Leadership: Finding Diamonds in the Pig Slop!

Knowledge Check!Have you ever noticed the many writers pouring billions of gallons of ink into leadership guides, books, articles, and so forth, and leadership is still a problem?  As a kid, we kept pigs.  Not many, just seven or eight, had a couple of batches of piglets, and the pig slop grew the best tomatoes ever.  One day, someone visited and saw the pigs when they dropped something flashy in the pig slop.  I forget what was dropped, but we kids were told to find this item for this visitor — launching a marathon of several days crawling through pig slop all to no avail.

I saw those pigs eat snakes, squirrels, and they even ate a wild dog who got injured inside their pen.  These eating machines never ceased to amaze me, and the slop was the best place to “lose” anything.  Bringing us back to leadership and the search for diamonds in pig slop.  I am not castigating the authors of leadership books, tools, guides, etc., as creating pig slop.  I am claiming that leadership is learned, and in learning, there will be failures and success.  The books on leadership do represent a clamoring quagmire for attention, where finding that one diamond to help your particular situation is going to be difficult, if not impossible.wild pigs in pen - YouTube

What is a Leader to do?

I am a practical-minded person.  Give me information, and let me chew on that information until solutions can begin to appear.  As a leader, I have found some basic principles helpful in producing an atmosphere and culture worthy of passing along.  Use; do not use, doesn’t matter to me.  I offer some suggestions and leave the rest to you.

    1. Create a learning culture. I do not care how many degrees plaster your wall; I do not care how high your GPA is or was in academia.  If you are not a committed lifelong learner, you will not retain the data you learned and treat yourself or others properly.  Read a book!  Investigate topics of interest to you!  Read out loud to children!  Reading has a power over the mind that no other force can match.  Pick up a book!
    2. Never forget, “a leader is a teacher, and a teacher is a leader.” If you are not teaching, you are not leading!  Yes, it truly is that simple to identify a leader from a manager.  Teaching comes in many forms; use them all.  As you get to know your people, you will discover the need to use different teaching styles; don’t be scared not to know something, suggest learning it together.
    3. Delegate, delegate, delegate, and then wash, rinse, and repeat. A leader will not keep everything on their plate.  Recognize the talents around you, take those talents and grow more, using the first two principles and the power of delegation.  The best leader I ever knew never seemed busy.  He delegated as much as possible and spent his days going around to those he delegated to for updates.
    4. Know the value of emotions and use them sparingly! A military commander I served with understood this principle well.  When he got upset, change happened.  But he did not get upset often and was very selective when he showed any emotion, except humor.  When this commander showed he was upset, people respected his emotional displays and worked twice as hard to right the wrong.
    5. Humor! Know some jokes, use them often!  I was working in a call center, the VP of customer relations saw I was logging off for a break; he comes hurrying over to me, acting all important and officious; he says, “Do you know what I just heard?”  “Not a clue.”  “Elvis, he was singing a melody of songs to fried peanut butter and banana sandwiches.”  Not a good joke, but I remember it.  Knowledge of humor and application of that knowledge is preeminent to leadership.

Why the discussion on leadership?

Andragogy - The PuzzleLet’s face the 800# gorilla in the room; America, and the world, are in desperate need of leaders.  We have too many managers and people who claim to desire leadership but want nothing more than a manager.  We have people all around us who have become content with management and cannot tell you the difference between a manager and a leader; worse, these same people will try and claim leaders are born, not made.  Plus, a thousand and one other excuses, diatribes, vent spleens, egoistic manifestations, and straight lies.  Worse, politics gets involved, from the government to business; the politics of wagging tongues reminds me of geese in a pen.  Hissing, biting, honking, making tons of noise, and not making a lick of sense.  Chickens cackling in a yard is almost musical compared to geese in a pen, and I think the chickens might be smarter, even without brains, than geese!

One of those authors who write about leadership but could not lead a platoon of sailors into a bar after a long deployment was recently quoted as having said something others claim is essential to leadership.  Leaders need to embrace the C’s of leadership.  The C’s of leadership include:

    • Calm. Employees and customers look to Leaders to project a sense of calm through an uncertain situation.
        • This is a true statement, but if the employees have been appropriately trained, uncertain situations are diminished proportionally to quality, value-added training as part of being lifelong learners.
    • Confidence. Being calm, but not still-water calm. Employees and customers rely on the confidence a Leader brings.
        • Calmness is a projection of inner thoughts onto situational awareness.
        • Confidence is the sum of training, plus experience and the desire to excel — all of which the leader does not control and can only influence. Thus, we have a confusion of terms and ideas that do damage when confused.
    • Communication. Relentlessly communicate and communicate more clearly. This is to avoid rumors developing the muddy waters.
        • Muddy waters will always exist; people gossip like mad. But leadership communication can only go so far when people choose to ignore communication.  Hence, again, we confuse roles and responsibilities being passed off as a leadership principle.
        • Communication is a two-directional street and requires both parties to be listeners and speakers in their due order.
    • Collaboration. Call on the resources and capabilities of ALL your team and bring them together. Have a role for everyone in which they can contribute.
        • NO! Contribution is nothing without training, training requires delegation, and delegation is only useful if you include a return and report requirement.  Collaboration has a role, but not in leadership as described.
    • Community. All of us live in communities.  It’s important we set an example, and model behaviors that are supportive.
        • Would someone please tell me how modeling behaviors is part of living in communities?
        • Modeling behaviors is essential in the leadership toolbox, and I would never implicate otherwise. However, the community is left with a choice to exemplify the modeled behaviors or not.  Worse, those outside the company cannot be controlled except through persuasion, long-suffering, gentleness, meekness, and love unfeigned — all tools a leader needs to be promoting in followers.
    • Compassion and empathy, during and post a crisis are critical in leadership.
        • Every time you see the word empathy, remember it is an emotional road to ruin. Worse, add sympathy to the mix, and the speed to ruin increases dangerously.
        • Compassion is not empathy; compassion is not sympathy; it is simply recognizing pain in another person and rendering support without participating in that emotional crisis.

