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Posted by on Sep 18, 2012 in Leadership | 2 comments

Defining Reality: A Powerful Leadership Tool You May Be Overlooking

Defining Reality: A Powerful Leadership Tool You May Be Overlooking

Everyone knows that one of a leader’s greatest responsibilities is to communicate a clear and compelling vision for the future.  However, there is a very powerful leadership responsibility that is often overlooked: defining the present reality.

There are hundreds of ways for the people in your organization or team to interpret the reality they work in.  Some will compare your organization with other organizations.  Some will judge based off some glorious past.  Some will go by their feelings or personal situation.  Left to chance, each person will have a different interpretation of where the team is.

Even if you’re able to communicate a compelling vision of the future, you’ll never find agreement on a pathway to get there.  Each person would start from a different point to reach the agreed upon destination.  A great leader must find a way to not only show people a glorious future, but to define the starting point.

“The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality” Max De Pree

Here’s an idea for making the most of this leadership tool:

Define Reality in the context of where you’re going: The Vision should be the point of comparison that defines your present reality.  Any other measure is less powerful and potentially distracting for your team.

Ex: Your organization probably has all sorts of problems.  Part of defining the present reality is choosing which ones are BIG problems and which ones really don’t need that much focus.  You can’t FOCUS on everything at once.  Use your leadership influence to highlight the problems that stand in the way of the vision and downplay the problems that don’t.

Comparisons with the past, other organizations, and industry best practices can be helpful analysis, but they are not a powerful leadership tool until they are brought into the context of a vision for the future.  An intentionally defined present reality that is communicated in the context of a compelling vision will bring a great alignment and focus to your team.

What other ways could you use defining the present reality as a leadership tool?

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Posted by on Jul 27, 2012 in Communication, Leadership | 8 comments

Entitlement: How to Ruin your Leadership

Here’s how to destroy your leadership influence: Develop a thought that somebody owes you something.  Let that thought take root deep down in your belief system.  Before you know it, your new-found sense of entitlement will ruin your leadership.

While I was graduating high school, some of my respected school leaders were going to jail.  It started with the Assistant Superintendent, but the scandal spread quickly to employees throughout the School District.  It was a pretty big deal for our small town.  There were good leaders that I had grown to love and respect that were involved.  Some were fired.  Some went to jail.  Some lost their families.

All of them had fallen into The Entitlement Trap.  They genuinely believed that they deserved more from the system.  So, they took money; they took cars; they took vacations; and as a result, they had to give up their positions of influence.

Great leadership means avoiding the Entitlement Trap, and it starts by guarding your thoughts.  Don’t even allow the thought that someone owes you something to take root.

“A sense of entitlement is a cancerous thought process that is void of gratitude and can be deadly to relationships, businesses, and even nations.”Steve Maraboli

4 Entitlement Traps to avoid:

1.) Entitlement with Subordinates:  Who hasn’t thought to themselves: “I’m paying these guys to do this!  I want it done MY way!”  This perspective, though, will eat a way at your employees’ trust. In business school, we read an article that suggested that in today’s business environment one would do best to treat every employee like a volunteer.  Many employees no longer allow fear or loyalty to keep them in positions where they are dissatisfied.  Running your organization with a sense of entitlement will mean low commitment and high turnover.  On the flip side, overwhelming subordinates with gratitude may just increase their level of commitment to a place you’d never be able to pay for.

2.) Entitlement with Money:  This is a nasty trap that has taken many good people.  Here’s how it starts: “Look at all this money I just made/saved the company.  I’ve put in all these extra hours.  They owe me!”  Before you know it, you’re charging personal expenses to the company card, taking office supplies home and finding creative ways to compensate yourself.  Here’s a good rule of thumb to protect you: If you deserve more than you’re being paid, go ask for it.   Make sure all of your “compensation” is authorized by the appropriate people.  Get it in writing.  Have it approved by the board.  Do it legally!

3.) Entitlement with Family: Entitlement at home comes in the form of Expectations.  I once read that every time you develop an expectation from your spouse, you rob them of an opportunity to love you.  Even if your spouse or children go out of their way to serve you, if you expect them to do it – or feel entitled to receive that treatment – you don’t receive it as love.  On the other hand, if you don’t consider yourself entitled to any particular treatment, then every little act of service is building your love and appreciation for one another.  Dishes, Laundry, Sex, Cleaning, Date-nights, Listening…what if all of these were not requirements but acts of love!

4.) Entitlement with God: In Tim Keller’s book, The Prodigal God, he points out that BOTH sons in the parable of the prodigal son were off the mark…both of them were after what their Father could give them.  The eldest son just had a more long-term plan for getting what he wanted.  After serving his father devoutly, he felt he was entitled to receive something.

It’s easy for leaders to think like the elder son.  After all, you’ve given your life for this work.  You gave up other opportunities.  You paid a price others weren’t willing to pay.  Doesn’t God owe you something?  But let’s not forget…HE IS our inheritance.  And, it’s His joy to shower us with good things.  Let’s be grateful for the opportunity to be a part of His work and let Him worry about taking care of us!

What Entitlement Traps have you seen?  How do you avoid them?

An Inspirational Thought along these lines!

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