Triple "A" Leadership; Touchstones from the Sea; Awareness – Part 1

“Congratulations…you are our new CEO.” 

What a mixed blessing it is to be a leader.  On one hand, it is a reward for many years of hard work culminating in the opportunity to “call the shots.”  On the other hand, most individuals, if they are being honest, relay having moments of fear…no, terror, sitting at the desk where the ‘buck stops” so to speak. “Be careful what you wish for…” the old adage states, “you may just get it!”  Visions of all those times when you secretly, (or not so secretly), second guessed the boss’s or management’s decisions, believing they had missed the boat and made a ‘wrong’ decision and that the ‘right’ choice was so clear to you…ah, if only you could call the shots… 
Well, now you’ve got the chance–for better or for worse.  So, where should you start?  It is a fairly overwhelming endeavor.  I believe it is best to define your personal principles or touchstones to help guide your decisions and actions as a leader.  I have decided upon three that are useful in my work with organizations, but you could make a good case to use some others that suit your specific circumstance.

I have come up with three touchstones I believe are helpful reference points to enable effective leadership.  They include:

In this issue of the Psychology for Business newsletter, awareness will be the topic.  (Alignment and Accountability will be discussed in future issues. You will be able to locate the entire series as they are written by visiting our articles.

As a leader, the array of challenges and opportunities are vast, reminding me of the vastness of the ocean.  You are the “captain” of the ship—where are you taking it?  What is your destination and what are the appropriate steps to get there?  Like leadership, the ocean can be a source of great pleasure and opportunity, however it can also present danger if one is not aware.  As a leader/captain, you need to be constantly aware of what is going on around you—for safety and survival, as well as for innovation.  You need to be informed of potential dangers, such as changes in the weather (business climate) and currents (economic influences). 

What is needed for your voyage?  Once you have considered the distance between ports, what supplies will you need to take along?… what personnel?… what materials are available?  How do you keep your ship at a “lean” weight to maintain adequate speed?  How do you provide low cost to the customer while maintaining good quality?  

Are there pirates likely to try and capture your ship?  Are there competitors out there who are moving in on your customers or copying your products and offering them for a lower price? 

How aware are you of your crew?  Is there going to be an uprising?   A mutiny?  If not, have you brought along the “right” crew?  Again, the ship cannot support too many people, so you need to take along those who are cross-functional and/or add significant value to warrant inclusion on the crew.  Have you provided your crew with the necessary equipment and training to optimize their performance?  Are you aware of their needs?  Does your crew honestly communicate their concerns and needs to you or do you “shoot the messenger”? 

OK—now how about you?  How aware are you of your own strengths and development needs?  Although potentially less dangerous, it is just as ineffective to be blind to your strengths as it is to be ignorant or unaware of your development needs.  What are you best at?  When do you need to ask for advice and whom can you ask?  When is it best for you to delegate?  What are you doing to assure continuous improvement in your role?  Is continuing education a good requirement for retaining your “captain’s license”?  In today’s world the weather and currents are changing too rapidly to neglect continuous improvement in your capabilities.  Crew loyalty is no longer guaranteed.  Mentoring your crew is important.  Gone are the days of figurehead captains—ones who are far removed from the actual organization.  In most organizations this just is not a justifiable cost.  If you are asking your crew to add value, are you consistently doing the same?  Being a captain is lonely.  Sometimes there is no confidant to ask.  Sometimes you are criticized for doing things others do not understand.  (Remember when you knew all the answers?) 

What are you doing to develop trusted resources that help you hear yourself?  Many times (most of the time) you have the answers to your concerns, but sometimes the “noise” of the waves and the wind keep you from hearing your own voice.  Do you find ways of hearing yourself?  This takes time and sometimes courage.  At times the answer is not the one we want to hear.  Good captains listen to their “gut”.  It is really years of experience speaking to you through your subconscious mind.  Good captains have discussions and even arguments with their gut.

So get out your compass and plot your course.  Design your touchstones for leadership.  Awareness of yourself, your organization and your vision is a first step toward Triple “A” Leadership.  Is your organization more like the Titanic or the America’s Cup Champion?  What is your leadership legacy?     


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