All leaders lead from the Middle. We are all accountable to someone. A boss, a manager, a board of directors, our stock owners, and, of course, our customers. However, for some of us, we choose to lead outside of positional leadership. We don’t want to be managers or the CEO. However, we still want to lead. Leadership of this type takes on a different meaning. For those of us in this category, we must become experts at leading horizontally and vertically. We lead by influence instead of our position. People follow us because they want to, not because they have to. We desire to be respectable, instead of demanding respect. But there are challenges associated with this type of leadership including responding to positional leadership, leading up, and being viewed as a leader when your title and job description doesn’t include the word manager.
To discuss these challenges, Jon Platek and Justin King will discuss leadership topics from the perspective of positional and non-positional leadership.
The 70% Rule
In his post, Jon Platek lays out a framework for making decisions with input from your team that he titled the 70% rule. As a summary, there are two dangerous positions for a leader to take. The confidently blind leader is enamored by his decision-making ability and loses objectivity. Confidence blindness is when a leader believes his or her decision is 80% or 90% correct. Their blindness keeps them from seeing others point of view. On the other hand taking a 50/50 stance is just as blind. By joining the squishy middle of 50/50, you take no position at all, and, therefore, can exert no influence. Most leaders travel through the squishy middle on most issues. Every leader must emerge from the squishy middle of 50/50, or he will be unable to lead.
Leaders should aim for 70% during their personal decision-making process. They must move past 50/50 to a reliable and informed position. By not moving past 70%, it will protect the leader from becoming enamored with his or her idea.
The 30% Rule
As a leader that desires to lead but not necessarily manage people, what is our response to the 70% rule? Simple – we want to be the reason for the 30%. We want our positional leaders (managers, bosses, and executive team) to ask for our research, our data, and our opinion. We want a seat at the table. We receive a seat at the table when our opinions are valuable and not drowned out by other meaningless chatter. How do you deliver value?
- Shut Up – listen more, speak less. Listen to other opinions. When you do get the opportunity to provide your input, provide value and be different.
- Build your 70% – move past the squishy middle to an extremely informed opinion of your own. Use data and research to show value. Then develop a unique point of view.
- Respect the decision – after delivering your point of view, respect the decision no matter the outcome. Don’t complain or talk bad about the decision maker if the decision was contrary.
- Be an advocate for the decision – no matter the decision, help execute.
If you did this, wouldn’t you want you at your table? A highly informed position by someone who delivers their point of view regardless of the outcome then advocates for a final decision. You will be the reason for your leaders leaving 30% on the table. Your table.