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.
Dynamics of Choice
Choosing to be a leader initiates unique dynamics of development. These dynamics begins with the realization that choosing to be a leader invites new options. That is, when one chooses to be a leader one eschews the right to be petty, political and self-serving. While those attributes are prevalent in organizations, they are highly detrimental to the primary role of a leader, which is inspiring others.
Choosing to be a leader involves altering personal ways of being. Becoming a leader requires taking on the being of a leader. People around the leader pay close attention to attitudes, behavior, character, and communications of the leader. Is this person authentic? Can this person be trusted? What will this person do and say during difficult times? All of these assessments and intuitions factor in to the decision of “can I trust this person to be a leader?” Trust is an important precursor to being inspired by another person.
The choice to be a leader is the first act of enrollment, as the leader enrolls themselves into commitments for a future which are attractive and compelling. This enrollment of self is freely given. It also serves to empower the leader’s development of commitment and courage. As the leader moves forward, enrollment of others is a key ingredient in inspiring them to take exceptional actions.
The choosing to be a leader must come through commitment and free will. There cannot be any sense of being coerced or “not choice”. This “not choosing” lack of free will is often expressed as “I decided to become a leader”. While it may seem like semantics, the difference between choosing and deciding is important.
Notice that the second part of the word decide is 'cide'. This is the same 'cide' as found in homicide and suicide, which means to kill off. Decide is to kill off options. While this may seem like a minor linguistic issue, it is not. The term decide implies that “I didn’t have a choice”. There were two or more alternatives and all but one was killed off. Implied is “I choose the lesser of several evils”, with the allusion of having a choice.
“Leadership” is an overused term
The term leadership is widely used today in business. Noted leadership scholar John Kotter speculates that increased use of the word leadership has come about as organizations discovered the need for meaningful change. These needs reflect competitors with disruptive business models and technologies, increased customer demands, obsolescence of products and services, and shareholder expectations. These organizations are using the leadership word more, and yet it is not clear that there has been a corresponding increase in actual leadership. This lack of increase in leadership is due in part to the confusion on differences in leadership and management.
There are many in management positions who are now expected to also be leaders. They are appointed to roles which actually require a leader, but the person does not understand the differences in leadership and management, and has little training in leadership. Yet since these managers are now called leaders, they perceive they must use the leadership lingo and pretend to be leaders. These managers appear to have free choice about the use of the title leadership, and yet there is not a real alternative. They can announce that they are not a leader and resign, but for most that is not a real alternative. So, they remain stuck in a position without an attractive alternative. That is not a recipe for success for the business or the individual
Power of Authentic Choice
To be a leader, one must have authentic choice. Choosing to be a leader is a crucial first step in becoming an effective leader. That is, to be a leader one must freely choose to engage with all that is required to develop and mature
Enrollment describes the level of commitment. This choice is enrolling oneself as a leader who makes a difference for others.
Being a leader requires high levels of commitment to become someone who engages and inspires others. This inspiration of others involves enrolling them in a new possibility for being at work. That is, enrolled in the possibility of making a difference for others in the organization, and ultimately the organization itself.
Leaders also need high levels of commitment to deal with daily challenges, e.g., dealing with endless new challenges, failure, hostility and surprises. Being a leader requires large doses of courage, humility and resilience, all of which reflect the leaders’ commitments. Being a leader is NOT natural or comfortable, at least not at first.
Choosing to Be a Leader
Leaders want to stay focused on the question “who do I need to be” in this circumstance more than the question of “what do I need to do.” This is a challenge, since most business people are action oriented and very skilled in problem solving. However, finding the solution is not all that is required of a leader. Rather the focus is on enrolling others in being creative in finding solutions. Rather than trying to solve a problem, leaders are best served by:
- listening to what is being said, and not said
- observing what is being done and not done
- noticing what seems to be missing, that if put into place would make a difference
- watching for developmental opportunities for those engaged in leadership roles
- identifying those at all levels of the organization who appear to be providing excellent leadership
- watching for those who appear to be working against the transformation, either covertly or overtly
- seeking out opportunities for support and encouragement
- looking ahead for what the next moves might be to further the transformation
Being a leader begins with commitment to creating possibility for others. That is, possibility for a future that otherwise does not exist. This possibility has great meaning to others in the organization as well as to the leaders who are creating it. Possibility is the first place where leaders must learn the difference between being and doing. Specifically, being a leader who is committed to possibilities for the future of the organization that most managers are unable or unwilling to consider and create. These possibilities evolve into specific opportunities that can then become projects for action. Follow through is essential, as the most important role is to be a leader who is intensely committed to success of the others.
A leader is someone who inspires others to act in ways that produce extraordinary results. Another way of describing leaders is that it is someone who makes things happen that were otherwise not going to happen. Leaders initiate interventions with the intent of engaging others to act in ways which produce excellent results.
