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Our top 10 leadership resolutions for 2013

January 16, 2013

By Mark Hannum

It’s a new year. Time for each of us to reflect on the past and look forward. And for leaders in particular, it’s time to resolve to:

Be Courageous.
Courage, according to GILD keynote speaker Brené Brown, is the willingness to show up and be seen for who you are, and experience criticism, feedback, mistakes, and imperfection. Be willing to be authentic and be yourself. Stop trying to live up to some image of a leader you saw in a movie or read about in a book. You are worthy. Start showing up as you. Have the courage to be imperfect. If you stop having the courage to do the right thing, then you should stop leading (one of my favorite thoughts from Nelson Mandela).

Speaking of Nelson Mandela, he has insprired my next two:

Lead from the front.
Recognize that you are a symbol for your organization, your people, and your vision. Learn how to be the host of ceremonies. Learn how to give a toast to honor the character and values of someone you admire or who has helped you. Learn how to give a speech congratulating others for their accomplishments and their hard work. Learn how to make small talk graciously with others. Learn to lead by example. Remember Francois Pienaar who said:

“I’ve always thought to lead by example, sir.”

To which Nelson Mandela replied, “Well, that is right. That is exactly right. But how do we get them to be better than they think they can be? That is very difficult, I find. Inspiration perhaps? How do we inspire greatness when nothing less will do? How do we inspire everyone around us? I sometimes think it is by using the work of others.”

Lead from the back.
Learn how to inspire others to take the responsibility of leading. Find a few key people in your organization and put them in front. Help them do work that makes others think that they can do challenging, purposeful, and successful work too. Use their stories to inspire others. I can’t imagine life without the next two, but I see it happening every day.

Have core values and live them transparently.
Do I need to be Captain Obvious here? What we know matters. But who we are matters more.

Respect others and see the good in them.
Having the capacity to truly respect others means listening to people you disagree with. Really listening to them. It means paying people what they are worth, not what you can get away with. It means giving people challenging work that has a purpose. It means letting them grow and develop based on their strengths and style. Not yours.

Stop blaming.
I know of nothing more destructive that can come from a leader than blame. In the dictionary, “blame” is defined as the discharge of fear, pain, and discomfort. In real life, people end up making mistakes and doing things wrong, often with consequences. But people are seldom the villain in the story. The real villain is often a policy, a contradiction in a policy, a bad process, a system that has some perverse goal.

The next resolution is personal, but I have lots of experience working with companies who have trouble with this one.

Know when to say no. And, it’s OK to quit.
Always saying yes has two consequences of importance. First, it means that you must sequence your life’s work, not focus on it. Second, it means that you are addicted to the self-destructive belief that you can do everything, do it perfectly, and that you are necessary and indispensable. Resolve to focus on your life’s work and your purpose. Stop sequencing your purpose behind things that don’t matter to you and might matter to someone else. Nuf’ said?

And finally….
Love the smell of possibility!
If you own your own story, you get to write the ending. You don’t have to be a hero or do something extraordinary to be a great leader. Find a way to make a difference in other people’s lives. People are a reservoir of possibility.

It’s “ both/and” rather than “either/or.”
When you think “both/and” rather than “either/or” you open your decision-making to a greater variety of possibilities and better outcomes. When you think of both/and in terms of people, it means including others voices, needs, and participation—both yours and theirs. Life will be richer.

Find and use your gifts.
We are writing our own stories. And in pursuing the quest in a story, Joseph Campbell tells us that the protagonist always uses a gift or gifts. In myth, these gifts are physical, tangible objects that the protagonist can use as levers to change the ending of the story. It’s the protagonists’ journey to go from all ego to a new identity. The journey involves separation, challenge, facing the unfamiliar, and returning home a changed person. The gifts he or she receives are really metaphors for learning about themselves in a way that they become the lever of change and the lever of goodness. They put themselves out there where they can be seen as imperfect, and in places and situations where they can find their gifts. Resolve to find your gifts this year.

Happy New Year!

Come on now, be courageous and share. What nuggets of leadership knowledge would you add to this list?

More about Mark
Mark Hannum is a Principal Consultant at Linkage. He has over twenty years of experience in organizational and leadership development, systems thinking, coaching, competency modeling, and executive team building and alignment. Mark’s skilled leadership and innovation has resulted in the successful implementation of many organizational design projects with client mergers and acquisitions. He is also a frequent featured speaker at many training and education events.

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