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Half the Leadership Picture

Fitzgerald.001Recently I stumbled on a blog that told only half the truth about school leadership. I’m not going to link to it—it wasn’t a bad blog, but when we over-focus on some aspects of leadership we ignore equally important responsibilities that end up undermining what we were trying to accomplish in the first place. Let me show you what I mean.

  • Of course leaders need to be visionary, but not at the expense of reality checks. There are limits to time, dollars, the cognitive load involved in juggling various initiatives, and to energy available for different efforts.
  • Of course leaders need to be flexible, but not at the expense of planning. In fact, great leaders build checkpoints into plans to ensure they are remembering to evaluate whether the plan needs to change!
  • Of course leaders need to communicate, but they also need to listen. The latter is so uncommon in school leaders that a principal who is also Native American told me his new staff didn’t believe him when he said at the start of his first year, “My goal is to listen and learn from you this year—what is working, what the students need, what you need. Then we’ll plan our strategies together.” His staff accused him of hidden agendas, sure he had his big initiatives waiting in the wings like every other principal they’d worked for.
  • Of course leaders need to use their strengths, but they also need to manage related weaknesses so they don’t undermine their own good works.
  • Of course leaders need to give clear-cut directives and make decisions, yet allowing room for individual pathways to the same goals and for creativity is essential for innovation.
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Emotional Intelligence and Your Profession

Recently, I’ve been working with auditors–my former life as a financial analyst provides insights into work style patterns in their profession and how they compare to many other professions. Below, I’ll be highlighting emotional intelligence sub scales, as described by Multi Health System’s EQi 2.0© instrument, one tool for thinking about these kinds of patterns, so that you can think about how these ideas might apply to the strengths and struggles of your own profession.

Research exists on some of the biggest problems facing the audit profession. The Dallas chapter of the Institute for Internal Audit found that

  • The audit function is often undervalued by other corporate leaders
  • Audit teams often struggle to recruit, develop and retain employees
  • The overall image of the profession needs strengthening; it is seen as less than public accounting and other financial professions.

It doesn’t take much thinking to see how the audit profession’s core strengths, especially independence and assertiveness, might create these issues. Every strength has corresponding blind spots. If you need to be objective and independent, buildinginterpersonal relationships, emotional expression and empathy can seem not only counterproductive but outright dangerous. Think how this might contribute to the first two problems the industry cites.

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A Mirror for Leadership Blind Spots

INFJ KiseA long time ago in a galaxy far, far away (or so it seems), I took on a volunteer leadership role in a rather large organization. Given the issues we were facing, and my own strengths, one of my key priorities was to stay friends with the leaders of all of our different constituencies.

This was not a wishy-washy “let’s be kind” sort of goal, but rather an acknowledgment that certain market trends and changes in how we were allowed to conduct business meant that partnerships, mutual support, and flow of information were vital to our future. I’m good at collaboration and building trust, but with those strengths–especially if I overuse them–comes an inherent blind spot. I tend to assume everyone is on the same team, working toward the same goals.

“You could say that being politically savvy is not one of my key strengths. Considering potential competing motivations of other players isn’t generally on my radar screen.”

SO…in that leadership role, I very intentionally sought out two politically savvy members of the board and told them, “Call me when I’m being too trusting. Tell me to my face when I forget to ask, ‘What’s in it for them?'” And they did. Very effectively. Thanks, Chuck and Ray–you know who you are!!

Fast forward to my being in a very informal leadership role. As always, I considered what the right priorities would be for the situation. Again, relationships were key, and I though I had the relationships in place that allowed for working toward mutual goals.

I forgot that I still had the same blind spots…”

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