For many in business, this sounds like a tough assignment. Business people are usually much happier when in the middle of the action. Not having a hand on the steering wheel feels like abdication. This happens because getting ahead in most organizations is based on skill and tenacity in solving problems. Choosing to be a leader usually requires minimizing personal actions and attributes associated with problem solving, since others will not step up as long as the leader is busy problem solving. In addition, sustained direct involvement in problem solving will frustrate your people to no end and sub-optimize the performance of the business. The over involved leader will inadvertently send messages that do not trust others and do not consider them capable.
Enrollment of Self and Others
Enrollment is how a leader continues to build on choice for self, and in turn provides opportunities for others to have similar choices. Enroll means “to place one’s name on a roll or register.” Placing one’s name illustrates the voluntary and self-determined choice which is at the heart of enrollment. The word enrollment is defined as “the action of enrolling or the state or process of being enrolled.”
Enrollment is a process whereby someone sees their vision or commitments being fulfilled inside the future or possibility another person offers.
Enrollment is not merely “buy-in.” In fact, when a person has fully enrolled, they do not experience having “bought into” anything. Rather, they experience the possibility presented as their own, as an expression of themselves and their own interests.
Dynamics of Self-Enrollment
Self-enrollment is important step in choosing to be a leader. The choice to be a leader is the first act of enrollment, as the leader enrolls self into commitments for an attractive and compelling future. This enrollment of self is freely given. It also serves to empower the leader’s development of commitment and courage. As the leader moves forward, enrollment of others is a key ingredient in inspiring them to take exceptional actions.
It is important to achieve a higher level of self-enrollment as part of choosing to be a leader, since choosing to be a leader initiates certain dynamics. These dynamics begin with the realization that being a leader invites new ways of being for the person. That is, when one chooses to be a leader there is a surrender of the right to be petty, political and self-serving. Those attributes are prevalent in organizations, but are highly detrimental to the primary tool of a leader which is inspiring others.
Choosing to be a leader involves altering personal ways of being. Becoming a leader requires taking on the being of a leader. People around the leader pay close attention to attitudes, behavior, character, and communications of the leader to assess the person. Is this person authentic? Can this person be trusted? What will this person do and say during difficult times? How will this person react during adversity? All of these assessments and intuitions factor in to the decision of “can I trust this person to be a leader?”
Conversations for Enrollment
Enrollment requires a powerful ability to listen for people’s commitments. When interacting with others, the focus in on listening to what the other person is feeling and thinking about the opportunity. This listening allows the leader to understand how the other person commitments, goals and objectives. This provides the opportunity to look and speak from the other person’s perspectives, which is the basis of understanding how to authentically forward what this person is up to.
Once authentic listening and speaking is occurring, then an inquiry can help with how to engage with the invented future of the organization and strategic projects designed to move the organization toward that future. These projects are often breakthrough projects which are intended to produce breakthroughs in employee mindsets, what is seen as possible in the organization, and performance.
Enrollment usually occurs through a series of conversations. Each conversation is designed to produce ever increasing levels of choice. These conversations are:1. Conversation for BACKGROUND of RELATEDNESS
This is the foundation for all of the succeeding enrollment conversations. The quality of it determines in large measure how far up the levels of enrollment one will get. In this conversation, a leader wants to establish or reestablish your relationship with the person and how the person is related to the project. To do this, talk about how long you have worked together or what things are shared. If the leader does not know the person, then give them some information about yourself and ask about their background. This common background of family, shared educational experiences, hobbies, and sports teams. This conversation may include the history of organization, factors which are calling for a change, or how a particular change effort came to be. This conversation is intended to establish a shared experience as well as how the two parties came to this place at this time.2. Conversation for POSSIBILITY
This is an articulation of an invented future for the organization which is exciting, fulfilling and successful. The conversation regarding an invented future must include the person. That is, their intentions or commitments must be somehow assisted or fulfilled by the success of the project. If the invented future is inspiring to the person, there will be natural movement toward enrollment. This enrollment and inspiration is the foundation on which to build.3. Conversation for OPPORTUNITY
Next, the person needs to know how he or she can participate. Enrollment cannot be complete without some form of participation. Participation expands people’s experience of being enrolled and contributes to involvement with the change efforts and project. Sometimes people can participate directly by becoming team members or fulfilling team requests for research or information. Sometimes people may be encouraged to speak well of the project to their co-workers or even enroll them in it.4. Conversation for ACTION
Here, the person is invited to accept an offer to participate in some fashion. It must be a genuine invitation. The person must feel free to accept or decline the invitation. If the person cannot say “no,” it is conscription, not enrollment.5. Conversation for HANDLING BREAKDOWNS
A breakdown is defined as an interruption of commitment. In your commitment to have people enroll themselves in your project, any number of things could interrupt you. Some of the most common are:
- The Team is experiencing weak signals which indicate new data is being gathered which will be valuable and should be explored
- The targeted area for interruption could be changed given new data which has been uncovered
- Misunderstandings regarding the team’s charter and/or misinformation
- In project team formation there was insufficient establishment of:
- relationship, background
- the possibility of the project
- opportunity (e.g., no way to participate or no time)
- the experience of choice in the matter
Success always requires successful resolution of breakdowns. The presence of breakdowns is not an indication that a project is in trouble. Rather it is the opposite. A project team which is declaring breakdowns in on the right path. The absence of breakdowns is a warning sign that something is amiss with the project and team.
