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Preventing Leadership Mush

Porridge-Leadership-Mush

Annti T. Nissinen on Flickr

Last week I participated in some national meetings with the team in which I serve. While discussing a particular topic, I mentioned the word “mush” tied to leadership. This caught one of the other team members off guard and quickly stated that I must blog about leadership mush. It became a common refrain for the rest of our three-day meetings. So this is for you Bob!

Mush can be defined as “a thick porridge made with cornmeal boiled in water or milk.” That is not what I am talking about . . . although I am sure there is a leadership analogy somewhere in that definition.

The secondary definition for “mush” is “something soft and spongy or shapeless.”

I am sure that definition has leadership implications.

One of the defining characteristics of leadership is the ability to make things clear. Let’s take the three elements of the dictionary definition to learn how to avoid leadership mush.

Soft. In leadership terms, this relates to direction and decision making. If the direction is “soft” it is difficult for those who follow to be certain they are on the right path. No one wants to have to guess about where they should give their best efforts. Followers want great clarity in both long and short term direction. Be relentless about pointing them towards “true north” on a regular basis and you will avoid the consequences of “soft.” It is also critical that your day-to-day leadership decisions support that directional clarity. Some leaders will wax eloquent about the overall vision, but the in time decision making does not reflect or support the stated vision.

If you want to avoid leadership mush be sure that your daily decisions don’t derail your overall direction and leave those you lead with “soft.”

Spongy. Regarding leadership traits, I believe this relates to key goals and objectives. You know how it goes when you punch a sponge, right? It simply bounces back . . . no imprint made. Those you lead want to know that they can make a difference in and through the organization. They want to make a clear contribution to the purpose of the organization. But if goals and objectives are left unstated, unclear, or lack accountability . . . it will be nearly impossible to know when true progress is made. And the motivation of those you lead . . . those you have entrusted with the execution of the overall plan . . . will wane.

If you want to avoid leadership mush be sure that you have stated, clear, and accountable goals and objectives in place. Don’t settle for “spongy.”

Shapeless. Shape is something you portray. Shape depicts form and function. If you lead a team of people are you leading according to their “shape?” You have to know your team well enough to lead according to their shape. You must be aware of their strengths, emotional intelligence, and ability to collaborate. To assume that any team will do is to be “shapeless.” You must shape the team and lead according to their shape. This will help you achieve maximum impact.

If you want to avoid leadership mush be sure you have the “right people on the bus” and lead according to their “shape.” Shapeless looks like everybody else.

By the way, one of the added descriptors for “mush” according to Merriam-Webster is “mawkish.” That is a new word for me . . . but you have to love the sound of it. It just seems to cry out “mush.” It certainly describes what “mush” can become . . . something “having an insipid often unpleasant taste.” Don’t let that become the leadership experience of those around you.

5 for Leadership-December 26th

Winter-5-for-Leadership

Lali Masriera on Flcikr

For the week between the holidays, here is a fresh 5 for Leadership. This week there are posts on leadership basics, leadership habits, best leadership reads from 2015, and making the best leadership decisions. There is also one great video presentation on colorblindness and culture consciousness. This is a good week to consider your leadership life . . . some of these links may help.

7 Basic Things Every Great Leader Should Know

“In a recent survey, only 3 percent said they have confidence in corporate executives. The news was equally dismal for others: 3 percent reported having confidence in government officials, 5 percent in reporters and journalists, 8 percent in small business owners, and only 11 percent in ministers and clergy.” I included Lolly Daskal again this week–take a look at these leadership principles as you start a new year

Develop This One Habit in 2016 and You’ll Be The Most Popular Person in the Room

“Decades ago, when a friend of mine and I were both young and ill-educated about the ways of the world, he said, ‘Betty, this is why guys and girls are so different. When guys have a problem, they want to hear solutions. When girls have a problem, all they want to do is have you listen to them on and on and they don’t want to hear solutions.’ He was both right and wrong. Wrong in his overall gender assumptions, but right in one very critical way.” Find out what it is . . . from Betty Liu on Linkedin Pulse.

The 15 Best Business Books I Read in 2015

“I’m pleased to share the fifteen books that I enjoyed the most in 2015 – they made an impression on me, and I think they’re worth reading (or listening as I usually do).” See what Chris Fralic recommends–and grab a few for your personal reading list in the new year.

Adam Edgerly: From Colorblind to Culture Conscious

Adam is a pastor and leadership consultant. We at Cru City have been engaging with Adam for over a year now and he has proven to be invaluable in helping us embrace change. If you have the time, this is an excellent video presentation by Adam at Biola Univeristy on this critical topic.

How To Make Confident Decisions And Stand By Them

“I’ve spent countless nights wide awake, mulling over a leadership decision. Did I do the right thing? Was the choice I made best for the ministry and everyone involved? Even when I feel confident making a decision, I often second-guess myself later.” Kristine Brown uses the narrative of 2 Samuel 6 in the Bible to provide us with some solid principles on decision making . . . found in Leadership Journal.

