KingChapman Blog

A Field Guide for Observing Transformational Leaders In Action

Posted by Bob Chapman on Mar 12, 2019 11:57:45 PM

If you have ever wondered what kind of bird you just saw, you know how useful Field Guides are. They provide photos, physical descriptions and locations where the bird can be found. With the advent of technology, my favorite field guides are apps. These apps provide excellent color photos. They also include the sounds which the birds make as being able to compare the sounds can be important. A few years ago, I was at the Lake of the Woods in Canada and could hear this unusual bird call which happened at sunset. Since we were in the woods I never was able to see the bird, even though its sound was quite clear. After much trial and error, I was able to identify the bird, which was new to me, thanks to my electronic field guide.

Unfortunately, birds are much more identifiable and predictable than leaders. Part of this challenge is that in many cases we do not have a common meaning or good understanding for the terms leader and leadership. Our understanding is shaped by our context. As an example, in organizations the term leader often refers to a position more than it does to the capabilities of the incumbent. A person is assumed to be a leader given the position that the person holds. It's as if being a leader was determined as part of the selection criteria for the person being selected for the position. While those of us who have spent much time in organizational life know that is not the case, this background assumption nonetheless persists. Another manifestation of this thinking that leadership is based on position is how the terms leadership and management are used in an organization. In many organizations the terms are used interchangeably, as if to have the same meaning.

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Topics: Leadership

Self-Enrollment: Choosing To Be A Leader

Posted by Bob Chapman on Feb 12, 2019 8:05:12 AM

Personal choice is a crucial step in becoming a leader. A person wanting to be a leader must actively choose to commit to what is required of leaders. This choice is intentional and volitional. Choosing to be a leader is not a one-time event. Rather this choice is made daily, at challenging times moment to moment.

The choice is enrolling oneself as a leader who makes a difference for others. For the person who is serious about being a leader, the choice begins a potential lifelong journey of discovery and learning. Leaders need high levels of commitment to deal with daily challenges, e.g., success, failure, hostility and surprises of all kinds. Being a leader requires large doses of courage, humility and resilience, all of which reflect the leader’s commitment. Being a leader is NOT natural or comfortable, at least not at first.

Being a leader requires high levels of commitment to be someone who engages and inspires others. This inspiration of others involves enrolling them in a new possibility for being at work. That is, other choosing to be enrolled in the possibility of making a difference for others in the organization, and ultimately the organization itself.

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Topics: Leadership

The Consequences of Transformational Leaders

Posted by Bob Chapman on Jan 16, 2019 1:07:32 PM

Transformational leadership is passionate about achieving excellent results through extraordinary actions taken by others in the organization. Transformational leadership also acts to alter the organizational context and culture in order to sustain the remarkable accomplishments. Transformational leadership is crucial to creating breakthroughs in financial performance, revenue growth, innovation, and other forms of organizational transformation.

Transformational leadership begins with intense commitment to achieving the results needed to create value for the organization. This intense focus on value creation is a core commitment of the transformational leaders. Transformational leaders know that a key element in creating value begins with predictably delivering results with their organization. Further value is created when results are achieved far beyond what is expected and what competitors are achieving. When extraordinary results are being achieved, leaders have excellent opportunities to speak with their various stakeholders regarding the exciting future of the organization.

Observing the Consequences of Transformational Leadership

The popular comedy Seinfeld was described as the “show about nothing”. It may sound like transformational leadership is similar when answering the question “What to Look for in Observing Transformational Leaders”? There is no single right answer since there is not necessarily any one personal attribute or characteristic that identifies the person as a transformational leader. However, if the question is reframed as “What is probably going on around a transformational leader”, then we have something to talk about. When I look to see the consequences of transformational leadership, I consider the following:

  1. People are inspiring and in action.
  2. The organizational context is changing.
  3. People are working to expand the quality of communications, both personally and organizationally.
  4. Things are happening and there is a high energy among the people.
  5. The intense commitment to improving performance of the organization is readily apparent.
  6. Leadership development is happening on a large scale.
  7. Employees and other stakeholders are enrolled in the changes and are organized and active.
  8. Innovation is happening.
  9. A solid foundation for the future is being built.

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Topics: Leadership

Ownership: Increasing Responsibility to Enable Employee Engagement

Posted by Bob Chapman on Nov 20, 2018 11:04:48 AM

Author's note: This is a long-form article. If you prefer, download the entire PDF including a Study Guide here.

Download Now

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Leadership is the “Road Less Traveled”

Posted by Bob Chapman on Nov 6, 2018 8:15:00 AM

Choice is a critical element in being a leader. This choice is made daily, during challenging times, moment to moment. The choice to be a leader can be thought of as choosing between the comfortable and familiar vs. potential discomfort and unfamiliarity. Articulating this choice so as to be understood is challenging.

Robert Frost gives us a wonderful analogy for this choice, and the journey which follows in his classic poem, “The Road Not Taken”. This poem describes the story of a person walking in the woods who comes to a fork in the road and has to choose one of the two paths. The choice is between the familiar and comfortable vs. the less familiar and therefore less comfortable. This poem speaks to the heart of the matter for being a leader. The poem reflects a personal choice that is faced, like a fork in the road. The road less traveled is the only one that will create sufficient possibility for enrolling and inspiring others. The road frequently taken is the comfortable, familiar road that will feel good but not produce the desired outcomes.

