A Discussion Regarding Leadership

Leadership Coaching with Mel Brown

In discussions regarding leadership, the question is frequently asked, “Are leaders made or born?” When asked this question, I often quip, “Both. I have never met a leader who wasn’t born.” However, the truth of the matter is that I do not believe anyone is a “born leader.” I am a firm believer that leadership is not something innate, but learned.

Some people learn leadership at an early age because they were raised in a family that modeled good leadership. Other leaders were less fortunate and had to learn their leadership skills by other methods.

The obvious question then is “how does one learn to be a leader?” The answer is “the same way any other behavior is learned.” That being the case, let’s explore how leadership is actually learned.

Through Personal Experience

You can learn through trial and error. Former major league pitcher Vernon Law suggested “Experience is the best teacher because she gives the test first and the lessons afterwards.” Every leader learns through experience. Leadership is often going where no one has gone before and blazing the trail. That is part of what makes a leader a leader. In fact, one thing that makes a great leader is the ability to learn from one’s mistakes.


Do you have the right people in place for change?

Leadership Coaching with Mel Brown

People are Our Greatest Resource

Last month’s column was about dealing effectively with change. I discussed driving the change, selling the change and implementing the change. As I promised in that column, this month will focus on some of the personnel issues that must be addressed when we implement change.

While Human Resource Specialists point out that people are our greatest resource, and that is true, they can also be an organization’s greatest obstacles to the successful implementation of change.

Before implementing a change in strategy or in organizational culture, an organization’s leaders need to ensure they have the right people in place. Changing a deeply ingrained organizational culture requires keen assessment of a company’s employees, followed by prompt and aggressive action.

Research by The Hay Group, a world-wide human resources firm, has identified four types of employees based upon how they adapt to change. Those are the Superstars, the Open-minders, the Skeptics, and the Recalcitrant. Let’s look at each of these groups and how to deal with each of them.

The Superstars

Who are they?–The Superstars are the most desirable group. They “get it.” These people have internalized the organization’s vision and have the right behaviors and competencies for success. They deliver results in the right way. They create value and leverage themselves and others’ talents.

What should you do about this group?—Set this group up as examples of what the organization can be. Do whatever it takes to retain them. Reward them handsomely. Make sure they receive the most in the way of promotions, special assignments, etc.

The Open-Minders

Who are they? — Even though these employees may have under-performed in the past because of poor skills and weak competencies, they are ready to align themselves with the new culture and are eager to be part of the plan. They have the basic “raw material” and with development could be contributors. These are the ones who will really try, go along with and assume things will work until it is clearly demonstrated otherwise over time.


Dealing with Change

Leadership Coaching with Mel Brown

Because readers have submitted questions regarding the issue of dealing with change, I have decided to respond to their questions in this column by rerunning, with a few major changes, a two-part series from a few years ago.

This month’s column will address “When It Is Time to Change” and October’s column will discuss “How Employees Adapt to Change and What to Do About It.”

When It Is Time to Change

I heard a story about a man attending a reunion who was shocked to see his old high school friend now had a peg leg, a hook in place of one of his hands and a patch over one of his eyes.

When he asked his old friend what had happened the friend told him that after finishing school he did what he always had dreamed of doing. He had become a pirate.

When asked about all the injuries he appeared to have suffered, the friend explained, “Well, like I said, I became a pirate and one day we were attacked by a British ship. As they fired upon us, one of the cannon balls caught me just below the knee and tore the lower part of my leg off. I knew that they would be boarding our ship and I would need to be able to stand up and fight so I took a piece of the broken mast and used a piece of the sail to tie it to my leg so I could stand up. It worked so well that when I got to shore I just had them make me a peg leg.”

When asked about the hook, the pirate explained, “Well, when they boarded our ship, I got into a sword fight and during the fight, I got my hand cut off. They left me lying there to die. I knew that I would need both hands to do what it took to man the ship and get it to shore. I took a piece of metal and tied it to the end of my arm so I could do what was necessary to save the ship. It worked so well that when I got to shore I just had them make me a permanent hook to use as a hand.”

When asked about his eye, the pirate explained, “The way to find land is to look for sea gulls because they do not go far from land. In my search I spotted a flock of seagulls and as I was looking up, one of them made a deposit in my eye.”

When his friend said, “but that would not put out your eye,” the pirate responded, “it would if you had not adjusted to having a hook for hand.” While the above story [MORE…]

What Is Followership?

Leadership Coaching with Mel Brown

In early 2014 while having a breakfast meeting with a colleague, he caught me quite off guard when he said to me, “you do a considerable amount of writing and training on various topics related to leadership. Have you ever considered writing or teaching something on ‘followership’?”

Quite frankly, to that point, not only had I not given much thought to the idea of writing an article or providing training on followership, the first thought that rushed through my mind when I heard the term was “What in the world is followership?” Yet, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that all successful leaders have good followers, and that might be a topic worth exploring.

As a result of that conversation, “Followership” was the topic for Contemplation Corner in the February, 2014 issue of The MBA Dispatch.

Since that time, I have spent time reading what others have to say about the topic and looking at how followers impact the effectiveness of organizations. As a result of that exploration the topic I selected for this month’s Contemplation Corner and this month’s “Worth the Time” column (which appears in the lower right hand corner of this page) is “Followership.”

What is Followership?

In his article, “Followership: The Other side of Leadership,” John S. McCallum points out “Followership is a straightforward concept. It is the ability to take direction well, to get in line behind a program, to be part of a team and to deliver on what is expected of you….How well the followers follow is probably just as important to enterprise success as how well the leaders lead.”*

Characteristics of Good Followers

McCullough identifies eight characteristics that good followers possess. He refers to them as: