Monday, February 1, 2021

Leadership Is ALWAYS About Those You Lead!

Thanks to Twitter, back in 2018, I met Katherine Spinney, a fellow advocate for effective leadership. We collaborated on a post here on my Blog in August 2018, and we also collaborated on a TweetChat on Twitter in April 2020 (both links appear at the end below). 

I invited Katherine to return to my Blog for a Q&A due to workplace and leadership changes resulting from the current COVID-19 pandemic. Highlights from our discussion follow Katherine’s bio.

Katherine Spinney has spent over a decade in executive leadership positions and now has the great privilege of supporting leaders to more effectively develop themselves and their teams. Through a trademarked model of leadership, Lead with Your MIND, Katherine goes beyond the traditional model of skill development and combines it with work around mindset, investment and desire. Katherine's vision is to help build leaders' confidence and impact to better serve their teams to ultimately better serve their clients. Work should provide a source of satisfaction, and she is confident that it can and should be possible for everyone. Visit her website at and connect and follow on Twitter and Instagram @CoachKat2017 and on Facebook /CoachKat2017.
QUESTION: Based on your experiences since March 2020, how has the COVID-19 pandemic impacted leadership?

COVID-19 has affected leadership in a number of ways. Generally, those who were strong leaders before the pandemic remained strong leaders throughout and adjusted where necessary. Those who were less effective leaders largely remained so. This year provided an opportunity for leaders to step up and adapt to what has been a dramatically different work environment for the majority of people.

Effective leaders responded with empathy, implementing effective health precautions, both physically and mentally and providing flexibility to people in challenging if not impossible situations. Additionally, effective leaders adjusted to their clients' needs and provided service in a responsive way.

It has been a time of great challenge, and those who have stepped up and supported their teams while continuing to serve their clients have provided a strong example of how it can be done.
QUESTION: In a post on your blog entitled, "When Poor Leadership Goes Unchecked: The Cautionary Tale of the Washington Redskins," you wrote: "Whether you run a team, a department or a Fortune 500 company, your responsibility as a leader is to serve your clients by supporting your employees. When you face challenges in your leadership, as you most certainly will, examine yourself first, and surround yourself with people who will help reveal your blind spots." What do you recommend an employee do if/when leaders do not welcome feedback about their blind spots?
It is important to always be open to new connections and opportunities. In the case that you have simply had enough of a job, you will be in a much better position to transition than if you wait until you reach that point.

If you find yourself in a position where your leadership does not welcome feedback regarding their blind spots, it's important to ask yourself, "Is there someone else I can talk to at the organization? Do I want to stay here but perhaps work for someone else? Am I fulfilled enough in the position that I am okay with leadership that will not change?"  

If you have exhausted your options of impacting change, you need to decide if you are okay living with it, or if it's time to go. If you decide to stay, accept the things you cannot change and do the best you can.
QUESTION: On your blog, you wrote "How to Build a Leader" by listing 17 ingredients. Which of those 17 do you consider the most important, and why? (The full list can be found on the link at the end below.)
It's so hard to choose just one because they are all important. And my caveat is that I think skill is just one of the components of effective leadership (in addition to mindset, investment and desire), but if I have to choose one, I will choose relationship-building.

The days of a disconnected boss in the corner office dictating orders are long gone (though too many organizations continue to operate this way). True leadership requires authentic relationships at all levels: with colleagues, with organizational leadership, with clients, with stakeholders, and, of course, with staff. At the core of effective leadership is the strength of these relationships.

TWEET THIS: The days of a disconnected boss in the corner office dictating orders are long gone. True leadership requires authentic relationships at all levels. –@CoachKat2017 #LeadershipTips #EmployeeExperience

QUESTION: When President Obama introduced Janet Yellen as the new Federal Reserve Chair in October 2013, he said, "Janet Yellen is a proven leader who knows how to build consensus, the kind of person who makes everybody around her better." What three characteristics do you think are necessary to create a consensus-builder?
I used to work at an organization that did consensus hiring. In an organization of nearly 40 staff, this was not easy. Ultimately, what I learned from that process and what research has reinforced, is that in order for consensus to work, there needs to be (1) a clear, shared understanding of what the desired outcome is, (2) a willingness to listen and be open to all the voices in the room and (3) an appreciation and respect for the person with the most knowledge and the person who will be most affected by the decision.

In the case of hiring, we strove to be upfront about who we were looking to hire, be open to all voices in the room, and if there were disagreement or challenge coming to consensus, ultimately defer to the department doing the hiring.

Consensus is hard and it will be rare for an entire staff to be in complete agreement on anything, so it's important to recognize the common moments when, not everyone will agree but they are comfortable deferring and getting on board with the decision.
QUESTION: Lastly, one of my favorite quotes about leadership is from Arnold Glasow, an American businessman often cited in the Wall Street Journal, Forbes, and other publications: "A good leader takes a little more than his share of the blame, a little less than his share of the credit." What does this quote mean to you?

This quote is a great illustration of what leadership is all about, which is, the people you lead. It isn't about you and your needs but first and foremost, the needs of those you have the great privilege of serving. Be generous in recognizing others and humble in taking ownership of mistakes, even when they are not yours alone. When you try to deflect in an attempt to save face, it only serves to undermine your leadership. Act with integrity and show your staff that you put them first. When your staff know you have their best interests at heart, they will generally return that loyalty.  

TWEET THIS: Leadership isn't about a leader’s needs but first and foremost, the needs of those you have the great privilege of serving. –@CoachKat2017 #LeadershipTips #EmployeeExperience

My gratitude to Katherine for appearing here on my Blog and sharing her insights and perspective.

Image Credit: Katherine Spinney’s Blog.

Blog post referenced in #2
Blog post referenced in #3
Blog post referenced in #4
Blog post Q&A in 2018
TweetChat highlights in 2020

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