Friday, April 09, 2004

Transforming yourself into a good leader

Paul Glen writes in a ComputerWorld article on April 5th:

"Great leaders start out somewhere else and have to move into leadership roles. Becoming a leader poses transitional challenges that can be met only with emotional flexibility. One of the great challenges for a new manager is to transform his view of himself, to change how he measures himself and his success. Early life and career work is judged by personal productivity. In school, we're judged by the quality and quantity of our papers, tests and quizzes. Young workers are judged by the quality, quantity and speed of task completion. Our self-images become tied to our personal productivity. Moving into management requires a fundamental shift in how we view ourselves, a shift in the emotions about self and work. Leaders are judged not by their personal productivity but by their effect on the productivity, morale and effectiveness of others. Managers must be able to derive their personal satisfaction from helping others be productive rather than being productive themselves. This is a difficult transformation that's poorly understood and rarely discussed.

The ability to adopt a new self-image is critical to the transition into a successful leadership role.

Comfort with ambiguity: Beyond mastering their emotions, leaders must be able to cope with the chaos and confusion of reality. The world is a complex place filled with facts, provisional facts, lies, opinions and emotions. A large part of the leader's role is to help interpret the turmoil and bring order, sense and meaning to daily work. Successful leaders must transform ambiguity into clarity and create compelling narratives out of complexity.

They also bring a high tolerance for the continuing existence of confusion. They're able to hold contradictory ideas in their heads simultaneously without experiencing undue stress. Strong leaders aren't impervious to new facts and information but are comfortable revising their interpretations to meet changing times.

Ability to communicate: The ability to cope with ambiguity means nothing without the ability to communicate. If leaders and managers deliver value through their effect on others, communication is their primary tool. Whether leaders communicate verbally, in writing or through their actions, their ability to connect with those they lead is of prime importance."