Leadership For Our Times
What an exciting time to be a leader! There are more opportunities and more stimulating challenges than ever before. Never has there been a greater opportunity to contribute more and to grow more. With the opportunities and stimulating challenges of course must also come potentially stress-inducing challenges.
There is a Russian proverb that says, “When walking on thin ice you’ve got to walk fast.” We are leading today in conditions of permanently thin ice. The world is unpredictable. And since the pace of change will continue to speed up in the 21st century, we know the ice is not going to get thicker. Leading people and organizations across this thin ice requires a leadership style that demonstrates a superb balance between attention to task and attention to process. The result is a responsiveness that allows us to recreate on the run, while continuing to meet our standards of quality.
Some leaders are by nature more task oriented.
Task orientation would include:
Process orientation would include:
A quick look at the two sets of behaviors reveals the obvious - both are important. In a slower-paced world however, we got away with ignoring, or at least putting less emphasis on the process oriented behaviors. As we have recognized the need for greater responsiveness, some have begun to put too much focus on the process behaviors. The leadership style that will allow leaders and their teams to thrive, is one that demonstrates a fine balance between the two. Too much task orientation can result in efficiency without effectiveness: e.g. quick decisions that may not be the best and/or may not have full support. Too much process orientation can lead to plenty of participation and wonderful ideas that accomplish little.
Are you a “leader of our times”? If so, you have a natural task/process balance. You instinctively know when to introduce task behaviors and when to use process behaviors. Most people do not instinctively move back and forth with ease between each-but all of us can learn how. If you feel at times that you are struggling, it is a sign that something is out of balance. Leadership, or life in general for that matter, are not meant to be a struggle. In the new millennium, we will have to continue to work very hard, but if we can find our own task/process balance, we will not have to struggle.
Consider the Task/Process dimensions below and rate consider your personal preference. A preference is how you prefer or are most comfortable working, not necessarily how you always act. Our personal preferences may or may not show themselves strongly in our daily behavior. We may have already learned to manage dimensions that may not be productive. However, our preferences often slip out without our noticing, both those that are beneficial and those that may hinder us in our leadership quest. Preferences are demonstrated most readily when we are under stress.
You will notice that the pairs of dimensions are opposites. If we have a strong preference for one; we will have a mild preference for the other. Our stronger preferences allow us to bring unique abilities to the leadership role. The weaker pole could, if not managed, trip us up. On occasion our strongest preference can be so strong that it too can hinder.
As you consider the dimension pairs, keep in mind that each of us reflects some of the characteristics of each of the two dimensions, but we usually have a preference for one of the pairs. Note: There are more in-depth descriptions of each dimension below.
Task/Process Dimension Descriptors
Independent individuals who show a preference for the independent mode:
Interactive individuals who show a preference for the interactive mode:
Detached individuals who have a preference for the detached mode:
Attached individuals who have a preference for the attached mode:
Inward Looking/Outward Looking
Inward Looking individuals who have a preference for the inward looking mode:
Outward Looking individuals with a preference for the outward looking mode:
Logical individuals who prefer the logical mode:
Intuitive individuals with a preference for the intuitive mode:
Convergent individuals with a preference for the convergent mode:
Divergent individuals with a preference for the divergent mode:
We need more than ever to reflect, not just on what we are doing, but how we are approaching our leadership role. However, personal reflection often gets pushed to the bottom of the leader’s priority list, if indeed it ever gets on it. It seems there is never enough time. Reflection, however, does not have to take a great deal of time and its return on investment can be enormous.
The following is a quick reflection exercise. Its purpose is to consider your personal task/process preferences and how those preferences affect your leadership style and its effectiveness.
Examples: If you are Outward Looking and many of your team members are Inward Looking you may be presenting ideas and decisions in terms that are too broad. Those receiving the information may require more detail to feel comfortable.
If you have a high Convergent preference you may have very firm opinions on issues and although you may make an effort to listen to people, you may not actually be opening yourself to actually hearing and understanding differing opinions.
Suggestion for Tapping the Best of Yourself
Devote 10 minutes a day to reflecting on how you approached situations in the last 24 hours and how you intend to approach situations in the next 24 hours.
The 21st century will hand each of us opportunities to tap our true potential. If we simply run on automatic pilot, we will miss them. Ten minutes of reflection a day can allow us to embrace them with enthusiasm and truly feel the joy of leadership.
A best selling author, speaker and workshop leader Leslie Bendaly challenges and coaches individuals, teams and organizations to achieve exceptional performance in environments of hyper change and gives them the tools to do so. Her acclaimed learning programs include: Competencies for the 21st Century, The Facilitation Skills Workshop, Getting Your Company (or team) To The Next Level and Creating Teams That Work. Contact Leslie by e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org and visit http://www.lbendaly.com/ .