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Leadership Is About Behavior



It's not a cult of personality says Al Bolea.



By Al Bolea, Applied Leadership Seminars



Published July 29, 2013
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When I first started building my leadership seminars I went to amazon.com to find a couple of reference books about leaders.  I was surprised to find 334,829 books on the subject, roughly one book for every 950 people in the US. 

I then did a Google search and had 154 million hits on the subject. I also found 7.4 million leadership consultants. Amazed, I went to YouTube and found 56,000 leadership-related videos.

With this seemingly endless supply of leadership resources I began to wonder if there was need for another seminar about leadership. I mentioned this dilemma to a friend of mine who ran the Alaska Department of Transportation and he responded that quality leadership is more of a problem now than ever before.  He referenced a study by the Society of Professional Engineers that highlighted the complexity of leading a workforce that for the first time has four generations employed:



Millennial           73 million people, ages 16-28 representing 23.5% of the workforce

Generation X     58 million people, ages 29-48 representing 45.5% of the workforce

Baby Boomer    80 million people, ages 49-65 representing 26.6% of the workforce

Traditionalist      52 million people, ages 66-87 representing 4.4% of the workforce.

The challenge for leaders is a workforce with a diverse set of expectations, preferences, and needs. Traditionalists prefer conformity over individuality in the workplace.  Baby Boomers value individuality, creativity, and personal fulfillment. Generation X expects work to be fun and if it is not then it better have significant reward. And, Millennials insist on a work-life balance. They are skeptical and unimpressed by authority, more self-reliant, and less willing to sacrifice for work. 

Add to this generational complexity the fact that leadership—as a discipline—is often misunderstood and confused with other expectations that people have of each other.  For example, I am a member of a golf club in Houston, Texas.  I golf a lot and meet new people. The conversations normally get around to what one does for a living. When I say that I’m a leadership consultant the following questions always emerges: “Al, what is leadership all about.”  Before I can assemble my thoughts they answer their own question, “Oh, I know, it’s about having a good personality and being charismatic.”   Usually as I start to respond they turn away to hit their ball, quite satisfied with their answer.

Popular perceptions are that leaders are charismatic, competitive, ambitious and versatile. They make a great first impression and their success can be measured by the size of the crowd around them. They have an ability to rouse physical attraction, or elicit admiration in the eyes of others. It is generally believed that leadership is about position, power and job titles.

Contrast these beliefs to Jennifer Kahnweiler’s view that introverts make the best leaders.  She is the author of The Introverted Leader:  Building on Your Quiet Strength.  She sites five reasons for her conclusion:
·       Introverts think first, talk later – this gives them time to stop and reflect before acting
·       They focus on depth over breadth – don’t waste time with superficial chitchat
·       They exude calm and project confidence
·       They let their fingers do the talking and use online social networks more effectively
·       They embrace solitude and use regular timeouts to refuel their thinking

Peter Northouse in his book Leadership Theory and Practice does an excellent job reviewing 12 different leadership theories covering over 100 years of research on the topic. These theories are named:  Trait, Skills, Style, Situational, Contingency, Path-Goal, Leader-Member Exchange, Transformational, Servant, Authentic, Team, and Psychodynamic. Although the theories are self-contained there is a clear evolution of core concepts over the years. “Great-man” concepts about innate qualities and personality types have been replaced with skill development, learned behavior, communication, relationships and coaching.

In the most recent theories behavior has become the dominant characteristic of leadership.  Leaders behave in a way that defines success in others’ successes. Their attention is on common goals and their influence occurs in groups. They meet other’s needs and understand that people around them have a deep need for what they have to offer.  They model the way for others. They initiate and carry the burden of maintaining relationships. They do this by being verbally involved with people, informed, and by seeking other’s opinions.  And lastly, they change the way people think about what’s possible.

The key leadership lesson is:  Leadership is about behaviors and skills—that are acquired. It is not about personality, traits or genetics.


About the Author

Al Bolea is the founder of Applied Leadership Seminars, a company offering clients10 leadership seminars, ranging from one to five days in length, and the annual Alaskan Executive Leadership Retreat in Ketchikan, Alaska. He is the former CEO/GM of Dubai Petroleum and a retired BP executive. He is currently the Distinguished Adjunct Professor of Leadership at the University of Alaska and a leadership lecturer at the University of Houston.

More info:  www.albolea.com or email appliedleader@gmail. com
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Al Bolea is the founder of Applied Leadership Seminars, a company offering clients10 leadership seminars, ranging from one to five days in length, and the annual Alaskan Executive Leadership Retreat in Ketchikan, Alaska. He is the former CEO/GM of Dubai Petroleum and a retired BP executive. He is currently the Distinguished Adjunct Professor of Leadership at the University of Alaska and a leadership lecturer at the University of Houston.

More info:  www.albolea.com or email appliedleader@gmail. com




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