How is Your Leadership Impacting Your Team?

I once had a boss try to embarrass me in a meeting. I had been on the job about a month and was still trying to learn my way around.

I don’t really remember what she said, but I do remember hearing the roar of blood rushing to my face. I was stunned and momentarily immobilized. I managed to finish what I was doing (I think) but my emotions had been hijacked, rendering me unable to fully function. When I confronted her later, her response was basically, “Yeah, and I did it on purpose….”

Her action and response had a really negative impact on my desire to continue working for her.

Emotional Intelligence guru Daniel Goleman writes in Primal Leadership that the fundamental task of the leader is to prime good feelings in those she is privileged to lead and “that occurs when the leader creates resonance – a reservoir of positivity that frees the best in people”.

The opposite of resonance is dissonance; a dissonant leader throws people off balance and negatively impacts their performance.

A dissonant leader creates employees who don’t want to be there. According to Jim Clifton, CEO of Gallup, disengaged describes about 70% of American employees and employee disengagement is costing the U.S. an estimated $450-$550 billion annually.

The great thing about being in the military is that you get to experience leadership changes frequently. Either you or your boss will eventually move to another location. So the occasional dissonant leader may make your life miserable for a time … that you know will pass. I decided early in my career to try and learn from the good AND not-so-good leaders.

This particular dissonant leader reinforced for me the truth of a tenet I learned as a young officer…

Take care of the people and the people will take care of the mission.Tweet

I understood it to mean I was to provide what was needed to the people I was privileged to lead so they could do their jobs. Providing what they needed wasn’t just ensuring they had the resources they required, a safe physical environment and recognition for a job well done. It also meant creating a culture where people felt safe to make mistakes and being honest when the mistake was mine.

Taking care of the people meant being open and transparent when, for example, a unit I was leading was being outsourced.

It meant not asking my subordinate commanders to drop what they were doing to attend an emergency meeting…that was not an actual emergency.

A leader who understands how to take care of her people is going to attract and retain employees who want the organization to be successful and are actively engaged in creating that success.

Do you know how your leadership is impacting your team?

Renita Alexander, Leadership Unlocked

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You Better Fix Yo’ Face!

I had an epiphany this week. It was during a conversation with a very successful woman business owner about a Huffington Post article on the second presidential debate.

Like the women in the article, we too have experienced disturbing behavior from men who try to use their physicality to silence us. Like most women, we were revulsed by Trump’s lurking, hovering, space invading attempts to intimidate Sec Hillary Rodham Clinton (HRC). And as many women expressed on social media, we are in awe of her ability to refrain from physically attacking him.

And that’s when I had my “Aha” moment. HRC’s mastery at fixing her face may be a contributing factor to the widely held belief that she is a liar.

Hear me out! I’m not saying it’s the main factor. Most of the charges of lying stem from garden variety sexism levied at women leaders on a daily basis. HRC has had the temerity to be ambitious. She not only has definite ideas about how to do good in the world, she has implemented some of those ideas. She was the trail-blazing first First Lady to have a formal position in her husband’s West Wing. People across the political spectrum have attacked her for everything from her decision to stay with her philandering husband to how she wears her hair.

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton testified before the House Select Committee on Benghazi, which was investigating the events surrounding the September 11, 2012, terrorist attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, in which Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three others died.
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton testified before the House Select Committee on Benghazi, which was investigating the events surrounding the September 11, 2012, terrorist attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, in which Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three others died.

And of course, there are the multiple investigations, often launched as a result of fallacious charges, book-ended between the 8-year, $70 million Whitewater investigation, led by disgraced former special prosecutor Kenneth Starr and the $8 million, multi-congressional hearings on Benghazi.

There has yet to be a discovery of anything indictable but the impression remains that Hillary has something to hide.

The perception persists despite political fact checking organizations like PolitiFact rating over 70 percent of HRC’s statements as true, mostly true or half true.

Transparency loving Millennials have been particularly hard on her, calling her inauthentic. But what they view as a lack of authenticity could be the restrained responses of a woman, who, understanding how people react to powerful women, is trying to play within what is allowed even as she attempts to break this highest glass ceiling.

