Leadership: “WIIFM” (What's in it for me?) There is nothing wrong with someone wanting to understand “What’s In It For Me”--the benefit for them. As we understand the benefits of doing something we are more incline to be committed and self-motivated. People need time to make the connection on why this is a good thing for them—that process begins with you taking the time to explain it to them rather than them trying to make assumptions. Most often, assumptions are wrong and it’s in your best interest to articulate the benefits!
The alternative is to want people to just be quiet and do what you say-that’s a dictatorial approach and not a true leader! Dictators threaten people and think they are motivating people. Many of these types of approaches come from the military. Don’t get me wrong, there are some incredible leaders in the military and some excellent leadership training. However, the mistake is misusing the various tactics in the wrong setting.
For example, in the military, there are ‘often’ times where you need to give an order and you want immediate obedience otherwise lives are at stake. So training and tactics are geared to ensure that at those moments people do what they are told when they are told-without question.
In the business environment, we ‘rarely’ have such times where lives are at stake, with the exceptions such as when safety procedures are not followed, lives can be at stake. At those times, you still want to avoid threatening people as a way to get things done. Rather, its training people to understand the negative consequences when procedures are not properly followed.
Threatening is a way to get people to do things while you are watching them. And when you are not watching, they are looking for ways to get away from you—searching for other jobs other opportunities. Motivation and loyalty come together. You can’t make someone become loyal to you or to the effort. It’s a decision that each individual gets to make and their actions following that decision is also a choice they make.
The goal is self-motivation and leaders need to continue to inspire people with positive reinforcement. Helping them get to the point where they want to do things because they feel it is the right thing to do. And when they feel it is the right thing to do, they work harder and provide better quality to their work effort.
The leader is to help each individual become self-motivated and encourage them to use and develop their own talents. That internal drive starts to appear as they see that their individual contributions are needed and appreciated. That’s when they become driven and are less reliant on being driven by the leader.
Motivation is not a one-time event. It is on-going and you will need to continue to share the vision over and over again. You will need to continue to inspire others by your own example, recognize positive behaviors, updating the team on progress being made, consistently making necessary adjustments as needed and engaging individuals into the vision. Also, stepping in and helping the team recognize, appreciate and respect the talents of each individual.
All this begins with people understanding ‘WIIFM’..
Of the many styles of leadership, are there some that promote innovation and others that prevent it?
Using Wikipedia's definition of Leadership: It has been described as “a process of social influence in which one person can enlist the aid and support of others in the accomplishment of a common task". With that said, forcing people to do what is wanted is one thing, having them support the vision and be contributors in the process is another.
Approaches that resort to threats (job loss, demotions, retaliation, bad reviews, etc) in order to get people to 'aid in the accomplishment of a common task', may find a few short term wins. In the long term, people will do only what they are specifically asked (forced) to do and no more as they tend to resent the effort. They do enough to get by and unless they feel like they are stuck, they will look for another environment that better suits their needs. Although not everyone has a natural tendency to be high contributors, very few like being forced to do things.
On the flip side, when the approach allows people to choose to support the vision or common task and are able to contribute to the success, it tends to generate a positive energy. That positive energy drives people to do their best, want to succeed and make contributions. With that positive energy behind them, when obstacles or needs present themselves, people tend to 'innovate' (think outside the box, find new ways of doing things, create, work things out, etc) as they maximize the use of their talents. Most people are their best self when they are appreciated and able to contribute to the overall success. Regardless of personality traits, leaders are more effective when they positively influence by allowing people to choose to support the effort rather than force.
A leader is considered successful when the task is completed (or vision achieved) and the people involved (the ones that made the journey) are better people for participating.
The challenge is handling the pressure during the effort while having to make decisions. Every leader is faced with problems, challenges, investors, etc... the leader must have an approach and should stick with that approach. Vary the tactics, make adjustments as necessary, but avoid reverting to a dictatorial leadership style just to get something completed by a certain date.
Is there ever a time when a leader needs to just shut out others and do what they think is best? Should a leader be concerned with the thoughts of their followers? Or react to exactly how their subordinates think they should or respond in favor of their opinion? Should the ‘leader’ be open to feedback? Or in the case of overseeing very large groups, should they just use the dictatorial approach where followers receive commands and feedback is not welcomed or appreciated?
