Think Differently, Lead Differently.

think pinterestThere is a multitude of reading available on leadership. Everywhere we look, we find new articles and books about the characteristics, priorities, actions, behavior, qualities, and mistakes made by leaders. Many of us devour those articles for breakfast because we’re all looking for ideas to maximize our positive impact as business leaders.

But canned recipes and steps don’t work very well in leadership, because leadership approaches need to be tailored to fit the leader, the business strategy and the organization’s needs.

Today’s challenges are complex, requiring new thinking. As the economy trends toward recovery in fits and starts, now seems to be a very good time for us to re-frame our views of leadership, and to re-align our chosen leadership philosophy and style. The purpose of this article is to provide a simple framework to consider as you re-shape your leadership.

Thinking differently and leading differently are critical for leadership impact. If you choose to read on, you’ll find 4 cornerstones, the big rocks that can define your leadership philosophy, identity and brand.

And, if you decide to reflect on your thinking as a leader, you’ll want to read our next post, describing 4 lenses through which leadership actions, communication and decisions are interpreted by others. We’re breaking this into two articles to make it easier to find time to read, reflect and make new choices about the way you think about and impact people as a leader. .

4 Cornerstones

1. Trust and Credibility

These don’t come easy. We all know this, and we know these are breakable, with devastating repercussions. So, let’s look at building, strengthening and sustaining them.

Many would say that we build trust by being honest and by doing what we say we’ll do. But, when you think about it, there’s more to trust than that, isn’t there? I trust people who care about my well-being; who value me and my work and who I can count on to help me to succeed. I trust people who do what’s right.  I trust leaders who ask good questions and really listen. Do you use similar criteria (and more) in deciding who you’ll trust? Looking back over the last decade, it’s not surprising that the over-riding message received by employees, due to the impact of leaders’ decisions, actions and priorities during the recession, has been one of prioritization — revenue and profit over people. Layoffs, elimination of investments in people, more autocratic leadership and reduced transparency have caused loss of trust. And now, more than ever, leaders and managers need workforces with new skills and high commitment to improve business performance.

Interestingly, decades ago, multi-year studies by Elton Mayo and Nathaniel Hawthorne that involved changing lighting in a Western Electric plant resulted in a conclusive result that became well known as The Hawthorne Effect. The Hawthorne Effect is described as increased performance resulting when management shows that they care about their people. This early research discovery fits with today’s knowledge about the impact of Employee Engagement levels on organizational performance. Indeed, managers showing they care about their people and people’s performance are inter-connected.

Clearly, building trust between the workforce and the leader(s) is of critical importance, with trust as a cornerstone to the leadership philosophy.

Credibility is related to trust. It’s about being recognized as knowledgeable, skilled, honest, and reliable. We earn credibility by doing what’s right. We earn credibility by sharing information, leading by example, and walking our talk. We earn credibility by executing the business strategy effectively — meeting company goals. We earn it through fairness, wisdom, communication and follow through. We earn it by explaining ourselves, by building buy-in. We earn it through success and fostering win-wins. Today’s businesses are valued economically based on intangibles including Leadership.

2. Transparency

A concept that gained high momentum following the Enron scandal and other corporate management debacles that have come to light, transparency has become a standard practice, in varying degrees, in most organizations. Businesses have certainly become more open about sharing their financials and strategic goals, both internally and externally. In fact, customers now want to know what goes on behind the scenes to produce our products and services. They want to see companies operating in ways that promote the well-being of people, the environment and wildlife. Companies are increasingly providing more of this information to customers.

Many articles promise that transparency builds trust. As I think about this it appears to me that while transparency can contribute to building trust, by itself is cannot sustain trust between leaders and their workforces. Trust requires more than information and data being shared, doesn’t it?

More and more, customers want to know that businesses are taking responsibility for the greater good, and that business will put the best interests of the customer and of our planet ahead of profit.  Employees want leadership that cares about them and their well-being.  As you reflect on your own leadership philosophy, decisions and behavior, are you satisfied with the information and the messages your customers and your employees are receiving?

3. Inclusion is a concept that seems to have its roots in – dare I say the word – empowerment. It means inviting and pulling people into discussions planning change and making decisions that impact what they do and how they do it. It means enabling them to contribute in ways that are meaningful to them. To bring out the best in people, it’s essential to bring people into decision making discussions and planning at the early stages. Asking for their input and ideas and enabling them to partner with you provides many benefits to leaders and organizations. Really hearing your people’s perspectives and ideas, involving them in designing change and shaping decisions — provides leaders with a body of knowledge that cannot be accessible to you any other way. Inclusion leverages the skills, knowledge and experience of people throughout your organization for the good of the business. Inclusion means showing appreciation and recognizing people’s strengths and contributions. In addition, a philosophy with a cornerstone of inclusion demonstrates leaders’ value, caring and respect for their people. Perspectives and ideas that add value can be found in people of all roles, at all levels in the organization. How effectively does your leadership philosophy build on and leverage this people as the assets they are, individually and collectively?

4. A Future and Path

People need to see a future for themselves with the organization, and a path to it. It’s that simple. Where is the company today, and where is it headed? What will the company be doing differently in the next few years? Employees want to know how they fit in now, and how they can fit in later. Developing skills, knowledge and experience for today and for the future is good for both the business and its people. Providing strategic goals, training and development and career paths that enable your people to envision a desirable future for themselves, helps to address the universal question, “What’s in it for me?”, engaging people and aligning them to contribute to achieving the business strategy. Is your leadership strategy, and are your day-to-day decisions, present and future focused?

4 Mindsets Through Which You’re Viewed

We all have experiences throughout our personal and work lives that have shaped our way of thinking and interpreting what’s going on around us. Four specific mindsets/lenses/perspectives have been identified that act as filters that define how we as individuals process events in our daily lives.

Think Differently, Lead Differently – Part II – will open a discussion about the different mindsets people have, and how our mindsets influence our thinking.  We’ll also introduce the four mindsets or Frames, based on a groundbreaking book by Lee G. Bolman and Terrence E. Deal, “Reframing Organizations, Artistry, Choice and Leadership”.

Understanding these mindsets or perspectives as we make leadership decisions, communicate and take actions better enables us as leaders to have the impact we want to have on people and the business.

Thank you for making time to read this post. What are your thoughts? Please share your opinions, ideas and experience.

Rosanna Nadeau is the Principal/Consultant with Prism Perspectives Group, LLC. Focusing on improving organization performance, PPG delivers results through uncommon tools and consulting approaches, as a partner with leaders from initial consultation through solution implementation and measurement. PPG provides employee and management development programs (see and H.R. Management services (see To receive the free monthly newsletter or obtain more information visit or send email to .

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