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The Gap: Where Do Leaders Fail? 8 Tools to Leadership Success

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 Knowing the landscape of what becomes well-rounded leadership is only half the battle.  In most cases, we fight ourselves and our cultural upbringing along the way.  As a result, there can be gaps, or chinks in our armor.  Our backgrounds and experiences can help or hinder in our abilities to lead others.  Have you ever completed a SWOT analysis on yourself?  If you have, you know that the “W” is for Weaknesses.  While we’d like to assume that we make very little mistakes and take calculated and well thought out mitigated risks, the truth of the matter is that upwards of 40 percent of leaders fail[1] within the first 18 months and have a gap in their toolbox in at least one of the following areas.  What are your weaknesses?  How do you know?

  1. Organization – Understand where you fit!

Knowing the landscape of the organization is also a large part of your leadership effectiveness.  I call it “swimming through the muck”.  In a large corporation, knowing your organizational structure, especially if you’re a “small fish in a big pond” is paramount to being effective in your role.  In some businesses, there are business areas, mission areas, business units, and then the “enterprise” corporate level Leadership Team.  “An intelligent heart acquires knowledge, and the ear of the wise seeks knowledge.” Proverbs 18:15 (ESV) Knowing where you fit, and understanding your customer base, and who you support in your role are of vital importance in your ability to be an effective leader.  In leadership, having the wisdom of placement, and knowing “who’s who in the zoo” assists in your abilities to lead others.  Proverbs 3:13-18 (ESV) says:

“Blessed is the one who finds wisdom, and the one who gets understanding, for the gain from her is better than gain from silver and her profit better than gold. She is more precious than jewels, and nothing you desire can compare with her. Long life is in her right hand; in her left hand are riches and honor. Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace. …”

  1. Be Concise

The ability to provide specific direction to your subordinates will prevent them from floundering and wasting time.  It also helps to keep up morale!  Studies have shown that subordinates are more productive, and effective in a mission-driven environment however if that mission is unclear, then they’re left potentially aimless and working in other directions rather than those which are intended.  The “Commanders Intent” needs to be clear and concise.  In addition to a clear vision or mission statement, subordinates need to have an “action plan” that shows them how to support the mission or vision within their role.  The action plan, and what can be a workable list can also aid in evaluating individual performance against requirements.  Set your team up for success!

In your walk as a Christian, how do you know the direction that God has for you?  Have you studied His word and discerned your followership?  What role in your personal leadership development does God play?  Have you considered His word as you exemplify your own leadership role?  “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” Romans 12:2 (ESV)

  1. Equip Your Team

As you’ve clearly communicated your intent or the intent of the organization with regards to the vision and mission, have you set your subordinates up for success by equipping them with the tools, equipment, and accesses that they’ll require in order to perform effectively in their role?  What do they need in order to carry out the mission?  Will they require training, special certifications, gear or supplies to begin the mission?  Once equipped, have you thought about how they’re to be sustained in their work environment?  While Napoleon said “An Army marches on its stomach”, Jesus says “man shall not live by bread alone but by every word of God” Luke 4:4

  1. Be Ethical

This should go without saying but you’d be surprised (or maybe not) at the business decisions of corporate leaders, military leaders, and the like.  One of the biggest career killers in senior military leadership is in fraternization or sexual harassment.  In the corporate world, the darkness is often brought to the light when the unethical train begins to run freely down the tracks.

Make a decision already!  But do it ethically.  There’s a time where you have to take your emotion out of the equation and consider ethical decision making reasoning approaches to weigh the potential outputs of your decision.  Are you running through the ethical decision making approaches, for the tough ethical dilemmas of teleological (costs vs. benefits), ontological (rules, rights, justice) and deontological (virtues) reasoning?  The Lord will guide in your ethical decision making.  Are you listening before you act?  “And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it,” when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left.” Isaiah 30:21 (ESV)

  1. Embrace the Culture Through Diversity Equality and Tolerance

One of the greatest benefits that we have as leaders, whether in a corporate business environment or out on the battlefield, is diversity of the labor pool!  Age, ethnicity, education, technical background and the like can help to add value to a robust team of performers!  Be careful to check your cultural biases at the door for God does the greatest things with the most unlikely people.  “And David said to Saul, ‘Let no man’s heart fail because of him. Your servant will go and fight with this Philistine.’” 1 Samuel 17:32 (ESV)  So put off your first impressions and give everybody a fair shake.  Assess, assign, monitor, trust, and reinforce and your teams will perform like pistons in a vehicle: powerful and moving in a manner that advances the mission.

  1. Empowerment

This brings us to empowerment.  Empowerment is one of the most beneficial tools that you can ever carry in your leadership toolbox.  Not only is it liberating for the subordinate, but it also encourages them to undertake acts of leadership implied or specified in their newly empowered role!  Empowerment gives your subordinates confidence to make decisions on their own and to potentially lead others as they develop into young leaders themselves.  Giving a subordinate an element of autonomy greatly assists in their inherent development and maturity in the work force.  If you find that a subordinate is constantly questioning your decisions or leadership motives, perhaps making them a “trusted agent” by empowering them and including them in the solution decision making process is the answer.  Jesus says: “Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you. Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” Luke 10:19-20 (ESV)

  1. Empathy

Self-check: is the hammer the biggest and most utilized tool in your leadership toolbox?  If so, you may be missing out on some critical developmental opportunities not only for yourself but for those that you mentor.  Leading with empathy doesn’t make you soft, it makes you approachable and human.  Have you ever had a boss or mentor that led by fear?  How effective were they and how effective were you in your capacity to complete assigned tasks?  Empathy will encourage your subordinates to be open and honest in a trusted environment without fear of repercussion and will improve and enhance workplace morale.  Having an empathetic boss, or being an empathetic leader reflects Christ in areas where perhaps those attributes are lacking.  Not only are you charged with the knowledge of the walk, but the enactment of the walk.  In one Biblical example, the Apostle Paul compels us to “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.” Romans 12:15 (ESV)

  1. Identity

First and foremost we must never forget, that our identity does not lie within our vocational position.  While our working role is that of a corporate or military leader, our identity is not found there.  Our identity is not in the clothes that we wear, the watch on our wrist, the car that we drive, our golf swing, our experiences, our mistakes, our successes, or other places where we place our value.  Our identity is only to be found as a true and loving child of the one true living God.  From that, and only that standpoint, can we begin to shape our thoughts, our actions, and our decisions to go forth and embody the attributes of Christ and display for those that we come into contact with.  As leaders, we are held to a higher regard, which encompasses greater responsibilities, to exude leadership and to lead by example.  As Christ believers and followers, we must consider and give credence to the Lord of Lords, the one who puts breath in our lungs each and every second of every moment of every day.

Shalom.

[1] Staffing Talk: http://staffingtalk.com/40-percent-new-leaders-fail-within-first-18-months

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