All posts by CoachVicky

What Is Effective Leadership?

The bottom line question becomes “What is effective leadership?”

Within our thinking, leadership is effective to the degree that the structures of meaning have the power to:

1. Adhere, develop, or maintain a strong collective experience at the desired level

2. Vigorously interpret experiences within the collective, e.g. make events sensible to different individuals

3. Vigorously interpret experiences of the group within some larger context, e.g. the experiences of American producers in an international market

I believe that sometimes a good question can be far more useful than an answer. Effective questions can point us in useful directions. So I’ll leave you with one for your pondering:

What are the assumptions you have about leadership, and how has this concept of leadership challenged these assumptions?


How Do You Make Meaning?

This blog picks up where the blog of 4 February 2016 left off.

OK. How do you make meaning? First things first. Let’s define our terms. When I use the term meaning in this definition of leadership I refer to a clear framework for interpreting, predicting, and controlling experience. It is a context for coordinating experiences so that these experiences relate to one another and become a whole. This is the sense in which we make meaning by constructing our experience.

In broader terms, such a framework also allows an individual to understand self and understand how self is related to others. Additionally, individuals may begin to interpret and understand their relationship to some group, and allow the group to be understood in its relationship to an even larger context.

This sense of meaning is all about unity, connection, relationship, and understanding. In this context, a job is meaningful when the person who does the job understands how the work fits in with other work and contributes to something larger. This understanding allows the person to interpret his or her experience as: “What I do has status and is important. Others depend on me as I depend on them. Together we are doing something larger than any of us could do alone.”

I suggest that this can be accomplished in at least four ways: system design, interpretation, narrative, and dialogue.

System design: systems provide reason by relating individuals to a larger entity. Performing a task in relation to a larger task is an example of acting within a framework for understanding self and self in relation to others. So, in an organizational system in which work is divided into smaller component tasks, the structure of meaning is the framework of interrelated tasks.

Interpretation: The act of interpreting events or circumstances within a collective experience is an act of leadership. Through interpretations, a framework for understanding events, behaviors, and feelings is produced. Events may be related to underlying values. Included in interpretation are various forms of meaning making such as vision, problem identification, and strategic analysis. The strength of such leadership must be measured in terms of the effectiveness and value of the understanding provided, and the extent to which the collective is joined together by the interpretation.

Narrative: Narrative or story telling provide frameworks of unity and reason in organizations. Narrative gives structure to events and actions and makes them meaningful by showing connection and intention.

Dialogue: Dialogue is a method for guiding inquiry and learning in organizations. Dialogue when used properly results in a free flowing of ideas within a group that produces ideas not usually achievable by individual thought alone. Dialogue requires a willingness to examine assumptions and a noncompetitive environment and may not be as useful a meaning making process in many hierarchically structured organizations. Yet dialogue is a process of making meaning in a collective experience and is possibly a formidable process of leadership.

The bottom line question becomes “What is effective leadership?”
That’s a great question for Thursday, 18 February.


Step 7 Reflection

To understand what really matters, reflection is essential.

7. Reflect. So what can you do to incorporate reflection in your life?

If you can’t take extended time off, you can take small breaks. These breaks can come in all shapes and sizes such as:
Turn off email
Turning off the TV
Kill multitasking (it’s a myth, anyway)
Setting aside your smartphone
Going on a hike
Feed the birds
Taking a run
Close your eyes and listen to relaxing music
Getting away for a weekend.

Use these small breaks to progressively gain perspective on what truly matters.
Keeping your attention on what is most important in your life is one of the most essential ingredients if you want to be able to:
Stick with your goals.
Achieve what you want to achieve each day.
Appreciate what you have in your life.
Clearly see how you can use your time here in the best way.


What Really Matters … Your Meaning

Have you ever been driving your car, following another and reading the bumper stickers? I found myself doing that one day and wondered what the message was that was trying to be sent…

For example, there was the crop of bumper stickers that had a common theme of “I’d rather be….” You fill in the blank. I saw one that said “I’d rather be fishing.” Another one read “I’d rather be flying.” When I was in Hawaii it was “I’d rather be surfing.”

The way my mind works causes me to ask, “Then why aren’t you?” If you’d rather be fishing, flying, or surfing, why aren’t you?

I know that way down inside me there are different things that move me…hobbies that excite me, urges that I wish I had more time to pursue, people I wish I could spend more time with. I believe that it is important to identify, focus on, and spend time on what matters to me.

