Engaging Leaders - Stephen Roesler


I invited consultant and blogger Stephen Roesler (whose blog All Things Workplace was named as one of top blogs in 2008 for leadership and talent management) to join one of my guest blogger series, and said he could choose either one, Engaging Voices or Leading In the Crisis. Being an inventive guy, he wrote a piece that straddles both!

Leading In Crisis With an Engaging Voice by Steve Roesler

I'm not sure how to talk about leading without discussing engagement.

Warren Bennis recently reflected:

In discussing various approaches to leadership, I often note a distinction made between two nineteenth-century British prime ministers. It was observed that when you had dinner with William Gladstone, you left thinking, “That Gladstone is the wittiest, the most intelligent, the most charming person around.” But when you had dinner with Benjamin Disraeli, you left thinking, “I’m the wittiest, the most intelligent, the most charming person around!” Gladstone shone, but Disraeli created an environment in which others could shine. The latter is a more powerful form of leadership, an adventure in which the leader is privileged to find treasure within others and put it to good use.’

One of the insidious side effects of crises is that they can start to whittle away at self-confidence. At the very moment when leaders are drawn to meetings about the balance sheet, their visibility is needed among the people. In times of uncertainty, the human condition seeks security. For workers, that comes in the form of direction and information from the top.

Lesson for leaders: Crises may call for analyses but they also call for increased visibility and connection with employees. There are many factors to consider, especially:

1. Your presence demonstrates your awareness of the community. It's easy for the average worker to begin to detach in bad times. Leaders who choose to "be present" help everyone else maintain their own presence and attachment to the situation.

2. Listen to what people are thinking and feeling. Unless someone has totally inaccurate information, simply listen.

3. Acknowledge the thoughts and feelings that you heard.

4. State clearly what you are doing to address the crisis, why, and how you believe it will help. Be equally clear about what is not possible and why not.

Adults want to hear the truth. Why? Because the truth helps us make more confident decisions in tough times. People who have the truth--directly from the leader-- can engage in personal and organizational problem-solving.

What to remember: Accurate information from a visible leader gives people the reason and ability to engage in decision-making related to the situation.

It doesn't get any better than that in good times.


[© 2009 Roesler Communications/Roesler Consulting Group. All Rights Reserved. ]

Posted by Terrence Seamon, February 28, 2009

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