The Problem With Extremes

You probably know who Jocko Willink is.

If you don’t, you might be living under a rock.

He’s a highly decorated retired Navy SEAL who commanded SEAL Team 3’s Task Unit Bruiser in Iraq. He’s also a leadership author, consultant, speaker, and podcaster.

He’s famous for posting pictures of his watch at 4:30 in the morning from the gym.

What you probably don’t know if how much Jocko and I have in common.

We were both Naval Officers.
We both have written best-selling leadership books.
We both have podcasts.
We both get up ridiculously early in the morning to workout.

But that’s where the similarities end. Jocko is truly a phenomenon. He’s a force of nature.

His leadership books dominate the best-sellers list.

He does an amazing job breaking down the leadership lessons he learned in the military and how they can be applied to every organization.

His 2018 leadership book, The Dichotomy of Leadership, really got me thinking about leadership balance.

Before this book came out, I had written several articles on micromanagement and the problems associated with it. I had also written about the problem of absent leaders – leaders that just weren’t involved.

Jocko’s book made me realize that both micromanagement and absent-management were extremes of the same leadership characteristic – management involvement.

Both micromanagement and absent-management are extremes of the same leadership characteristic – management involvement. Click To Tweet

In my career, I have worked for both micromanagers and absent managers.

Each of these managers took their level of involvement to an extreme (too much and too little) and, in each situation, it led to my frustration.

And, therein lies the challenge of leadership, finding the right balance.

The quest for balance doesn’t just relate to leadership involvement either, it permeates every aspect of managing people.

Think about these other leadership dimensions:

Emotion – If a leader is too emotional, there is unnecessary drama in the office. If a leader is emotionless, the organization feels cold and callous.

Risk tolerance – If a leader is too aggressive, the organization might cut corners and have a major failure. If a leader is over-cautious, the company may miss out on important opportunities by moving too slow.

Personality – If a leader is too nice, poor performers are rarely disciplined. If the leader is too mean, a toxic environment can exist that affects overall morale.

In almost every leadership dimension, acting in an extreme manner is a problem.

In almost every leadership dimension, acting in an extreme manner is a problem. Click To Tweet

Jocko explains that “Just as discipline and freedom are opposing forces that must be balanced, leadership requires finding the equilibrium…between one extreme and another.”

Finding the right balance is just one of the many challenges of leadership.

You need to be aware of extreme behaviors that can lead to organizational problems. Don’t be that leader who micromanages his team, but don’t be a disengaged leader either.

Both extremes will frustrate your team.

Ask yourself – are you acting in an extreme manner in one or more leadership dimensions?

Find balance and you’ll be a more effective leader.

Find balance and you’ll be a more effective leader. Click To Tweet

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By the way, If you want to get more out of your daily commute, listen to my podcastDeep Leadership.  It’s available on all podcast apps.

And my best-selling leadership book, I Have the Watch, is also available on Audible for your commuting pleasure.

Are you a good leader? Ask yourself these 3 questions

Everyone’s path to leadership is different.

My leadership journey started in the military. I entered “management” at just 23 years old when I became the officer in charge of the Reactor Controls division on a nuclear submarine near the end of the Cold War.

I had trained for years for it.

I was ready for it.

I loved it.

I had a passion for the military, the Navy, and the mission of the submarine force. I wanted to lead sailors well and I felt a calling to serve.

Not surprisingly, I was surrounded by other leaders who felt the same way I did.

When I entered Corporate America, however, I found people who went into leadership for vastly different reasons. There were some good leaders, but…there were a lot of people who took management roles simply because of the perks.

They became managers to get recognition, more money, a fancy title, a better office, a bigger bonus check, or to further advance their careers.

They wanted the leadership job for personal gain.

And that’s a problem.

It’s one of the reasons why good leaders are hard to find in Corporate America and why employee engagement is so low.

Too many managers are just in it for themselves.

I like this quote from Lisa Haisha, “Great leaders don’t set out to be a leader… they set out to make a difference.”

“Great leaders don't set out to be a leader... they set out to make a difference.” Lisa Haisha Click To Tweet

In Corporate America today, finding leaders like this is rare.

