The Art of Strengths Coaching

L is for Leaders Showing Love rather than Just Working Through Lists

There are many models for providing good leadership. Some leaders go beyond providing direction. They also show love rather than just working through lists of tasks.

Good leaders often create a positive environment in which people feel motivated to do their best. They show love in different ways.

They act as positive models by being warm, kind and encouraging. 

They encourage people to play to their strengths.

They show love for the particular mission and inspire others to want to achieve the mission. 

They show respect for people by working through the right kinds of lists – such as managing by outcomes rather than managing by tasks.

They share success stories that highlight the superb work people are doing to achieve the picture of success.

Looking back, can you think of a leader who showed love rather than just focused on lists? They may have been a teacher, coach, manager or other leader who encouraged people. They may have been somebody you knew or somebody you have heard about.

Such a leader may have acted as a positive model by being warm and kind. They may have reached people’s hearts as well as their heads. They may have transmitted belief in a compelling mission and inspired people to want to achieve the goals.

If you wish, try tackling the exercise on this theme. This invites you to do the following things.

Describe a leader who you believe showed love.

Describe the specific things they did to show love. 

Describe the specific things that happened as a result of them taking these steps.

As mentioned earlier, there are many models for leadership. Let’s explore some of the steps that good leaders take to show love rather than just focusing on lists. They often start by demonstrating the basics of leadership.

Good leaders
provide direction

Good leaders communicate the team’s purpose, principles and picture of success. They then give people to chance to decide if they want to contribute towards achieving the goals.

Different leaders do this in different ways. Whichever approach they use, they often communicate the What, Why, How, Who and When. Here is an overview of some steps they take to provide direction.

Good leaders act
as positive models

Good leaders aim to build a positive culture in which motivated people can achieve peak performance. How to make this happen?

They recognise that they are always on stage. People will watch what they do rather than what they say. Bearing this in mind, they aim to act as positive models.

Gill was a leader I worked with who took this approach. She explained this in the following way.

“My main job is to keep telling people the team’s story. It is then to give them the support they need to deliver their part of the strategy.

“When walking around the office I realise that I am on stage. So it is important for me to be open, approachable and take a sincere interest in people.

“This is something I learned from one of my old bosses. Whenever we met, he made me feel the centre of his world. He asked about the work I was doing and if there was any support I needed.

“Five years ago I moved from running a team of 40 to taking over our European business. It was important to show respect to people. So I spent the first two months travelling to Rome, Madrid, Stockholm, Berlin and the other offices.

“People seemed a bit anxious about my visits, but I tried to put them at ease. I asked about their previous successes and the challenges facing their parts of the company.

“Certainly I had a clear vision for the European business, but I also wanted to connect with people in the different countries. My predecessor had not bothered. He simply told people they had failed and he was going to show them how to run a business.

“Two months after arriving I gathered everybody together to present the team’s story, strategy and picture of success. During the presentation I referred to some of the ideas people had shared during our meetings.

‘People understood it wasn’t a democracy. But they enjoyed seeing their influence on the vision.”

Good leaders encourage people
to build on their strengths

Good leaders care for the team’s mission and also care for their people. They aim to get a win-win for the team and for the individuals. How to make this happen?

One approach is to communicate the team’s specific goal. It is then to encourage people to build on their strengths and make their best contributions towards achieving the goal. Peter Drucker supported this approach. He wrote:

The task of leadership is to create an alignment of strengths in ways that make the system’s weaknesses irrelevant.

Good leaders take certain steps to co-ordinate people’s strengths. They do this by focusing on the following themes.

Good leaders show
love for the mission 

Good leaders communicate a compelling mission and also inspire others to want to achieve the goal. They embody many of the elements described by Robert Greenleaf in his book Servant Leadership.

He had a profound effect on helping people to see the leader’s role as that of servant. Different people have different motivations for becoming such a leader, but Robert explained that:

It begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve, to serve first. Then conscious choice brings one to aspire to lead …

Great leaders often see themselves as serving something greater than themselves. This could be a purpose, mission or other kind of cause.

Some see themselves as serving the vocation they aim to follow. Such causes often aim to enable human beings to flourish.

Such leaders may want to serve the cause of civil rights, freedom, justice, building a better future or whatever. They often aim to build a more caring society.

This approach also stretches into other fields. Donovan Campbell, author of The Leader’s Code, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran wrote:

So what does the military really teach about leadership? Put simply, it teaches a servant-leadership model.

In simplest terms, servant-leadership teaches that a leader exists to serve a mission first, their teams second, and themselves a distant third. Leaders understand what they are doing and why they are doing it.

