Are you a senior leader or an executive?
If so, you deserve a different type of coaching.
Executives must lead. Leaders must execute. For success at the top you must be effective at leading and executing.
Read the following snippets about leadership and management. These will give you an idea of where our coaching interactions will take you.
Then let’s start the conversation, because at your level, coaching is a conversation bordering on a Socratic debate.
Confidential client references provided on request.
Build not only your strengths
Many populist life-skills coaches promote the idea that you should concentrate on building your strengths, while ignoring your weaknesses. They argue that you are employed and rewarded for your strengths, not to work on your weaknesses.
This is nonsense. And it is also harmful.
If you promote one or two strengths, then you will be valued for that and little else. Specialists are seldom credited as team players or leadership material, and they are often feared for the power their special strength gives them. And in a changing world, special strengths have a nasty tendency of becoming irrelevant.
Your strengths might make you a superstar for a while in one special area, but those same strengths might make you a dysfunctional manager, parent or spouse.
In the end, you will be valued more for being balanced and well-rounded.
Expertise does not make you a leader
A lioness once charged me and the experience changed me. It gave me an insight into leadership.
Have you ever been charged by a lioness? No? Well, I guess that makes me the expert. And if a lioness suddenly appeared in your life, you will look to me for expert advice.
But the real question is this. Will you do what I say?
That, after all, is leadership. People look to you and they follow you.
There you have it. The leadership insight I gained in the African bush. The mere fact that I am the relative expert when it comes charging lionesses does not make me a leader. Unless your trust in me overcomes your natural inclination to run, you won’t do what I say, you won’t follow my lead.
And as you will discover too late, it is not a good idea to run from a lioness. Nor from your leadership problems.
Manage your leadership gap
Let’s talk about what I call the leadership gap. Do you think that leaders should be good at what they do or great at what they do?
Be careful. It’s a trick question. The right answer is .. . both.
You should be great at what is weak in others but critical to the success of your organization. And you should be good at what you need others to be good at.
By ‘good’ I mean slightly better than them. Here’s why.
Many of us are not motivated by ‘great’ because we believe that ‘great’ is out of our reach. Yet we will aim to be good, even to be better than the leader, because we know that good is possible.
The trick is never to make the leadership gap so big that no one can follow you.
Better to lead from only a few steps ahead
Else you will be admired from afar by people who are no longer followers.
Managing our leaders
I get annoyed when people act as if leadership and management are interchangeable. And I get even more annoyed when people think that leadership is more important than management. Leadership has become more glamorous and financially rewarding. But more important? I don’t think so.
A leader will stand on a river bank and say, “People, see how green the grass is on the other side! We must get there as soon as possible.”
You can trust me on this. Nothing will happen unless a manager-type quietly goes to work.
And what does this manager-type do? Without being told to, he or she breaks the vision down into action steps, determines the appropriate sequence of events, selects the right people for the tasks, secures the needed tools and materials, and defines performance measures to ensure the project stays on track.
Leaders might get things envisioned, but managers get things done.
Boss is boss is boss
What’s the first thing you discover on your first day at work? Who’s the boss!
The boss can be a leader or a manager or even both. Here’s the interesting thing. The organization decides if the person is a boss; results decide if the boss is a manager; and we decide whether the manager is a leader. In that order.
Nonsense is always at work. So ask yourself, is leadership nonsense? Yes, when a specific situation requires management instead. Is management nonsense? Yes, when leadership is needed.
And boss? Within hierarchies of power, managers and leaders are also bosses. There is no nonsense in ‘boss’. Either you are the boss and act it, or you are not.
You can fake leadership for a while and you can play at management for a moment, but boss is for real.