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Guide Masterful Leadership: Wisdom They Dont Teach in Business School

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What a gift your book is to current and future healthcare leaders. In a few short hours, healthcare and physician leaders can apply this book's wisdom in their own organizations. This book is packed with timeless leadership skills, values, and wisdom they don't teach in business school. All of these skills can be learned and emulated. That is the beauty of masterful leadership. It can be practiced and perfected. Make the journey to become a masterful leader. Begin with this book. Unfortunately, the foot soldiers who are supposed to be inspired by a vision rarely express their doubts in a manner that reaches senior leadership.

As a result, vision statements, like many traditional strategic planning processes, remain a fiction of the executive suite and have little practical importance outside the confines of the annual offsite retreat, where leaders are safely isolated from organizational realities. Indeed, I would question the excessive formality and awkward phrasing that committees bring to vision statements.

What Most Schools Don't Teach

The organization need not be this way. Leaders can use vision to build trust rather than break it if they are willing to let their rhetoric give way to reality and allow their vision to become a blueprint rather than public relations baloney. Effective visions help individuals understand that they are part of a larger world and also reassure them of their individual importance to the organization.

Equipped with an effective vision, the leader can respond in a consistent and coherent way to these questions: Where are we headed as an organization this year? Where will we be three to five years from now? What parts of our organization will be the same, and what will change? Will there still be a place for me in the future? How will my work change? What will I need to learn in order to be more valuable to the organization in the future?

Why will I still want to be a part of this organization in the future? The answers to these questions are personal and are communicated in dozens of moments of truth and in informal contacts between leaders and colleagues throughout the year. Formal annual reports and after-dinner speeches may address these issues in a general way, but vision must be communicated by leaders throughout the organization in personal encounters.

Some visions in educational organizations are decidedly scary, particularly for people who may feel that their skills and abilities are not part of the leader's vision.


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What does that mean to the finance clerk and personnel specialists who have seen a growing workload with no increases in staff? While technology will play a role in the vision of most organizations, there is a better way to communicate the impact and meaning of that vision.

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As an alternative to the formal vision statement, consider this conversation: Jean, you've got a great future here. Your integrity and work ethic are terrific, and the way that you collaborate with your colleagues is a real model for others. You've probably noticed that we're using a lot more technology now than when you first came here, and I see us moving in that direction in the future. Technology will never replace human intelligence and creativity, but we've got to use every technology tool we can, including some new ones that neither one of us has learned yet, to serve our stakeholders.

With your abilities and advanced technology, I can see you doing great things in the future. I'd like to support you in some professional development to build your technology skills. What do you think about it? Visionary leadership, in sum, may include the big picture, but it is insufficient for giving meaning and substance to a vision. Commitment depends upon knowing one's personal role in the vision and seeing a clear path to how to get there. When talk turns to human relationships and emotional intelligence in some leadership circles, eye rolling and finger tapping are the most obvious signs of impatience with the soft side of organizational life.

There has been a great deal of uninformed blather written and said about these subjects, and some of it is not only wrong but destructive. In education in particular, the presumption that self-esteem is a characteristic to be nurtured and developed in students and adults has morphed into a justification for narcissism, insulating people from honest feedback that is necessary for improved performance. This conclusion might be welcome news for pathological jerks who have been complaining for years that faculty meetings are not group therapy, administrators are not therapists, and the workplace is not your family.

Relational leadership does not depend on false affirmations provided in vain attempts to build the self-esteem of subordinates, but rather on the trust and integrity that are at the foundation of any enduring relationship. Interestingly, the foremost expert on emotional intelligence, Daniel Goleman, makes the case for relational leadership in strikingly cold and analytical terms. Citing a mountain of research including long-term longitudinal studies of organizational effectiveness, Goleman and colleagues conclude that relationship skills account for nearly three times as much impact on organizational performance as analytical skills do.

Kouzes and Posner , a, b find that in studies of more than 1 million leaders, the trust and credibility that stem from meaningful relationships are essential for leadership success. Researchers differ on how to approach the challenges of emotional intelligence and relational leadership. Some, like Goleman, assert vigorously that specific relationship skills can be taught and learned.

Others differ, asserting that someone with good relationship skills can likely be taught technical skills, whereas someone deficient in relationship skills will likely have some difficulty learning the nuances and intuitive practices that are associated with building and maintaining successful relationships.

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In other words, you can send a jerk to charm school, but at the end of the day, he's still a jerk. Tolerating jerks and a climate of incivility has a tangible as well as emotional cost. An astonishing amount of turnover, which creates huge costs in training, lowers productivity, and creates poorer service quality, is due to people leaving toxic work environments. What can relational leaders do? You might want to listen to your own colleagues describe the elements of the effective relational leader, but the following list is a good start: Relational leaders listen to their colleagues without interrupting or prejudging their statements.

