Leading In Turbulent Times II

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“I went around often enough to have the men get accustomed to me and to have me get accustomed to them so that we began to speak the same language and so that each could begin to live down in other’s mind…the defective quality of being a stranger.”

–     Theodore Roosevelt, as quoted in Doris Kearns Goodwin‘s recent book, “Leadership in Turbulent Times”

“Management by walking around,” was the way it was described (among others by Tom Peters in “In Search of Excellence”) and it was the “it” theory of leadership for awhile.  It still should be.

Connecting.

If we’re leaders, it’s almost all about connecting, and it’s almost always about connecting.

The four presidents — Lincoln, both Roosevelts and LBJ, the subjects of DKG’s book — all connected — and unlike our perception of today’s politicians, they connected across the aisle, across race lines, across socio-economic lines; across lines in general.

“The defective quality of being a stranger” is borne out by silver-tower leaders who never leave the silver-tower.  I company I know well had blue carpet (very expensive blue carpet) in the executive area.  The running shtick in that company was “they’d have to leave the blue carpet to know what’s really going on here…”  The execs, it seemed, rarely left the confines of the exec offices.  If companies had a Life360™ – like app on their executive team, it would be interesting to see how frequently they “went around enough” to get connected.

Open-door policies are good, and I’ve never seen a company that didn’t claim to have one.

The open-door never works, though, unless the leader walks out through that open door to get accustomed to the team and have them get accustomed to the leader.  The word “never” is one I use sparingly.  I use it very intentionally here.  If a leader never gets out to connect, they could remove their doors altogether and it wouldn’t matter.

If being a stranger is a “defective quality” for a leader, difference makers know that getting connected is the antidote — not to mention the foundation for leading, and not just in turbulent times.

 


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Trackbacks

  1. […]  From Lincoln — How curious are we?  How compelled are we to understand?  From Theodore Roosevelt — how well are we connecting to those around us?  From Franklin Roosevelt — how deep, talented and loyal is the team we’re assembling […]

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