Tuesday, March 19, 2013

On Getting Into The Zone

This is one of the essential characteristics of a leader, the Heart of a Leader, if you so will. 

You may have heard about Getting into the Zone, this imaginary place where you are completely focused, capable beyond your imagination. Just watch some of our sports stars right before the race starts. Observe their concentration, their total focus, how they bundle all their energy towards that one goal ... towards achieving what seems to be impossible ( Michael Phelps, Lindsay Vonn come to mind ...).

For a true leader getting there, getting into your Zone ... the Zone ... is the key to success too. And it ain’t easy ... is is not at all easy for these sports stars either. Getting there is a long way and requires dedication, devotion, to doing the hard work of learning, training, practice ... and it never stops. Talent helps, but it is merely the basis. You have to learn and train the skills to become the best leader you possibly can be. 

When you start you are within your comfort zone and that gives you this cozy feeling. Everything is familiar and comes easy. Sooner rather than later, however, as a leader you are confronted with something you have never done before. And that makes you immediately feel uncomfortable, makes you feel insecure. You don’t want to be there ... yet, you are. And it gets worse for you, you will encounter challenging situations, situations that will truly scare you a lot. And you feel the anxiety, being so far out of your comfort zone. And don’t forget that, as a leader, you are responsible for those you lead! They expect nothing less from you than doing what’s required, no matter what!

Every leader, just like these sports stars, has to to go through these phases Comfort Zone - Insecurity - Anxiety to be able to getting into their Zone - the Zone! That’s why learning, training, practice on an ongoing basis is of the utmost importance. When you would ask one of these sports stars why they are doing it, when it is so hard ... they would tell you that they do it just because it is so hard to do! You acknowledge your fears and then you do it anyway. That’s what dedication to learning and training, the doing whatever it takes to succeed, is getting you prepared for. 

Then you will get into your Zone .. the Zone ... where uncertainty meets possibility! That’s what people like Michael Phelps or Lindsay Vonn are experiencing in that decisive race! You are getting way beyond what you imagined as being your limits. 

Now, get to the Zone, take it, it’s yours!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

On The Impact Of Emotions

It seems to be obvious and easy: A leader picks his team members based on their intelligence, their experience, their achievements, and their professional education. You pick the best ones, put them together in your team, each one on his speciality, and then you are all set for success. Yet, after a while, you realize that things are not going as well and smooth as you might have expected. You begin talking with each one of the team members. You talk about the task at hand, trying to find out what is hindering them to successfully finish the task. You are prepared for all sorts of task related reasons, instead you are suddenly confronted with a whole lot of personal emotions. Things, how people feel about their colleagues, for instance not being acknowledged enough, or maybe even ignored ... the tone of a colleague when talking to another one ... they didn’t like the food ...  your attitude towards them ... they might feel intimidated ... and then it goes deeper. There might also be a lot of positive emotions, like having had a great time the night before ... 

You might think this is not relevant, only working on successfully finishing the task is relevant. Well, think again, when Pandora’s box of emotions is opened. People are all day long exposed to all sorts of emotions, at work and also in their private lives. It never stops and has a deep impact on each one. It might be that an argument at home, when not addressed on time, will have a decisive impact on your project or task. Environment is stronger than willpower, and most people are not even aware of the flood of thoughts and emotions going through them and being triggered by seemingly unrelated events. 

As a leader you must pay close attention to that. You should also have a highly developed sense of self awareness. After all you too are a human being and exposed to the same. Don’t ever underestimate the impact of the complex interaction of thoughts, emotions, awareness in the heads of your team members ... and your own head! A true leader is aware of that and able to pick up the cues and address these issues on time. 

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

On Uncertainty And Decision Making

In a complex world you have to deal with the uncertainty in complex systems. Nowhere is this more true then when it comes to Leadership and decision making. More often than not in Leadership you are confronted with the need to make a decision, yet, either not having enough data, or, an overload of data ... left alone made sense out of data ... uncertainty in a complex environment. 