True leaders are those that care about the interests of those that follow and will adopt a vision that is bigger than themselves and something that benefits the whole or the bigger picture. That’s why people willingly follow them because their intent is to help others and that intent is well understood. People willingly follow true leaders.
When the true intent is to help or serve others, a leader is able to make mistakes or be misunderstood at times and able to work through those incidents without major fallout. However, if the approach is one of fear and controlling, then they will lack the ability to recognize when to make adjustments or when to know that listening is needed and people will only follow because they think they have to.
So a leader will need to make decisions and they may not make everyone happy with that decision. However, what’s important is the intent behind the decision and whether proper actions were taken to ensure some level of feedback and understanding from others was factored into the decision making process.
In summary, a leader will internalize a vision that benefits those they serve. They will mean what they say, they will try to say what they mean, they will be misunderstood and, yet, they will be understanding and patient as misunderstandings are expressed.
Are you that kind of leader?
Your thoughts welcomed…
I never had the opportunity to meet Steve Jobs, nor work for him. I knew him only through industry periodicals, some conferences in which he spoke and through Apple’s products. And although I recently read the book ‘Steve Jobs’ by Walter Isaacson, I would not consider myself someone that knew him. However, like my study of historical figures, I am someone that is trying to learn something from him.
All people are given talents, strengths and weaknesses. As I study historical figures, I look to see how they spent their time developing their talents, magnifying their strengths and discovering whether they worked on developing their own weaknesses into strengths. I especially like to look closely on how they did that, how they treated people and how much they gave credit to the team that supported them ‘along their journey’ to success.
So, back to the question: Was Steve’s leadership style directly linked to Apple’s success and would their products have been as successful without this particular approach?
The definition of servant-based leadership from Wikipedia: Servant-leaders achieve results for their organizations by giving priority attention to the needs of their colleagues and those they serve. Servant-leaders are often seen as humble stewards of their organization's resources: human, financial and physical.
To understand Steve’s approach I learned from Walter’s book which gave a 360 degree view of Steve as it took information from family, people that worked for him, some that worked with him, some that negotiated with him, some that competed with him, some that did business with him and partners. (I highly recommend reading the book as my summary does not do the book justice).
The author, purposely, and with Steve’s agreement, as well as his request, wrote the book without the direction of Steve. This provided the insights from the eyes of others on who Steve really was-not Steve’s biased memory of himself. The outcome produced a definite theme to the impressions he left on those who were close to him. All acknowledge his great intellect, his determination, his creativity, as well as his lack of empathy, his view that he actually knew what was best for the users of his products and his rare concern about other’s feelings.
Steve was demanding and in his mind, since he knew what was always best he allowed that view to drive a general lack of respect towards the opinions of others. The way he expressed that difference of opinion was very vocal (often yelling) and often profane which left the individual demoralized or extremely defensive. There was no middle ground. He felt the best way to separate ‘A’ and ‘B’ players was his particular approach. And then when you have true ‘A’ players the way to get the most innovation and quality work out of them was to not just put them in a pressure situations, but verbally abuse them and make examples out of them when they did things he didn’t feel were acceptable. He pushed too many to breaking points and burned them out. A number of incredible people walked away from things they loved to do and lucrative payoffs because they couldn’t take his approach.
Does a person have to yell, use profane language, threaten or treat people in a condescending fashion to help others reach their true potential?
The leadership provided by Steve, as CEO, was his ability to provide true product focus. Not just with the innovation but also with the true governance required by the CEO. Controlling the resources of the company to focus on a few key lines of products and saying no when they had too many good ideas. Not allowing the company to spread talent and resources too thin across too many lines of products that may even overlap with each other. Another key aspect of Steve was his discipline around quality. He was willing to push a date when something wasn’t right. Too many allow the pressure of outside influences force them to ignore quality and move ahead and fix it later. Steve demonstrated that on multiple occasions, where he had the backbone to stop and redo now and force delays.
You need to be firm, you need to be driven, you need to make quality a priority and you must hold people accountable to be successful. Holding people accountable, means that you sometimes need to tell people that they lost their job-even though they might be a good friend. But you need this discipline for the greater good of the company, the community and to each individual employee. The how is the differentiator. You must consider yourself a servant and must be committed to the benefits of those you serve.
You can inspire people in a multitude of ways. There is never just one way when it comes to style or approach. And when someone demands that their way is the only way what they are demonstrating is their fear or lack of willingness to “sacrifice what they are for what they could become” (variation of a quote from Charles Dubois).
