The Tensions of Leadership – Episode Three Transcript


DURATION: 00:18:50

NARRATOR: You are listening to leadership on the ground Season 4 – The Tensions of Leadership. A tension is a gentle pull, a stretch that causes a strain or an emotional trigger that can cause a positive or negative reaction. When you are in a leadership role, you’re confronted with tensions constantly. What would you do with these critical moments that matters the most? In this series, we’ll learn how to identify and acknowledge these tensions, how to appropriately respond to them with our next move, and how to skillfully navigate through them when leading ourself, leading teams, and leading at the organizational level. This series is made possible by the international bestselling book— Leadership Rigor — Your guide for achieving breakthrough performance in productivity and now here are your host Todd Schnick and Erika Peitler.

TODD: Good morning and welcome back to our special edition series Leadership on the Ground Season 4 — The Tensions of Leadership. As always, I am joined by my friend and colleague Erika Peitler. Erika, good morning my friend! Good to be with you as always in studio.

ERIKA: Yeah, Good morning Todd! Happy to be here today in studio with you.

TODD: Okay. I’m looking forward to today’s episode– The tension in leading yourself in crossing that knowing and doing that Part 2 — Utilizing your leadership voice to influence. So, it’s going to be a very important show. Before we go there Erika, remind our audience what is meant by the tensions of leadership.

ERIKA: Yeah. This is really going to be, I think, an exciting Season 4 because we’ve been engaging in this ongoing dialogue regarding leadership being a skilled profession. So, it requires conscious discipline. It requires practice and it’s all in this pursuit of performance and productivity. So, when in season 1, really laid down some skills about how you become a consciously competent leader. What do you need to do? How do you do with MYD to do it? Then, we advanced in Seasons 2 and 3 and we started to talk about practices of leadership. How do you practice in real time? How do you establish rhythm for working at the speed of business and putting some macro structures in place? In season 4 Todd, we’re going to change it up again and we’re going to look at these tensions that leader’s face as they progress in advancing their leadership practice. These tensions are stresses, they’re pulls, they’re triggers. There are things that leaders must raise, wrestle with and resolve, or else they’re going to struggle, they’re going to get stucked and they’re going to stagnate themselves and their businesses. So, the stakes are really high in season 4.

TODD: Alright. Thank you for doing that, Erika. So, understanding how to utilize that leadership voice that we’d talked about last episode to influence all kinds of interesting tensions and challenges that come from that. I think one of the most important things to do first and really understand is figuring out what your end game is with all of this. What do you mean by that?

ERIKA: Yeah. So, you’re leading yourself, you’re crossing, knowing, and doing gap. Where do you want to take this leaderhip practice, right? When you’re leading yourself, you’ll start to realize, “Hey, there are places that I can go. I could become a team leader. I could get promoted. I could have direct report. I can lead a functional area. I can lead a department or maybe I’d love what I’m doing so much that I’d really want to get deeper into that area and be a thought leader.” Maybe I want to be a trusted advisor. I want to sit at the right hand or left hand of a functional head or a strategic leader in the organization and provide them with advice and thoughts. At this stage in your career, you should start thinking about where do I want to go as I become more confident and more courageous. I understand more about my own leadership practice.

TODD: Well, this is I mean, — You’re talking about transactional players and trusted advisors. I mean, explain the difference between two.

ERIKA: Yeah. That’s a great question. So, you know that I love this S-curves, right? In part, when we start off, we become an expert at something, right? It may be an accountant, maybe a lawyer or maybe a marketing expert. We at the bottom of that S-curve and the bevel, we’re putting together our expertise. But, as we start to cross and knowing and doing gap, we start to establish our leadership voice, we start to be that participant at the table that we were talking about. We become more of a business leader. We’re not just an expert. We’re rounding out our perspective and then ultimately, we may take it to the highest level and become a trusted advisor. We don’t just know about a particular functional area or about the business, we know about the industry. We know about the players and we can operate at a higher level. So, I like to say that we go from this transactional level of being an expert, maybe to help businesses transform into this new places. If you’re able to transcend both the business and the expertise, you might be able a to be a trusted advisor and sit at the top of the table with the CEO and the leadership team.

TODD: But, this is another really large tension that all people face. Generally, in my view anyway, when you’re brought into an organization, you’re brought in because they want you to be a transactional player, because you have a skill or an expertise. It’s then moving from there. That’s a huge tension.

ERIKA: It’s a huge tension. Here’s the thing that I experience a lot in my coaching practice. The tension of what we talked about before expectations, people think because we’re expert in an area that we wanted to be the department head in that area and then we would be able to successfully lead and develop other people. Not always true, we may not sometimes have that capacity or that desire to help develop other people. We’ll talk about the tensions that a team leader will face in our next episode. The first tension that you have to resolve is, “Do I really want to be that team leader? Maybe I want to take a different path.” What I have learned and what I have seen is sometimes, we say yes to these things because we thing that the right corporate thing to say and do, but our skill set, our heart, and our capabilities are nowhere match to that. What do we do? We do a double bad thing because we ended up getting into a role, we didn’t really want that role, we don’t have a heart for that role, so not only do we not do it well but we have people that are now under our stewardship that we maybe letting down and compressing their growth as well.

