Fundamental State of Leadership

Fundamental State of Leadership - I < ^ ^ O THE...

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THE HIGH-PERFORMANCE ORGANIZATION « Leaders are at the top of their game when they act from their deepest values and instincts. Usually they tap into these fundamental qualities during a crisis, but it's possible to do soanytime-in the right frame of mind. MOMEN F GREATNESS ENTERING THE FUNDAMENTAL STATE OF LEADERSHIP by Robert E. Quinn s leaders, sometimes we're truly "on," and sometimes we're not. Why is that? What separates the episodes of ex- cellence from those of mere competence? In striving to tip the balance toward excellence, we try to identify great leaders' quaiities and behaviors so we can develop them ourselves. Nearly ait corporate training programs and books on leadership are grounded in the assumption that we should study the behaviors of those who have been successful and teach people to emulate them. lULY-AUGUST 2005 75
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» THE HIGH-PERFORMANCE ORGANIZATION But my colleagues and I have found that when leaders do their best work, they don't copy anyone. Instead, they draw on their own fundamental values and capabili- ties-operating in a frame of mind that is true to them yet, paradoxically, not their normal state of being. I call it the fundamental state of leadership. It's the way we lead when we encounter a crisis and finally choose to move forward. Think back to a time when you faced a significant life chal- lenge: a promotion opportunity, the risk of professional failure, a serious illness, a divorce, the death of a loved one, or any other major jolt. Most likely, if you made de- cisions not to meet others' expectations but to suit what you instinctively understood to be right-in other words, if you were at your very best-you rose to the task because you were being tested. Is it possible to enter the fundamental state of leader- ship without crisis? In my work coaching business execu- tives, I've found that if we ask ourselves-and honestly answer-just four questions, we can make the shift at any time. It's a temporary state. Fatigue and external resistance pull us out of it. But each time we reach it, we return to our everyday selves a bit more capable, and we usually elevate the performance of the people around us as well. Over time, we all can become more effective leaders by deliberately choosing to enter the fundamental state of leadership rather than waiting for crisis to force us there. Defining the Fundamental State Even those who are widely admired for their seemingly easy and natural leadership skills-presidents, prime min- isters, CEOs-do not usually function in the fundamen- tal state of leadership. Most of the time, they are in their normal state - a healthy and even necessary condition under many circumstances, but not one that's conducive to coping with crisis. In the normal state, people tend to stay within their comfort zones and allow external forces to direct their behaviors and decisions. They lose moral influence and often rely on rational argument and the ex- ercise of authority to bring about change. Others comply
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Fundamental State of Leadership - I < ^ ^ O THE...

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