HRC has attained such mastery that she was able to listen to Trump’s incoherent and uninformed ranting for something she could actually respond to without laughing long and loudly. Can you listen to Trump without rolling your eyes?

HRC declined to match her opponent’s negative energy and managed to maintain a measured tone, when responding to the moderators and to Trump. Would you have been able to stop yourself from screaming at Trump’s lies?

This emotionally intelligent mastery of self is something HRC has been doing for a while. During the height of the Monica Lewinsky scandal, HRC fixed her face for every public appearance and focused on the long term goals of a unique partnership rather than the short term satisfaction of calling her husband out in public.

Image from Full Frontal by Samantha Bee
Image from Full Frontal by Samantha Bee

Can anyone say, after the public humiliation of having the leader of the free world cheat on you, that you would have decided to stay in your marriage AND refrained from any “my side of the story” interviews?

Speaking of indiscretions of a sexual nature, many people suggested she should come out swinging after Trump was revealed to have bragged about sexually assaulting women.

But sensitive to the political baggage of her husband’s own infidelities, HRC has left the Trump takedown on Tape-gate to the more than capable hands of our current FLOTUS, Michelle Obama, who at a NH rally, unleashed righteous hellfire on he whom she will not name. Can you go high when others go low?

In every experience, every encounter, we get a choice on how to respond. It’s not always easy to do and it’s not always the most satisfying, but an effective leader has the self-control to respond instead of react in a crises or to negative stimuli or to a perceived slight. And isn’t the ability to be effective what we want in a leader?

Renita Alexander, Leadership Unlocked

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American Experiment: Willful Ignorance

Amid the videos of violence committed against black bodies this past week, was one of a Trump official stating that she didn’t “think there was any racism until Obama got elected.” The video of Kathy Miller, who is white and chair of Trump’s campaign in Mahoning County, went viral and resulted in her resigning from her post.

Just in case you missed it…

But her resignation only means she won’t be associated with the “isms” emanating from the Trump camp.

It doesn’t mean she has suddenly changed her mind about why some black Americans have not thrived.

It doesn’t mean she no longer believes blacks have “had benefits to go to college that white kids didn’t have.”

It doesn’t mean she’s realized black voter turnout percentage exceeded all other groups in the last two presidential elections.

It just means she won’t have a public platform to state beliefs shared with a number of white Americans who are increasingly vocal about their racism.

She is a product of the systemic racism taught in our public schools and reinforced through racist institutions, most notably our criminal justice system. She has bought into American’s collective self-image, the core of which “is the assumption that mobility is always possible, so failure to move up reflects on one’s character. By extension, the failure of a race or ethnic group to move up reflects very poorly on the group as a whole.” ~ Michelle Alexander, The New Jim Crow

She will hold onto her beliefs because in a country that continues to attract freedom-loving people from all over the world, it’s easier to believe that everyone is free to achieve the American Dream.

“There is but one coward on earth, and that is the coward that dare not know.” ~ W.E.B. Du BoisTweet

The easy thing is to reject new information and realities. The hard thing is to accept what is difficult to know and be transformed through a deeper understanding of the truth.

Renita Alexander, Leadership Unlocked

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The ONE THING You Can do to be a Better Leader

“Leadership is a privilege afforded to you, the leader, by the people you are privileged to lead.” Renita Alexander. Tweet this now!Tweet

Have you ever had a leader go off in a meeting? If watching your leader loose control felt scary that’s because it probably triggered some immediate, primitive emotions in your emotional center, the limbic brain. Your heartbeat may have increased; you may have felt stressed or even experienced an immediate need to leave the meeting. And if the outburst and your negative reaction to it impacted you for the rest of the meeting or even longer, that’s not surprising either; once your emotions have been hijacked like this, it takes concerted effort to reign them back in.

How you respond or react to any emotional stimuli is, of course, your responsibility; an emotionally intelligent leader tries to avoid YOUR negative reaction by controlling how HE perceives and reacts to input.

Emotional Intelligence (EQ) guru Daniel Goleman writes in Primal Leadership that the fundamental task of the leader is to prime good feelings in those she is privileged to lead and “that occurs when the leader creates resonance – a reservoir of positivity that frees the best in people”.

