By Alan E. Shelton
Perhaps one of the thorniest problems in business today, is how to create quality output without being specifically in charge. Product managers in coalition organizations know this all too well. How do you drive your goals when you are not in a line on an organizational chart?
My largest client is in the apparel industry with a multiplicity of brand names. As a result, their organizational structure is not dependent on the normal hierarchal approach. Instead, product and brand managers are organized into coalitions that serve as a resource one to another. So, how does leadership really play out in this type of non-hierarchical organization? In my experience, there are three major competencies that when developed, create a magnetic leadership style.
In order to be seen as an authentic leader you must actually be authentic. Sounds obvious, right? Yet so many of us show up at work each day shedding the truth of what’s really occurring in our lives and how that effects our interactions and performance.
Everyone knows the maddening experience of watching someone’s temper erupt in the middle of a business meeting. What’s more maddening is when we see this behavior in ourselves. This is normally labeled as reactive behavior – because it happens by itself. It is personal behavior triggered by an event over which we have no control.
When a leader must draw his followers to him, then his own reactive behaviors must not come into play. For when this happens, there is an immediate sense that in some way the leader does not possess the authenticity to command his own outcomes. In order to deal with this there are many tools available which will identify and isolate your unconscious behaviors. An investment of time to unearth these behaviors is critical when leading in a nonhierarchical space.
In modern leadership conversations we hear the term transparency bandied about with regularity. Even though we speak of transparency, it still is not a commonly found behavior in the corporate world. But when you’re not in charge, transparency might be the only card you have to play. So how does one become transparent?
Once again this is a personal development issue. In early learning we have become accustomed to believing that we have something to lose. It is this belief that creates a personal strategy that utilizes the manipulation of what others see. If they see the right things they will act in the right way. And if they don’t see what one might keep hidden, they simply can’t respond. But when you don’t possess the ability to control your team members, what do you have? You have who you are. And if that is all you have, it’s imperative that you are transparent in reflecting that to those you lead. Once again an investment in reframing your understanding of what there is to lose is critical to your own transparency. When you are not in charge, rarely are there chips on the table. And it is this insight that allows you to act in a transparent manner.
3. It’s in the conversation
Finally, let’s talk about the narrative approach. Simply put, this is the use of your own personal stories in order to engender leadership outcomes. At face value, this sounds as though you are using your personal stories. But the experience of the authentic and transparent leader is not manipulative in any way.
Think for a moment about the wise old executives that you have learned from along the way. Most often what you will remember is their incredible stories. In fact, although the stories are theirs you feel in your heart of hearts that you have lived them for yourself. This is the narrative approach. It takes authenticity and transparency to even attempt this style of leadership. By understanding that your story is the doorway through which somebody can stand in your experience you will open a new possibility. Every story that you tell will now become an invitation to those who see you and respect you as an executive thought leader.
In this approach there is no need to manipulate or create rewards. You simply offer yourself up, warts and all, for what you are. A visionary, yet human being with the horsepower to hold the space for those that would magnetically draw themselves near. When you think about it this is the highest form of leadership anyway. But in situations where no obvious control has been given to you, you can up your game. Through your own personal development and maturity you can offer your own experience as the playing field upon which successful outcomes occur.
ALAN E. SHELTON is a leadership coach, speaker, blogger, and author. His groundbreaking book, Awakened Leadership: Beyond Self-Mastery, integrates the corporate leadership and spiritual worlds through his message that awakening is the felt sense that your actions seamlessly reside in who you really are and move in a perfect flow. You can follow Alan on Twitter, like his Facebook page, and learn more about him at his website, www.AlanShelton.com
The Product Management Perspective: Authenticity and transparency are key traits of successful product managers. Because you work with other teams (that you do not manage or control), your ability to communicate effectively and promote the right actions on behalf of your products is imperative. Be the visionary for your product and you will lead your products to success.