What Makes a Dynamic Leader?

by Larraine Segil

I recently overheard a manager in a strategy and corporate visioning session ask a very interesting question: "I know what I don't want --- that should work to tell me what I do want, right?" WRONG.

This manager clearly does not exhibit a characteristic of being a dynamic leader --- Assuredness. Assuredness is the clear and personal definition of individual intent and the coordination of that intent with the goals of the organization. This means that dynamic leaders know what they want to achieve --- and they focus on doing so. Although the quality of their work is an overriding consideration, they have an ability to hone in on the specifics of their jobs in a way that is energizing and self-fulfilling.

Does this mean that dynamic leaders have long-term career and life plans? Not necessarily. After all, most of the time your plans are changed by events and people beyond your control. Says George Fisher, former CEO of Kodak and a true dynamic leader, "I am not a big believer in long-term career and life plans. I think these kinds of plans are seriously flawed in a rapidly changing time. To a certain degree, I believe in a Mr. Magoo-type predictor-corrector model of life because it causes you to continually adapt. But, it is important to know the things that are fundamentally important to you and to strive to achieve those and be the best you can at them."

Without a long-term career goal and life plan, how do dynamic leaders find out what they really want? They use a psychological approach called visualization. By visualizing what a day in the life of a particular career might be, not the fanciful imagined role but the reality of such activity, it becomes clearer that this is exactly what they don't want. Look at Generation X, for example. Many have deliberately set out to define a set of values and lifestyles that are different from their baby boomer parents, where personal fulfillment is of more importance than the acquisition of material wealth.

Dynamic leaders will go through the process of visualization and scenario planning for themselves as well as for their organizations. The process will be applied to their career goals and ambitions, to the projects on which they work, and to the organizations within which they work. It will also be used to create the vision for the organization.

To implement this vision, dynamic leaders will then communicate the vision effectively so that other managers can make it their own and execute it. Says Peter Thiel, CEO of Paypal, just sold to Ebay for $1.5 billion "We are changing so rapidly, that everyone in the organization has to be flexible. Fast growing, high-energy companies like ours need decisive and courageous management. Our culture is always evolving and the demands on us are increasing. Assuredness is key."

Patience is a critical aspect of assuredness. Sometimes, even though it is clear what you want, a great deal of patience is needed to get there.

Another difficult aspect of assuredness, once you think you've identified what you want, is learning how to verbalize your intent. Unless you can do so, you run the risk of making the wrong decision for the right reason. In other words, you know you want to make change happen, but you can't quite decide what the specifics of the changed situation would look like, so you make a decision that doesn't quite do it.

To verbalize your intent, dynamic managers must strive to understand how people think and process information, how to communicate in the way and manner that the receiver of the information will understand and internalize, how to create and grow feedback mechanisms, and how to verbalize better, clearer, and more appropriately for both audience and circumstance.

To exert their assuredness, dynamic leaders must also be in an organizational environment that allows people to reinvent themselves. Organizations cannot pigeonhole people. Most people entering the workforce now will retrain and reinvent themselves multiple times in a career. Sometimes this will be the result of external factors; other times it will be due to emotional vesting in what they do every day. Either way, dynamic leaders need to know what they want.

To make sure your assuredness shines through, consider these action items:

  • Do you do scenario planning for your work activities? Your career path?

  • Have you reinvented yourself in your career? How could you reinvent yourself?

  • Do you know what you want in life? What you don't want? What you value? Make a list of your values and prioritize them.

  • Are you living your values? If not, why? How can you bring your career closer to what you believe in?

  • Does your work activity support your value system? To what extent?

  • How can you increase your knowledge of the values of those around you?

  • Does your organization know what it wants? Is it clear at all levels of the company?

  • What are the organizational structures for career advancement?

Larraine Segil is a Thought Leader on mergers, alliances and the importance of business relationships. Her latest book, "Dynamic Leader, Adaptive Organization: Ten Essential Traits for Managers," was published in March, 2002 as the lead book for Wiley Publishers. She is also the author of "FastAlliances™: Power Your E-Business" (Wiley, 2001), and "Intelligent Business Alliances," (Times Books, 1996). Larraine has been featured in BusinessWeek, CIO, CFO, Bloomberg News, and Internet World. She is a commentator on CNN, CNBC and Yahoo FinanceVision on alliances and mergers, and consults worldwide on alliances for domestic and global companies. Larraine can be reached directly at (310) 556-1778 or via email at lsegil@lsegil.com . More information can be found on her website at www.lsegil.com .

Media Contact: Cindy Kazan (414) 352-3535; cindy@communik-pr.com .

Many more articles in Executive Performance in The CEO Refresher Archives


Copyright 2003 by Larraine Segil. All rights reserved.

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