There are the 5 for this last week in 2015. Take some quality time this week to reflect on your leadership as you prepare for 2016.

My Top Posts for July

UnknownHere are my five most popular posts for this past month. I don’t know how hot it is where you are, but here in Texas August is almost always the hottest month. So take a break from the heat and choose a post or two to stir your thinking.

Delegation vs Empowerment  This post has been in the top five every month since I began this series. It was number 1 in July. It is an important topic. What would you add to the conversation?

D. L. Moody on Leadership  I love to highlight quotes from those who have had great influence in the past. We can learn from their experience and wisdom. Dwight Moody was an evangelist who had great impact and used his influence for great good. Here are some of his thoughts that relate to leadership.

21st Century Leadership: 7 Questions for Evaluation  This post was originally published in June, but its popularity carried over into July. The core of the post and the questions arise from a book by McFarland, Senn, and Childress. This paradigm provides a great “check up” for your own leadership and your organization.

3 Types of Leadership Decisions  This post was first published a year ago. But the art and science of decision making is always in vogue. This provides one grid for thinking through the kind of decisions you may need to make and how to do so.

Integrity 2.0  This post is only a week old. It reflects on the political trials of Anthony Weiner, a mayoral candidate in New York City. True leadership relies on granted authority from your followers, which always flows from a life of integrity. Mr. Weiner is back in school.

There are my top five for this past month. I hope you finish your summer strong and are taking some time to recharge your leadership batteries. Lead well.

5 for Leadership (4/27/13)

small__136782490Here is a fresh 5 for the final week in April. This week we take a look at authenticity, execution, decision making, leadership traits, and showing up.

4 Reasons Execution Breaks Down: and How to Fix It

This comes from Karin Hurt, whom I have highlighted before. The title says it all. Execution is a critical task for every leader.

Leaders Show Up Even When Its Not Fun

This comes from the Lead Change Group blog. Jennifer Miller uses the analogy of little league parents doing their job to leaders with character doing what is necessary. The point is relevant and driven home well through this every day scenario.

How To Make Wise Decisions (1 Corinthians 10)

Here is a thoughtful piece by Bruce Chant on his blog Edevotional. He gives us three vital and practical questions for decision making that all flow from this Pauline passage.

To Be Authentic, Look Beyond Yourself

This comes from the HBR blog. Authors Su and Wilkins argue that true authenticity must flow from one’s ability to connect with others–not just how you feel about yourself. The authors provide three vantage points from which to increase your personal authenticity.

Leadership: What Are The Most Important Traits?

This final post comes from The Leadership Journal, a Christian publication that always has some excellent points of view. Some of the results from this survey may surprise you.

Let me know which was your favorite post.

My Top Posts for July

Here are the five most popular posts from my blog for the month of July.

6 Common Errors in Strategic Planning  In this post I attempt to uncover regular mistakes I see leaders and teams make in the strategic planing process-and offer some tips to correct.

Delegation vs Empowerment  This remains my most popular post month in and month out.  This is a critical leadership issue for the effective function of organizations and for the multiplication of leaders.

The Leader and Planning  This post was the first of a five part series on planning.    Here, I revealed the two primary purposes of team planning, stewardship and celebration, to lay a foundation for the planing environment.

3 Types of Leadership Decisions  Decisions are at the heart of effective leadership.  In this post I discuss the merits of directive, consultive and delegative decisions.

The Nature of Leadership Decisions  This post originally preceded the 3 Types of Leadership Decisions post.  In this post I lay out three diagnostic questions I believe every leader should answer before making a critical decision.

There are the five most popular for July.  Thanks for taking the time to read my blog and interact.  I hope you find these posts beneficial for the first time-or again.  Lead well!

3 Types of Leadership Decisions

signs-decisions

totemisottapa on Flickr


This is the 2nd post on the topic of leadership decisions. In the first one, I discussed the nature of leadership decisions and offered some diagnostic questions to help you in thinking through every leadership decision you make. In this post, we will look at three types of leadership decisions. Sometimes leaders look at decision making like a game of rock, paper, scissors. We use the same approach in every situation and we leave it up to chance. But there is a way to think through the type of decision that should be made for the best possible result.

1. The Directive Decision  This type of decision is where the leader alone makes the decision and announces it to those he or she leads. This is an autocratic approach that should be used very sparingly but does have its place. This type of decision is probably most useful in times of crisis. This is when there is chaos and people are looking for a single person or body to make a command decision. Someone needs to take charge and provide clear direction to meet the need.

2. The Consultive Decision  This is where a leader presents a tentative decision and invites input that will affect the final outcome and execution. This may be the most common scenario for leaders in the decision-making process. Leaders should rightly see things from a unique perspective that is more encompassing of the whole. They should have some unique insight that can put forth an initial idea that may need refinement and specificity to actually work. Gathering pros and cons and thinking through the consequences as a team can help to insure a better outcome. These types of decisions build ownership and trust. They also tap into the collective brain power and creativity of a team.

