We want a book design that will stand out on a bookshelf. There are many competing titles in the leadership aisle of the local bookstore and many of the covers seem to share some common elements. We would like ours to be different--high impact--and conveying the theme of connections (connecting thoughts and beliefs with behavior, being connected to self and others). Here is an excerpt of the preface and introduction--
This book captures much of what we have learned about leadership over the course of a 25-year partnership of helping individuals, teams and organizations reach their best potential. Leadership as a construct is both ubiquitous and resistant to categorization or definition. Practitioners and scholars alike have devoted decades to come up with a universal definition of leadership and it still remains elusive. Through our years of experience and research working with poor and great leaders alike, we have found that leadership is a mix of social, cultural, psychological, contextual, and ethical factors. Although its exact recipe is confounding and probably non-existent, it is clear how effective leadership manifests itself. Evidence of effective leadership can be found in relationships and interactions. It reveals itself through influence, collaboration, empowerment and results.
We were destined to collaborate from the first hour of our first meeting in the summer of 1989. Over dinner at a seafood restaurant overlooking Lake Okeechobee in central Florida, we realized that we had both been hired for the same job: Jim by the V.P. of one of the company’s operational divisions and Kathy by the V.P of Human Resources. We later discovered that our respective hirings represented the elevation of a power struggle that had been brewing at the executive table. After a friendly but somewhat awkward start to our dinner, a comment was made to cut the tension in the air—something to the effect of “How are we going to fix this?” Neither of us remembers who posed the question but both take credit for it now. After some candid discussion, we came to two agreements. First, we knew that we liked each other and believed that the organization would benefit from having both of us. Second, we knew that if we worked together collaboratively, we could make both of our supervisors look good while protecting both of our positions. Over time, we committed ourselves to structuring and delineating the work so that we both had fully articulated positions. Within five years o four initial meeting, we both had earned a seat at the senior leadership table—replacing both of those V.P.s who were not as successful in figuring out the power of partnership.
During our time at the organization, we worked together to define new and better ways to recruit, train, and support leaders. We became colleagues in the best sense of the word—knowing that each provided a safe place to express concerns but also a place to hear brutal truths when the situation required it. This organizational work continued until Kathy left in 1997 to start her own consulting firm with Jim following three years later with his own practice. From the start, we continued to partner together on projects by pulling in the other as an associate in one of the respective practices but it wasn’t long before we realized that we preferred working together so we formally established our business relationship in 2003 as CODA Partners, Inc. We kept the key word of “partners” in our name because it had come to represent the spirit behind our collective work. The term “CODA,” a musical term representing advancement in a work or an efficient short cut in a musical score, was added as it provided a powerful metaphor of what we wanted to help others do in their leadership journeys.
Since 2003, we have worked with hundreds of individuals, teams and organizations to design customized programs reflecting the unique needs of the participants and the various work cultures and contexts in which they conducted their work. As we advanced in our work, so too did our thinking about what constituted enduring and effective leadership. Through our interviews and interactions with leaders, we began to collect information about leader behaviors, traits, attitudes and beliefs. Over time, certain patterns began to emerge with very specific commonalities shared by leaders who perceived themselves as effective and who were perceived as effective by those around them. They displayed what we began to refer to as “connected leadership”—where their leader identities were aligned with core competencies and a strong sense of leadership purpose. These connected leaders were able to articulate a strong Leader Point of View—a highly personalized description of who they were as leaders; their guiding principles, values, beliefs and motivations. They had highly developed narratives and stories about their leadership that others found “follower worthy” and that conveyed a particular recipe for their own leadership success. Conversely, we learned from leaders who were disconnected in some way—from themselves, from others, from purpose, and sometimes from reality. Every leader has taught us something valuable about the art and science of leadership and it is our hope that this book will share these findings in a way that will help the emerging and tenured leader alike who desires to be more, do more, and influence more in the leadership domain.
We have structured this book much in the same way we structure our leadership courses. Each chapter is organized around a sense-making framework we call “Leader P.O.V.™” and representing each of the elements we believe comprise connected leadership. In addition, each chapter profiles a real leader that we have had the good fortune to have worked with, either individually in a coaching setting or as part of one of our ongoing leader development programs. We worked diligently to identify a range of leaders whose stories reflected common disconnects we have found in our practice and we share, through case commentary, specific steps and activities to help the leader address those barriers to their effectiveness. We attempted to disguise the stories as best we could to protect the privacy and confidentiality of the participants and, to be safe, we also consulted those leaders for inclusion in this book given the possibility that a curious few could put two and two together. We thank them for their willingness to contribute to the learning and development of future leaders by a comprehensive assessment of their own situations.
