Many people want to talk about leadership, and there are countless books and seminars on the subject, but few want to talk about leading leaders – and they are not the same thing. One of the mistakes leaders make is thinking that leading leaders is simply an expansion of leading followers. They want to take what they already know about leading and expand it – run faster, work harder – to leading leaders. They mistakenly believe that the skills and strategies they have used to lead the people who follow them are transferable to leading other leaders. But to lead leaders you need a completely different mindset – a different paradigm. You need to see the world of leading leaders differently and you need to employ different skills and strategies. The second principle is:
The paradigm of leading leaders is different from the paradigm of leading followers.
(for a list of the five principles see September ’07 newsletter)
Dick was in charge of a small team of technicians who out produced the other sectors of the organization. He had done a great job overseeing his group and was promoted to Vice-President in charge of all the team leaders in the sector. Within six months his supervisor started getting calls from Dick’s team leaders. The team leaders were discouraged and frustrated by Dick’s micromanaging, and wanted help. The clock was running. In the next six months one of three things would happen: Dick would change his paradigm, key team leaders would leave, or Dick would leave.
Here are a few of the differences between leading followers and leading leaders.
1. Both leaders and followers need a great vision to follow, but leaders need to have input in the vision. You can’t simply drop a vision on leaders and expect them to get excited about it. I call this “Visionary, Participatory Leadership.”
Leaders must have “buy-in” with the vision or they won’t lead.
2. All people need to be treated with respect. Leaders need to be respected for their ability to lead others. The must be given the freedom to lead in the way in which they lead best.
Leaders cannot be micromanaged.
3. Leaders need to have the freedom and encouragement to disagree. They need to know that when they disagree it won’t be counted against them. They need to be rewarded for thinking outside the box and for challenging the status quo.
Leaders must be affirmed and rewarded for independent thinking.
4. We all need boundaries and we need to know were the lines are so we can have a clear understanding of when we step over them.
Leaders need to help set the organizations boundaries, and they need to know that they have different boundaries than those under them.
5. Each of us needs to know that the person we are following has confidence in us.
Leaders need to know they have the confidence of their supervisor to lead.
6. In order for leaders to succeed they must take risks. The great leaders know when to take risks and when to play it safe, but with every risk there is the chance of failure.
Leaders need to know that it is ok to fail.
My son gave me The Reagan Diaries for Fathers Day and as I read his personal notes I realized that he placed a lot of trust in his key people. He set the vision (with lots of buy-in) and knew the necessary details concerning the situations at hand, but underlying all of that, he trusted his people. When the time came to negotiate with Israel, Reagan sent Al Haig to the Middle East, and when Reagan went to bed he slept well because he trusted Al. He trusted Al’s leadership ability, Al’s “buy-in” to the vision, and therefore Al’s ability to negotiate with Israel in accordance with the vision.
Great leadership of leaders requires a different paradigm and Regan understood that paradigm. He knew he was leading leaders.
What are the areas of your current paradigm that need to change in order for you to attract and energize great leaders in your organization? More importantly, what are the internal paradigms you need to change about your own perspective that will enable you to lead leaders?
Next month – Principle #3: Leaders are difficult. If you are going to lead leaders you are going to lead difficult people.