Susan Cain, author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking addresses this issue in an article she wrote in 2017 for the NY Times.

She points out what’s wrong with leadership in Corporate America today.

She explains we have “glorified” leadership so much so that people are taking on leadership roles for the wrong reasons. Today, leadership, “attracts those who are motivated by the spotlight rather than by the ideas and people they serve.”

She hits the nail on the head!

There is a shortage of good leaders because many people are choosing to lead for the wrong reasons.

There is a shortage of good leaders because many people are choosing to lead for the wrong reasons. Click To Tweet

If you want to be a good leader, ask yourself these 3 questions:

1. Do you have a passion for leadership?

Just like selecting any career, ask yourself if you have the passion to lead. To be a leader means you have the full responsibility of an organization and all the people associated with it. It means you will be accountable for everything that happens on your watch. It is a difficult and sometimes lonely job that demands a 24/7 commitment.

2. Do you care deeply about the idea or organization?

As the leader, all eyes will be on you. Your attitude toward the mission will reverberate throughout the organization. As a conductor, your team will be taking cues from you. If you care deeply about the organization’s mission, they will as well.

3. Do you love people?

Leadership is a people business. Your entire job is to motivate people towards accomplishing a goal. People are messy. They have issues, problems, emotions, relationships, and baggage. But your job is to see past the flaws, love your people, and motivate them to do great things.

News flash! You can’t be a great leader if you don’t love people.

You can’t be a great leader if you don’t love people. Click To Tweet

If you choose to lead, do it for the right reasons. And be a great leader.

Honestly, we need better, not more, leaders.

Deep Leadership Podcast

 

By the way, If you want to get more out of your daily commute, listen to my podcastDeep Leadership.  It’s available on all podcast apps.

If you like it, please subscribe and share it with a friend.

A strange word with an important meaning for leaders

If you’ve followed me for a while, you know I’m a “plant rat.” I love manufacturing and everything about it.

It’s real.

You can touch it and see it.

You can see raw material being transformed by employees into a final product.

Maybe that’s why I have spent more than 25 years leading manufacturing businesses.

Some of what it takes to run a manufacturing business isn’t 100% applicable to other businesses, but, there is one term from the world of Lean Manufacturing that is applicable to all businesses.

It comes from the Japanese and the word is Gemba.

Gemba is Japanese for “the real place.”

What does that mean?

It’s the place where value is added.

  • In manufacturing, it’s the shop floor
  • In a school, it’s the classroom
  • At a bank, it’s the teller windows
  • At a call center, it’s the call center floor

If you can’t figure out where that is in your business, in most cases, it’s where most of your employees are.

And, it’s likely not where management is. In fact, that’s the problem.

Too many leaders are sequestered in their offices or in meetings far from where the value is added, far away from where their people are.

Too many leaders are sequestered in their offices or in meetings far from where the value is added, far away from where their people are. Click To Tweet

Most leaders make decisions based on what they assume is happening in “the real place.”

Taiichi Ohno, an industrial engineer and the Father of the Toyota Production System, understood this. He knew leaders needed to understand what was happening in Gemba to make the right decisions.

And, I love this story!

To get his team to understand what was happening in Gemba, he would draw a circle on the manufacturing shop floor and tell young managers to stand there as long as 8 hours with a notebook.

Then he would ask them what they learned.

In every case, these engineers discovered problems that needed to be addressed. Real problems based on real observations!

Contrast this with the many managers who rarely venture out to where the magic happens.

We had an expression in the Navy which I love, “Expect what you inspect.”

Expect what you inspect. Click To Tweet

How can you know what’s happening if you haven’t seen it yourself? In other words, you need to get out of your office to see what’s really going on. I often say that “leadership is a people business” and you can’t understand the problems your people face if you’re locked up in your office.

So, get out there!

Go to Gemba and learn what is really going on in your organization. Your employees will appreciate it and you will gain a new perspective.

Deep Leadership Podcast

By the way, If you want to know more about Gemba and how it applies to your business, listen to the latest episode of my new podcastDeep Leadership.

If you like it, please subscribe and share it with a friend.