A Glimmer of Hope: When Leaders Get It Right

conceptual road sign postI just arrived back from beautiful Fujairah—one of the northernmost emirates in the UAE—where we held the final module of six in a 15-month leadership development curriculum for a global technology company.

The total program included modules around personality, values, organization vision and alignment, leadership style, high performing teams, change management, and motivation—the gamut.

This final module consisted of five one-hour-long group presentations about various aspects of their learning journey and its impact on people, process, and results. We asked about personal insights, how they applied their learning to real work, and what the human and economic impacts were of such application. And finally, in terms of their development, we asked them what they wanted to do next.

In terms of roles, the “what’s next” question revealed an array of ambitions. One wants to be CEO within 10 years. Another wants to lead the expansion of engineering capabilities in the African subsidiaries. And a third sees a future in corporate strategy with the aim of improving how global change initiatives are conceived and executed.

What was most beautiful was not the ambitions themselves, although I often feel their gravitational pull compelling me to double-check my own goals and velocity toward them. Instead, the most heartening aspect of their ambitions was how they promised to approach them.

Reduce Pressure to Go Fast

Whereas in the past, on their way to greater roles and responsibilities, these executives would have passed the pressure they received from their bosses to others in direct proportion—or even amplify it—now they realize that pressure often does more harm than good. The motivation research shows that pressure is easily internalized as a form of control, which then undermines a person’s eagerness to perform an act voluntarily and with an optimistic sense of purpose. In other words, pressure creates a negative Motivational Outlook, which slows the pace and quality of work in the moment and in the long run.

These executives also described how they helped even very senior employees build additional competence faster than before, and how those employees then displayed increased confidence that they could handle even more-complex projects. It was nice to hear, too, how the quality of their relationships improved as a result.

Executives take a lot of heat—much of it deserved—for leading as if people do not matter much. So, I decided to share this with you because I wonder what you think when you read about executives who have dedicated themselves to leading in challenging times with boldness, grace, warmth, ever-increasing skill, and maturity. How does it inspire you or catalyze new thinking about how you lead?

It was a privilege to watch these leaders commit to a truly human—and humane—approach to leading others, and to see that by actually doing it things are already improving for them and everyone around them. Sometimes it is nice to take a break and simply enjoy watching people flower and shine right in front of our very eyes. I thought you might enjoy that, too.

About the author:

The Motivation Guy  (also known as Dr. David Facer)  is one of the principal authors—together  with Susan Fowler and Drea Zigarmi—of The Ken Blanchard Companies’ new Optimal Motivation process and workshop.  Their posts appear on the first and third Monday of each month.

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