Such leaders have a strong will. They focus on serving the work and the people who want to serve the mission, however, rather than their own self-interest. So they may go the following route.

They choose to serve something greater themselves – such as a cause.

They attract people who also want to serve the cause.

They encourage and enable the people to succeed in serving the cause.

Ken Blanchard explains his view of such leadership in the video below. You can discover more about this approach at the website devoted to Robert Greenleaf’s work.

https://www.greenleaf.org/

Good leaders manage by
outcomes rather than by tasks

Good leaders show respect for people by managing by outcomes rather than by managing by tasks. They do this on both a team and individual level.

Such leaders enable their people to deliver their goods. They therefore do, when appropriate, work through lists. These are the right kinds of lists, however, that focus on outcomes rather than detailed tasks.

Such leaders are the polar opposite of old style leaders in retail who ran intimidating meetings on Monday morning. Poised with a detailed list about what went wrong the previous week, they cross-examined each person.

These leaders then drilled deeper. They sometimes put people on the spot to describe their detailed list of tasks for the next week. People dreaded the meetings. They sat there wondering if it would be their turn next.

Good leaders take a different approach. They invite people to look at the big picture and focus on the outcomes to achieve. They often go through the following steps.

Gill, who I mentioned earlier, uses this approach. When faced by a difficult customer situation, for example, she invited her team to explore the following questions.

“What are the outcomes we want to achieve in the short, medium and long-term? What can we do to get wins for our company, the customer and our colleagues? How can we get a win-win-win?”

She also used the outcomes approach when inviting people to clarify the best contributions. This could be challenging, because many people were used to writing lists of tasks. They described what they were going to do rather than what they were going to deliver.

Gill spent a lot of time with each person making crystal-clear contracts about the real results they would deliver. Each person wrote their aims under the headings of profits, products and people. Here is an example of one person’s goals that were written in outcome terms.

My Contribution Towards
Achieving The Picture of Success

Profitability

To ensure my team achieves its financial targets – a profit of £500k.

To develop 3 new customers and do work with them that delivers a profit of £100k.

To reduce our overheads by £100k.

Products

To ensure more than 90%+ of our customers say they are extremely satisfied with our work.

To develop 2 new products and pilot these successfully with customers – then launch these products by the end of the year.

To simplify 2 of our complex products to ensure these are more user friendly for customers – then get a further £100k’s worth of orders for these before the end of the year.

People

To deliver an internal morale rating of 90%+ of our team members saying they enjoy coming to work each day.

To educate, equip and enable 2 of my team members to win promotion and move on to other roles in the company.

To recruit 4 new positive team members who take responsibility, build on their strengths and get some early successes that contribute towards achieving the team’s goals.

The person then met with Gill every month. They started by revisiting the agreed outcomes and then describing the following things.

The specific things they had delivered in the past month towards achieving the goals.

The specific things they aimed to deliver in the next month towards achieving the goals.

The support they would like and any other topics they would like to discuss on the road towards achieving the goals.

Gill created an encouraging environment in which people felt able to discuss their successes and challenges. She kept focusing on outcomes to achieve rather than falling into supervising the person’s tasks.

Good leaders
share success stories

Good leaders show love for the organisation they are leading by continually producing success stories. They keep showing what good looks like. They keep highlighting the following things.

The specific times when people have performed brilliantly.

The specific things people did right then – the principles they followed – to perform brilliantly. 

The specific things people can do to follow these principles – plus maybe add other skills – to perform brilliantly in the future.

Different people use different frameworks for sharing success stories and showing what good looks like. Below is one framework.

People start by choosing a title for the story. They then describe the specific situation they encountered. They could be helping a client, solving a problem, making internal processes work better or whatever. They describe the challenges they faced and the desired picture of success.

People move on to describing the key strategies they employed to tackle the issue. They describe the results that were delivered to achieve the picture of success. They then summarise what was learned from the experience. They describe:

The specific things that worked and how they can follow these principles more in the future. 

The specific things they could do better next time and how. 

The specific other things of interest that emerged.

Good leaders encourage their people to embrace the ethic of constant improvement. One approach is to start by publishing success stories. People are then more likely to grow in confidence and develop the strength to tackle other challenges.

There are many models for leadership. One approach is to provide direction and show love. It is then to, when appropriate, work through the right kind of lists, such as those that focus on outcomes rather than tasks.

Imagine that you lead a team. What do you do well when focusing on leadership, showing love and working through lists? What could you do better and how?

If you wish, try tackling the exercise on this theme. This invites you to do the following things.

Describe the ratings you would give yourself in the areas of providing leadership, showing love and working through the right kinds of lists.

Describe the specific things you can do to maintain or improve the ratings in each area.

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