that managers are valuable assets that can improve the work environment is a daunting task, but Google set out to do just that with its multi-year Project Oxygen research initiative. Based on the belief that the best way to win the hearts and minds of knowledge workers was through scientific methodology, the initiative was heavily data-dependent and constructed to test assumptions.
Project Oxygen sought to identify the behaviors representative of good managers and provide actionable guidance for managers so they could improve going forward. According to the data, the most effective managers:
- Are good coaches.
- Empower their teams and do not micromanage.
- Express interest in and concern for team members’ success and personal well-being.
- Are productive and results oriented.
- Communicate well, including listening and sharing information.
- Help with career development.
- Have clear visions and strategies.
- Possess key technical skills that enhance advisory capabilities.
The program has won great favor with both employees and managers, convinced skeptics, and yielded significant and measurable improvement results.
In today’s global economy, companies routinely expand into new geographies, applying their successful business and operational models to new locales. Routinely, many of these businesses fail. By operating from the principle that what works well in one place should work just as well in another (with minor tweaks), companies frequently do not recognize how much context matters.
There are numerous contextual factors at play (including government regulations, infrastructures, and cultural norms) in various geographies that can derail even the most successful operational models. Understanding and adapting business and operational models to these new contexts is not a simple matter. But it can be done.
The first step in overcoming this problem is developing contextual intelligence — the ability to recognize knowledge limits and adapt them to new environments. Contextual intelligence enables an entity to gain deep insight to the contextual differences between geographies and then make the best decisions about how to alter, redefine, deconstruct/reconstruct, or completely abandon a business model in order to successfully expand into a new environment. Sometimes the best decision is to not expand at all.
Common practices in acquiring contextual intelligence include hiring cultural natives, creating local partnerships, and conducting cross-disciplinary training. Additional suggestions for improving contextual intelligence are:
*Researching a country’s institutional context.
*Recognizing that not all countries will migrate to a free-market economy.
*Understanding that geographic differences are often multi-layered, complex, and not easily generalized.
*Experimenting with new models and taking an entrepreneurial approach.
*Learning to distinguish between the general and the specific.
*Realizing that change can take a very long time.
*Creating data in-house rather than relying on others’ data.