Saturday, October 11, 2014

Breaking through the pacesetting leadership style stereotype

Early in my career I was in highly analytical roles.  I felt if I ever wanted to be taken seriously as a leader with organisational impact I needed to get out of my comfort zone and transition to an executional role. It was a compelling mind shift change that impacted my approach to so many things.

What I learnt was being action orientated is a skill, and it sometimes intimidates others. I can understand this having spent the early days of 
my career watching in 'awe' and even avoiding those that seemed to push me faster than I wanted to move.

Pacesetters can be viewed as self serving workaholics, who are uncaring. I have experienced some of this demanding dominant style of pacesetting leadership which is demoralising - to the point of being bullying. 

Most of us pacesetters are not like this. We are just trying to get things done and help others do the same along the way. Yet our motives can be viewed as suspicious and others fail to see our good intent.

The pacesetters that I admire and have role modelled myself on,  expect more of themselves than others. This is not because they think others are incompetent, but because they are self motivated and will pick up tasks to keep things moving along . They need to do, share, direct, discover, solve and create. To turn ideas on paper or in thought into reality.

This is what can be misunderstood about effective pacesetters. They navigate the way for others as much as themselves. They take responsibility for ensuring the right people collaborate or connect the dots to get to the next step. 

Pacesetters have an eye on the time. They intuitively know when things are looking like they are going to miss a deadline. It takes courage to remind others about this. Pacesetters will find the courage to say the things that others won't. It can be a lonely and thankless task keeping an eye on timelines and end goals, especially if you don't own the actions to get things moving.

Effective Pacesetters do care! Probably to their own detriment at times. They care about the integrity of their work, they care about the efficiency of processes, they care about follow through, and mostly they care about getting to an outcome. They don't walk away from actions or take a responsibility lightly. This often makes it easy for others to take advantage of them. They can be relied on. When a pacesetter drops off even half a beat it is noticed.

Effective Pacesetters are outcome focused. They will find a way to get things done and put in extra effort to gather stakeholders views. They try to identify and over come road blocks. This may make them appear highly political when in fact they are trying to positively influence and lobby.

Pacesetters can sometimes move so fast it can seem difficult to keep up with them. They action things immediately and follow up promptly. They state their opinions and move on. They tend not to dwell on things too long. 

Great pacesetters want their teams and projects to succeed.They tend not to give up and feel that people are happiest at work when they have a sense of achievement.

Finally, knowing what goes into developing pacesetting skills I know how vulnerable a style it truly is. Think about a pacesetter you admire. They may be a little annoying always driving the agenda, chasing up on things, and seemingly being overjoyed at ticking off their 'to do' list

Without dynamic pacesetters in an organisation there would be ideas without action, great conceptual thinking without structure, and lots of information exchange without a way forward. 

At some point someone has to be brave and make the move to get things started. Pacesetters do this, even when others resist creating some traction for momentum. 

This is the great irony for pacesetters who truly do care and put ourselves in this state of vulnerability. Being  outcome focussed is the way we show we care. We are looking out for rather than controlling others. After all, business success is about what gets done, and one of the main causes of frustration in organisations is activity that goes nowhere.

That's the different between effective and non-effective pacesetters - those that  are outcome focused vs those that are activity focused. There is a distinct difference.

So here's to all you pacesetters who enjoy the chemical rush of getting things done so everyone feels a sense of achievement,  who make yourself vulnerable everyday, and care enough to know that nothing happens without the tenacity make it happen!

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