TODD: Well, how common a scenario is this? I think it’s ridiculously common. I think majority people who are frustrated in a corporate work environment because they have made of all these choice in their minds. They get pressured talking about expectations. They think that there’s this pressure from their colleagues, from their family, from friends, that they have to be moving up that leadership track and maybe they don’t. When we talk about choices in this season, that’s a choice you can make, right?

ERIKA: It is a choice you can make and you know what? It takes a very, very, astute and confident person who can make that choice appropriately because it sounds not cool to make the choice of “Hey, I don’t want that promotion and be the team leader. I think I want to stick to my expertise here.” But, to the question you asked of how common is it, it is so common. In fact, we have team leaders that don’t have the skill sets to lead other people and always say “I have a day job. I don’t have time to develop other people.” Not, not, the profile of a team leader. How about the organizational leaders that we’ll talk about a little bit further down the road here, who were in very senior leadership positions who also don’t have the desire to really lead other people. They want to be out making a deal or they want to be out in business development. So, this is a really common thing and what I think is great for our listeners here is think about and understand crossing this knowing and doing gap tension early and make some of those tension based choices early for yourself, so that you can really galvanize and put your energy where it’s going to serve your highest good. Don’t look to serve the master who going to get you to take a role that you don’t want or that family member or that pressure that you’re getting from friends to say, “Hey, you should be doing this with your wife. You’re really good at that. ” Trust your instincts, push yourself, but resolve that tension internally and then follow your heart for what you want to do.

TODD: Well, a couple of thoughts here. Organizations need transactional players. They need technical experts. So, there’s a role to play and it doesn’t mean that you can’t get down the road begin to shift more to towards the trusted advisors. So, you’re not stucked in this route forever. Hearing it, when we talk about very [INAUDIBLE 08:00] in the last episode and it sounds like to me here, you guys start bringing some [INAUDIBLE 08:03] in this things right.

ERIKA: You’re absolutely right.

TODD: If you’re going to move on and become a trusted advisor.

ERIKA: The very task is something that with your technical transactional skill, you get really comfortable with it, right? — because you are the expert. So, speaking truth to power and saying, “Hey, listen. This is what I know and this is what I know to be truth [INAUDIBLE 08:20] that you are right. That now takes it to a different level and that says, it’s not just about what I say, it’s about how I say it, how I understand like the context of the situation, how I understand not just my altitude but my landscape, the players, the psychology here. It’s a much more sophisticated skills set which is why it doesn’t just happen at the transactional level or the expert level. It really happens at the business level. When we talk about this trusted advisors like those trusted advisors that really have it together, that really can influence a leader are those that have the ability to use [INAUDIBLE 08:57] in the appropriate balance.

TODD: Well, there’s a lot of people are listening who have heard that they were gravitas. I don’t think they really know what it means. This is when you talk about utilizing your leadership voice to influence. That’s what we’re talking about, having an impact. It’s being able to influence. You have to cross that knowing that you have to do it.

ERIKA: You know what’s interesting too, is back to one of our earlier concepts of the two currencies of leadership, the person with gravitas not only has the very [INAUDIBLE 09:22] community but they have a rock-solid relationship to be heard adn to influence. So, that crossing the knowing and doing gap and getting our voice out there, the more we get our voice out there, the more we established those relationships with those key stake holders that we were talking about. They start to listen to us and they start to believe us and we were on that path to become a trusted advisor.

TODD: Right. Erika and I will return after a short break. We’ll be right back.


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TODD: Alright. Todd Schick back with Erika Peitler. We’re still talking about leading ourselves here and using our leadership voice to begin in [INAUDIBLE 10:55] but we are progressing down the road a bit to leading teams. In thinking about this, there’s got to be role modeling plays and how we begin to make this transition from leading ourselves to leading others. How do we do that?

ERIKA: You use this word role-modeling and which I think is a really interesting phrase because in leading ourselves we are starting to role model and give signals about who we wanted to be as a leader. One of the things that determines who we want to be as a leader and how are we going to play our role is our mindset. What do we role-modeling in terms of our mindset. There’s two types of mindsets that you can have out there and the leadership role, there’s a lot of work right now that’s going on with this woman-[INAUDIBLE 11:40] whack on a growth mindset. I love her work and I love how she frames it because her concept is, those people who have a growth mindset, they’re curious, they’re courageous about learning. They want to get better. They’re willing to be vulnerable and open. They’re confident in their own skin. It’s no bad thing if they fail because failure is just a stop on the road to success for them. People with a fixed mindset, a little bit more ego-based, may need to be the smartest person in the room, a little bit more concern about whether they look bad or of they’re going to look bad, they don’t want to play. It could be a little bit more insecure, a little bit more defensive. When you think about leading yourself, are you playing to win and you’re playing to learn? Or, you’re playing to play safe and not to lose?

