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Who Are You Leading?

mudholeI once saw a great leader, a camp counselor, up in the Boundary Waters of Minnesota. Canoe on shoulders, pack on back, she’d just stepped knee-deep in a portage mud hole. No cries of “Yech” or “Why are we doing this?” Nothing but an cheery call to her campers, “Hey, it’s softer on the left side than it looks, so try the right. I’ll be back to help in a minute.”

Optimism, perseverance, trust that the 13-year-olds she led could keep moving through the mud without her at their side, and a spark of enjoyment through it all–she was modeling all of those as a leader.

But to model those kinds of priorities, one has to be intentional. and be aware that others are watching.

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Get Real: The Key to Leadership

DSC00085 - Version 2Reality Testing—your capacity to see things the way they are rather than the way you wish them to be—is one of the top key components of emotional intelligence (EQ) for effective leadership. And if you still think that EQ is the touchy-feely, unimportant side of leadership, get this: It’s more predictive of leadership success than IQ or experience. It counts. And I seem to be seeing less and less savvy Reality Testing in leaders, especially in connection with regard to implementing “initiatives”—new strategies or programs designed to bring about change. Instead, I hear things like

“In this economy, they simply need to do more with less.”
“Every initiative is a priority. They need to figure out how to get it all done. Period.”
“ I have no say. These initiatives come from above and we have to carry them out.”

Sound familiar? As I worked with teams worldwide last year, “initiative fatigue” was what I heard, what I saw in people’s eyes. They’ve brought you in to get us to do even more, described the general mood. Douglas Reeves coined the term initiative fatigue in his book Transforming Professional Development into Student Results (2010):

When the number of initiatives increases while time, resources and emotional energy are constant, then each new initiative, no matter how well conceived or well intentioned—will receive fewer minutes, dollars, and ounces of emotional energy than its predecessors (p. 27).
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