The Accountable Leader

Self-destructing leaders are nothing new. Sadly, it’s a very common thread throughout history – powerful leaders, celebrities, and other noteworthy people who are put on pedestals regularly fall off (or even jump off) the pinnacle.

Lisa Petrilli and I decided to probe this leadership problem for Leadership Chat this week – I’d urge you to read Lisa’s excellent post outlining the tragic mix of hubris and leadership.

There is one area of preventive medicine I’d like to focus on with this post. And that is the practice of accountability.

To be accountable is, according to Dictionary.com, to be subject to the obligation to report, explain, or justify something; responsible; answerable. In other words: no Lone Rangers!

Power and influence can easily lead to isolation. Mix in some hubris, some above-the-hoi-polloi arrogance, and you have a potent recipe for disaster.

For years, I have known about Harold Camping, and his Family Radio ministry (Mr. Camping is the guy who was predicting the rapture for earlier this month). Over the years, he has increasingly isolated himself from the broader church; in fact, arrogating to himself the position of being a prophet,  above the backslidden church at large. One failed prophecy about the end of the world in 1994 did not keep him from compounding his error, upon which he is now doubling down again. What’s going on here?

He is (apparently) not accountable to anyone but himself. Even – especially – spiritual leaders need accountability. No checks, no balances, no wisdom from sage advisers, no people willing to get in your face and tell you when you’re adrift – disaster looms. Don’t tell me you only answer to a “Higher Authority” (aka God). If you truly live in the fear of God, you have no problem being accountable to other human beings.

And this is hardly just a church problem. Whether it’s the intoxication of corporate power, or the vanity inflated by a rabid fan base, or the presumption that comes from feeling like one is a unique conduit of truth, the end result will be the same if there is no real-world, straight-shooting accountability. People end up thinking they can rape a maid, or seduce an intern, or skim some profits, or cover up all sorts of folly when there’s no-one to answer to.

So, what is a leader to do? It’s straightforward – have the guts and humility (and concern for your own reputation and the good of your family) to pro-actively gather some solid people around who will tell you the truth and kick you around a bit when you need it. And do it BEFORE you need it – once you rise up to a certain level of power, it’s that much harder to find people who will treat you as a peer.

And if your company has a Board of Directors that doesn’t notice when a company leader is buying $3,000 umbrella stands….it’s time to start over and build in some real accountability. We don’t need any more Tycos and Enrons around here…

Hubris or humility. You going to hew the line….one way or another.

Tonight at 8 pm ET, let’s discuss leadership and hubris! You’ll find the LeadershipChat community to be warm and supportive, people who are wrestling through the same things you are – and who, in small but growing ways, are learning accountability with each other.

And, to make your chat experience even more enjoyable, try out ChatTagged, a custom-made Twitter client for helping manage your on-line chat interactions!

(Image credit)

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Legacy Stuff

Look around you. Everything you see is there for a reason.

A past reason.

All the products, processes, methods, structures, and systems were created to meet needs.

Legacy needs.

Do not assume that what you see right now can truly meet present, let alone future needs. It’s all legacy stuff. Some of it is still relevant, and will remain so.

But a lot of it is status quo without a genuine purpose.

Don’t waste your team trying to conform to, or catch up with, obsolescence. Instead, ask what needs to be created NOW.

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Leadership at 2 am

On LeadershipChat this week, we’re discussing the things that keep a leader up at night.

My lovely co-host, Lisa Petrilli, has written an excellent post that gives the corporate/executive angle: Four Priorities Keeping CEOs Up At Night. I urge you to read her thoughts as we prepare for the Tuesday night on-line discussion.

I’m a solopreneur, and generally sleep pretty well through the night (now that our kids are older!), but as someone who is seeking to lead in a different sphere than a corporate hierarchy, there are definitely things that can cause tossing and turning. Perhaps you can relate.

1. Focus – A person working on their own, or in a small business, seeking to lead him/herself, clients, and partners, must first and foremost learn how to keep their eyes on the ball. The great trap of those in a more entrepreneurial environment is often distraction rather than disruption. Interrupted sleep regularly involves trying to decide between three divergent paths, each seemingly legitimate – and without a very sharp and clear focus, the leader can ping-pong back and forth between options, unable to set a firm direction (shameless plug for one my services: that is why a Brand Therapy session, where you identify your professional DNA and direction, can be so critical).

