Journey to Mindful Leadership: Part 2

Here we are just over 2 months since I started my Journey to Mindful Leadership. It has been a great few weeks of reading, reflecting, and now sharing! I covered some ground on a few books, a few courses from my employers catalogue of course offerings via HR, and a certification via HarvardX on Leadership.

I am not offering a full review of all 5 books I read over the past two months, but rather pulling a few themes from my readings that really resonate with me, and are key takeaways as I strive to be a more mindful leader.

The Books:

In many organizations, we are quick to respond to new threats or new problems by applying “old solutions” to organizational issues. I am sure many of you have encountered a myriad of business problems and often end up frustrated in the quest for solutions. This frustration can lead to fear in an organization thus creating more aggression.

Instead of perpetuating this cycle, what if we were to look internally to see one another as the “resources” needed, and engage the existing creativity within an organization? Fostering relationships and nurturing growth and development should be at the top of any leaders to do list as well as becoming a better listener and respecting each persons uniqueness. “Effective leaders encourage people to bring their best talents and selves to work” , they do this by:

  • consistently promoting openness and transparency;
  • empowering their people;
  • ensuring groups and committees function effectively as a team;
  • providing support, coaching, and care;
  • understanding the importance of hiring the right people in order to develop ‘fit’.

Leaders must consider the fundamentals: knowing how to listen and speak to one another; facilitating free access between employees throughout the organization; being open with information; honoring collaboration; encouraging speaking truthfully to one another. For this to truly work and occur organically, there should be the understanding of both the network of relationships and the resources required to support the work at hand. Think of self organizing and one of my sons favorite “toys”: Kinetic Sand. Please do take just a moment to just watch the movement here – it is mesmerizing-  and think of this self organizing as your organization….

No one can lead an any organization by spectating and ignoring the network of relationships thorough which all work is accomplished.

Employee engagement is defined by Kruse as the “emotional commitment an employee has to the organization and its goals”. As leaders, we are responsible for the engagement of our teams. Driving engagement stems from:

  1. Communication- do team members feel that there is frequent two way communication?
  2. Growth and Development- do team members feel like they are learning new things and advancing career?
  3. Recognition and Appreciation- do team members’ feel appreciated and that their ideas count?
  4. Trust and Confidence- do team member trust the leadership and have confidence in the organization future?

I have focused on this with my faculty in a variety of ways previously- but am being more intentional of late. For example I am facilitating more opportunities for two way communication and asking that my faculty take a more active role in this endeavor. I am also actively seeking out the goals of my faculty who are willing to share, and helping them work towards those goals.  I have made efforts to recognize faculty who go above and beyond for students as well as those who truly embody our brand values.

Self Reflection and Seeking Feedback

Not knowing how actions affect others is one of the biggest mistakes a leader can make. As Leaders we have to develop greater awareness of how we behave and present ourselves. We must recognize our moods and impulses and how they impact others. We should watch closely how actions impact others immediately, and then use that information as a guide for how our emotions affect a wider circle and for longer periods of time than one might imagine.

We also need to help one another by offering feedback and help one another notice when we may fall back to old behaviors. I have found self reflection far more challenging than asking for and acting on feedback. It is essential, as leaders, to not ignore feedback that may be negative or feedback that we do not like. This feedback is essential in a quest to avoid missing important information, and to keep your ego in check.

Next Steps

Scheduling time for daily introspective is a priority for my Journey.  This time for  meaningful reflection practice will help me focus on what is truly important, nurture my own career passions, and those of my team. I need to slow down and be present.

In what ways do you incorporate a daily introspective for a more mindful leadership journey? Meditation, keeping a journal? Comment Below ….

The Journey to Mindful Leadership

It has been a blissful 10 months since completing my PhD! No writing, hard deadlines, or questioning my sanity. And my bound dissertation is a daily reminder of the important of life long learning. I have had a nice break, but now its time to jump back in to learning..

I have set some lofty goals over the past few years, and here we are again. As my career has evolved from the days of Sales, to Director of Marketing, Adjunct Professor, Dean, to everything in between…I have really focused on simply working hard, doing my job, and continuous improvement. It never occurred to me that Leadership Skills are (somewhat naturally) developed over time when in the right environment-surrounded by the right people. Until now, as I reflect back on my career and anticipate the challenges and opportunities to come.

The Goal
A few months ago, I began to research leadership topics and curate leadership books to read for the purpose of helping inform and energize myself. The goal was to really hone in on the skills I have, those I need to develop, and to identify these skills in others I work with in order to better define them in myself. So, for the next few months, I will be reading, reflecting, and writing

In my masters programs (I completed an MS Marketing and an additional 18 hours of MBA courses), there was focus on effective management skills and a deep dive in to all genres of business. However, I know I never differentiated management and leadership. My goals were to become a CMO for a Fortune 500 company ( I had my eye on SC Johnson and P&G, with my runner up being The Dallas Stars), yet I do not think I fully understood leadership in my 20s. I think I more aligned leadership with power, and did not define the type of power (more on that in another post). Then, later in life, my PhD courses were not leadership focused either. Yet, I found leadership qualities in many mentors I had though my years of study. And here I am now, in a leadership role.

It has taken me being surrounded by leaders and managers to really understand the qualities that I appreciate and admire, the qualities I possess, and those qualities I hope to embody.

