BLG Leadership Insights Features

The Pivot Point: Don’t Drop The Ball

President Obama and the democrats are facing a fundamental leadership challenge: the challenge of not dropping the ball.

Leadership requires two fundamental skills: the ability to mobilize people and the ability to go the distance. All too often, leaders have a capacity to get people on their side, to rally them around an idea, but lose momentum by forgetting to focus on those key managerial activities that must be sustained to go the distance. Most importantly, these slippages come when leaders fail to realize that while they need not be constantly hands-on, they still have to make sure that they’re involved.

Here’s why leaders drop the ball:

1. They allow too much autonomy: Often leaders give others too much autonomy and walk away from the day-to-day execution. “Do it and come back and tell me when it’s done” is not a mindset that assures sustainability or definite implementation. Leaders must find a way of giving autonomy but defining parameters.

2. They talk things to death: Often too much time is spent processing. It’s one thing to have dialogue, it’s one thing to have numerous discussions. It’s quite another to over-engage and over-analyze. The danger is dropping the ball by processing things to death.

3. They overreact: Often leaders overreact to any situation that doesn’t go exactly as they had hoped. Creating change and putting things in place demands making adjustments. Making adjustments doesn’t mean throwing out the baby with the bath water. It doesn’t mean overreacting.

4. They lose focus on the coalition: Often leaders forget the very coalition mindset, the sense of collective that got people to rally around their ideas, and thus let the coalition mindset slip away. To go the distance, leaders must make sure that the collective doesn’t dissipate.

Often inexperienced leaders spend much of their time making sure that others have rallied around their cause. Those that learn quickly and those that succeed understand that getting people on their side is one thing, but keeping them there is another.

Picture Source: Flickr Commons

BLG Leadership Insights

Pulling at the Rope: The Changing US-Israeli Coalition–Lesson for the Workplace

One of the challenges leaders face is when do they pull on the rope and when do they give people slack?  The relationship of the US with Israel has been in many ways, not simply a relationship between two states, but a relationship between individuals.  George Bush placed his emphasis on the focused alliance with Israel.  For him, the alliance was central.  In the context of Bush’s international agenda, this was paramount.  This led him to giving the Israelis a lot of slack—resources, autonomy, and minimal demands.  Bush hoped and assumed that the intent of the Israel and the intent of the US were identical in the long, if not the short, run.

In the workplace, similarly, leaders often put a disproportionate emphasis on loyalty and alliance–giving people all the resources they need, an immense amount of autonomy, and rarely tugging at the rope.

The problem is that too much slack can lead to divergence of agendas and the challenge for a leader is not simply to give people autonomy and resources, but to be able to assure that the intent and agendas of both parties are moving in the same direction. How often have you seen in organizations autonomous groups with their own resources doing whatever they care to do while forgetting the notion of accountability.  Tough leaders know when the time has come to pull on the string.  They know that at a certain point they may have to endanger the relationship in order to revamp it and cast a shadow on a coalition in order to strengthen it.  Currently, President Obama is beginning to pull the string.  It is a mistake to maintain that the tugging at the string is abandonment, disloyalty, or even total redefinition.

Often leaders who have experienced placid coalition relationships have had to modify these relationships because of changing circumstances. The challenge is not to dismantle the relationship while making adjustment, not destroying the intimacy because of changing times. The challenge is to redefine the parameters but maintain the essence of the core.  This is the challenge of the US-Israeli relationship, and the challenge that leaders in the workplace face everyday.