…according to Casey Stengel

When you return from your summer vacation, you may find this Surival Guide for Leaders a worthwhile tool to put into daily practice. It’s exciting, even glamorous, to lead others through good times and bad. But leadership also has its dark side: the inevitable attempts to take you out of the game when you’re steering your organization through difficult change Leading change requires asking people to confront painful issues and give up habits
and beliefs they hold dear. Result?

“The key to being a good manager is keeping the people who hate me away from those who are still undecided.” 

Don’t be surprised – there are some people trying to eliminate change’s visible agent – YOU. Whether they attack you personally, undermine your authority, or seduce you into seeing things their way, their goal is the same: to derail you, easing their pain and restoring a familiar order.

How do you resist attempts to remove you and continue to propel change forward?

What can you do to manage ‘this’ environment?

Do you truly see your organization, its people, and your own vulnerabilities here?

NAVIGATING YOUR ENVIRONMENT. How to minimize the threats to eliminate you:

Operate In and Above the Fray. Observe what’s happening to the initiative as it’s happening. It’s similar to the Argentine Tango where you frequently move back and forth across the dance floor attuned to each subtle movement and intricate position, ask yourself, “What’s really going on here?” “Who’s defending old habits?”

Court the Uncommitted. Famed philosopher and manager of the World Champion New York Yankees and later the dismal New York Mets in the 50’s, Casey Stengel, was famous for saying keep the uncommitted away from those who dislike you – the uncommitted wary are crucial to your success. Show your intentions are serious, for example, by dismissing individuals who can’t make required changes.

“The secret of successful managing is to keep the five guys who hate you away from the four guys who haven’t made up their minds.”

Practice What You Preach. Finding good players is easy. Getting them to play as a team is another story. It’s up to you to lead them to where you know they need to go to be successful in their own right. When they experience you have their backs, they’ll eventually have your back.  There’s no better example of right and wrong than how you demonstrate your leadership.

“Most ball games are lost, not won.”

Cook the Conflict. Keep the heat high enough to motivate, but low enough to prevent explosions. Raise the temperature to make people confront hidden conflicts and other tough issues. Then lower the heat to reduce destructive turmoil. Slow the pace of change. Deliver humor, breaks, and images of a brighter future. Place the work where it belongs.

It May Not Be Your Battle. Resist resolving conflicts yourself. People will blame you for whatever turmoil results. Conflicts can be a good thing. As an Elegant Leader with Voltage, only you know the difference and how your influence will impact one person at a time. It all starts and ends with you.

Mobilize Others to Solve Problems. Example: When a star Chicago Bulls basketball player sat out a play, miffed because he wasn’t tapped to take the game’s final shot, the coach let the team handle the insubordination. An emotional conversation led by a team veteran reunited the players, who took the NBA series to a seventh game.

MANAGING YOURSELF. To avoid self-destructing during a difficult change, restrain your desire for control and need for importance.

“Without losers, where would the winners be.”

Wipe Your Feet at the Door. Check your own ego carefully. It ain’t about you and never was – get over yourself! Order for its own sake prevents organizations from handling contentious issues. And an inflated self-image fosters an unhealthy dependence on you. I can come up with several examples here, but here’s one with the now-defunct Digital Equipment Corporation. Ken Olson, head of this once-mighty organization, encouraged such dependence that colleagues rarely challenged him. When he shunned the PC market, top managers went along—initiating DEC’s downfall. Successful leadership is the rhythm between ego, results, and relationships. One dimension cannot dominate the other without negative results on the other two dimensions.

Anchor Yourself. I’ve often said, ‘it’s never if, but when’ it’s going to happen and shit will happen – count on it. The single biggest impact you can have as a leader is to establish and maintain a safe place for your people where trust and cooperation pervade. The dynamic that occurs in this environment is safety encourages exploration, innovation – knowing that failure is a part of the process. Encourage routines to repair and psychological damage and recalibrate your moral compass.

“Finding good players is easy. Getting them to play as a team is another story.”

Acquire a Confidant. Let me reiterate this next point – not an ally from your organization. I’ve seen too many leaders who insulate themselves from their people and organization by creating and nurturing solely the relationships with an ‘inner circle.’ Yes, you need someone(s) who support you and not necessarily your initiative. Be discerning enough to choose them from outside your own organization and frankly someone who has the stones enough to ‘call you out’ when you’re being an ass.

Attacks are Emotional Reactions. When you leave your ego at the door and embrace the wisdom to understand these attacks are emotional reactions to your professional role, not to you personally you’ll gain traction in moving your organization forward. The people in your organization are watching your every move to see if they can find a ‘crack in your armor,’ to say, “Aha, told you he/she was…” By remaining calm, keeping people engaged and demonstrating your leadership free of your own emotions, trust, cooperation, empathy, and perspective will grow exponentially.

As Founder and Managing Partner at Brookestone Associates, I developed the Elegant Leader with Voltage system to give you meat-on-the-bone solutions to better job performance, to know the secrets of communicating more effectively and engaging your team to reach beyond their potential and how to have a healthier work-life rhythm. Do you want to know more? Click here for my exclusive guide to Leading Elegantly with Voltage. There’s a system for you to plug into, elevate your leadership and the results of those around you with stronger relationships.

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