Sunday, July 31, 2011

Patience, who needs it?

“I am personally convinced that one person can be a change catalyst, a "transformer" in any situation, any organization. Such an individual is yeast that can leaven an entire loaf. It requires vision, initiative, patience, respect, persistence, courage, and faith to be a transforming leader.” - Stephen R. Covey

Patience is difficult for most, more difficult for some of us than others. Lately I have found myself lacking patience which has made things even more difficult for me. Luckily I have wonderful caring people around me who love me enough to put up with me and even to remind me to chill out when I need it.

I like Covey's analogy of transformative patience to yeast leavening bread because in life as with making bread, if you try to cut corners and hurry things up, it doesn't turn out the same at all. Unfortunately for some things you simply can't rush them and get the result you are looking for.

Sometimes the courage needed isn't to stand up for what is right this instant, but to have the courage to be patient and let things happen as they would for a while. Some times persistence doesn't mean continuously telling someone what you believe should be done but trying to be persistent with yourself that you should have faith in others.

Thinking out loud is cathartic sometimes isn't it?

Just relax, breathe, and be the best contributor you can to what others need from you instead of focusing on what you think the solution might be.

"At times the road of life can seem dark, cold, and lonely. One day it seems, nothing in the world can stop you from accomplishing your dreams. Then, unexpectedly a situation arises out of nowhere and the doubt, fear, and anxiety creep in. Perseverance Quotes give us the insight and strength to do what's necessary to accomplish your most treasured and sought after dreams and goals. They provide you that little extra boost you need to keep on keeping on even when the world says it can't be done." - Robert Alan

Thursday, July 21, 2011

What is Leadership?

"Management is about arranging and telling. Leadership is about nurturing and enhancing." - Thomas J. Peters (American Author and Consultant, b. 1942)

I have been fascinated with leadership since my first involvement as a student leader in college. I quickly became inspired by the concept of leadership and started learning from those around me so that I coudl make a difference in my local and greater community. My leadership journey has has taught me lessons of success and failure alike. As with most things in life, my failures of leadership have taught me infinitely more about who I want to be than my successes. In order to know who you are and who you wish to become, you must also know who you are not and who you wish not to become.

What has always fascinated me about leadership is the emotional connection shared between a leader and those they are leading. Some of my favorite figures in history are the charismatic leaders like Martin Luther King Jr., Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and John F. Kennedy. The connection that these leaders actively develop with their constituents is absolutely inspiring. None of them have been perfect but their legacies continue to endure the test of time.

I agree with Thomas Peters that management is more about arranging and telling and leadership is more nurturing and enhancing but I also think it is more complex than that. At the core of any management or leadership structure is the relationship and at even a more basic level it is about energy and control.

Both management and leadership produce results but leadership has an x-factor that management doesn’t inherently share and that is participation. Management is a title, Leadership is an action. Not all leaders have to be managers just as not all managers are leaders simply because they have power or control.

The sharing of energy and control by a leader happens when the leader sees those they lead as members of a shared community. The leader understands three very important truths:

1. You can not lead if no one is willing to follow you - Leadership without follower-ship is simply someone taking a walk by themselves. Without someone to help you achieve your goals you lose the power of synergy, one of the amazing outcomes of successful leadership. If you have followers and are careful to nurture your relationships with those followers, your synergy is more likely to become sustainable. In order to nurture your relationships you must care about those that follow you. Others can tell when you truly care about their well being, their opinions, dreams, and desires, as well as their development as a leader. Ultimately you must give your follower-ship a reason to trust you and your leadership.

2. You are human and you will make mistakes - Situations rarely are perfect and neither are those who participate in them. When you have made a mistake as a leader the most important decision becomes the one immediately after you realize your mistake. Leadership is not just about doing things the right way, but owning the decision and growing from the experience when they aren’t done well. Denying that you made a mistake in the first place doesn't change the fact that you made the mistake, it just makes you look like you don't care about the effects that your mistake may have had on others. If those you lead perceive that you don’t care about how your actions impact others, they may stop trusting you to make the right decisions. This leads us to our third truth.

3. You must have trust – If there is a breakdown in trust between you and those you are leading, it doesn’t matter whether you are leading them down the right path or not because they will not follow you. A responsible leader considers the outcomes of their actions before they move forward and works as much as possible to do what is best for all involved.

As a member of my local Rotary Club, we us a “Four Way Test” as part of our guiding principles regarding the things we think, say, or do:

1. Is it the Truth?
2. Is it Fair to all concerned?
4. Will it be BENEFICIAL to all concerned?

This process gives us a chance to contemplate how our thoughts, words, and actions might affect others.

