I have spent many years in public sector service and I am convinced the singular factor limiting real and effective change is something I’ve chosen to call The Agility Paradox. Agility – the power of moving quickly and easily is a desirable characteristic for those engaged in battles of all sorts. Using the sports analogy, there are few physical skills as valuable as agility when two equally matched opponents take the field/court. By virtue of your position as a leader you may very well consider yourself a leader engaged in battle or a competition. Success in these engagements requires a flexibility and agility, in action and decision making, not often found in public sector work or many businesses.
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I have been reading leadership books for as long as I can remember, in addition to developing my own life experiences on the subject. Additionally, since the blogging and Internet era there are a fair number of posts, sites and discussion forums on the topic. With that said, I’ve seen or read very little on leadership failures. Leadership is much more art than science and you can never discount how even the best of intentions are skewed through human involvement. At the end of the day we are talking about the application of principles in actual scenarios with other human beings. It is for this reason that you must consider the possibility of failure. Even the best application of theory falls short from time-to-time. How will you react when you are the leader on the negative end of the equation?
How do you ensure your contributions are valued? When you are part of a large organization its easy to feel like your contributions are not seen for what you believe they are worth. I recently had a conversation with a co-worker where I expressed my earnest belief, in all its simplicity, that to ensure your contributions are valued — make them CLEAR and IMPACTFUL!
Accomplishing great things is very dependent upon the quality of the team engaging in the task. I’m a big football fan. One of the best parts of the season is the time during free agency and the draft. It represents a time of great optimism for the team and its fan base. Every team wants the big prize, a super bowl appearance and victory. GMs, coaches and team owners spend a tremendous amount of time in front of white boards and viewing individual player stats to determine if they have the right formula (mix of players and coaches) to get them to the big dance. The renowned Jim Collins spends a large portion of his work Good to Great on “getting the right people on the bus.” What happens when you are given a great task and the roster is fixed and set? One of the greatest challenges in leading in government is the expectation of achieving noteworthy accomplishments with a roster of folks who often aren’t your first pick.