Tape a meeting or phone call with a subordinate and confront the data.


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How many times did each of you speak? Ask for clarification before coming to a judgment? Leaders frequently ascend to their positions because they are good communicators, or at least it appears that way.

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They make wonderful presentations to community groups and governing boards. When they talk to colleagues, they do so with conviction and enthusiasm. They are accustomed to hearing applause rather than questions and challenges. When senior leaders experience decades of positive reinforcement for such one-sided communication, it is little wonder that so few leaders understand the value of listening. Every leader needs a Nathan, the only member of King David's entourage who was willing to publicly confront the king when he was wrong.

Relational leaders respect confidences, never betraying a secret or private conversation. The only exceptions are when the leader has a legal obligation to reveal a confidential conversation, such as when there are allegations of child abuse, employee harassment, or other illegal activities. Relational leaders practice empathy through deliberate inquiry. Recognizing this, relational leaders ask their colleagues directly about what gives them great joy and what causes them heartache.

They follow the advice of Marcus Buckingham b and provide the unique attention, feedback, and support that each colleague needs. Some employees need to be heard in a one to one setting, while others would be nervous and feel put on the spot in such an environment. Some colleagues would appreciate recognition before a group, while others would find the attention embarrassing and threatening to their peer relationships. Some employees appreciate recognition for their daily technical expertise, while others prefer recognition that is rare, unusual, and reserved for exceptional performance.

Unskilled relational leaders presume that the rest of the world is a reflection of themselves, and they motivate, reward, and communicate in the way that reflects their own preferences. If they are comfortable with technical jargon, they pour it on their colleagues, presuming that people are impressed rather than bewildered by it.

If they find financial rewards motivating, they presume that colleagues should be grateful for a raise or improvement in benefits, despite evidence that their colleagues find personal appreciation more rewarding. If relational leaders organize their lives in bullet points sent through e-mail, they communicate that way, even if they discover that some colleagues prefer rich and vivid descriptions of expectations rather than bullet points that strike them as brusque and demeaning.

Some leadership literature states that using relational practices is situational: There is little evidence, however, that chameleons make great leaders or, for that matter, that leaders are capable of transforming their personal preferences in communication and management style as organizational life changes.

On the contrary, when the going is particularly tough, budgets are cut, layoffs are imminent, public scrutiny is high, and the pressure seems nearly unbearable, then the skills of the relational leader are particularly important. Relational leaders exhibit genuine passion for their mission and the people around them. When does the turnaround leader have time for passion? The direct answer is every single day. Passion, respect, civility, and gentility require not only time but genuine interest. In the midst of the most hectic organizational turnaround, babies will be born, relatives will fall ill, couples will become engaged, and couples will break up.

In other words, the emotional lives of colleagues will continue whether or not the organization recognizes that there is life outside of work. The leader with relational intelligence stops—with surprising alacrity—to divert attention from the organization to the person, to transfer attention from the ensemble to the soloist. While passion does not appear on the balance sheet, it is surely the asset that matters most for leaders and followers alike, and passion is most wisely invested by leaders in human relationships.

Nodes represent complex connections, and understanding these complex interactions is at the heart of systems thinking.

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With the addition of a single variable team member, supplier, creditor, customer, patient, service provider, student, investor, or interest groups , the number of systematic interactions increases exponentially. In fact, we can plot the relationship between the increase in nodes and system complexity as shown in Figure 4. This chart reflects the potential complexity for only seven nodes, but consider the interactions for which most leaders are responsible. You could list a couple dozen and not depart from the confines of the instructional staff of a school.

But systems leaders also understand how bus drivers, administrative support staff, cafeteria workers, finance specialists, and a host of other people influence student achievement and core organizational objectives. They know, for example, that bus drivers who understand and apply lessons on student motivation and discipline will deliver students to school on time, safely, and ready to learn.

Systems leaders know that an error by a finance clerk who is right What is the level of complexity if the leader considers only 20 nodes and their possible interactions? The first column lists the number of nodes, and the second column lists the number of interactions, calculated by the quantity of nodes minus one, and that number is multiplied by each smaller number in the number system down to 1.

With just a few more nodes, the complexity is staggering. Although all interactions are not equally important, there are far more interactions than many leaders acknowledge. Only a handful of school leaders, for example, require central office departments to post and share data in a transparent manner with the same diligence that is required of schools.

When they do, the community sees, for example, how energy savings, food service quality, bus safety, and the talent pipeline provided by the human resources department all contribute to the mission of the organization. For a big time leader, character carries the day. Among his counterintuitive lessons: Never make a decision today that can reasonably be put off to tomorrow. Move several steps beyond traditional brainstorming.


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Listen first, talk later. And when you listen, do so artfully. Shoot your own horse. Know what hill you are willing to die on—and keep its exact location to yourself. Know the all—important difference between being leader and doing leader.