I think about the world as if everyone were walking around sowing seeds in the gardens of each others' lives. We can sow positive seeds of love, compassion, and trust, or seeds of hate, selfishness, and fear. Whether we realize it or not, we are always sowing seeds. The ways that we consciously or sub-consciously interact with others affects them in ways we may not comprehend. Whether we smile at a passing stranger, say hello to a coworker, or go out of our way to comfort a friend in need, our actions cause ripples that do change the world around us.

Leadership is simply an extension of the seeds we sow and the affect that we have on others. Each of us has the ability to lead our lives each day in ways that can make the world a better place.

My hope is that the positive seeds I sow will become plants, flowers, and trees that might benefit my community long after I am gone.

Until next time,

B Wallache

“Much of the trouble in the world today is not so much the noise of the bad as it is the silence of the good.”
— Address to 1977 Rotary Convention, San Francisco, California, USA

Monday, July 18, 2011

Inspired To Blog Where No Wallache Has Ever Blogged Before...

I have decided to start a blog to capture some of my thoughts. I know that I can't keep a paper journal to save my life, but I think that the electronic bit might be a bit easier.

I love thought-provoking quotes so I am going to start each entry with a quote and then say a little something about the quote or reflection on how I connect to the message of the quote. I welcome feedback from anyone who might be interested in providing it.

Today's Quote is from a man named Walter Lippmann. Lippmann was a writer, reporter, political commentator in the mid 1900's.

"The final test of a leader is that he leaves behind him in other men the conviction and the will to carry on." - Walter Lippmann (1889-1974)

As I have matured professionally and personally (which I am sure can be disputed to some degree), I have become more aware of the importance of having positive influences in my life. As a young adult who's father was mostly absent from my life as a role model, I probably stumbled upon the idea of mentorship through my personal need for male role models. Although my mother was an amazing, wise, and caring roll model and mentor for me, there is something special about a young man having a positive male role model in his life. And I don't think it is a matter of capability as much as identity. Sometimes life presents us our most valuable people out of need rather than want.

In fact one of my roll models was a student government advisor who I grew close with in college when I was dealing with some personal challenges. He not only was an amazing mentor for me as a leader, but also in showing me that leadership is just as much about caring about those involved as it is the organization. I believe that successful leadership has a lot in common with the roles of therapists and social workers. If you don't care about the people, they will be able to sense it.

As a younger professional, I assumed that as I become more experienced and "wise" that I would simply have less need for mentors in my life and would start mentoring others. I will let you guess which half of that idea was true.

As I have become more successful my need for mentors has increased and diversified. Instead of having a single mentor that I lean on a lot, I tend now to have quite a group of mentors that help me in different areas of my life. I have one mentor that helps me with my professional development inside my company. I have a mentor that helps me when I need to analyze a difficult or complex situation. I have a mentor that I turn to for spiritual matters. I even have a mentor that I go to when I need advice on how to be a better mentor. Some of the mentors in my life developed casually and some of them developed consciously, both are equally important.

The topic of mentorship is everywhere these days in programs designed to help youth find their way in the world and to help improve the chance that those youth will become successful citizens. Many of the programs that I see a lot of deal with at-risk youth or disadvantaged youth and for good reason. Many times those at-risk youth need some proactive engagement because otherwise they may not seek out those role models on their own. The success of those programs is well known and certainly something we should be celebrating.

All of that being said, don't assume that in order to have a mentor you need to be assigned one through a program or your organization. Take the initiative to think about what you would like to do better or learn more about and find a mentor to help you learn about it and in the process help yourself grow.

As you become more successful and find mentors to help you, don't forget to keep passing on the gift. It doesn't take a lot of time to become a mentor for someone else. Even if you don't actively participate in a mentoring program, consciously decide that you will be open to the idea if you are asked. One lesson I have learned from being a mentor is that the mentee isn't the only one who learns and grows from mentoring. The mentor learns just as much from the opportunity as the mentee, in some cases they get even more out of it.

This brings me back to Lippmann's quote. What good is leadership, mentorship, or any other opportunity if you haven't inspired others to be capable of leading and mentoring after you are gone. Our lives are truly a legacy one way or another. We have ultimate control over the content of that legacy based on how we treat others and how we treat ourselves.

Ghandi said "you must be the change you wish to see in the world." Said another way, you must inspire the future you hope to live in.

This entry is dedicated to one of the mentors that has helped me a lot over the years that I have been in my current job. He was a passionate intelligent man who knew taught me a lot and was always willing to help me build a watch whenever I needed to know what time it was.

Until next time,

B Wallache

"I am a leader by default, only because nature does not allow a vaccuum."
-Archbishop Desmond Tutu