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I’m a Leader… I Want to be Alone

I’m a Leader… I Want to be Alone
By James Grinnell

As a college professor, I make my living standing in front of people. I’m not going to lie, much of what I do as a professor is old hat. After delivering the same lectures three times a day, year after year, there’s rarely an instance in which what I say hasn’t been uttered a hundred times before. Yet even after more than a decade in my profession, I still get nervous before I step in front of the class. I still feel awkward as I lead a discussion. And at the end of the day, I still feel compelled to grab some alone time after being submerged in social relations all day. I am, like nearly a third of all Americans, a hardcore introvert.

Being an introvert in a decidedly public-facing profession got me thinking about other occupations where introverts might dwell effectively, albeit uncomfortably. Read the Complete Article

But I’m a Great Leader! Look at My Results!

But I’m a Great Leader! Look at My Results!
By James Grinnell

Ask any successful executive if they are a great leader and nine out of ten times the answer will come back as an emphatic yes. Yet, ask the same group of people whether they have ever worked under a great leader and you’re likely to hear an emphatic no from nine out of ten of these folks. Ask them what makes them a great leader and they’ll respond that they produce results. Ask them what was lacking in the people they worked under and they’ll say that their bosses drove them, they didn’t inspire them.

Pick any metric (e.g., year-over-year sales growth, productivity rates, etc.) to assess your leadership skill. I’ll tell you that assessing your leadership ability based only on such outcomes is incomplete and misleading at best. Leadership is not the by-product of outcomes, it is what creates the environment in which results emerge. Read the Complete Article

Setting Stretch Goals… and Avoiding SNAP Goals

Setting Stretch Goals… and Avoiding SNAP Goals
By James Grinnell

Take a quick gander at some popular leadership books and you’ll come across exhortations to set sky-high goals and then step back and watch your direct reports move heaven and earth to attain them. There has been ample research at both the individual and organizational levels demonstrating the positive correlation between goal difficulty and performance. Having said such, setting stretch goals is more complicated than ratcheting up expectations past the point of plausibility.

The underlying rationale of stretch goals is that people have an innate desire to be challenged and that they will redouble their efforts when they are presented with a seemingly unattainable target. Such goals jolt the status quo mindset and cause people to rethink how they get things done (i.e., they promote creative problem solving). Relatedly, stretch goals can generate passion and enthusiasm to the extent that that give individuals a glimpse into a desired future state. Read the Complete Article

Unleashing Intrinsic Motivation Through Servant Leadership

Unleashing Intrinsic Motivation Through Servant Leadership
By James Grinnell

The prevailing paradigm of workplace motivation is about to be shattered, at least according to Daniel Pink’s well-grounded book Drive. In this book Pink not only takes a shot across the bow of the mainstream approach to employee motivation, he lands a fatal blow to the midsection.

Pink’s central thesis is that the traditional “carrot and stick” approach worked well in the aseptic mass production environment but is a detriment in creativity-based work settings. The traditional motivation model focused on extrinsic motivations (i.e., using rewards/punishment) to gain employee compliance with organizational expectations. In contrast, the new model taps into intrinsic motivation (i.e., the rewards one experiences internally) to unleash the potential of employees in a mutually beneficial manner. Pink delineates seven unintended consequences of the carrot and stick approach (quoted directly):

  • They can extinguish intrinsic motivation.
  • They can diminish performance.
  • They can crush creativity.
Read the Complete Article

The Emerging Servant Leadership Paradigm

The Emerging Servant Leadership Paradigm
By James Grinnell

With the greatest leader above them,
people barely know one exists.
The great leader speaks little.
He never speaks carelessly.
He works without self-interest
and leaves no trace.
When all is finished, the people say,
“We did it ourselves.”
– Tao Te Ching

According to the ancient Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu’s quote above, the most revered leader works from a position of humility and service to others. They operate from the periphery, quietly creating an environment where those they lead take responsibility for their collective destiny. The great leader in effect doesn’t lead anyone! While quaint, Lao Tzu’s 2,500 year old sentiment is clearly ill-suited to the twenty first century workplace. Or is it?

In 1970 Robert Greenleaf flipped the prevailing command-and-control leadership model on its head when he espoused his servant leadership framework. Greenleaf’s premise was simply this– leaders lead best when they adopt a servant mindset. Read the Complete Article

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