We have come to believe over time that leader development is highly personal, reflective, and dynamic. Leader development approaches that promise transformative change through a boilerplate curriculum or specific set of shared activities may be beneficial during certain periods and for certain skill development requires but is not the best approach to creating sustained leadership identity and performance—the kind of legacy leadership that most leaders strive for. Therefore, you will not find a sequential list of “dos” and “don’ts” in this book. We simply don’t believe everyone shares the same roadmaps or destinations. Rather, as you read the book, we invite you to connect with the stories of the profiled leaders. Perhaps you identify with a core challenge in your own leadership or in the leadership of someone you have been asked to coach or mentor. Or if you are in charge of coordinating leader development initiatives for an organization, you may find suggested strategies that you believe will translate to a range of development opportunities represented in your employees. We invite you to jump around to the chapters to speak to your specific interests and needs. Use a transformation story (case study) and the corresponding questions and commentary as a coaching or team development activity or consider some of the reflective questions designed to help you clarify your Leader P.O.V. and to become a more connected leader.
Connected Leadership is more than an exploration of the next and best practices in leadership development. It is a unique and customized approach for discovering and enhancing leadership potential culled from our 25-year partnership developing leaders, teams and organizations. For years, we had collected powerful stories from the leaders we have encountered who had successfully moved from disconnected to connected leadership. Through this book, we want to share those stories along with practical strategies and techniques designed to help you make the connection for greater leadership effectiveness.
Connected leadership is about leading from a place of clarity and purpose. Striving to learn more and be more and committing yourself to the preparation required to serve your people and your organizations in the most effective manner possible. It is about leaving a mark, a legacy, and an example for others to follow. This book is for those who feel called to leadership—who see it as more than a circumstance or a title. It is for people who see leadership as an opportunity and a responsibility and are motivated to set the bar as high as possible. It is not for people who want a short cut or an easy way or who are looking for the newest fad. Connected leadership is lasting leadership, rooted in evidence-based practices, and informed by a significant body of research linking self-identity and a handful of critical metacompetencies to the achievement of extraordinary leadership results. Connected leadership is an inside – out approach. Borrowing from the fields of cognitive behavioral psychology, developmental psychology, and identity theory, connected leadership is about knowing who you are, where you want to go and what you will need for the trip.
At its core, connected leadership is based on the premise that the cognitive maps you use to make sense of the world can often leave you blind—blind to opportunities, blind to self-knowledge, and blind to how others may see you. We all know of someone in our personal or professional life that consistently demonstrates a behavior that is annoying, off-putting or counter productive. He may be the person sitting at your team meeting who continually echoes your ideas and then claims them after the meeting. She may be the person who acts disengaged when a tough consensus decision is reached only to go out to the water cooler afterwards and divest herself of the team decision to anyone who will listen. He may be the critical micromanaging boss who believes that he empowers his people and is loved by them. He may be the team know-it-all who has an opinion for every problem—even when it isn’t in his area of expertise. Or she may be the tentative executive who gives away her power and authority whenever she is challenged for the sake of “going along to get along.” Sometimes the blind spots are so large, you can’t image that the person can see anything else.
Consider for a moment that you have one of these blind spots or disconnects. Imagine a group of your staff or peers have assembled after the meeting to provide commentary on something you are not aware of –something that you do that sends a message that you do not intend to send. How would you know it existed if no one ever told you about it? What if someone shared it with you when you were not ready to hear it? What if no one ever brought it to your attention? If you are not committed to candid self-examination and the behavior never elevates to a level where it is seriously disruptive, you could go through your whole career without ever knowing that this behavior has gotten in your way. Or maybe you find yourself continually overlooked for advancement and can’t figure out exactly what it is that is blocking your progression.
We have seen disconnected leadership time and again in our leader development practice. Many times, the behavior is clear within minutes of meeting the leader referred for our services. Often, we find out that no one has ever seriously attempted to share the observations with the person. One particularly sad and recent example involved a senior leader in a research department who was continually passed over for promotions and who had been systematically separated from key decision-making meetings with other leaders. She believed she was well-equipped, competent, liked, and responsive to the daily demands of the job. What she didn’t know is that she had developed a reputation for being a naysayer and devil’s advocate. No matter the topic or the audience, she felt it was her job to let people know what was wrong with their idea or the solution. The President of the organization shared confidentially that her behavior had become toxic and rather than dealing with the difficult conversation, they were finding ways to disengage her from critical meetings.
Early in our interactions with her, we asked her to self-evaluate some of her comments she had made in an important meeting on accreditation standards. The comments and questions all had an indicting and judgmental tone. While comments shared by others were creative or constructive, she offered nothing that sounded solution-oriented or affirming. Having to hear her comments collected in this manner was a powerful learning experience for her. We watched her face flush with embarrassment as she finally made the connection. For the first time, she saw herself as others saw her and she was mortified. In subsequent conversations, we found out that this behavior was traceable to the very early years of her life and borne from a family tragedy and responsibilities that she inherited early in her life as the oldest of five siblings. She had developed a habit of pointing out what could go wrong as a cautionary contribution. Just as she had warned her siblings after the death of their mother of what was at stake, what could go wrong if they weren’t careful, she carried this approach to her professional life. She believed she was helping her organization by pointing out the minefields along the way. She had no idea that she had become so uni-dimensional. She processed the world from a place of caution and it had served her well in other environments but it was hurting her in this one.