Byron's Babbles

Leaders Crashing & Flying Higher

IMG_9434So what traits do great leaders have? That’s such a loaded question – different great leaders demonstrate different traits. If you ask a group of teacher leaders to select the top traits they think are important in a leader, you’ll find as many answers as you have teacher leaders. No one has ever been able to come up with a definitive list of leadership traits that everyone – or even a majority of people contemplating leadership – agrees on. This doesn’t stop me from trying however. During our August 3D Leadership gatherings I always do a discussion/activity called “Good Leader/Bad Leader: Crashing & Flying Higher.” This involves an activity where participants fly paper airplanes to each other with good leadership traits on the left wing and bad leadership traits on the right wing. They then keep adding to the lists as we fly the planes. This is really fun virtually on Zoom. Yes, you can fly paper airplanes virtually! Ultimately, their task is to develop a top five good leadership trait list and a top five bad leadership trait list,

Screen Shot 2020-09-01 at 9.29.10 AMThe exercise enables a great discussion and thought provoking debate. What we find is that each person’s list of good and bad traits is heavily dependent on her or his experience with different leaders. I get to do this activity 9 or 10 groups per year and every group’s lists are always at least a little different, but many times are very different. Things like who is leading the school, turnover of leaders, style of leadership of leaders, culture of the school, et cetera. This activity somewhat reinforces the idea that the trait theory of leadership is not the end all be all. “The trait theory of leadership focuses on identifying different personality traits and characteristics that are linked to successful leadership across a variety of situations. This line of research emerged as one of the earliest types of investigations into the nature of effective leadership and is tied to the “great man” theory of leadership first proposed by Thomas Carlyle in the mid-1800s. The idea with trait theory is that if you can identify the personality traits or characteristics a great leader has, you can look for those same traits in other leaders, or even develop those traits in people who want to be leaders.

Screen Shot 2020-09-01 at 9.29.48 AMThe differences that I see when doing the “Good Leader/Bad Leader: Crashing & Flying Higher” activity suggest that this may due to situational variables in which different leadership skills emerge when opportunities for leadership arise. These situations might include turnaround work, poor leaders in place, war, a political crisis, or in the absence of leadership. As a believer that everyone in an organization is leader, I believe that there must be adaptive leadership for many situations.

Screen Shot 2020-09-01 at 7.20.28 PMI just finished reading Robert Gates’ great new book, Exercise of Power: American Failures, Successes, and a New Path Forward in the Post-Cold War World. Having served for eight Presidents of the United States, he certainly saw different leadership styles and traits. He explained that most want to put Presidents into ascribing to idealism, realism, or transactional. As he stated, great leaders must be all three. He gives examples of Presidents being all three. In other words, to be effective, leaders must be able to adapt. When I reflect on the top five “good leader” traits that our 3D Leadership group from Tennessee came up with this past Saturday, I believe they are traits that would serve all leaders well. Here is there top five list:

  1. Listening to understand
  2. Authentic
  3. Being consistent
  4. Straight forward
  5. Relationship builder

Here of the top five “bad leader” traits causing leaders to crash, from our Tennessee teacher leaders if you are interested:

  1. Insecure
  2. Belittling
  3. Negative
  4. Leads by intimidation
  5. Doesn’t walk the talk

 

Day 💯 – Getting To Know People In A Different Way

Well, here we are; day 💯 of the Covid-19 Global Pandemic. During this time of discovering a new normal, I feel more connected than ever before. I have met the children, spouses, pets, and even a grandmother of people I never would have thought possible. I’ve even introduced some of our Jersey dairy cows to others while connecting virtually. Additionally, I’ve witnessed parents attending school events virtually, while at work, that never would have been able to attend before. My point? There are things that we need to consider becoming normal. I’m not saying replace necessarily, but supplement.

Having said that, I now begin to think about what else do we need to be thinking about? How do we leverage technology? How do we stay human? How do we get the right tools in the hands of everyone? How do we decide what the right tools are?