The Leadership Books

The books I have curated are below. I am focusing on Higher Education, yet many main stream leadership books transcend. It may take some time to completely digest them, and I have more awaiting my purchase on my ever growing Amazon List! And, of course I am always open to suggestions, so feel free to comment below at the end of the post. You will see evidence of several themes in my selections thus far.

Joy, Inc.
Start With Why
Reframing Academic Leadership
Leadership and the New Science: Discovering Order in a Chaotic World Discovering Order in a Chaotic World
The Essential Academic Dean: A Practical Guide to College Leadership A Practical Guide to College Leadership
The Academic Deanship: Individual Careers and Institutional Roles
A Guide to Leadership and Management in Higher Education
Challenges in Higher Education Leadership
Women Leaders in Higher Education
Inclusive Leadership in Higher Education
The Leadership Gap: What Gets Between You and Your Greatness
Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead
Carrots and Sticks Don’t Work: Build a Culture of Employee Engagement with the Principles of RESPECT
People Skills: How to Assert Yourself, Listen to Others, and Resolve Conflicts
Strengths Based Leadership: Great Leaders, Teams, and Why People Follow
Ego vs. EQ: How Top Leaders Beat 8 Ego Traps With Emotional Intelligence
Ego Is the Enemy
The Lords of Strategy: The Secret Intellectual History of the New Corporate World

The Focus
Leadership books are a great resource to help identify the leadership skills I have and those that I need to develop. However, I want to take this one step further to bring the content of the books I am reading to life.

The focus of this series is to Identify:
Skills I Have,
Skills I Need to Develop,
Skills I See in Others to Better Define Them in Myself

I am so fortunate to work alongside many leaders. From them, I have learned – and am learning. It is through them I see leadership skills in action and it is through interactions with them I can really define and develop those skills in myself.

Spectate, Cheer, and Constructive Feedback

I hope you will sit along the sidelines, but not just spectate. But, instead cheer me on through this journey and when needed- offer constructive feedback (LinkedIn, Twitter, G+.) This is a learning experience for me, and I truly want to harness my uniqueness, become a more effective leader, and be a leader who inspires others to be better and more mindful as well.

My call to action to you is to subscribe, or follow/connect with me on my social channels and offer feedback and commentary. As a community we can learn from one another and support one another through discussions such as this.

5 Attributes of Thought Leaders- Intellectual Takeout

5 Attributes of Thought Leaders

Have you ever asked yourself, what makes someone an entrepreneur of ideas, a so-called thought leader? The ability to invent and spread the word about newfangled concepts? A master of the TED Talk? A magnetic Steve Jobs-like personality?

The Marketing Insider Group defines a ‘thought leader’ as someone who “tap[s] into the talent, experience, and passion inside your business, or from your community, to consistently answer the biggest questions on the minds of your target audience, on a particular topic.” Thought leaders are innovators and forest-for-the trees types, not borrowers, technicians or, as Friedrich Hayek (1899-1992) called intellectuals, “professional secondhand dealers in ideas.”

With tongue in cheek, New York Times columnist David Brooks describes the thought leader:

“The Thought Leader is sort of a highflying, good-doing yacht-to-yacht concept peddler. Each year, he gets to speak at the Clinton Global Initiative, where successful people gather to express compassion for those not invited. Month after month, he gets to be a discussion facilitator at think tank dinners where guests talk about what it’s like to live in poverty while the wait staff glides through the room thinking bitter thoughts.

He doesn’t have students, but he does have clients. He doesn’t have dark nights of the soul, but his eyes blaze at the echo of the words ‘breakout session.’”

Besides being lampooned, the notion of thought leadership has also been widely criticized. University of Reading Management professor Kevin Money and research fellow Nuno Da Camara call thought leadership “meaningless management speak.” Harvard Business Review writer Dorie Clark comments that “it is very icky when people call themselves thought leaders because that sounds a little bit egomaniacal.” According to Tufts University professor Daniel Drezner, we need fewer thought leaders and more public intellectuals. Perhaps, for these academics, thought leadership is a matter of sour grapes, something they cannot achieve, so they roundly reject it.

Whatever the case, thought leaders are highly sought after by business firms and government agencies. High-performing organizations want these people as their executives, consultants and managers, and they are usually compensated handsomely. Why? Because they possess some or all of the following unique attributes:

  1. Ambition: They want to achieve the most they can with their novel ideas, both for themselves and the organizations they work for.
  2. Image conscious: Marketing their ideas and producing the perfect presentation matters, since image impacts how others perceive their brand.
  3. Big thinking: They care more about the macro-level, the larger picture, and less about the small details or technicalities, which others can always work out later.
  4. Expertise: They are authorities in the areas of inquiry where they generate the most innovative ideas.
  5. Ability to see aspects others don’t or cannot see: They detect subtle patterns and larger trends where thought followers fail to.

This last attribute—often called ‘aspect-seeing’—is the most important. To illustrate, look at the Duck-Rabbit image, invented by the Gestalt psychologists and employed by the philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein (1889-1951) in his ground-breaking work Philosophical Investigations:

Most people either perceive an image of a duck or an image of a rabbit. The thought leader immediately detects the patterns for both and possibly more. He is adept at seeing aspects of a puzzle or a problem that others cannot.

Is thought leadership something you aspire to? Or is the notion meaningless, icky and/or trendy?

This post 5 Attributes of Thought Leaders was originally published on Intellectual Takeout by Shane Ralston.