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Natural Laws of Leadership: Motion

Recently I was coaching a senior leader on the topic of operational improvements underway in the organization. There was general frustration that changes and new procedures weren’t being widely adopted by the staff in the department. He asked why people weren’t doing what they were being asked to do. I asked, “What he was doing to motivate a change in their behaviors to ensure people were doing things differently?” He said that he thought that the right solution should be enough to get people to want to adopt it.

While that idealistic thought might work in the fantasy of a Disney movie , it isn’t realistic in real-world leadership.

One reality of leadership is this:

Unless inspired or motivated to do so, people don’t generally possess the desire to do things any differently tomorrow than they did today.

In other words, just because you say something, or present a good idea, or a more efficient way of doing things, it doesn’t mean that people will jump to do it. It requires more than that from the leader. It requires the right amount of force in the right direction.

 

As a leader, your job is to know what direction you want to take your team/organization (have a vision) and to know those whom you are leading well enough to understand the proper amount and type of force to apply in the right place to change the direction (tension) I wrote about this topic in an earlier article.

 

This reminds me of the scientific truth of Newton’s 3 Laws of Motion . There is absolutely a Leadership correlation to those laws. I recently read an article by Vivek Mehrotra where he does a good job of identifying some basic correlations between Newton’s first two laws and leadership. I’ll elaborate on those thoughts here and add perspective to Newton’s Third law as it applies to leadership.

Without a doubt the leadership correlation to each of Newton’s laws are as true as the Laws of Motion themselves.

Newton’s First Law of Motion: Every object in a state of uniform motion tends to remain in that state of motion unless an external force is applied to it.

 

First Law of Leadership: An organization in its current state (status quo) is in an organizational “state of motion.” Things won’t change unless you apply force to cause them to change. Without that leadership force, it will continue to operate along its current path.

 

Newton’s Second Law of Motion: The relationship between an object’s mass (m), its acceleration (a), and the applied force (F) is Force = mass x acceleration.

 

Second Law of Leadership: The force needed to bring change to an organization depends on the size of the organization and the size of the change. If you want to make big changes fast, then you need to apply lots of force. If you don’t mind changes taking lots of time, then smaller but consistently applied force over time will work. The converse of this law is also true. If you expect big changes to come from the part time efforts of a few people, then get used to disappointment.

 

Newton’s Third Law of Motion: For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.

 

Third Law of Leadership: Even when you provide the right direction and motivation, there will be a force that acts to negate the action you are undertaking. So, don’t be surprised when there seems to be resistance to changes you are trying to implement. Particularly in light of the First Law of Leadership, it means that you must continue to exert the right amount of force to continue to make things move until your goals are achieved.

 

Understand for yourself:

What kind of force is required to get your organization to achieve the results you have in your vision?
Are you aware of the reactions to your actions? Do you understand how your actions are driving the reactions of your people?

Always remember the natural laws of leadership.

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Posted by on in Ego

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A Challenging Leadership Scenario

Below is a profile on leadership that tells of two different types of leaders. Both leaders have definite flaws in their leadership profiles, but I think that one of them can been seen as a more effective leader.

Can you relate to this scenario? Have you experienced something like this before in your organization?

(This situation is real but the names have been changed.)

The Micro-Meddler

Ben is the most senior ranking official at an organization of over 200 people. His preferred method of operating is to keep a fairly non-formal approach with all of the staff. He doesn’t like it when too many rules and procedures are implemented because it gets too “corporate.” When people bring something to his attention, he jumps into the details and quickly works with people until he feels that a resolution has been found. He isn’t a micro-manager, per se. After seeing him in action, I’ve actually coined the term “micro-meddler” to describe him more accurately.

You see, Ben seems to always get in the middle of things in an attempt to help, but he ends up messing things up. And as one might imagine, he then expects others to clean-up the mess that he creates.

The staff has all learned how to take advantage of this approach.

When they want something, they simply become the proverbial “squeaky wheel” until he takes action to come save the day. Although he thinks that he is helping, he is actually undermining a functional system with his various approaches to leadership. To make things worse, Ben tends to avoid confrontation, preferring instead to reward those whom he likes with surprise bonuses and giving little or no feedback to others. The lack of structure in his personal preferences seems to foster a hapless approach to his rigor-less leadership.

The Egregious Ego

Ben has more troubles. One of them is his direct reports, Chris. Chris has been in position for many years in a role that coordinates many of the projects and work efforts across the organization. Because Chris has been around a long time, he has become the subject-matter-expert in many areas. For many things, it seems that if you want something done you’re going to have to talk to Chris. Chris knows it and apparently he likes the power.

I’ve dubbed him the “egregious ego.”

Chris is not easy to work with. Different people throughout the organization have complained that Chris is rude, abrasive, argumentative, and quick to spread rumors. Over the years, the situation seems to have become more pronounced. But people have learned that when they want something from Chris they need to adjust their approach, just catch him on a “good day”, or find others in the organization with whom to collaborate so they can attain the same results without having to work with Chris.

So who is the most effective leader of the two?

Can you relate to either of the people identified in this scenario? Have you worked with anyone who behaved like either of them? It is clear that both people have some challenges as leaders. So, here is the question for you: Who is the more effective leader for this organization?

 

According to John C. Maxwell, the true measure of leadership is influence: the ability to influence the behavior of others. With that in mind, I would submit that Chris, the “egregious ego” is the more effective leader. While Chris’ behavior is arguably more dysfunctional to the organization, the end result is still greater influence on others.

 

There are many factors at play in any leadership situation and each factor impacts another. These are some key leadership elements at play here:

  • Positional power vs. Task Power (Ken Blanchard)
  • Abdicating authority
  • Effective leaders vs. “good” leaders
  • Obtaining results vs. “just doing things”
  • Violating the natural laws of leadership

Stay Tuned

Please let me know your thoughts on this situation, particularly as it relates to the elements listed above. What similar experiences have you had and how did you deal with them? In a future post, I’ll highlight the input received.

In addition, I’ll introduce what I call the “Natural Laws of Leadership.” Specifically as it relates to this scenario, I’ll introduce the first Natural Law of Leadership: Empowerment Through Inaction.

I look forward to hearing your thoughts!

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This post, as well as others from Dave, can also be found at http://linked2leadership.com/author/dhasenbalg/

Dave Hasenbalg is President of Customized Solutions, LLC and does coaching and public speaking on Leadership, Team Effectiveness and Operational Excellence.
He can be reached at dhasenbalg@customized-solutions.com

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