FAIR AND BIASED: STAY OUT OF THE HOG PEN!Thus, we have the pig slop and the diamond hunt.  Unless an author provides principles, many leadership books, guides, and articles are just noise, pig slop, where the person desiring to improve individual leadership skills is hunting for diamonds. At the same time, fighting through a gaggle of geese that are hissing, honking, and clamoring for attention.

How does a person avoid the diamond hunt in pig slop?

Gaggle of geeseThe following is not an all-inclusive list.  However, it is the beginning of a list of tools helpful to leaders in all situations:

    1. Start being a leader by being a good follower. Even if being a good follower requires you to be the loyal opposition.  “Yes,” people are managers looking for a leader to pin their star to and never understand the power of being the loyal opposition.  I have never met a leader who was not first a good follower, even if they had to be the loyal opposition.
    2. Not just books on leadership, as this is only going on a diamond hunt in pig slop.  Read books on every topic you can think of, for when you read; you discover principles for future application.  I found how to understand complex theories in biology and how to use these complex organizational systems in how the human body interacts with its disparate parts and systems.
    3. Never stop learning! Going hand-in-hand with reading, never stop learning is a principle and motto for life.  If you need or want information, go to a subject matter expert and beg lessons.  I had a boss who did not know the industry, did not know the company and had no clue how to build the team.  He was hired for a specific set of skills and discovered his collateral duties one assignment at a time.  He went around to every long-term employee and asked them to teach him their jobs.  Six months into his tenure as leader, he was the best leader many had ever experienced.  Never stopping learning means being willing to learn from anyone.
    4. Leaders are trained, not born. Leaders do not magically appear.  Leaders are carefully taught, built, and never stop!  Are you carefully building yourself mentally and physically?  In the US Army, I was taught physical fitness, and with the number of mistakes I was constantly making, I learned a lot about physical fitness.  But, until I was injured, I had not taught my brain to meet my body’s strength and made more mistakes because the strength of my body excelled the strength of my mind.  In carefully building your leadership skills, abilities, and talents, do not forget to keep the body and mind equal in strength.

Andragogy - LEARNNo single person has all the answers on how to be a good leader.  I know I am still learning, and the more I learn, the less I know, and I have been studying leadership, becoming a leader, and working as a leader for the majority of my adult life.  I have led teams in dangerous work, I have developed people in all sorts of industries, and I still fall back on these time-honored principles because they work.  Thus, I ask you to put down the diamond hunt, get out of the goose pen, and simplify your life so you can learn easier and practice better the principles of delegation, learning, reading, and using humor.

© 2021 M. Dave Salisbury
All Rights Reserved
The images used herein were obtained in the public domain; this author holds no copyright to the images displayed.

NO MORE BS: Wanted A Leader – The Leader’s Job Description

cropped-snow-leopard.jpgThe best job descriptions address the common questions of Who, What, When, Where, and How.  The common question ‘Why’ is excluded because it remains self-evident, there is a “something” desired from the job, or the job would not be considered worthwhile.  Since value and rewards are the beholder’s sole facets, ‘Why’ has been excluded as superfluous.  The sum of these points and positions is derived, deduced, and selected from the following resources, and this list is not all-inclusive, Avolio (2008), Boylan (2005), Brady (2005), Carpenter (1868), Chaleff (2003), Lundin (2000), Costa (2008), Hamlin (2008), Hinckley (2000), Oyinlade (2006), Morrow (1935), Sandburg (1926), Wren (1995), and Yukl (2006).

