Are you a Real or Safe Leader?
I’ve just returned from Tampa where I ran the first of a series of four modules that Lane4 will roll out with 12 senior leaders in CRH over the next ten months. Having experienced the amazing blizzards that have hit New Jersey over the past couple of weeks, it was great to feel the warmth of the Florida sun. Sorry if I’m getting a bit carried away with the weather but as a Brit used to only a few snow flurries every other year, being housebound and surrounded by three feet of snow is no trivial matter.
Anyway, back to last week. The CRH Business Leadership Program (BLP) comprises modules that develop skills and tools in different aspects of leadership, including personal leadership, coaching, and leading high performance teams.
CRH are one of the world’s leading building materials companies and are operating in an industry that has been hit particularly hard by the economic problems. Lane4 has been working with CRH for the past seven years or so and I’ve found it fascinating to witness the way they have dealt with the tough times. It’s a great organization to work with and the leaders have shown tremendous resilience. Most organizations would have taken the easy option and made the mistake of cutting the BLP without hesitation. But CRH knows that the development of their leaders will help them maintain their competitive advantage when better times return and have made a commitment to continue to invest in their leadership pipeline development.
The focus of the three-day module last week was on developing the ‘real’ leadership CRH requires to enable the organization to emerge out of the current difficult times toward a brighter future.
The module content was based on my new book, Thriving On Pressure, which describes tools and strategies to enable senior leaders to deal more positively with the intense visibility and exposure that comes with being a leader. My original interest and expertise in this area stems from working as a sports psychologist and studying, writing about, and consulting with some of the world’s best athletes. My fascination with how they develop and implement the mental toughness required to thrive under the intense spotlight that follows their every performance has provided me with deep insights into their resilience and mental fortitude.
Mental toughness is not exclusive to sports, of course, and I have been helping business leaders learn and apply this crucial life skill to their world over the past 15 years. I have worked with many leaders over that time and it has become increasingly clear to me that there is an important factor which determines how they lead. It lies in their motives to be a leader and, in the book, I begin by describing the difference between what I call ‘real’ and ‘safe’ leaders.
‘Safe’ leaders are driven mainly by their need for rewards, power, and status. They are unwilling to put themselves on the line because of the threat of losing their position if they get it wrong. They, quite literally, play it safe.
‘Real’ leaders, on the other hand, are driven much more by the challenge and opportunity to put themselves out there and make a difference. This is what leadership is all about for these leaders.
This distinction has been especially evident during the recent tough economic times. Safe leaders withdraw into a safety zone – now is the time to avoid conflict and avoid risks. For real leaders, tough times are their calling. They come to the fore and become even more visible. But with this comes increasing exposure – which is where mental toughness comes into play.
The book goes on to provide real leaders with the tools and strategies for developing and enhancing the four core skills of mental toughness: staying in control under stress; strengthening your self-belief; channelling your motivation; and, focusing on the things that really matter.
OK, I’ve gone over the recommended word count for blogs so I’d better finish. Well done if you’ve stuck it out to here!