When people voice their objections, it can be very effective to redirect their attention to the outcomes of the project. If they are committed to the outcomes, they will often see that their objections pale in comparison and handle them on their own. Avoid “pat answers” to objections or utilizing sales techniques. They tend to set up an adversarial situation requiring someone to “give in.”6. Conversation for ACKNOWLEDGEMENT and COMPLETION
Whether the person accepts or declines your invitation, thank them for having the conversation with you. Have it be all right with whatever the outcome. It is essential that you do not make them wrong if they decline. Otherwise, you extinguish any chance for you to enroll them at another time or for them to think it over and accept later on their own.
Enrollment is NOT
Enrollment as a process whereby a person authentically commits to the realization of an idea that someone else offers. This idea can be the possibility of invented future for the organization or participation in a project. Enrollment is personal commitment, not merely “buy-in.” The enrolled person does not feel like he or she “bought into” anything, but rather, that the idea is his or her own. While this may seem logical and obvious, it is often not how managers have been trained. While these managers are wanting to be leaders, old habits persist. Given that, the following examples are given as NOT enrollmentEnrollment is Not Sales or Selling
Selling does not work in enrollment since in selling there is a winner and a loser. Selling uses features and benefits to get the other person to accept the point of view of the person in power. Selling may achieve agreement to a point of view, but it lacks the person’s commitment. With this limited commitment, the person will never achieve the desired higher levels of enrollmentEnrollment is Not Judgmental
If they buy, they are “good” customers, and if they do not, they are “bad, stupid, or wrong.” They are “great” customers if they buy large quantities of what you are selling, and if they only buy a little, they are “cheapskates,” or if they question your price, they are “chiselers.”Enrollment is Not Positional
Positional is applying pressure that another person should do something. Pressure will predictably produce two types of unwanted attitudes.
- One is the person will say yes, but not be committed. This person will not contribute and will ultimately sabotage the change efforts.
- The other is the employee will dig in their heels and hold a “no” position regardless of what information or evidence you may present.
Using force to get people to buy-in is not enrollment. People must have the freedom and opportunity to decline or say no. If not, they have to submit or take chance of hurting position in the organization. Submission is not enrollment, and will not produce the desired commitment and actions.Manipulating
Enrollment is not convincing, persuading, manipulating, or influencing someone toward a predetermined outcome or agreement. Enrollment is not a maneuver. Manipulation removes the element of freedom which is essential to enrollment. Manipulating will invariably produce distrust and resentment. Missing is the passion and power which comes from commitment and enrollment.
Levels of Enrollment
Understanding the different levels of enrollment is important. These levels range from “uninterested,” at the bottom of the scale, to “enrolled,” at the top of the scale There are several levels in between. For example, not everyone in the organization needs to find him or herself at the top level for your project to be successful. Distinguishing the levels at which key people in the organization are likely to be with regard to a project is invaluable in enrollment planning.Enrolled
Completely aligned with the project and see it as their own. See their own commitments being fulfilled inside the Project. They promise that the Invented Future and/or project will be realized.Strongly Accepting
Aligned with the Invented Future and a project. See their own commitments being fulfilled inside the Project. Will do “the very best they can” toward fulfillment of the Invented Future and the project.Accepting
Aligned with the Invented Future and project. This person will work diligently toward its realization if required or requested.Mildly Accepting
Generally aligned with the project. Merely compliant and will probably do what is expected.Submissive
The project is not seen as consistent with their commitments. Will do just enough to get by. May “hide out” or be resentful and make their resentment known.Antagonistic
Overtly or covertly: “I won’t do it, and you can’t make me!”Uninterested
“I don’t care, and I don’t care that I don’t care.”
Choice is the first element in design of leadership.
Leadership cannot be instructed or mandated like software does for a computer. Instead, choice is active and committed.
This commitment is not a one-time thing but must be updated and maintained on at least a daily basis.
This updating occurs through specialized conversations with others and yourself, called enrollment. Achieving appropriate levels of enrollment is crucial for leadership effectiveness and implantation of organizational transformation.
Growing a business is a daunting task for many, if not most, executives. While growth is considered fun, and what executives dream of being engaged in, achieving sustainable growth is another story.
Download our PDF: "Executive Challenges" and learn the Execution of Growth Strategies and Organizational Transformation.