The Leadership Experiment
On October 23rd, 2011 I reached my eleven year milestone at Cisco, and to my surprise it triggered some deep reflection. Why had I stayed at ONE company for a third of my life !? Was there still an opportunity to grow? Could Cisco give me what I needed next in my career ? The short answer is YES, but it took an Aha! to get me there. I had clarity that I wanted a job where I could lead a local team, did not involve a lot of travel, had fun daily challenges, and would stretch my leadership skills. I wanted to GROW. I also realized that I love my current global virtual leadership role, but that it was missing a sense of “new”. Bottom line, I had to figure out how I was going to add some sparkle to my current job or get a new one.
And then I had the Aha ! I was at a leadership seminar where we explored leadership styles. We were put in different scenarios, some of which my default style was effective and others where it was NOT. I suddenly realized that I had so much to learn. I needed to develop a leadership toolkit. I needed to have several different leadership approaches depending on the scenario. My default leadership style is to jump up and lead, moving the team forward as quickly as possible with exuberance and cheer. But, just like a car has different gears, so does leadership. I realized that I have been driving in fifth gear for years, and I needed to learn how to drive in first, second and third gear.
And so it turns out the role I have today is exactly what I need. It is the ultimate field for experimenting with different leadership styles. My new daily challenge was to try out different leadership approaches, become comfortable using them, and learn how and when to apply them. So I jumped right in. For two days at my leadership training I did not jump up and lead. instead I took it to an extreme, I went last for every activity. It almost killed me. My heart raced, voices of “why don’t you jump up” ran through my head, sweat beaded on my forehead. But I did it and since them I continue to feel more comfortable leading by pausing and listening instead of jumping right in. The really great part about this leadership approach is that you give others the opportunity to grow and lead!
Bill Reddin identified 5 basic different leadership styles and how they influence your overall effectiveness. He describes the managerial styles as being task oriented (dedicated to managerial style), relationship oriented related managerial style), less task and relationship oriented (seperated managerial styles), or both behaviours together (integrated managerial style). My new job is to explore these four styles and to learn how to excel in them all, and be the most effective leader I can be. Bring on the experimentation!
So, after 11 years at Cisco, I don’t need a new job, I just needed a new perspective.
Is there a way you can turn your job today into the ultimate leadership experiment? What might you try on Monday to build your leadership toolkit?