I believe Apple had (and still has) many talented individuals and that there is no one person responsible for the success of Apple products.
Steve was a great man—but he could have been greater in the eyes of the people that knew him best had he realized the long term joy that comes from inspiring people by uplifting them and prioritizing the people he served in addition to the products he developed ‘along his journey’.
That's mMy .02.
Although I never served in the armed forces, my father was a marine and I learned to appreciate the service those in the military provide. I’ve also been very interested in the discipline and the preparation that goes into every drill and how each drill prepares you for proper execution when the drill becomes a reality. I’ve studied Colin Powell’s points on leadership and do admire him for his service and for sharing his insights. (Download the power point summary: C Powell On Leaderhip )
I wanted to zero in on Lesson 12 (although all are great and you should review them):
"Perpetual optimism is a force multiplier."
“The ripple effect of a leader's enthusiasm and optimism is awesome. So is the impact of cynicism and pessimism. Leaders who whine and blame engender those same behaviors among their colleagues. I am not talking about stoically accepting organizational stupidity and performance incompetence with a "what, me worry?" smile. I am talking about a gung-ho attitude that says "we can change things here, we can achieve awesome goals, we can be the best." Spare me the grim litany of the "realist," give me the unrealistic aspirations of the optimist any day.” C Powell
For you to lead with optimism, you have to willing to set yourself up for disappointment. Striving for any goal means there is a chance that you may not make the goal. However, rather than spending time and energy rationalizing why you really don’t need to attain the goal or that if you don’t achieve it, no big deal, there is a plan ‘B’... this mentality only takes away from the passion and enthusiasm.
Don’t be afraid to expose yourself (DO NOT TAKE THIS OUT OF CONTEXT!!) Rather, make yourself vulnerable to the potential disappointment of losing or missing the goal. Go for it! Do it! Don’t be afraid to give it everything you got and don’t be afraid to find out that YOU might not have enough or that you might get second place! That’s the point of being a leader—it’s not all about you---it’s about those you serve and those that you serve can do incredible things—they just need a leader that’s not afraid to lead!
A final thought from a quote from Charles DuBois: “The important thing is this; To be able at any moment to sacrifice what we are for what we could become.”
With the recent news of Steve Jobs passing I thought I’d focus more on him and how he inspired me. I did not know him personally-only ‘knew’ him through media and conferences where he spoke. And since most of my Corp IT life keeping Apple products out of the work place or at least minimizing their use (because of a variety of reasons), I wanted to still document the influence that came from Apple.. So here are a few of those thoughts...
The first time I saw him was at a conference back in the late 80s/early 90s where he gave a presentation of the ‘future’ of personal computing. As I recall (this was a long time ago), he talked about a prototype of this handheld device that would be like your assistant. This device/assistant would be able to communicate with you verbally and be able to pull information for you from the internet and be able to manage your contacts, your appointments-a true personal secretary. Again, a vision of what it ‘could’ be like.
Now this was at a time when the “Personal Computer” wasn’t personal at all—it was very impersonal and it was a ‘business’ thing that occupied most of your desk space and you didn’t carry it around-it was too big and heavy. The PC was used primarily to crunch numbers or perform some other very specific functions. There were even still a lot of ‘dumb terminals’ in the work place where ‘real work’ got done.
Steve then showed a video of this college professor preparing for a lecture about rain forests while he was finishing up dressing. He was talking to his ‘assistant’-an actual person that was in a window of the screen similar to a video conference-but it was the ‘persona’ of the handheld device. As the professor would carry on a conversation with his personal assistant and talk about the rain forests in South America the assistant pulled up images, stats, showed the changes over the years as they continued to discuss the topic. Then the professor remembered some expert in the field-an old contact and the assistant pulled up the profile and then facilitated a call with that person while the professor was putting on his tie. Future appointments were placed on the calendar while they were talking. When the discussion was over, the assistant assembled a draft report for the lecture-very incredible.
A number of years later, Apple came out with this interesting device-nothing like anything currently on the market-the IPad. Although it was different in form factor, it immediately reminded me of that presentation so many years prior-I could see that ‘future’ becoming present!
