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Mark Your Territory with Words

Project leadership via your message

When Neil Armstrong, the first man on the moon, planted the American flag, he was symbolically staking his country’s claim to the territory. In a similar fashion, dogs mark their territory by sending out the message, “This territory belongs to me.” They use several different means to do this, including variation in the intensity of their message-sending.

Like gold miners in the Old West who staked their claims, this territorial behavior in dogs is a way to ward off future encroachers and to ensure their turf remains their turf.

DISCERN EMERGING PATTERNS

Anticipating future dangers seems to be second nature to our canine friends. To illustrate: soldiers in World War I managed to smuggle a bull terrier into the trenches. This was no ordinary dog, however. Stubby had a sixth sense that warned him of incoming bombs. You have probably heard about animals that can sense an imminent earthquake or other natural disaster. When the soldiers saw Stubby covering his head with his paws, they, too took cover. Stubby was responsible for saving many American lives.

(As an aside, this famous and revered canine met President Woodrow Wilson in the White House and even had his selfie-picture taken with several generals. Imagine his owner’s dis- may then, when he tried to bring Stubby with him into a New York City hotel. He was told in no uncertain terms that dogs were not allowed. His owner, as feisty as Stubby was brave, indignantly responded, “This is no dog. This is a war hero!”)

While we humans do not possess the predictive ability that animals have, we can—if we invest sufficient thought and research—get a good sense of what the future holds in store. It will take work, though, to align facts and discern emerging patterns.

Leaders always have their ears and eyes open to new possibilities and new dangers. In fact, the United States Office of Personnel Management (OPM) lists “external awareness” as one of its most valuable skills for senior executives. In other words, true leaders have their an- tennae attuned to events occurring around them. They pick up early warnings of things that need to change in order to meet and successfully handle shifts in the existing environment.

Jack Welch, dubbed the Manager of the Century, echoes this need with his assertion that “if the rate of change outside the organization is greater than the rate of change inside the organization, we are looking at the beginning of the end.”

We find another echo in the words of Dartmouth’s former president Jim Yong Kim. In an interview for “The Dartmouth” (Katie Gonzalez, July 30, 2010, online edition), he discusses his use of science in various problem-solving situations. To be sure, the ability to change and adapt does not belong to the animal world alone. If we humans are determined to pre- pare for future challenges, as he maintains, we must remain flexible—particularly when dealing with threats that are not yet well-defined or diagnosed.

LEADERSHIP LESSONS FROM MOTHER NATURE

As many have observed, the only way to handle the future is to be prepared for it. That preparation involves the exploration of many scenarios that, as yet, are not easy to discern. But the best leaders make the effort to find those patterns—on an ongoing basis.

Have a message that is closely identified with you and your leadership project.
There are many facets to the jewel known as a human being. And even more facets or inter- pretations associated with a given leadership venture. Leaders, while remaining constant to their essential nature, undergo shifts in their emphases with each new leadership project they take on. While it is fine for people to remember you from an earlier leadership under- taking, you must communicate frequently and widely to have a new association aligned with you and your leadership identity.

Employ numerous vehicles to deliver your message.

Explore the many ways, mediums, and individuals who can help get your message   

          out there.

Some leadership projects, dependent on external funding, need more vehicles than 

           others, to be sure.

Author Ken Blanchard once commented that the key to leadership today is influence, not authority. In other words, today’s leader cannot simply order others to do things. Ideally, she will influence others to take on more responsibility, to demonstrate accountability.

You may not have an official executive title yourself, but no matter what your job title is, you can certainly influence others to take more empowered action. You can form teams to tackle workplace problems that need solution.

You can, for example, be a role model. You can show others, by virtue of your own actions, that you are comfortable making suggestions to those in positions other than your own. You can also propose ideas in staff meetings. You can commit to sharing your ideas for continu- ous improvement.

Take steps to protect your ideas. Let one step be the anticipation of future problems or questions. Critiques that come too soon can kill your plans before they have even been fully developed. When you make a presentation to decision-makers whose approval you will need, be sure that you have good answers ready for the questions they are bound to ask.

DON’T LET TERRITORIALISM BECOME SILOISM
Identity is one thing. Keeping information too close to the vest is another. “Siloism” is the word used when insecure individuals keep information in and keep people out. They believe such behavior will help ensure their personal success. This kind of selfishness, though, often backfires.

The siloism strategy is a manipulative one. It smacks of self-aggrandizement and dishon- esty. In time, siloism will destroy whatever trust once existed between co-workers and team members. Without a doubt, this underhanded strategy, used by “destructive achievers,” runs counter to the proven benefits of an open-book management style.

The open-book style gives all employees a chance to look at the books, to learn about reve- nues, stock values, assets, liabilities, profits, and costs. When they cannot look, when they lack data about operations, employees simply cannot understand how their jobs impact the bottom line. Supplying them with relevant financial knowledge lets them see the big financial picture and their part in it. Consequently, they are more inclined to act in responsible ways. Further, they are more likely to trust what they are told because they have learned the reasoning behind the decisions.

CONSIDER THESE QUESTIONS

It will help get your ideas across if you examine them from time to time with the microscope of analysis. Ask, for example: • What protective measures are you taking to ensure that your ideas are not appropriated or misconstrued?

  • What is your brand?

  • What sets you or your leadership concept apart from others?

  • How can you find out if your self-concept parallels the way others see you?

  • What is the ultimate destination or outcome regarding your leadership undertaking?

  • Who will most benefit from its implementation?

  • Is a shifting of priorities necessary for you or your team to realize your goal?

  • How fully are you utilizing your networking skills?

  • How fully are you utilizing your networks themselves?

  • Are you always on the lookout for new ways to spread your message?

  • Are you writing about your leadership message?

  • Are you speaking about it (for example, at conferences)?

CONSIDER THESE REMARKS

• Tom Peters: “We are CEOs of our own companies: Me, Inc. To be in business today, our most important job is to be head marketer for the brand called You.”

• Tim Ferriss: “Personal branding is about managing your name—even if you don’t own a business—in a world of misinformation, disinformation, and semi-permanent Google records.”

• Jeff Bezos: “A brand for a company is like a reputation for a person. You earn reputation by trying to do hard things well.”

• Lao Tzu: “At the center of your being you have the answer: you know who you are and you know what you want.”

• Socrates: “To find yourself, think for yourself.” 

These excerpts from my book Natural Leadership illustrate the profundity of Anne Frank’s words: “I firmly believe that nature brings solace in all troubles.” No matter the troubles facing you, you can turn to the earth and the creatures upon it for leading better, communicating better, living better.

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