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04.29.14

Six Critical Leadership Moments

Step Up
Step Up by Henry Evans and Colm Foster is about learning to recognize six critical leadership moments where we need to lead. These moments were areas that clients found difficult to deal with. Leadership is not someone else’s job. Anyone can recognize moments where leadership is required, know what to do and step up.

The six critical moments are:

Using anger intelligently in the workplace. The key is learning to respond rather than react. Anger is not an either/or emotion. There are levels of anger. “The problem for most people is not that they get angry; it’s that they become less intelligent when they do. Our beef is with stupidity, not anger.” If you understand your own anger you can recognize the opportunity to lead when you see anger in other people and become a catalyst for positive action. “Knowing that there is an optimal mood for every task that a group might undertake provides you with leadership opportunities. You can step up to help create the mood.”

Recognizing and dealing with “terminal politeness.” You and others may be avoiding important conversations that you should be having. They key is learning to skillfully distinguish between conflict with a person and conflict with his or her idea.

Making decisions when no one else making them. Rarely do you have perfect information, but you must be able to confidently decide on a course of action.

Taking ownership when others are externalizing a problem. What are you contributing to an ongoing problem? “Moments of leadership present themselves when the people around you are stuck in old ways of thinking and behaving.” Leadership moments involve those in which you must change as well as others. “It’s not easy for most people to accept the possibility that one of their most cherished and entrenched beliefs about how the world works may be wrong.”

Identifying and leveraging pessimism. Pessimists don’t belong in a leadership role but they do have value that you can and should leverage. They can “point out problems and shed light on tough issues that others may be avoiding. “Optimism is not the same as positivity, and pessimism is not the same as negativity. It is possible to be an optimist and have a slightly negative bias; you can see the trouble ahead but are confident in your ability to overcome obstacles and achieve a good result.”

Inspiring others to take action. This is about recognizing when you and others are stuck in unproductive and redundant dialogue. “You don’t have to be the group’s formal leader to recognize negative momentum and exercise the kind of leadership that will reverse that momentum.”

The authors note that you will not be successful enacting these behaviors unless you can do it in such a way that is emotionally safe for others for three simple reasons: the quality of your information deteriorates when people don’t feel safe talking to you, people will pursue goals beyond the point that makes sense out of fear of “crossing you,” and people simply don’t grow in a fearful environment.

Step Up contains concrete ideas for dealing with each of these areas with links to online resources.

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