Steve was a visionary and he was a competitor—he pushed the envelope and wasn’t afraid to speak up and take on the other notables in the industry. However, to me he always seemed professional and rather than talking down others, he would talk up his ideas. Some of those early commercials that Apple put out made ‘IBM’ or PC users look like techno nerds that couldn’t tie their shoes—but that was funny-not personal attacks. So, yes, I was one of those the commercials were making fun of-and I was/is still a Steve Jobs fan.
There always seemed to be limitations on bringing apple into the enterprise. Applications related to mainframes or premium up-front costs that just couldn’t be justified. So my professional experience with Apple was limited—but I continued to follow Steve’s career and visions and messages.
Finally, after many, many years, I jumped into the apple pool when I got tired of my kids messing up the home PC, downloading viruses, memory issues, tons of ‘junk’ loaded on the box, etc.. So I stepped out of technical support at home and bought one—and it lives up to the labels of simplicity, user friendly, easy to interface with networks, printers, etc... I was converted—no longer the technician at home-my kids are. They can do anything and they train each other—my personal time in support has been eliminated. In fact, they seem to be showing me things every once in a while. There is something here that can be brought into the business world!
So what follows is my real tribute to Steve Jobs—what he always tried to make us Corp IT folks do—push past the limitations, the boundaries and get creative for the benefit of the ‘people’ (the ‘personal’ in PC)!
After that experience at home, I pushed ahead to do an IPad pilot in the work place. It was a very successful effort that created some key potential improvements in stores. An observation I took away from that pilot had nothing to do with technology. It was, once again, about people and how they react to change. I observed during the pilot some very successful people that had two different approaches. The first were those that only knew how to do things a certain way-they were intrigued with that new gadget and gave back minimal feedback and ideas.
Then there were those business folks in that other group-that were also anchored in results but seem to know that there ‘may’ be other ways to the ‘how’ things get done. They were very open to be creative and rethink the ‘how’. They shared their frustrations, the things they can’t do very well; the areas they were challenged in keeping up and how and what things they prioritized. They were willing to share-without concern that ‘weaknesses’ may be revealed in the process. ‘They’ did this because there was trust in this small group of people that were there to help make them successful.
Through that process, we moved way beyond the IPad and that ‘small group’ came up with a ‘solution’ to a business problem and also saved some trees in the process. We eliminated some wasted printing (100s of pages per week) and improved the ability of the management to train staff on the floor. We also created an application that took a few brilliant minds a few weeks that provided some vendor tracking and communication (no, not months and months and lots of dollars). And, it wasn’t about the IPad-it was about solving business problems-and the energy and excitement surrounding the store director that actually got the brain juices flowing because the IPad was such a valuable tool for the ‘person’.
Success is never determined by technology—success is driven by people. And when times are tough, the people that understand ‘service’ and are open minded to the variety of ways of getting things done-yet keeping their focus on delivering that service more efficiently, more effectively, improving customer satisfaction, providing value to their customer—that’s where success will continue to grow.
I’m not paying tribute to Apple-the tribute is to the leadership and influence of Steve Jobs. We have other great men in the business world-in fact there are even more great people that you will never hear about. Regardless, in today’s environment you need to understand the ‘people’ and value those people and their needs and not get hung up in standards, legacy and tradition.
And, yes, I do have an IPod and an IPhone-it was a tough conversion for me to the IPhone as I was a true blackberry user. It did take me a couple of months to transition and be totally comfortable with it. And I do still have a dell laptop—but my next laptop—it will be one of those Mac air ones. J
How do you know if you are a good leader? Can the success of a leader be measured? Is the success of a leader dependent upon their followers?
Understanding what makes a successful leader helps you understand the necessary components of being a good leader. Success for a leader should be measured in the same way and should be based on the impact on those that followed the leader:
At the end of the journey, was the leader’s impact to those who followed them positive? Did they accomplish their objectives? Are the followers better people? Are they motivated to strive to improve their lives at home, work and in their neighborhood? Are they inspired to drive beyond what they think is their current capacity?
Each team needs to start with a leader. Leaders lead people and inspire or motivate them to want to do their best. To do that, you need the ability to communicate vision, teach by example, make decisions, make adjustments, accept feedback, provide feedback, encourage, motivate, drive for results and build other leaders.
Personalities may vary and it doesn’t matter if you are a great public speaker, an extrovert or an introvert. Leaders can come in all shapes and sizes and have a variety of techniques. What matters is your ability to dedicate yourself to the service of others and set expectations and demonstrate your willingness to do anything in your power to help them succeed.
