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Friday, September 18, 2009

Is it Better to be Loved or Feared as a Leader?

Bobby Knight and Mike Krzyzewski are arguably the two most successful men's college basketball coaches in the country. But their leadership styles could not be more different. In this article, Professor Scott Snook of Harvard Business School wonders: Is it better to be loved or feared?

Key concepts include:

•Effective leaders understand their own assumptions about human nature.

•How you lead (leadership style) is influenced by who you are (self-awareness) and the demands of the situation (situational awareness).

•Expanding your self-awareness, situational awareness, and ability to adapt your leadership style increases your overall range of effectiveness as a leader.

Humility in Leaders

There’s been a lot written in the past few weeks about the demise of humility in our culture. (See David Brooks’ New York Times column last week for one of the most eloquent expressions of this problem
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/15/opinion/15brooks.html )

Fortunately, we still have some great examples of successful leaders who demonstrate humility. One of those is the Super Bowl winning former coach of the Indianapolis Colts, Tony Dungy.

One cannot help but admire Tony Dungy because of his capacity to succeed in the high stakes competitive environment of the NFL while maintaining grace and humility whether he’s won or lost.

In a recent radio interview Dubgy was asked, “What would you have said to the new Chicago Bears quarterback, Jay Cutler, after his team’s 21 to 15 loss to the Packers in the season opener?”  Dungy’s response was illuminating:

'I would have told him that it’s OK, this is only one game. This is what the pressure’s going to be like from now on and this has been a good learning experience. You can handle it and lead us to success from here. It’s going to depend a lot on how you show up in practice and handle yourself in the team meetings because the team is looking to you as the leader. This week’s game is going to be really important because we don’t want to start 0 and 2. You can do it and you’re going to lead this team.'

Imagine how you would feel if you were Jay Cutler listening to Tony Dungy. What is the Coach trying to instill in his player with those comments? Some of the things that come to mind are perspective, reframing the experience as a positive building block, confidence and belief in oneself, direction and resolve, clarity around the stakes going forward and the role he has to play. All of that in one brief sound bite.

Dungy offers a great model for any leader that has to coach up a key player who’s coming off a loss or a disappointment.

Of course, the other thing that Tony Dungy has received a lot of attention for lately is the role that he’s played in counseling Michael Vick following the prison sentence he served for his involvement in dog fighting. Dungy has a long history of counseling prisoners and he talked about that experience in an interview with the Wall Street Journal last weekend. In that article he shared what he tries to get across with prisoners:

"What I look for, [is] 'What do you want to do from here?' That's something my dad used to tell me all the time. When you're in a situation you can complain about it, you can feel sorry for yourself, you can do a lot of things. But how are you gonna’ make the situation better?"

Dungy’s emphasis on what one can do to shape the future is an approach that all leaders can and should adopt. None of us can do anything to change the past and we really don’t know what the future will hold. All we can do is make the best choices we can right now to help shape the outcomes we hope to achieve. That’s true whether you’re coming off a season opening loss, ending a prison sentence or trying to get yourself or your organization out of a tough spot.

There are a lot of leaders we can look to for both good and bad examples of what to do. Tony Dungy is a great place to start if you’re looking for good examples of leadership.

Winners v Losers


Winners say, If it is to be, it is up to me.
Losers say, I can't help it.
Winners translate dreams into reality.
Losers translate reality into dreams.
Winners empower.
Losers control.
Winners say, Let's find out.
Losers say, Nobody knows.
Winners are part of the solution.
Losers are part of the problem.
Winners are not afraid of losing.
Losers are afraid of winning.
Winners work harder than losers.
Losers are always too busy.
Winners say, I was wrong.
Losers say, It was not my fault.
Winners want to.
Losers have to.
Winners always make time.
Losers often waste time.
Winners say, I'll plan to do that.
Losers say, I'll try to do that.
Winners say, I'm good but not as good as I can be.
Losers say, I'm not as bad as a lot of other people.
Winners listen to what others say.
Losers wait until it's their turn to talk.
Winners catch others doing things right.
Losers catch others doing things wrong.
Winners learn from others.
Losers resent their colleagues.
Winners see opportunities.
Losers see only the problems.
Winners do it.
Losers talk about it.
Winners feel responsible for more than their jobs.
Losers frequently state, I only work here.
Winners say, There ought to be a better way.
Losers say, That's the way it's always been done.
Winners celebrate others.
Losers complain about others.
Winners are willing to pay the price.
Losers expect it on a silver platter.
Winners always expect success.
Losers always expect failure.

Acknowledging Others as a Leadership Trait

'If anything goes bad, I did it.
If anything goes semi-good, then we did it.
If anything goes really good, then you did it.
That's all it takes to get people to win football games for you.'

'Bear' Bryant, Late and legendary University of Alabama football coach

How To Lead in Tough Times

Leadership matters most in tough times. In difficult situations, leaders need to exert their authority for the good of the organization. Leaders do this by providing inspiration as well as example. Most importantly, leaders must dispense hope and confidence in order to give people a reason to believe. Individuals can lead themselves and their teams to success if they;
  • face the truth; show what is going right as well as what needs to improve
  • set the right example for others to follow
  • deal with tough issues that demand decision action
  • encourage alternative viewpoints and leveraging creative tension
  • demonstrate the twin virtues of resilience and perseverance
  • radiate optimism and spread confidence
  • share stories of successful people who accomplish great things for themselves and their teams.


Leadership is Plural

Here is a thought which underpins our thinking at Positive Leadership Limited. The quote comes from Ed Batisita of the Stanford Graduate School of Business:

'Leadership isn't derived from titles or status, and being in a leadership position doesn't automatically make you a leader. (You may be able to use positional power to enforce your will, but that is not leading.) Conversely, the lack of a formal position doesn't mean you lack opportunities to lead. Organizations need leaders at every level, not merely among the ranks of senior management.'

With this in mind, building powerful relationships at work is therefore a complex process which means:
  • Quickly getting all relevant information and perspectives on the table
  • Surfacing problems directly and fully to reach quality outcomes
  • Providing (and inviting!) feedback that strengthens performance
  • Influencing others (particularly when you have no formal authority)
  • Working through conflicts without damaging relationships
  • Expanding selfknowledge and adapting behaviors as situations require.