I recently read an article from the author of The Mythical Leader, Ron Edmondson. I found it to provide a nice checklist for leaders to review periodically to make sure they are leading, and not just maintaining.
To be leading something means it is propelling something forward. I think all of us as leaders go into a maintenance phase from time to time, but it’s important to ensure that as a leader you are actually leading a majority of the time. What I liked about this particular list was that it provides seven indicators that you are NOT leading anymore. This is different than most lists I’ve seen, and it really made me think. The seven indicators Edmondson lists are:
1. Nothing is being changed. As I stated earlier, leadership means propelling something forward. If that is not happening, and change is not occurring, then there is lack of leadership. Here at ASE I think most employees would agree that things are always changing. The vision stays the same, but the path to get there is constantly being adjusted.
2. You’re not asking questions. A good leader is always questioning – Why did we do it this way? Is there another solution? How are we coming along on this project? If you are not asking questions, you are likely not leading. I think sometimes my colleagues get annoyed with all of my questions – but according to this I’m doing the right thing!
3. There are competing visions. One of the most important jobs as a leader is create a clear vision – a singular vision that the entire team understands and works toward. If employees are not clear on what that vision is, or have competing visions, then we as leaders are failing.
4. No one is complaining. This one made me laugh. We are definitely not short on complaints here at ASE. But I see that as a good thing. If people didn’t care, they wouldn’t complain. And often times complaints lead to new and better ways to do things.
5. People aren’t being stretched. This one hit home for me too. We operate as lean as we can here at ASE, so it’s a constant capacity challenge as we engage on new projects. But I also interpret this indicator as stretching your team’s talents. Employees should feel stretched to reach goals and feel that their talents are being challenged. If not, engagement can decrease as boredom sets in.
6. No paradigms are being challenged. To keep a business moving in the right direction, you often need to think outside the box. Be careful of “but this is the way we’ve always done it.” Again, this is a challenge we face often at ASE. We’ve been around for nearly 115 years and have lasted that long because we are careful to maintain our values, yet always be looking toward the future and changing as necessary with the times.
7. People being “happy” has become a goal. Edmondson states that in his experience, if the goal begins with making people happy, no one is ever made happy. He states that the end goal of leadership should be accomplishing the vision. Accomplishing this vision should in turn, make people happy. So stay focused on the vision. Don’t get sidetracked trying to please everyone. We all know that is impossible. One of the first things I learned as a leader is that I’ll never make everyone happy.
I think it’s good to take a look at this list periodically and ensure that as a leader you are not stuck in a maintenance phase for too long. Leaders should always be propelling the team or the business forward. ASE is approaching our 115th anniversary. I believe it is our history of solid leadership throughout the years that has allowed us to remain relevant for this long.
How do you check yourself as a leader? Have you ever realized that you are stuck in maintenance mode and how did you get out of it? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.