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The crucible of organizational leadership

Posted by Mark L. Vincent on Oct 8, 2012 6:30:00 AM

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Accept an organizational leadership role and enter a crucible.

A crucible is a ceramic or porcelain container within which other materials are smelted--aorganizational leadership crucible, design group international process where material is subjected to high temperatures and pressures. The word crucible has come to represent a severe test--one that shapes a person, breaking or making them.

A crucible comes with the leadership role. 

  • You will be consistently, sometimes unintentionally and occasionally willfully misunderstood, no matter how much effort you put into clear communication.
  • A variety of forces will compete, yea demand, your attention. The more you accomplish, the more these forces will try to shift your attention away from what matters.
  • The mistakes that others make are assigned to you. You have to own the problem and accept the responsibility simply because you are the leader.
  • The difficulties that your people face become your difficulties because they affect your organization's ability to fulfill its mission. 
  • Every action, every word is scrutinized. Some people choose to dislike you simply because you fill a leadership role.
Other such pressures could be listed. The weakest leaders are destroyed by them, washing out and ultimately trying to avoid leadership roles in the future.Weak leaders wrongly believe these pressures should not come their way and may try to avoid or deny them. Finding that impossible, weak leaders try to crush others before they themselves are crushed.
Leaders that are made by the crucible, and are made strong by it, are those who look to a different measure for their well-being.
  • They communicate, knowing they will be misunderstood, and use misunderstanding as opportunity to listen and then communicate yet again.
  • They reduce their role to its essentials and then make sure they have a life rhythm that keeps them focused on completing what must be done.
  • They understand that they embody their organization because they are a leader. The mistakes of others ARE their mistakes. They turn these mistakes into opportunities--opportunities to improve, to teach, and to get it right.
  • They have sincere sympathy for the life struggles faced by people with whom they work. They do not get sucked into the insanity of others, however, remaining aware that this may be misperceived as uncaring.
  • They understand that their role carries a level of loneliness. No-one can completely understand what it means to sit in the leaders' chair.
More than anything, however, the leaders who are made by the crucible know that life is a crucible for everyone. Life itself is the greatest pressure that breaks or makes any person. Everyone in the organization is in it. Perhaps a leaders' crucible is uniquely intense in some ways, but how do we grade excruciation? It is all hard. A leader is confronted with what others face in addition to their own struggles because they are a public figure, and that is what might make the leadership experience unique. It does not, however, make the leader more special. Knowing the difference between unique and special is what makes or breaks the leader.

mark l vincent, design group international 

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Topics: organizational development consulting, Organizational Leadership, leadership development, leadership crucible, executive leadership, Mark L. Vincent, Design Group International

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