It’s interesting to me that before the WHO (I thought that was a rock band) named this a Global Pandemic we were talking about sustainability and the environment, health care, education, and many other things. While in the education realm we have been focused on connectivity and providing meaningful virtual education, and in healthcare our actions have been around caring for Coronavirus patients and stopping the spread of the disease, we will get back to talking about the major issues in the way we were before the pandemic took over. For example, we will, no doubt, be rethinking health care and how it is delivered. In education, I continue to argue that our conversation needs to shift to the idea that school is no longer a place.

Even though I served as moderator for an awesome global event last month that was virtual with 47 countries represented, I also wonder if our assumptions about globalization have been challenged. We had been talking about distance no longer being a factor, but in some ways I’ve seen us become more isolationist and seeing us care more about the locality we operate in and what we can touch and feel. But, we’ve also seen that we can hire the best talent from anywhere and bring them onto teams. The only remaining question related to that is how to do remote working well.

I don’t think I am alone with all of this thinking and pondering. We are now entering a time of needing to decide which practices still make sense and which need to change. We need to come together as families, businesses, schools, communities, cities, states, and nations to answer the question, “What can we create together?”

“Life Isn’t Fair, But You Can Be”

We need to develop dexterity when dealing with others and leading. One uniform way of doing things will not work in all contexts. We all have micro-behaviors we can use to be agile according to situation at hand. We have seen this first hand from many leaders during the COVID-19 Pandemic. During this time we have become, in some ways, more atomized and insular.

The is a great line by Frank Reagan, played by Tom Selleck, to his granddaughter, Nicky Reagan-Boyle (played by Sami Gayle), in the television series Blue Bloods where he says, “Life isn’t fair, but you can be.” It’s true, life is not fair. Life happens in the context of others. Our actions affect others and their actions affect us. However, the actions of others are not some cosmic judgement on your being. They’re just a byproduct of being alive.

As I stated earlier, there just isn’t a uniform style of leading or dealing with others that works for everyone, every situation, or every relationship all the time. When dealing with people, we must remember that most are just trying to do their best, under different circumstances than your own.

Therefore, we, ourselves, can be fair. But, the idea of life being fair isn’t obtainable. Nor would we want it to be. Life would be insane if it actually was fair to everyone. There would be no choosing of anything. There would be no failure to understand success. It’s actually mind-boggling to think about. Many times we get too hung up on our view of how the world should work that we can’t understand how it actually does work. Embrace that life is not fair, but that you absolutely can be.

Easter Isn’t Canceled

Baseball was not canceled during the Pandemic of 1918-1920

Today, I chronicle thoughts, here in my blog, on a new page in the book that is the story of my life. I have been doing some personal growth studying, with the help of the Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library and Museum, on the pandemic of 1918-1920. My motivation this morning is that I am always moved by the personal stories written by people experiencing an event first hand. The most interesting and compelling speak of what was happening, the mood of the country and those around them, and what he or she was feeling at the time. I’m going to attempt a little of that this morning. I also believe if we are not using this as an opportunity for our children and students to write an account of something that will be undoubtedly written about in textbooks, or whatever our kids’ grandchildren will be using, we have missed a chance to process and save the realness of our experiences real-time.

Queen Elizabeth II shared a video message yesterday that was quite moving. Click here to watch it. The genius of her message was how different parts of the message have and will inspire different people in different ways. For me it was when she said, “But Easter isn’t canceled; indeed, we need Easter as much as ever.” No doubt things will be different today for most of us. But, Easter isn’t canceled, and different doesn’t have to mean bad.

