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Leading in a new environment

April 23, 2013

Begin with the end in mind

I recently was given the opportunity to work in an other health board area in a senior leadership role.  It was easy to understand this role as a leadership one as the post directly managed only a handful of staff, and yet it’s impact should be felt on the greatest number of staff working in the Board.  Leadership 1What was less easy was to understand what impact I could have in only three months (the length of my secondment); for me the important aspect of this dovetails with my last blog and my re acquaintance with Covey – Begin with the end in mind.

What was the end I had in mind, what did the Chief Executive have in mind and what would the individuals within the teams I would be working with have in mind.

Week one was hectic, there were people keen to meet me (which was nice), meetings that had to be attended, papers that had to be read.  The Chief Executive drafted my objectives for the three months secondment (based on our conversations), and I was all set.  However, my role as a leader demands more than what can be captured in a set of objectives.

If you don’t know where you are ..

In some ways the opportunity I’ve been given is to support others as they travel towards their destination – that’s a privilege and a responsibility.  That said however, this involves individuals and teams knowing where they want to be, the destination, the shared vision.  It involves ‘starting with the end in mind’ – what is the passion of the individual clinicians (as its mainly with clinicians I’ll be working), what do they truly want to deliver every day they come to work?   Are each one of us focussed on the individual in front of us, the next person who will walk through the door.  VisionFor each of us, it’s important to have a vision, to understand our personal/professional values, to understand our impact.

While I am a great believer in having a vision, an understanding of where you want to be, it is also important to know where you are.  If you don’t know where you are, how do you know which way to go?  Think of it as a road map.  You might know the destination but without a starting point you are unable to determine the direction you need to head, where should that first step fall.  Once we have accept where we are, good and bad, we can determine the steps needed to achieve our goal.

Pushing down or pulling up

Booker Washington said “There are two ways of exerting one’s strength: one is pushing down, the other is pulling up”.  Leadership isn’t about pushing others down, it’s about pulling them up.

I recently read a blog by Todd Neilson about Leaders in ‘beta’ being a mixture of ambition with humility (beta refers to the IT term of things being in testing stage).  He noted that it was ok for leaders not to know everything, this reminded me of Hawkins and Smith four stages of leadership  – experimentation, the leader needs to understanding that it is ok not to know everything.  Stage two starts with accepting that as a leader you are always in beta mode, always learning always testing.  Leadership 2As you put that testing, learning and self reflection into action the next stage is evidenced by experience accumulation, you start to gain confidence in putting into actions the things you have learnt.  Full leadership is more difficult to achieve, but people who have moved into this phase are obvious by their actions, they focus less on what they can get out of a situation and more on what they can put in, the outputs are more important than their person accolades.  Their motivation is ‘what is the difference I want to make’, Covey described this as one of his four basic needs- To Live, To Love, To Learn, to Leave a Legacy: not the legacy of  self serving obsession of fame, but rather the difference that the leader supports others to achieve, even when they are no longer there. Hawkins and Smith describe Eldership as the final stage in the development of a leader, many do not get there.  The feature of this leadership stage is a detachment from the difference the leader can make and a focus on what has to be done, creating an environment for others to achieve.  In this respect it follows a similar theme to Greenleaf’s concept of Servant Leadership. The perspective of:

  • – caring for others
  • – being mentor minded
  • – having the passion to develop others
  • – being the compassionate collaborator

There have been few times in my personal leadership journey when I can reflect with any certainty where I am in relation to the stages described.  Leadership 3However I am confident that my role, over the next three months, is not about me, it’s about creating the environment for others, it absolutely isn’t about pushing others down, it’s about pulling them up.

This role I’m in is about Eldership, it about supporting others to ‘be all they can be’, to help set their path for the future.

It’s about finding leaders, but it’s also about finding followers – concepts that are not mutually exclusive, although the wisdom to know when, to be which at what point, can in many circumstances be elusive.

Whatever else, I’m looking forward to working with many new colleagues.


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