Pivotal Design: What can we learn from the Wright brothers?

August 3, 2009 at 4:36 pm (change, Leadership) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

I came across this article recently.  I’m curious as to your thoughts, ideas, rebuttal, or contributions.

The Pivotal Design

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The Other Shoe Dropped

February 10, 2009 at 11:42 pm (change, Feedback Received, Introspection, Leadership, Musings) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Last night, the other shoe dropped.  I sort of expected the first, but the second one came with more subtlety and finesse. It’s official, I am no longer the leader of this organization.

I never knew what this figure of speech meant until several years ago I lived on the bottom story of a two-story apartment complex.  Almost every night my upstairs neighbor came home after the bars closed.  I’d hear him walk through his bedroom to the bathroom.  When he was done there, he’d come back and sit on the edge of his bed.  First one shoe would hit the floor, then the other.  Finally, his bed would squeak as he settled into a drunken slumber.

Since arriving here, it has been my intent to streamline the systems, leadership, and organizational chart.  Being an earnest, energetic, and eager individual, I dove into my charge with reckless abandon.  Within six months, the board was pared down to a manageable size, an advisory team was stripped of it’s unofficial role as leaders, and we began to take baby steps towards better management and leadership of the organization.

Unfortunately, about every two months, we would rehash the conversations about systems, leadership, and growth.  It was as if the previous conversations had never taken place.  About three months ago, I asked the board, “Am I the leader of this organization, or not.”  They answered with assurance that I was indeed the leader of the organization.  Less than a week later, I received an email from three key leaders that sought to pull me back into a subordinate role.

The interesting thing about non-profit, faith-based organizations is that the leader is hired by the same people they are then charged to lead.  If those people chose to not let you lead them, then one is left impotent.  I haven’t felt impotent until last night.  Up until this point, I figured that I just couldn’t get traction.  It was like one step forward, one step back – every other month.

Sunday night I met with the group of people who, through consensus, have been “leading” for years.  Going into the meeting, I knew that this night would decide, more concretely, what my role is to be.  When they hired me, 16 months ago, I heard them say they wanted a leader who could help them change and grow.  That’s what I’m good at, so I said yes.  Sunday night, they stated, unanimously, that this group composed the true leaders – and the other body were just an administrative board.

While attending the board meeting last night, and reflecting on the conversation from the night before, it became obvious to me that I was no longer the leader of this organization.  The chair of the advisory group is now the leader.

I’ve reflected over this all day, trying to make sense of this.  I’ve figured out, I’m a non-potent force in this organization.

Don’t get me wrong, in this economy, I’m happy to have a job.  Also, I believe I can still make a difference, through a path of influence and relationship building.  But, basically, my hands are tied and I’m impotent.

I have much to learn.

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Can Leadership Be Taught?

July 29, 2008 at 6:45 am (Leadership) (, , , , , )

There is a great debate that’s been taking place for years.  Possibly longer.  Decades, centuries, millinia?  In my last assignment, I was assaged constantly to grow a leadership team, to scale my efforts, and this would guarantee success.  Well, a funny thing happened on the way to the market: we weren’t able to grow our team.

Now, here’s the caveat, we were working with all volunteers (except me), in a hostile environment, with great baggage and social pressure for people to NOT join our team.  But all of my superiors, each of my mentors, and the various coaches we employed, were telling me that I could grow these people into leaders.  If I didn’t, it was mere failure on my part to be a good leader.

So, I read books, listened to my coach, attended seminars and lectures and conferences, and generally sought out all the resources I could muster.  But alas, after five years of hard work, I was not able to turn the tide.

We had been able to attract some hard working people to our team.  They were dedicated to the project, committed to the vision (even when they didn’t always get it), and extremely loyal to me, their leader.  I worked hard to break paradigms and instill values that would enable my core team to be leaders like me.  I pushed, I pulled, I nudged, and I led – all to no avail.

The bottom line is, they didn’t want to be leaders.  They didn’t know how to be leaders.  They were too scared to step into any place of leadership.  Oh they tried.  Their loyalty to me,  coupled with their strong work ethic, made them put in the 110% it takes to push to a new level.  But, like I said, they just didn’t want it bad enough.

Meanwhile, I was getting a lot of heat to shape these folks into leaders.  And like any good dysfunctional co-dependent, I pushed my people to be better leaders.  The more pressure they felt, the more afraid they were to make decisions or screw up.

A few months ago, my brother-in-law, who is a self-made successful CEO of his own enterprise, said something interesting.  He told me he wasn’t interested in scaling.  This isn’t the man I knew seven years ago – the one who wanted to grow big enough to own his own jet.  Nope, this is the married five years, soon to be dad, approaching 40 years old man of new faith.

I asked him about this.  It was quite fascinating to me, because I had come to appreciate similar thinking in my new endeavor.  I’m no longer interested in saving the world and leaving a lasting legacy.  I see now that if I do my job well and focus on the task at hand, the rest of the pieces will fall into place.  If it grows, that’s fine, but if it doesn’t, at least we can have quality.

I can’t make leaders, but I can work with the ones already on my team.  Right now, what I see are a bunch of hard working administrators and doers that are hungry for vision and leadership.  And that’s what I have to offer, realistic vision, and solid leadership.

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