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Face The Challenge - Sample Section, Chapter 1

Chapter One - General Perspectives
"General Perspectives" discusses the development of effective leadership theory, philosophy, and good executive coaching skills throughout the last several hundred years and lays the ground work for reconstructing the Leader's basic leadership traits, characteristics, or leadership skills. It analyzes many of the questionable preconceptions regarding good leadership strategy, principles, or theory commonly held by today's senior and junior executives that are often perpetuated by the media, wrongly accepted as being effective leadership coaching practices or strategy, or are basically outmoded leadership principles or creative folk tales. The purpose being to redirect the Leader's creative mind-set and for him or her to begin development of an effective, more productive leadership philosophy based upon a good, cogent, cause and effect analysis and sound leadership characteristics, skills, and traits.
 

1.1 Let's Get Started.  The underlying thesis of this monograph is the belief that every Leader's motivational impact is ultimately determined by his or her behavior, and that productive leadership behaviors may be learned or improved and thereby enhance his or her effectiveness.  Thus the primary purpose of Face The Challenge is to teach aspiring groundbreakers how to think and subsequently act like Leaders; and for them to acquire a greater understanding of the effect that their decisions or actions have on their followers both intellectually and emotionally.  Face The Challenge also attempts to uncover much of the mystery as to why so many organizations do not seem to function as well as they might; why conventional leadership wisdom has repeatedly failed to produce sustainable long-term solutions to many chronic leadership problems; and why both the leadership dinosaurs and whiz kids of the late 20th century were unable to resolve their apparent operational deficiencies—let alone prepare themselves or their organizations to take on the anticipated greater leadership challenges of the third millennium.
 
 (A) Application of Principles.  Although Face The Challenge heavily emphasizes business leadership, the principles and ideas discussed herein are applicable to a broad range of leadership situations including those found in government, community, religious, benevolent, or military organizations.  And whether Leaders can ultimately count their followers on their fingers or by the tens of thousands, it is the depth of experience and knowledge that they gain at the lower and middle leadership echelons that ultimately determines their caliber at the executive level, and if they are denied sufficient growth at these more elementary levels it is highly doubtful that they will ever emerge as big guns.  For it is at the lower supervisory rungs where the distinguished service medals of leadership are earned, where those who hanker to fill senior management positions must concentrate their motivational aptitude to achieve superior operational performance, and where a Leader's understanding and application of his or her own leadership dynamic initially evolves.  It is also the multitude of leadership skills acquired at the embryonic stage of a start-up company, heading a small department, managing a retail location, leading a product group, supervising a production unit, or wherever else Leaders must directly impact (stimulate) those who are actually performing production tasks that provides them with the interactive motivational foundation upon which their future leadership prowess will forever depend.  As nearly all the assorted leadership shortcomings that beleaguer executive-suite tenants originate from career path deficiencies that have somehow curtailed their leadership development.  Consequently, to overcome such obstacles, Leaders must relearn old lessons or assimilate new concepts; and by doing so, supplement their skills and modify their personal behavior.  In many instances, Leaders will have to "re-mentor" themselves in order to surmount the "unproductive, unconscious, habitual behavioral patterns"—often unknowingly acquired—that impede their interactive and administrative effectiveness.
 
 (B) Immediate Action.  In practical terms, readers will discover what they can do tomorrow morning to begin realizing their greater potential, how they can increase their personal impact, and how by enhancing their leadership skills they can significantly improve their Subordinates' morale and productivity.  To this end, readers will find a detailed examination of how leadership behaviors affect Subordinate motivation and a distillation of authoritative sources that will enhance their leadership acumen, expand their supervisory horizons, and increase their personal proficiency rating.  It is also assumed throughout this text that intelligent people bent on self-improvement need a detailed analysis along with their expanded knowledge to make significant behavioral modifications—not just general theories or abstract principles.  For if it were possible for them to glean what they need to modify their leadership behavior from such sources, that they would have already done so.  Because "the fact is that the light of principles, like that of lighthouses, guides only those who already know their way into port, and a principle bereft of the means of putting it into practice is of no avail" (Henri Fayol, French Industrialist, Management Theorist & Author, 1841-1925).  The validity of the ideas and analysis presented herein rely almost exclusively upon the weight of reason, well acknowledged leadership precepts, and the reader's own experience; and purposefully avoids depending upon any ambiguous leadership tenets or esoteric, idealistic beliefs.  Consequently, the ideas or recommendations presented are not an uprooting or abandonment of everything the reader has learned up to this point; nor is an emotional catharsis, a total transformation, or any extraordinary talent necessarily required for such conceptions to be successfully adopted or implemented.  And no matter how overwhelming it may at first appear, the mountain to improved leadership proficiency is not insurmountable.  As once the reader has made the first cut and been inducted into the supervisory ranks, it is more than likely that he or she possesses sufficient raw ability or "right stuff" to be effective.
 