One of my fondest memories growing up was of our Easter morning Easter egg hunt. We’d get up and go find the eggs hidden all over our very large yard that included barn lots. Interestingly, the one thing that I remember most vividly is the blue egg, and it was always a blue egg, put on top of an electric box on the back side of the house. I need to point out that these were real boiled eggs, usually a few duck eggs mixed in because we raised ducks, and my mom and sister colored them – I wasn’t much into coloring Easter eggs (that involved being inside and standing still – some things don’t change with age). My dad was so proud of that hiding spot on the electric box (not sure why). That became a special spot, however, because the first Easter we lived in that house my dad, after I spotted and claimed the egg, had to lift me up to get the egg. The next year I could reach it and every year after that that egg was mine, and my dad would always laugh and say, “You need me to help you get that one?” I’d say, “No!” We’d make eye contact and now having a son of my own I think I know what was going through his mind.

Easter isn’t canceled because of the COVID-19 Pandemic and my son will have an Easter basket (yes even at age 19) this morning. We will go to church via Zoom and then have the traditional Easter brunch of “One Eyed Connelly’s (that is the family name for a piece of toasted bread with a hole cut in the center and an egg cooked in that hole), sausage links, and cinnamon rolls. I’m sure there will be Easter egg hunts with the nieces and nephews to be joined virtually on some electronic platform or another. And, how cool is it we have those platforms? We are connecting more, socially, than ever before. Physical distancing (as I am calling it because I hate the term social distancing) is not keeping us from socializing.

I went to my first virtual Happy Hour last week – very fun. Also, I popped into a teacher’s lunch bunch. She has all her students get their lunch and they all log into Zoom and eat together. Students get social time with their fellow students and teacher. Everyone turned their mic on and it sounded just like a traditional school lunchroom. I hope we use our pandemic experiences to get education in our country to a place where we could say, “School isn’t canceled.” I realize that is a tall order, but we need to contemplate what that would mean. We need to think about the fact school is no longer a place. We need to think about the why behind professional working parents being so frustrated with being adjunct teachers now. Continuing to educate, which I believe we need to be doing, cannot be about providing busy work and crappy worksheets. It needs to be about great content, accessible by all, and delivered in a way the student can easily access. Now becomes the time to decide what education will look like during the next pandemic, other crises, or just moving us into the next decade.

Today, however, Easter isn’t canceled. During the pandemic we are distanced, clouded by the threat of disease, but stubbornly persistent. Realizing this is usually a pastel colored and celebratory day, this might just be a season of clarity about what it means to be a person of faith.

How Do You Play Leader?

IMG_7855

This past weekend at our Indiana 3D Leadership Gathering, we did a toy activity that involved Lite Brites®. Participants made a picture that represented how the Lite Brite® could be used for great leadership. The activity was called “How Do You Play Leader?” The groups did a great job with their pictures. While they were sharing out I wrote down a few notes. Check out what I wrote down here:IMG_7860

I was particularly struck by the statement that “Great leaders really don’t have to try!” I asked the person to dig a little deeper into that comment. She said that a leader who is authentic and is himself or herself instead of trying to be someone else or copy someone else is much more effective. Great leaders find a system that works for her or him, rather than trying to force oneself into a prescribed notion of a what a leader has to be. If we know ourselves well enough, we can take steps to go about leading effectively. Situations change what we need to do, but should never change who we are. We need to make sure we’re treating all team members as we would want to be treated. We need to be genuinely interested in learning something new every day from our team, and they will follow you. It’s all about relationship building. I blogged about this in Let’s Have Lunch Together!

There was also a deep discussion about how teams are most times brought together by a certain amount of randomness and disorganized connections. Great leadership connects the randomness. Leaders should be the key connectors of team members. Support them them to understand their value in the organization. Leaders need to respect all team members. Respect comes in different forms: respecting time, respecting opinions, respecting diversity, respecting the culture, and more. When we trust and respect our team members and connect with them, they will respond with dedication and enthusiasm. Because of this, our connected team members will see clarity, levels of engagement across the organization, a positive culture and community, and most of all, improvement in communication. Remember, trust builds through connections with people and forms the bedrock of a team. Teams are built on human cooperation. Without relationships, we’ve got no team.