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Topics: Leadership

7 Leadership Hurdles Executives Must Overcome to Transform a Business

Posted by Bob Chapman on Oct 22, 2018 8:00:00 AM

The starting point for talking about business transformation is leadership. Leadership is the lifeblood of transformation. Transformation simply will not happen without leadership. This leadership begins with executives and senior managers. For this leadership to be successful, there are 7 hurdles which executives must overcome for success.

They involve understanding and accepting the following:

  1. Importance of Personal Involvement

  2. Leadership and Management are Different

  3. Embrace Feeling Odd or Strange

  4. Commit to Being a Team

  5. Engage and Unleash Informal Leaders

  6. Importance of Inspiring and Mobilizing People

  7. Prepare Your Team for a Breakdown

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Topics: Leadership

Dispelling the Most Popular Leadership Myths

Posted by Bob Chapman on Oct 10, 2018 5:36:34 PM

Writing in the Financial Times, Simon Caulkin asked a powerful question: “Have we created an unachievable myth of leadership?” His opening paragraph said:

Leadership is possibly the most written, lectured, TED-talked and blogged about topic in management. Companies in the US alone are reckoned to spend $14bn-$20bn on leadership development and training every year. It is a staple of business courses. Yet despite the confidence with which formulae are dispensed for success in transformational, authentic, servant or level-five leadership, to name some current varieties, it may also be the least understood.

Not only are the concepts of leadership misunderstood, but confidence in leaders is also low. Calkin wrote:

Consider: never has public trust in corporate leaders been so low. That may be no surprise. Among contributory causes to the crash of 2008, leadership failure ranks high, as it does in the rule of greed and the rise of inequality. Other leaders do not trust them: witness the increasing speed with which boards push peers out of top office. That is no surprise either, given the finding of a survey of research studies of leadership compiled by the Center for Creative Leadership, a training provider, that half of all managers and leaders are seen as “a disappointment, incompetent, a mis-hire or a complete failure” in their current role. In another study, 35 percent of US employees said they would forgo a pay raise to see their direct supervisors fired.

He went on to ask, “Have we created unrealistic expectations that those at the top will never be able to match?” Clearly, Caulkin presents impressive data about disappointments with leadership and raises an interesting question about myths regarding leadership.

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Topics: Leadership

Defining and Using the Word 'Leadership'

Posted by Bob Chapman on Sep 26, 2018 8:00:00 AM

Why does it matter what the word leadership means? What difference does it make to people who are already too busy doing their “day jobs”?

That’s a great question. Let’s see if this sounds familiar:

In business organizations around the world the tempo continues to increase to the point that it seems like there is not enough time to do the basics, much less worry about leadership. Further, the magnitude of challenges in markets and the competitive landscape are accelerating. The digitization of many industries and other forms of disruptive changes is altering the landscape. Technology, which was intended to make our lives easier, seems to have made it more complicated. There are endless meetings which, if well done, produce an array of action items. The challenge is to become more disciplined and organized in order to stay on top of things, because it seems we never have enough time.

Did at least some of those statements sound familiar? I hear them all the time. When I’m listening to executives and managers say these things, I listen patiently. Then, when the other person has finished talking, I say “Yes, you have just given an excellent description of the challenges facing management”. Then I ask, “So what’s missing?” Slowly the answer turns to, “We are so busy dealing with the day-to-day that we have little time to think about growth and innovation”. For most organizations, growth and innovation will not happen naturally. It requires attention and interventions to promote change.

In short, it requires leadership.

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Topics: Leadership Accountability

What Is Leadership?

Posted by Bob Chapman on Sep 19, 2018 11:35:08 AM

“What is Leadership?” is an interesting question.

At first this may seem like a dumb question, since “everyone knows” what leadership is. That is, each person knows how they use the term leadership. In spite of our confidence that we all know the answer to “What is Leadership?”, in reality the best answer might be “It depends”. To be thorough, the most accurate response is “It depends on the context in which the word leadership is used”.

Let’s explore that further. Each of us uses a word like leadership inside of a context in which we are thinking at that moment. To better understand the word context, think of it as assumptions, beliefs, and experiences which, while in the background, actively shape how a person perceives events and phenomenon as they occur. While we are largely unaware of our contexts, these contexts shape our experiences, perceptions and thinking. As example, if you are in a business conversation, the term leadership will be shaped by your experiences in business as well as how the organizations with which you are engaged use the word leadership.

The context in which words are used clearly shapes the meaning of that word. As example, consider how the word beauty takes on very different meanings given the specific context. “Beauty” can be used to describe an attractive woman as well as “beauty products”. However, the same word (beauty) can be used to describe a physical injury to the eye (a black eye as expressed as “that shiner’s a real beauty”), and many physical objects such as an auto, classic sailboat, etc. Same word, but very different meanings given the context in which the word is used. 

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Are Leadership & Management the Same?

Posted by Bob Chapman on Jul 24, 2018 8:00:00 AM

Leadership is crucial for business. Leadership is a starting point of strategy. It’s the magic elixir for achieving sustainable growth and value creation. Leadership is at the heart of engaged employees, innovation and vibrant cultures. It is what makes organizations thrive and prosper. Yet for all its importance, leadership is widely misunderstood because many people consider leadership and management to be the same. This confusion is evident as these two terms are routinely used as if they were interchangeable.

While they are both very important for a business, they are not the same. Management and leadership are different, though both are important. Most businesses will not be successful over time without the contributions of both management and leadership. But make no mistake, they are different.

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Topics: Leadership Accountability