Wanted: a Leader

Literary FiendThe successful leader is morally obligated to embrace loyal opposition.  Loyal opposition is found in those following, taking and giving counsel and guidance to improve plans, implement ideas, and garner the individual buy-in from free agents.  Loyal opposition ensures that integrity, responsibility, and accountability are not lost or forgotten.  The leader is a teacher, and a teacher is a leader.  The cycle for learning and teaching does not become lost or less significant as rank is increased.  The inverse occurs. The greater the position, the higher the responsibility to remain engaged in the learning/teaching cycle.  All Applicants must have the following characteristics:

      • Drive and Determination – This is required as the task is difficult, the work often arduous, and the pay is never sufficient.
      • Education and Experience – Knowledge is good, but a continued thirst for learning must supersede past educational experiences. Experience in applying education is critical.  Without experience in application, academic success is not enough to obtain this position.
      • Willingness to sacrifice – As a leader, the followers need to be trained and supported; this requires a considerable measure of sacrifice in time, resource allocation and demands innovation in thinking and flexibility in approach.
      • The power to delegate – A leader does not have enough time to meet all their responsibilities; if a leader cannot delegate, oversee, and inspire others to action, that leader cannot achieve success and is not a leader but a manager.
      • Willing to follow without sacrificing the need to lead – Leaders can never sever the ties to being a follower, but the leader must act to lead. Above all else, leadership requires balancing between being a follower and leading well.
      • The ability to exude a ‘Quiet Confidence’ – Knowing you know what to do, have the ability to find the answers, and still meet achievement goals is required to inspire confidence and determination in others.

Charismatic people need not apply.  Those possessing ‘Chutzpah’ are always welcome.  Charisma is a potent drug and, when combined with the power of leadership, tends to lend itself to abusing followers.  People possessing ‘Chutzpah,’ e.g., having the backbone to make a stand and remaining standing long after others consider quitting, are always in demand.  Determined ‘Chutzpah’ will be the order of the day to make a change, lead in flux, and drive the change in others while putting followers at ease, delivering praise, and inspiring others to achieve.

quote-mans-inhumanityThe ideal candidate possesses a working and living knowledge of history, politics, sales, marketing, customer service, and a devotion to seeing others succeed.  The ideal candidate must be willing to be an example and remain engaged mentally to the tasks of leadership.  Other qualities an ideal candidate would possess include:

      • Appetite
      • Passion
      • Honesty
      • Forthrightness
      • Morals
      • Ethics
      • Motivation
      • Imagination
      • Understanding of the difference between monitoring and overbearing
      • Emotionally stable
      • Enthusiasm for learning and living

To apply, follow current leaders well, be engaged, be positive, and ask questions.  Shortly leadership positions will develop to begin the leadership training process.  Never forget, being a good follower remains key to being a good leader!  While awaiting your opportunity to become a leader, increase your literacy in general, including fiscal literacy.  Be the best follower possible, even if being a good follower requires you to stand apart from your peers.  Be willing to stand for principles, morals, and ethics without budging or giving way in the face of adversity or temptation.

quote-mans-inhumanity-2Learn that a good leader is a teacher, and a good teacher is a leader, even if all they do is follow well.  Delegation requires teaching; teaching requires knowing and using knowledge to gain experience; hence, volunteer, ask for additional jobs, take on assignments, and open your mouth to offer advice and suggestions.  A good follower and the best leaders speak up, speak out, and reflectively listen to gain mutual understanding in all they do.  Never allow peer pressure to silence you!

References

Avolio, B. J., & Yammarino, F. J. (2008). Transformational and charismatic leadership: The road ahead. Vol 2. Bingley, United Kingdom: JAI Press – Emerald Group Publishing Limited.

Boylan, Bob (1995). Get Everyone in Your Boat Rowing in the Same Direction. New York, New York: Barnes & Noble.

Brady, C., & Woodward, O. (2005). Launching a leadership revolution: Mastering the five levels of influence. New York, NY: Business Plus – Hachette Book Group.

Carpenter, F. B. (1868). The inner life of abraham lincoln: Six months at the white house. New York, NY: Hurd and Houghton.

Chaleff, I. (2003). Leader follower dynamics. Innovative leader, 12(8), Retrieved from http://www.winstonbrill.com/bril001/html/article_index/articles/551-600/article582_body.html

Costa, A. L., & Kallick, B. (2008). Learning and leading with habits of mind: 16 essential characteristics for success. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development. Retrieved from http://www.ascd.org/publications/books/108008/chapters/describing-the-habits-of-mind.aspx

Hamlin, R. G., & Sawyer, J. (2007). Developing effective leadership behaviors: The value of evidence-based management. Business Leadership Review, IV(IV), 1-16. Retrieved from www.mbaworld.com/blr-archive/scholarly/5/index.pdf

Hinckley, G. B. (2000). Standing for something: 10 neglected virtues that will heal our hearts and homes. New York, NY: Three Rivers Press.

Lundin, S. C., H. Paul, and J. Christensen. Fish!, a remarkable way to boost morale and improve results. Hyperion Books, 2000. Print.

Morrow, H. (1935). Great captain: The lincoln trilogy. New York, NY: William Morrow and Company.

Oyinlade, A. (2006). A method of assessing leadership effectiveness: Introducing the essential behavioral leadership qualities approach. Performance Improvement Quarterly, 19(1), 25.

Sandburg, C. (1926). Abraham lincoln: The prairie years. New York, NY: Blue Ribbon Books.

Wren, J. T. (1995). The leader’s companion: Insights on leadership through the ages. New York, NY: The Free Press.

Yukl, G. (2006). Leadership in Organizations. 6th Edition. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall.

© Copyright 2021 – M. Dave Salisbury
The author holds no claims for the art used herein, the pictures were obtained in the public domain, and the intellectual property belongs to those who created the images.
All rights reserved.