 (C) Who will benefit.  If you depend on your ability to motivate others to do what you want to be done, then Face The Challenge will prove invaluable.  However, if your initial reaction to Face The Challenge is "gee, does it have to be so long," the surest remedy for such an anxiety attack is for you to find yourself a shorter-winded messenger; much like terminally ill patients who refuse a life-saving balm simply because they do not like how it tastes.  Besides, it makes absolutely no sense at all for you to endure such anguish, as this leadership testament is definitely not intended for Leaders of your ilk or mental attitude.  For those who have just a perfunctory interest in their personal growth will typically return this volume to the bookstore shelf after their fingers have respectfully strummed its pages—as the amount of time necessarily invested to read Face The Challenge will only appeal to the more seriously minded leadership student.  Additionally, these pages are not a collection of trite general wisdom or unimaginative superficial advice such as: "buy low and sell high," as this magnum opus is specifically intended for bigwigs-to-be who are at least one level above being able to benefit from such prosaic pabulum.  Nor is this work designed to guide the reader through specific supervisory situations, for such an approach to improving one's overall leadership expertise is—in the author's opinion—both unencompassing and misdirected.  As merely surfing the crests of leadership thought, throwing out a barrage of lofty ideals, or depicting some futuristic leadership Shangri-La does not significantly expand the bewildered leadership fledgling's knowledge of the subject matter or improve his or her motivational skills; even though such rhetoric may prove to be temporarily uplifting.  And based upon its physical dimensions alone, readers should not expect a short synopsis or superficial treatment of the various aspects of leadership; but rather sufficient depth to provide them with a comprehensive understanding of leadership behavior and the related theories and concepts.  For if the average Leader's proficiency over the last half-century is the measure by which hundreds of much shorter volumes are to be judged, then there is definitely no need for another.  Hence the goal is not to provide Leaders with a quick, thumbnail sketch or magical list of rules that will somehow resolve all their leadership ills over the next thirty days (though if such a list truly existed it would have been included); but to provide them with a solid foundation for their continued leadership growth and an increased understanding of what motivates individuals to excel at their tasks.  More specifically, the objective is for readers: (i) to reaffirm their current beneficial leadership behaviors, (ii) to broaden their understanding as to why such behaviors have a positive impact on others, (iii) to be able to identify leadership behaviors that they may need to eliminate, modify, or improve, (iv) to become aware of alternative positive behaviors to include in their leadership portfolio, and  (v) to significantly add to their general leadership knowledge and motivational expertise.  But despite its obvious throw weight, Face The Challenge is not the "mother" of all leadership books; as the subject matter itself is far too extensive for any such endeavor to prove all-inclusive.  It will also become evident that the author does not necessarily agree with all the conclusions or recommendations made by some notable leadership authorities.  Therefore readers will derive additional benefit from analyzing these different perspectives and are encouraged to make a reasonable effort to do so (See Bibliography).  And critical to benefiting from this leadership writing is the assumption that the reader will be reasonably self-motivated; for being constrained by the author's own limitations, this manuscript is admittedly somewhat dry and will generally fail to entertain.  If however, those persevering stalwarts glean only a fraction of what I learned about leadership while writing Face The Challenge or repeat considerably fewer mistakes than I have made, my effort and their time will be well justified.
 
 (D) Behavioral Orientation.  You, the Leader, are the "they" that your Subordinates blame when customers complain to them about inane corporate policies, or that junior supervisors pass the proverbial buck to when they are confronted on similar issues by their own Subordinates (e.g., "that's the way 'they' want it").  Thus if the group you lead—irrespective of its size or mission statement—is not accomplishing the results you want, it is an unquestionable certainty that you are a formidable part of the problem.  So if you are inclined to think that some dumb SOB out there is the cause of all your trials and tribulations, your analysis is probably right on target; and the effort to ferret out that incorrigible rapscallion should begin one morning by thoroughly evaluating the image in your own bathroom mirror.  For "if you could kick the person in the pants responsible for most of your trouble, you wouldn't sit for a month" (Theodore Roosevelt, 26th U.S. President 1901-1909, 1858-1919).  Correspondingly, if you are personally unwilling or incapable of doing something differently tomorrow than you did today or yesterday, then return this treatise to the shelf and save your money; for it is highly improbable that it will do you much good.  As achieving substantially improved results requires that something be done differently; and for Leaders to achieve substantially improved results through their Subordinates requires that they change or augment their own leadership behavior.  Conversely, repeating the same behavior day in and day out, year in and year out, with the expectation of accomplishing different results, undoubtedly qualifies such imperceptive leadership pea-brains for a padded six-by-ten at their local mental health facility (Benjamin Franklin).  Because substandard performance or outright failure does not usually result from "…one damn thing after another.…[but from] the same damn thing over and over" (Edna St. Vincent Millay, American Poet, 1892-1950).
 
