What kind of Leader are You?

May 8, 2012 by  
Filed under Business

This article is contributed by Andrew Bryant, founder of Self Leadership International.

US President, John F. Kennedy, once said, “Leadership and Learning are indispensible to each other”, which sets a frame that an effective leader does not know it all but is open to new information and perspective. Consider the possibility that everything we know today about our world emerged because people were curious. They formulated a question or series of questions about something that sparked their interest or deeply concerned them, which lead them to learn something new. It is my experience in developing leaders that the best leaders ask the best questions.

In October of 1982, Tylenol, the leading pain-killer medicine in the United States at the time, faced a tremendous crisis when seven people in Chicago died after taking extra-strength Tylenol capsules. It was reported that an unknown suspect/s put 65 milligrams of deadly cyanide into Tylenol capsules, 10,000 more than what is necessary to kill a human. Tylenol’s manufacturers Johnson & Johnson was faced with the dilemma of the best way to deal with the problem without destroying the reputation of the company and its most profitable product. Even though the Tylenol product itself was not at fault the Johnson & Johnson leadership asked the question, “What is the most ethical action we might take?” They withdrew Tylenol from shelves and made public announcements warning people about consumption of the product. The company then created the industries first tamper proof container and restored the public’s confidence.

A true leader faces facts, presents a situation fully to all stakeholders, and models accountability. A leader does not attempt to minimize the extent of a problem or promise action faster than can be delivered. A true leader sets appropriate expectations and delivers. He or she does not duck responsibility by shifting the bulk of the blame to someone else.

About a week after the 2010 platform explosion in the Gulf of Mexico BP’s Chief, Tony Hayward, was quoted in the New York Times as asking his executive team, “What the hell did we do to deserve this?” Then he lost all credibility by declaring, “I want my life back.”

Leaders usually believe that they are being paid for fixing problems rather than for fostering breakthrough thinking. Consider these four questions; “What time is it?” “Did you take a shower?” “What possibilities exist that we haven’t thought of yet?” “What does it mean to be ethical?” I think you will agree that the last two questions require a different level of thinking than the first two.

A leader’s questions should invite fresh thinking/ feeling. They should be familiar enough to be recognizable and relevant —and different enough to call forward a new response. A leader’s questions should generate hope, imagination, engagement, creative action, and new possibilities – it should not increase focus on past problems and obstacles?

How many leaders today know how to frame strategic questions that open the space for thinking about possibilities rather than solving problems? How many leaders are comfortable with not knowing and can constructively help others bring forth their collective knowledge? Could you be that kind of leader?

Companies are currently facing many problems, not least of which are, “how to restore trust in the leadership and how to engage employees?”

If leadership is getting work done with and through people, whilst gaining their trust and cooperation; is it not time to ask some good questions?

In the words of the wise Lao Tsu, “A leader is best when people barely know he exists. Not so good when people obey him and acclaim him, and worse when they despise him. Fail to honour people and they will fail to honour you. Of a great leader, when his work is done, people will say, we did it ourselves.”

Source: Self Leadership Coaching Blog

About Andrew Bryant

As a globally recognized authority on self-leadership and developing people, Andrew Bryant is highly sought after for his ability to inspire people to question conventional wisdom and take actions that result in positive outcomes. His unique presentation style blends constructive realism with humor to entertain and engage audiences worldwide.

Andrew has extensive experience as a consultant and executive coach to senior leaders, leadership and sales teams across the Asia Pacific region. He is the founder of Self Leadership International, a provider of Leadership and People Development Solutions including: consulting, coaching, facilitation and training.

Andrew Bryant is a Certified Professional Speaker and is in demand worldwide as an inspirational conference speaker and facilitator. His book Self-leadership will be published in 2012 by McGraw-Hill.

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