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A Relationship Story – Leadership from Any Chair, Especially Now

December 2008

I’ve written about leadership a few times before, and it is clear that this subject receives the largest and most passionate responses from you. It seems that everyone relates.

While many people are currently gripped with uncertainty and fear, as we are obviously in a unique state of “now”, I believe we all are presented with a great opportunity to prosper in tough times through creativity, positive energy, and good relationships. As leaders, these times present us all with an especially important responsibility – to elicit effective “leadership” behavior from everyone on our respective teams.

The origin of this idea for me was when, a couple of years after I had left my own corporate life and the position power associated with being a VP/GM, the concept of “leading from any chair” was pointed out to me by leadership coach Vance Caesar as described in the The Art of Possibility by Rosamund Stone Zander and Benjamin Zander.

Vance was trying to help me see that I continue to be a “leader” in a variety of ways after leaving my traditional line-leadership executive role; I try to remind myself of my responsibility to lead by sharing ideas and connecting people in every facet of my life, not only in my professional role providing consultative support to my clients by helping them build their teams.

This expanded definition of leadership, especially in consideration of our current economic climate, offers a new perspective on how companies and organizations can be more effective.

For leaders of organizations or groups, times like these make it increasingly important that we empower our teams to serve as an extension of the mission and values of the enterprise. With people being asked to do more with less, it’s increasingly important that everyone think of themselves as a leader and act on that responsibility, as opposed to just feeling and acting like a cog in the wheel.

However, this kind of empowerment can be a tough challenge for some leaders. It means we must be like the “Level 5 Leader” described in Good to Great by Jim Collins. Collins suggested that great companies (those that significantly outperform the competition in their respective markets) are led by unique leaders who, while highly ambitious and driven, are not in it for their own glory but are truly in it for the collective success of the enterprise. Through their ability to keep their ego subordinated, Level 5 leaders create the kind of empowerment that enables people to contribute to the utmost.

I believe that most of us, including all those great people on your teams, have a desire to make a difference in generating outcomes and in improving the lives of others. Ask yourself what you are doing to ensure that your organization and your customers are getting the most powerful leadership contributions your people have to offer. If they naturally want to do greater things … it is up to their leaders to enable them to do so.

While so many around us are bemoaning their sad fate as victims of the times, the time is right for the creative and positive among us to strike. However, now more than ever, we must involve everyone on our teams to bring forward the best we collectively have to offer. Now is the time to truly lead, to encourage leadership from any chair throughout our teams.
Thanks for sharing time with me, and as always, please let me know if there is any way I can be of service to you.

Sincerely,

Jeff Black
Managing Principal Consultant, McDermott & Bull Executive Search
Cell: (714) 356-1949 Office: (949) 753-1700 ext. 310
2 Venture, Suite 100 Irvine, CA 92618

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