How To Step Up During Six Critical Leadership Moments
The book, Step Up, shows readers how to step up to the plate during six critical leadership moments. Readers learn how to:
- Use anger intelligently in the workplace.
- Recognize and deal with terminal politeness.
- Make decisions when no one else is making them.
- Take ownership when others are externalizing a problem.
- Identify and leverage pessimism.
- Inspire others to take action.
And, before you start to read the book, you can take (via a QR code in the book) a fifteen-minute online Step Up Leadership Assessment, which will give you instant feedback on your leadership readiness and point you to the most relevant chapters in the book.
The book's two authors recently shared these insights with me:
A Conversation with Henry Evans and Colm Foster, authors of Step Up
What is a “leadership moment”?
- These are moments when leadership is required in order to see a problem solved, opportunity seized, momentum changed, relationship(s) built, or when the intelligent expression of emotion is required to drive a desired result. Leadership moments are when there will be an “easy thing” to do or a “right thing” to do, and you choose the “right thing,” even though it may be hard to do so. Some of the moments are counter-intuitive and will contradict some of the prevailing wisdom about leadership.
What are common misconceptions about leadership?
- That people who have the formal position of “leader” are good leaders and/or are always ready to lead. Another misconception, in our experience, is that people at all levels of organizations sometimes feel helpless and think that without a formal title they cannot lead.
Many books outline how to harness positive energy. Are negative outlooks—pessimism, skepticism, criticism—ever useful?
- In short, yes. The emotional intelligence community, ourselves included, have taught that emotions such as anger and frustration should be banned from the workplace. We have now changed our view. In our research and work with clients, we observe that the intelligent use of emotions like anger can lead to better business outcomes and stronger relationships. Stupidity is a problem, but not always anger, if channeled productively. Pessimists are often misunderstood and under-appreciated. Sometimes your pessimists are providing a counterbalance for unbridled optimism.
Are the six leadership moments important for both managers and non-managers? Can mastering how to act in the six moments help people advance in their careers?
- Yes. Leaders must demonstrate these qualities, and we promote the use of the six moments as criteria for reward and promotion across teams. We also believe that if you are working for someone who does not possess these qualities, you should train up, or trade up (get a new boss). Lastly, when you find yourself in a moment when you and your team are experiencing a leadership void, you can learn-how and when to demonstrate leadership in those same moments. You don’t need the title. You simply need to know how to recognize the moments when leadership is required, and of course, what to do when you are in one of those moments. If you demonstrate these qualities consistently, people are likely to view you in a new light, that of a leader.
What’s an example of a leadership moment in the news that a prominent leader stepped up to?
- Just a few weeks into the job, GM’s new CEO Mary Barra stepped up to the company’s recall crisis. The evidence looks like a leadership void may have led to the crisis and Mary stepped in to show very publicly how to turn this into an opportunity to lead. She has been much more open, transparent, and accountable than auto company leaders have traditionally been about recalls. She still faces huge challenges ahead to solve GM’s crisis, but she has already been an inspiring example of how we can all step up and show true leadership when needed.
What can readers of your first book, Winning with Accountability, expect with Step Up?
- Winning with Accountability is a language-based system for driving better business results, and building better relationships through the language you use when making and requesting commitments. Step Up focuses on the six critical leadership behaviors required for leadership, regardless of your title or formal position. As with Winning with Accountability, you can expect more ideas that are easy to access, immediately applicable, and which naturally connect to your current business reality. In both books, we are action-focused, not theory-focused.