“The fundamental task of the leader is to prime good feelings in those she is privileged to lead.” Daniel Goleman. Tweet this now!Tweet

The ability to consistently prime the pump of positivity requires EQ competencies like self-awareness and control. The opposite of resonance is dissonance; a dissonant leader throws people off balance and negatively impacts their performance.

I once worked with a visionary leader, which is considered to be the most effective leadership style. Unfortunately, in a crisis or when his triggers were activated, this leader often TURNED ON and then TUNED OUT others. That prevented him from being able to hear what people were saying at the very moment he MOST needed to listen. He lacked the ability to recognize his triggers or the self-control to respond instead of react in a crises and instead of priming good feelings, frequently created dissonance among his team. The resulting culture was one where other team members were reluctant to speak for fear of setting off an explosion. I personally left many a meeting discombobulated, disengaged and unable to do what I needed to.

Dissonant leaders can be effective in the short term but the toxicity they create usually negatively impacts the forward movement of the team as well as the bottom line. You can avoid negatively infecting your team by learning to lead yourself!

The ONE thing, the most important thing, and the hardest leadership challenge is leading yourself.

The hardest leadership challenge is leading yourself. Tweet this now!Tweet

That requires some understanding of you! What drives you bonkers? What do you believe about leadership? Who are some leaders that you admire? How did your immediate, intimate leadership models make you feel? You CAN become a better leader but it requires some self-development and maybe some outside, objective assistance.

Follow these steps to leading a better YOU!

Step 1: Study YOU!

Before you can become the leader you want to be, you have to know the leader you are. Self-awareness is the first step to leading yourself so spend some time understanding you…what makes you feel elated…what makes you want to stick a pencil in your eye? How do you like to receive information? What do you need to make decisions? Are you empathetic? When talking to others, are you listening to what they’re saying or just listening for a break in the conversation?

Be cognizant of your triggers, the words and actions that set you off but understand ultimately, your reaction is all about you! Do people who play the victim role make you crazy! And then make sure you’re not projecting your own experience; are others really being victims, or are you seeing victims because of your OWN victim experience.

Step 2: Study Leadership!

What makes a good leader? Many entrepreneurs focus on a business plan, attracting capital, hiring employees with no thought as to how they will LEAD their enterprise. Leadership is an art that comes easily to many people, however it can be learned and even natural leaders can fine-tune their skills to be even better.

Leadership can be learned and even natural leaders can fine-tune their skills to be even better. Tweet this now!Tweet

We can only be really good at something we have a talent for so find out what leadership characteristics come naturally to you and focus on developing those. And then try to minimize the possible negative impact of any weakness in key leadership characteristics like communication.

I was blessed to be a part of an organization with a unique tradition of experiential leadership development. None of the military branches have the luxury of hiring a “CEO” at any level from an external source, so the leadership training starts early and happens frequently. As I young officer, I was exposed to formal training, informal and formal mentoring from my superior officers and the special “polishing” that can only come from the senior non commissioned officers! I learned what worked for me, what fit my personality and I looked at each new assignment as an opportunity to reinvent myself as a leader, to take the good and not so good experiences I created or witnessed and apply them with a new team.

Step 3: Listen to Feedback!

Your mom and MAYBE one of your grandparents are the only two people who believe you’ve never made a mistake, EVER. Everyone else has some constructive criticism, an observation, and some feedback they’d like to share about something you’ve done or said. If you truly believe they have the best interests of the enterprise at heart then try to listen to what they’re saying without judgment.

Feedback was an informal, then formal part of the leadership development I experienced in the Air Force. Sometimes the feedback was hard to hear but it gave me a glimpse as to whether what I thought I was projecting was actually being perceived in the way I intended. I had to work on not being defensive and just listen to the lesson and then decide if and how to incorporate it into my leadership.

Leading yourself well is the first crucial step to leading an any enterprise!

So be intentional about how you’re leading by learning yourself and learning from others.

Something to think about:

Do you know how your leadership is affecting your team or your enterprise?

Renita Alexander, Leadership Unlocked

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