2. Isolation – This is a major problem for leaders at every level. Without a supportive and wise group of peers and/or colleagues, leaders can lose plenty of shuteye carrying the weight of the world on their shoulders, with no mechanism for gaining perspective. Fortunately, social networking allows people to find like-minded leaders and to create a web of support and wisdom that can prevent the turmoil of isolated leadership. A few choice words from a different angle can sometimes resolve a conundrum that has interrupted a week’s worth of sleep.

3. Weariness – Those leading new or small endeavors are constantly creating, constantly pushing forward, leading every moment – and this can wear down our resiliency and lead to to very restless nights. Sometimes, the relative structure of a corporate environment, where you’re pulling only some of the weight in a more defined area of responsibility, sounds quite appealing – and, indeed, for some, it may be the right option. But for those looking to break new ground, the unrelenting nature of the  yoke we have chosen to shoulder can wear us down. When everything seems to depend on you – that’s a lot of pressure! And I don’t have a good answer for this one. Still trying to find equilibrium here…(suggestions??)

So, what keeps you up at night? Tonight at 8 pm ET, let’s discuss! You’ll find the LeadershipChat community to be very warm and supportive, people who are wrestling through the same things you are, and coming together to support one another (see point 2 above).

And, to make your chat experience even more enjoyable, try out ChatTagged, a custom-made Twitter client for helping manage your on-line chat interactions!

(Image credit)

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The 30-Year Connection

Who is that young kid with the babe in white?

Yep – that’s my bride and me thirty years ago today. My 30-Year Gift (on my personal blog)

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New to social networking? Feel free to download my newly updated e-book, Build Your Own Opportunity Network

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Touches and Tribes

The existence of social media doesn’t fundamentally change the essence of leadership – a leader is a leader with or without Twitter.

But social networks can dramatically impact the exercise of leadership. I’ll mention two ways that come to mind immediately; then, on LeadershipChat tonight (8 pm ET, #LeadershipChat on Twitter) we’ll discuss the topic as a community.

Touches

By being actively networked via social platforms, a leader can much more consistently deliver touches to employees, customers, and other stakeholders. The value of this is incalculable. Leadership is more than transaction and direction, it is relationship-building. Social networks provide a great format for reaching out and touching people on multiple levels, at any time. This pro-active accessibility will likely become, not a luxury item, but a norm in the coming years. Smart executives need to latch onto this low-cost, high-impact approach to more effective leadership.

Tribes

Traditionally in the business world, leaders were anointed through a process of working their way up through a corporate ladder – a hierarchy in which there were fewer winners at each level. While that model will continue to exist in many organizations, social networks allow for something very different – the bottom-up gathering of tribes. Leaders can now assemble like-minded groups of people who perhaps have little or no geographical or corporate connection, but who can work together toward a common cause. Tribal leadership will emerge in the coming decades as a radically new and very effective model of organization. Something as simple as LeadershipChat is an example of this approach.

These are just two quick thoughts – how do you see social networking impacting the way leadership is manifested? Feel free to share in the comments, and join us for the discussion on LeadershipChat tonight. And while you’re getting ready for that, be sure to read my co-host’s perspectives on this topic (3 Things CEOs Should Never Lose Sight of in Social MediaLisa Petrilli).

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New to social networking? Feel free to download my newly updated e-book, Build Your Own Opportunity Network

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Twitter: @ConnectionAgent | @swoodruff

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Build Your Own Opportunity Network eBook – Updated!

I can hardly believe it was 2 years ago that I released this e-book, specifically designed to help business professionals get started with social networking.

The statistics and platforms have certainly changed, though many of the core ideas and much of the basic advice remains sound. There are lots of revised links to new resources in this refreshed version.

If you know someone looking for help getting started – feel free to forward this free resource along!

Getting Started Social Networking 2011

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Leadership Rails

From infancy, we all ride other peoples’ rails for a season, as we learn to navigate through life, and as our own self-awareness is developed.

But at some point, budding leaders have to decide whether they are best served – and can best serve others – by remaining on pre-established pathways, or by blazing their own trail.

Not everyone is cut out to lay down fresh rails – there is a tenacity and a thick skin required to follow a vision that may not be shared by others. But conscience, inward conviction, or out-of-the-mainstream ambition may compel a man or woman to blaze new trails.

There is no simple answer as to who should venture out, when, and how. And there are always a dozen reasons to play it safe. But eventually you may reach a point in the journey where you know that if you don’t act, you’ll always regret it.

As Yogi Berra might have said, when you reach that fork in the road – take it!

My LeadershipChat co-host, Lisa Petrilli, describes just such a fork in the road in her life. Feel free to join the Twitter community that is #LeadershipChat on Tuesday night at 8 pm to discuss this topic!

(Image credit)

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