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Inaugural FAR Leadership Conference a Success!
(L to R) Tom Harlow (FAR Chair), Susan Medick (FAR Past Chair & Conference Sponsorship Chair), Pam Furneaux (FAR Vice-Chair & Conference Chair), Mike Tryon (FAR Past Chair & Conference Program Chair)
FAR Leadership Conference Keynote Presentation

Wearing Leadership Well: The Choices You Make

Jeff Lawrence, in his keynote address to FAR Leadership Conference attendees, challenged attendees to respond to the unmet need for leadership in today's public and private organizations by reflecting on personal answers to three questions: What is my role? What is the nature of the change I am asked to lead? What is the unique personal perspective I bring to this issue? 

Before offering a new perspective on leadership, Lawrence, who is founder and CEO of Organization Agility Advisors, cautioned the audience to beware of the seduction of power that often comes with the title of "leader" as well as the impact of personality and role experienced in one's first family that continue to bear on a leader's response to organizational challenges.  

In pairs, attendees shared their reflections of the expectations at work to provide protection, direction and order in return for staff performance. Surrounding these expectations is a variety of pressures, forces that push a leader to the edge of her authority to move the needle in a positive direction. How does one decide what the organization needs a leader to do - be it to stir things up? or calm things down? 

Key to Lawrence's approach is recognizing the difference between a technical problem and an adaptive problem. A technical problem is easily addressed with expertise: we know how to fix an IT glitch and replace a retiring staff member. Adaptive problems are those that are not fixed with existing procedures, policies or people. Adaptive leadership is demonstrated by actions that are measured not by intent but by impact. For these we must be willing to ask: "What will it take to move the ball down the field?" 

Lawrence offered four guiding principles in his conclusion: 
  • Remember that the people with the problem are the problem ...and the solution.
  • Don't try to go it alone. Get some distance to observe what's going on in the situation. When you see a direction for change, find partners to walk with you.
  • Know your purpose. Technical leadership operates from the head. Adaptive leadership comes from the heart and the gut. 
  • Don't look to leadership at work to feed your own hungers. Manage your own hungers by taking care of yourself at home. 
Taking charge of leadership starts, not with acceptance of a title, but with the choices leaders make each day, accepting the reality that they may disappoint some supporters some of the time, but watching carefully for their ability to absorb the changes being asked of them and avoiding the temptation to go it alone. Stepping back now and then for a quick check "from the balcony" results in wearing leadership well.

(Keynote Luncheon Speaker sponsored by Novick Group, Inc.)

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