 (E) Let the Debate Begin.  If you have gotten this far, grit your teeth, fasten your seat belt, and prepare for a possible arm-wrestling match.  As I am confident that some readers will be inclined to tell me why everything I have to say is not completely accurate, or that they will prove equally resourceful at inventing some drawn-out, cockamamie rationale or excuse as to why every point I have to make does not apply to their particular situation (note that abnormally wide margins are provided specifically for the reader's comments).  However, I do fully recognize that just because I happen to say something that it does not make me right; but I am equally certain that just because a few readers happen to disagree with me that it does not make me wrong.  Though it is expected that Leaders who are already experiencing reasonably satisfactory results are the ones who are the most likely to benefit from our unilateral dialogue; as they are also more likely to be receptive to new ideas and better able to examine old behavioral patterns from a new perspective.  But in any event, if you, the reader, "have heard all this before" (though very unlikely) and are still experiencing run-of-the-mill Subordinate performance, then it is quite evident that you need to hear it all again.
 
 (F) Jump around if you must.  From an organizational standpoint this leadership discourse is probably best read straight through from the beginning to the end; but such an approach is not absolutely necessary.  As each chapter or section is designed to stand on its own with little overlap or dependence upon other chapters or sections either previous or succeeding.  However, readers are cautioned against trying to abbreviate assimilating the full breadth of the concepts presented in an attempt to hand-pick only what they think they need in the name of time economy.  As such a cafeteria approach to self-improvement is as laughably absurd as pharmacists inviting sick people behind the counter, pointing to the medicine shelves, and telling them to: "take what they need and leave the rest."  For greatly complicating this learning process is the fact that leadership is a broad-based field of endeavor involving a multitude of interrelated concepts, theories, principles, and disciplines—both finite and evolving; and rare are the leadership practitioners who can selectively make their way through this amalgam of knowledge with any degree of success, though those who are presumptuous enough to believe that they possess such powers are common.  Thus predictably, "the path to failure is intersected by many more shortcuts than the road to success" (Unknown).
 
 (G) Semantics.  In common application, "a rose by any other name would smell as sweet" (William Shakespeare, English Playwright, 1564-1616) and significant progress on the leadership-motivational front is rarely made by splitting semantic hairs; thus the discussion of trifling nuances with regard to terminology is herein steadfastly avoided.  However to achieve greater clarity, the noun "Leader" connotes someone who goes before, shows the way, influences, or otherwise guides or induces others to do something differently or to change their direction; and—most importantly—is someone who has followers who will comply with his or her directives and who primarily accomplishes his or her goals through others (Antony Jay, British Management Theorist & Author, Corporation Man 1971).  Leaders are also in a position charged with the responsibility for accomplishing an objective and normally have some formal, authoritative power over those who follow them so as to require compliance with their demands irrespective of the controlling circumstances or its origins.  Managers, supervisors, foremen(women), or shift-Leaders also have similar authority or responsibilities; but in the context of this manuscript, may not be on the leading edge of change or be primarily accountable for moving others in a different direction; though all five terms are occasionally used interchangeably.  The terms organization or company may also mean supervisory unit, community, government, or other associations or institutions.  For the term Subordinate, as it is used in this text, the reader may substitute the terms: worker, employee, follower, team member, associate, cast-member, partner, etc., as may be desirable; but under no circumstances is the term "Subordinate" to be interpreted as a diminution of the dignity of the individual or an implication that some people are in any way inherently inferior to others as human beings; the term is simply used to identify those follow a Leader or who report to a manager or supervisor.  The term "echelon" is used to designate a position or level of authority within an organization structure or hierarchy and is occasionally used interchangeably with the terms "level" or "rank" to indicate the breadth of a Leader's responsibility.  No attempt has been made to give words expanded or unusual meanings other than those that are commonly understood by the reasonably well informed reader.  Wherever possible the source of a concept or quotation is indicated in parenthesis.  Other excerpts, concepts, or maxims which are not original to the author or that are not in common usage, but whose origins are unknown, are also indicated by quotation marks.

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Copyright 2006 by H. Garrett Hayward from Face the Challenge: The Leader's Success Handbook