TODD: Gosh. I’m thinking and hearing you describe those two — a growth versus a fixed mindset. I recently saw a statistic that said most people leave a job because of their boss. And boy, can you imagine working for a boss who’s in that fixed-mindset? Goodness gracious! What a miserable existence that is.

ERIKA: That’s such a great a thing that they leave the boss and often it is because the boss wants things done their way or it’s all about them and they’re not really creating space for the learning and for the other people. That is probably one of the most significant challenges that we face as an individual contributors. Do we have the space in the room to grow? Is that boss that we’re working for were modeling open space for learning or is it close-minded and they’re way on the highway?

TODD: Now, I hear you describe growth mindset and some words that we’ve talked about already the season of confidence, of being vulnerable, of taking risk, overcoming obstacles and encouraged. Those are absolutely, as I now understand what the growth mindset mean. You can’t do this without growth mindset.

ERIKA: Absolutely. In fact, that’s when you talk about role modeling. If you are a supervisor and you are looking at a number of talents that you’re working with, when you start to think about who really has potential, who really is my next team leader, who really is someone that I want to make that additional investment in, I’m looking for that growth mindset because that growth mindset is going to be stretched and it’s going to be open and they’re going to be able to take the good and the bad and keep going. Some of the fixed mindset, probably a little bit more high maintenance, a little bit more difficult to manage over time and so really interesting. What are you role modeling and then what are you looking for when you are a leader?

TODD: Well, I’m going back to our conversation over the years and this shows the skill and this is a skilled profession. To those who are maybe operating out of the fixed mindset, you can change.

ERIKA: You absolutely can change. If you have a fixed mindset and you get some coaching, you really discipline yourself, you can move into being more curious, more courageous and being more open. Those are learnable skills. I almost link those back to what we talked about with emotional intelligence. Having a growth mindset is EQ. It’s self awareness, self management, social awareness. How am I role modeling? How am I coming across, open or closed? So, with absolutely, we can be learned. I think it leads into this other concept that we’ve talked about which is choices that we can make in terms of who do we serve. We talked about this in earlier seasons. If you serve the master, it might come across as a fixed mindset. They really just work and for their master versus if you have a little bit more of a growth mindset, you’re open to serving others.

TODD: Going back to our initial discussion, this episode is end-game and without understanding that, you can’t figure out who to serve and understanding— Well, I am serving the boss. Why is it not serving others? Well, there’s all kinds of tensions here but you can run into issues with your colleagues with some of this, right?

ERIKA: Oh, absolutely. I think that’s the biggest tension. When you think about serving yourself, we joked about this last season and two of the answers are wrong and of them is a right one, right? You serve yourself and not a cool thing and that will make tension with everybody. You want to cause a three alarm fire and tension and serve yourself. Your boss is not happy with it, Your colleagues are not happy with it, maybe your direct rapports, if you have them and are not happy with it. If you serve the master, high-risk proposition, your peers are not going to be very happy with you, if you intend to just serve the master. If you serve others, if you serve the organization as a whole, you could have some tension if you have direct rapports and they said, “Hey, why aren’t you supporting what we want to do?” But, we’re going to talk later in episode ahead that talk about, “Hey you got to be an organizational player and interface player. You can’t just serve your direct rapports either.” So, tensions can be solved and created depending on how you move through the space. Back to being a mindful, consciously competent leader, you reallay need to think about what is the end game and what are you trying to do here and what are the skills that you need to put in place so that you can come across with the growth mindset, served at the right level and be clear about who you want to be in terms of a leader.

TODD: Seems to me a simple way of thinking about this is manipulating versus influencing and they are very, very different, right?

ERIKA: They’re really different. One is really, really good and one is really, really bad. In a nutshell, I think it’s important for people to know the difference. When you’re trying to influence a situation, you remain open to the possibilities of what others can bring into the conversation. When you’re trying to manipulate something, you already have an end-game that you want to get to and you’re not really open, you’re trying to convince other people that they agree with you whether they do and they don’t and we feel that when we’re being manipulated and that doesn’t feel good. That’s often a fixed-mindset approach because someone wants to get their way, whereas in the growth mindset, “Hey, you know, I came out at this way, but you brought some great point to the table, Todd. Now I have a very different point of view. You influenced me and by the way, in allowing you to influence me, I’ve now probably given you more of an opening and an entry point for me to influence you.”

TODD: Well, that also speaks to trust which we are going to get into quite a bit. So, okay, well that’s all the time we have for today, Erika. Should anyone have any questions, how can they contact you and learn more?

ERIKA: Yeah, you can contact me as always at by email. You can follow me on Twitter @erikapeitler. We’d love to hear from you.

TODD: Alright. Thank you for that. So, join us next week for episode 4 — The tension and leading teams and being both a practitioner and philosopher part 1 — Recalibrating yourself as a leader. So, until then and on behalf of myself and my co-host Erika Peitler, thank you for listening and we’ll see you next week on Leadership on the Ground Season 4.

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