Focusing on what truly matters, truly matters. OK. Fine. That makes sense. How do I do it then, and not just make it a thought exercise? Let’s start with the basic question:

1. What is my purpose? Start by taking 10 minutes out of your life to find some quiet space, and to close your eyes, and to think. Ask yourself: How do I want to be remembered? What do I want people to say about me at my funeral? Think about that for 10 minutes, then write down your answers. There may be a few different things, or 10, or just one.

2. Write your purpose down. This is your life mission. Put it somewhere you can see it every day. Remind yourself of it every day.

3. Answer: What excites me? Deep down we know what excites us. We know what gets our heart pumping, and what gets us excited to jump out of bed in the morning. I also know that sometimes we are fearful about admitting to ourselves what we really want to do, and who we really want to be because it’s not popular, or because it’s not as secure as the job we have.

4. What can I let slip? I am aware that there are never enough hours in the day to do everything that I have some interest in doing. However, there is enough time in the day to do everything that I am truly interested in, and that truly matters. Find what you can let slip -and then let it go.

5. Pick your top 2-3 principal tasks each day. These are the things that must happen no matter what. If you get these done your day is a success. Stick to no more than three, or better yet one. They must move you closer to your big goals. Here is a big by-the-way: checking email does not count.

6. Do your top 2-3 principal tasks first thing each day. The longer you wait, the more distractions will intrude. Nothing happens before these get done.

Step 7 on Thursday.


Our Fundamental Challenge

Our company, Executive Leadership Skills International, , International is a Leadership and Organization Development, Training, and Consulting firm. We have helped over 250 clients who represent a spectrum of organizations and industries including small businesses, Fortune 100 firms, schools, and professional organizations. Our work has taken us throughout the United States, Europe, Asia, and Africa.

We believe that leadership is one of the most powerful of all forces impacting an organization. We approach leadership as the act and art of creating shared meaning, eliciting purposeful action, and achieving desired results. We promote leadership that shapes a culture of high-involvement — where employees participate as partners and the capacity and desire to make meaningful contributions are acknowledged and supported. With effective leadership, individuals contribute, their best ideas take form, and organizations thrive. We also recognize that leadership is needed and should be encouraged.

One of our fundamental challenges in this domain is understanding how to teach and develop leadership in individuals and organizations. We know that the many theories of leadership (and there are many!) based on preferred results of leadership will help us understand what we want. However, they cannot help us understand how to use leadership to get what we want. For example, we understand that we want to influence people to achieve desired goals, but if we define leadership as influencing others, we are left to ask, “How this is done?”
Such a question may have many answers, some of which have nothing to do with leadership. We are left, then, to derive a definition which reveals an underlying process that is at the root of influence.

We know that leadership is usually defined in terms of the application of influence or the creation of motivation or both. I think it is important to see leadership in a different context: influence and motivation are not essential features of leadership at all; rather, influence and motivation result from the making of meaning. The same may be said for goals, direction, or structure. These are not essential features of leadership; they are some of the means through which meaning can be made. It is neither influence nor goals that are essential to leadership. It is meaning.

What happens, then, when I reframe the question from “How do I influence others?” to “How do I make meaning?” We now begin to address the underlying universal process (meaning making) and not the secondary, resulting process (influencing others).

So the question remains: “How do you make meaning?”


And so we begin…

When we decided to publish a blog our initial thoughts about the effort were normal, i.e. what topic, how frequent to publish, intended audience, etc.  Our experience and background is leadership and organization development so we wanted to maintain those areas as our theme.  Our intention is to talk about our experiences with leaders, leadership development, organization issues, and lessons learned, as well as providing a platform where readers can share their thoughts and ideas about relevant topics.

We’d like to make this a learning platform as well as a place for creative expression of thoughts and feelings of the subject areas, so we invite your participation and ideas.

Currently our intentions are to publish new material twice a week and allow for rumination, discussion, amplification of thoughts, etc.  We look forward to hearing from you all.

We chose the title of our blog “Leaderlines” to reflect our notion that there are many leaders out there, often without a place to discuss issues and topics close to their hearts.  This, then, is a forum for you to participate by sharing your experiences and learnings with the larger audience, hence learning as we go.

In our next entry we will talk about our background and begin to address the topic of leadership and how we see it.