3. The Delegative Decision  This is where the leader provides freedom for making the decision within a prescribed responsibility. This can often take place during the execution phase of leading. This is where you have developed a strong sense of trust with those you are leading and you are able to empower them to make decisions for themselves in how things get done. You may have collectively determined what needs to be done over time but you provide freedom in how those goals and plans are accomplished. This is a great leadership development tool and will help to multiply the leaders necessary for fulfilling the mission. This requires a servant leader who can give away power and control and trust others toward the fulfillment of the mission.

When you are thinking through what the decisions that you need to make as a leader, ask yourself what type of decision is this? What would work best for this problem or opportunity? Is this a directive decision, a consultive decision, or a delegative decision? The desired outcome will help determine the approach.

The Nature of Leadership Decisions

crossroad-decision

Carsten Tolkmit on Flickr

Decision making is a critical component of effective leadership. Your team and those you report to are depending on you to make timely, well-communicated decisions that will aid the team and make progress toward the vision. Good leaders make a myriad of decisions every day. Some are simple and easily executable. Others are weighty and have much at stake. Some can be anticipated and planned. Others are in the moment and must be made immediately. And every leadership decision has a multiplied impact.

3 Considerations for Every Leadership Decision 

By definition, a “decision” is a determination arrived at after consideration. Here are three diagnostic questions you can use as you consider every leadership decision.

1. What exactly is the decision that needs to be made?  This may sound overly simplistic. But I have seen many bad leadership decisions simply because the leader or leaders had not clearly defined the decision that needed to be made. This can be especially true in times of urgency. A presenting set of circumstances can blind leaders to the real issue-the underlying issue. A leader must determine what the right decision is in any given situation. This may cause the process to slow down some but may prove to be the better part of wisdom later. Analysis, counsel, and reflection may be critical to determining the essence of any given decision.

2. Who should be involved in making the decision?  Leaders must also consider this important question. Too often leaders make decisions in a vacuum. They do not value the counsel of others and they do not value the ownership and energy it will take for others to execute their decisions. This also does not mean that every decision should be a result of group think. A good leader will be discerning about who should be included. Who are the ultimate stakeholders? Who needs to contribute to the solution so that you have their best creativity and ownership to follow through? There is a “sweet spot” of people to include for every decision one faces.

3. How will the decision get communicated?  This may be the area I see most often that gets overlooked. The right people are gathered and good decisions are made–and then they are communicated out to the rest of the organization in a disastrous way. A good leader must consider the weight and impact of every key decision and then determine the best means of communication for the highest positive impact. Again, this may require some good counsel from people who are sensitive to the softer side of leadership and people. Some leaders falsely believe that the highest value is just getting the information out and any email will do. Sometimes communicating leadership decisions take more time and rigor than actually making them.

Try this decision diagnostic on for size in your own leadership. Please add your thoughts and comments on this important topic.  Lead well!

Additionally, here are some great Bible references from the books of Proverbs and the Psalms about decisions:  Proverbs 15:22; Proverbs 16:1; Proverbs 16:3; Proverbs 16:33; Proverbs 21:5; Psalm 25:12

Delegation vs Empowerment

Baton-Delegation-Empowerment

tableatny on Flickr

To delegate means to choose or elect a person to act as a representative for another. To empower someone means to give power or authority to someone else. Do you hear the difference? To delegate something to someone is to only give them enough leash to act on your behalf, as you would for yourself. To empower another means you give them enough power and authority to act on their own behalf.

This is not good versus bad. There is a proper time for delegation. I can think of two: when someone is truly new to the ways of leadership and in times of crisis. When someone is cutting their teeth on leadership then you want to teach them how to handle responsibility. It is the principle of seeing if they will be faithful in little so that they might grow into being faithful with much. In times of crisis, there needs to be an authoritative decision maker and those who are willing to simply carry out those decisions to meet the critical need of the moment. But these two scenarios leave a lot of opportunity for empowerment.

In my mind there are three critical aspects to empowerment. To truly empower someone you must grant them authority, you must give them proper resources, and you must hold them accountable to organizational values and principles. They have to have enough authority to make some significant and important decisions. You have to give power away. They have to have resources that are truly theirs to steward. People, money, and tools. Yet it is not a free for all. There should be an accountable aspect that helps them stay within the playing field of organizational boundaries. You tell them the “what” but the “how” is left up to them. They have to have enough of all three things to truly have the freedom to fail on their own efforts–and learn.

While there is a proper time for both things I am pushing the action point towards empowerment. Here are some reasons why:

Delegation largely raises up followers-empowerment raises up leaders.

Delegation is less work for you in the short run-empowerment is more work for you in the short run.

Delegation is more work for you in the long run-empowerment is less work for you in the long run.

Delegation keeps you in the center of leadership activity-empowerment places someone else at the center of leadership activity.

Delegation ensures that you are your own leadership legacy, for good or for bad. Empowerment ensures that more leaders are your leadership legacy, which is almost always good.

Consider today some people around you that you can truly empower-not for your kingdom, but for His.