When we picture leadership, we often visualize strength, courage and boldness. All worthy traits. Yet great leadership also has its roots in listening, understanding, perspective, good judgment, and balance. This moderation provides a solid base of support for bold leaps that prevent disasters.
Some leaders focus mostly on the elements of strength and boldness because they mistakenly believe that moderation means mediocrity, (It doesn’t!) As they seek excellence only through extremes, they destabilize the organization with wild swings and are surprised when the business slides.
Moderation doesn’t mean mediocrity. It’s a balanced approach that builds a strong base of support for bold leaps!”
Leadership: Do You Seek Excellence Only in Extremes?
As you assess your leadership style, take a deeper look at where you might be falling into these dangerous extremes.
1. The Myopia of Metrics. Are you leading from metrics? Are you measuring everything in the belief that if you can’t measure it, your organization will have mediocre performance? Metrics are valuable but an extreme view of metrics leads the organization down a dangerous road.
You will lose productivity measuring things that aren’t worth measuring. Your view will be skewed to the comfort of metrics. You will breed a status quo work culture that is afraid of change and innovation because the data isn’t there to prove it’s OK to step into the new.
Everything than can be counted does not necessarily count; everything that counts cannot necessarily be counted.”
Lead from vision and use metrics as one indicator of success. Remember to tap diverse experience, engage employee talent, exercise critical thinking, and use committed action to make the vision come to life. Moderating all these elements is the good judgment of great leadership.
2. The bomb of boldness. Sometimes bold risks pay off. Boldness can also bomb out when it is actually self-absorbed tunnel vision. Leading without any feedback puts you all in a bubble that can suddenly burst. Acting purely through hunches is leadership folly. Silencing diverse views detours you from realistic optimism to dreamy-eyed denial.
Have a bold vision. Inspire all to work toward it. Ask and engage great questions, tap critical thoughts and experience. Address the change resistant pessimistic naysayers with clear communication. Yet never confuse great action-oriented questions with complaining. They are distinctly different. Moderating all these factors minimizes risk.
3. The burn of bluntness. When high level leaders interact with their direct reports who are also leaders, they often use the extreme form of honesty — bluntness — and it is accepted. The premise is that it cuts through obstacles to reach excellence more quickly.
When you use the same bluntness on team members at the staff level, it burns and inflicts emotional scars. It leaves employees cautious and less willing to engage and take risks. This is not a path to excellence.
Some leaders react to this response by labeling employees as too sensitive. They tell them to toughen up and not take things personally else the organization will wallow in feelings. How ironic it is that this view is, itself, a feeling not a fact.
The truth is that the more authority and direct responsibility you have for success, the easier it is to accept bluntness. You can see the bluntness as protective and helpful. You also feel empowered to make changes to prevent additional blunt barbs. The further you are from the responsibility and authority, the more the bluntness feels like criticism and disdain.
Leaders, moderate your approach to deal with this truth. With staff, speak honestly with care not blunt with emotion. Honesty is the key. An example: “Stop being so slow and lazy” is blunt with emotion. “I need you to move more quickly on this …” is honesty with care.
Moderation does not slow excellence. It doesn’t block success. It simply counterbalances risk. It builds a strong base of support out of awareness, information, broad understanding, and critical thinking. From there, the bold leaps that you make are far more likely to produce excellence and success.
What other extremes detour success & how do you moderate them? Please share your thoughts in the comments section.