Too often when we hear the words ‘inspire’ or ‘motivate’ we connect with certain personalities. However, remember that many of the great leaders use a variety of methods to communicate and inspire. Sometimes they actually use other people to actually present the vision. The key is that leading is an action word and implies that you are on a journey from point A to point B and that not only are you going on the journey, but you are leading others on the journey too! How you go about it can vary from the approaches of other leaders.
Is the ability to lead something that you can develop or are you born with that ability? My opinion matters only to myself. What matters to you is your opinion and if you want to be a leader, you can be! You should be willing to do what is necessary to help other people. And chances are, if you start with that focus, you will do better than many others out there that call themselves leaders but spend most of their time focusing on themselves than others.
Not everyone wants to be the leader or the person in charge. That’s ok too, because leaders and every team still need team members and followers. Some of the best followers are those that understand leadership. You can still continue to develop leadership characteristics without having to be in charge. Being a leader among your peers is also valuable to you and the team. Always be a student of leadership!
I continue to explore the topic of leadership and the measurement of a successful leader. My metric that I use is that the success of a leader is measured by their 'positive' impact to those who follow-are they better people? Are they motivated to strive to improve their lives at home, work and in their neighborhood?
Last year I had the opportunity to meet Sri Sri Ravi Shankar. A humble, peaceful man that was honored by his many followers. He is one of many examples of people trying to make a positive impact on those around him. I'm not sure whether you have heard of him, but regardless, it amplifies the point that there are various types of leaders with different personalities, approaches, skills, talents and religious backgrounds that are all measured by the same success criteria: Do you have followers and are those followers better people for having followed your direction and guidance?
My own experiences with leadership is centered around service based leadership, where the focus of the leader is on helping other people with genuine motives. I'll share a couple of experiences that I had that started me down this road of leadership. Both of these experiences helped me to learn that as we understand our purpose in life and realize the importance of helping others we live a fulfilling life and feel the joy that comes from helping others. I remember a quote back from Zig Ziglar that went something like this: "You can only get what you want, If you help enough people get what they want".
In Boy Scouts I learned that the leader is responsible for the well being of their patrol. The leader needed to encourage, assist and, most importantly, be a good example to the rest of the troop. The example part was that you had to do your own work first to develop the skill you were asking the other members of the patrol to develop. So as I learned knot tying, fire building, first aid, etc I was then in a position to help others learn these skills--but I needed to learn it first, pass it off to my adult leader and then articulate the value of accomplishing that skill. The greatest sense of accomplishment came to us as Patrol leaders when your entire patrol became advanced in a particular area--although that process started with 'me' learning something, the 'we' became more important than the 'me'.
As I progressed in sports, I was fortunate to be part of a very successful high school football program. The coaching staff had worked together for many years and had matured an approach that yielded many championships and a very successful program of developing young men. To some, Practice, Practice, Practice may have appeared to be a waste of time. Some thought they were just 'gamers' and didn't need to practice. That's where the separation from "i" and "TEAM" came in. We needed to walk thru our various roles and assignments. We needed to understand what each others roles and assignments were. We needed to understand how it all came together. We needed to understand the competition and what they would try to accomplish. We needed to develop our game plan and approach. We needed to prepare for the unexpected. Most importantly, we had to be mentally prepared as well as physically prepared.
I learned that a key element to making each practice beneficial was that you needed to understand the goal at hand... Friday night's game. It wasn't the championship at the end of the season--the focus was on Friday night! Each practice had key objectives and the next practice would build off what was accomplished the day before. The coaches would share the objectives with the captains prior to practice so we can assist in meeting objectives. By the time Friday night came, we executed as planned and we kept our focus on the task at hand... and yes, we went undefeated and won our championship game.
The role of captain was to be a leader. Not just to work hard but to keep the team focused on the task at hand, whether that was practice or game time. That involved being positive, confident in your own abilities, encouraging others when they got frustrated. You also needed to learn what others needed to do--basically to learn every position. Another important duty of the captain in gaining the respect of teammates was what happened off the field. That role of the captain wasn't something you hung in the locker with your cleats. It carried with you all the time. And as you interacted with people it was a reflection on yourself, your team and your coaches.
These lessons still apply today.... your thoughts?