In complex systems, like, for instance, nature itself, uncertainty is present all the time. As a leader you need to know and understand that ... need to know and understand the implications it has on your decision making. Complex systems are changing all the time ... even your interaction with it is having a changing impact. In complex systems the prediction of events is not possible. Leaders need to learn, know and understand what that means. 

With the advancements in technology we suddenly have a flood of data so big, unheard of until now. Big Data is everywhere and has become a synonym for a, still largely untapped, potential of possibilities, possibilities that are already changing the world. Organizations, corporations are becoming eager to learn what is possible with Big Data available. Yet, Leadership seems to be ill prepared for that. The times, they are changing, and anyone in a Leadership position needs to understand that they alone can’t know everything. They need to understand the power of collaboration and cocreation. 

Great Leaders surround themselves with the best and brightest people they can find ... each one a specialist in his / her field. These people are not shy to speak up and voice their point of view, thus, giving the leader an enhanced vision and understanding of the problem at hand. Leadership of the 21st century requires Leaders able and prepared for handling the challenges of an ever more complex environment. Not only must these leaders count with the thorough preparation of studying, learning, and training on an ongoing basis. They, too, must be flexible, open for new solutions, willing to change their thinking, and adapting to a complex world. These Leaders, in a way, must be like conductors of a symphonic orchestra, bringing out the best of their people and creating together a brilliant symphony. They thrive in such an environment, where the only constant is change, embracing inconsistency, lack of predictability, and uncertainty as the ingredients for opportunity to happen. 

Friday, March 01, 2013

On Complexity

Our world is complex and it always was. However, the complexity leadership is confronted with today, extends beyond common comprehension.


Globalization requires leaders able of knowing and understanding different cultures, different cultural backgrounds. Understanding the Art of Communication, tuning in into the frequency of others no matter where they are from, is indispensable for any leader. Situations, where a leader has to deal with many different cultures simultaneously, are becoming much more frequent now in our connected world. Discussions on a daily basis via, for instance, video chats with people from all over the world are meanwhile normal. Teams are already consisting of people from different countries, and that will increase dramatically. Collaboration and cocreation on a global scale is becoming the norm, since people can easily connect to each other in real time 24/7. Hence, this is adding big time to the complexity of leadership. 


Technology is creating an ever faster paced environment, putting information at the fingertips of everyone in real time. Big data is suddenly available in a depth and richness unprecedented in history. Getting these vast amounts of data analyzed and made sense out of it is simply essential for leadership. Leaders then must be able to quickly assess what the data means for their decision making. For that their team is crucial ... a stellar team with diverse backgrounds. 

The Transformation of Organizational Structures and Society

We are just at the beginning of a massive transformation of how organizations of any kind will be structured and operating. You ain’t seen nothing yet ...

The increase in complexity, coming with that transformation, adds to the uncertainty Leadership is facing and being exposed to in any given situation. More often than not leaders will find themselves in unfamiliar and sometimes extreme situations. Yet, they will have to assess almost instantly how to act upon or react to whatever comes along. For that to happen leaders need to be trained in developing the highest situational awareness. And the leaders alone might not, cannot always see everything. Too many things might be happening all at once, too much data coming in. In such a complex environment only the well trained team in close cooperation with an equally well trained leadership makes the big difference. The role of the leader is transformed into that of a connector in an ever more complex system. Leaders, who surround themselves with world class people, capable of challenging the status quo ... people bringing, each one of them, different and controversial points of view. That requires more than anything trust in the capabilities of everyone, trust that each member is doing its job in excellence, trust that the leader truly leads the team from the front, from within ... becoming one with the team, so to speak. The new leader is in that role, as I see it,  the primus inter pares, the first among equals.

We need this new kind of leadership ... the leadership of the 21st century ... able and trained to take on the challenges of this transformation ... seeing and seizing opportunities where others might only see chaos ... thus, creating the mutually beneficial organizational change ... creating the new society. We need Excellence in the Art of Leadership! 

Google+ Walter H Groth

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