Just as your car runs more smoothly and requires less energy to go faster and farther when the wheels are in perfect alignment, you perform better when your thoughts, feelings, emotions, goals and values are in balance”.  – Brian Tracy, US author

“Being a leader requires you to be continually on the alert for new opportunities, knowledge, and inspiration. People turn to you for these things, and you need to look for them, too”. Kai Roer

I got to know Kai through networking but has until today never met him in person even if it feels like I know him. When he asked me to do a review of his book, I was honored.

‘The Leaders Workbook’ catches the key – elements a leader need to be aware of in a simple an elegant way. Roer’s purpose of the book is to give you inspiration, ideas and to act as a catalyst to help you grow and develop as a leader. His book is structured in three parts: Lead yourself, Lead others and Lead organizations. Each part contains seven topics related to leadership.

Lead Yourself.

A single footstep will not make a path on the earth, so a single thought will not make a pathway in the mind. To make a deep physical path, we walk again and again. To make a deep mental path, we must think over and over the kind of thoughts we wish to dominate our lives”.  Henry Thoreau

In the part of leading yourself, the writer includes these seven topics as important: expectations, creating an impact with your presentations, networking for success, dare to make mistakes, find a mentor, develop your knowledge and physical and mental strength.

Expectations remains important, both for you as a leader and of course for your colleagues. Roer add: “As a leader, you are expected to motivate your team to reach the organizational goals defined”. The follow – up process to both your team and to your own progress is of importance. If you fail on your understanding of the various kinds of expectations from you as a leader, you may be a candidate of failure in your profession. “Knowing each others expectations removes tension from the group, and makes it so much easier to work together”.  For sure we all have expectations in different areas, and the challenge lies in how to handle them to ourselves and towards our colleagues.

William A. Cohen has written the book; ‘Drucker on Leadership’. Here is what Drucker meant about expectations: “Each manager from ‘big boss’ down to the production foreman or the chief clerk, needs clearly spelled out objectives……A statement of his own objectives based on those of the company and of the manufacturing department should be demanded even of the foreman on the assembly line”.

“Checking the results of a decision against its expectations shows executives what their strengths are, where they need to improve, and where they lack knowledge or information”. Peter Drucker

Creating an impact with your presentations. Our communication style and skills differs from person to person. In Roer’s view, many leaders dread public presentations and seem to forget that most of their job remains upon communication. Leaders who possesses good communication skills know how to use them wisely.

Networking to gain success. If you need help or are looking for advice in any way, a network may be a solution. The purpose of expanding our horizon is to gain knowledge, contacts and trust. Roer add: ” The more people you know, the more likely is it that you are the one who will know vital information before others. And the more diverse your network is, the more likely it will be that the information you get will create a more complete picture”.

Dare to make mistakes. We all make mistakes, that makes us grow. Mistakes are often related to being stupid or weak. Roer add: ” All the products we surround ourselves with are the results of innovation. Many are the results of a series of mistakes, until the inventor finally got it right”. He continue: ” And imagine how your organization is being held back if do not allow or accept – or do make room for – mistakes and errors”.

“Mistakes are a part of being human. Appreciate your mistakes for what they are: precious life lessons that can only be learned the hard way – unless it’s a fatal mistake, which, at least, others can learn from”  Alan Franken, US political commentator.

Find a mentor. We all need to develop and grow. A mentor is a resource and someone you can consult and trust with questions and challenges.

“You are today where your thoughts have brought you. You will be, tomorrow, where your thoughts take you”.  James Allen US author

Roer mention two kinds of mentors, long – term and short – term mentors. The long – term mentors makes you grow as a leader and person over time. When you have a particular challenge you use the mentor for short – term. “The moment one realizes the great value of these advisors, one starts to look for them”.

Develop your knowledge. Knowledge is of course the essence for any organization. You need to learn and share your knowledge. This is how Roer approaches knowledge: “No matter what kind of leadership you are conducting, you need fresh input, and you need new ideas to challenge your existing paradigms”.

Drucker was passionate about the importance of the use of knowledge. Cohen refers Drucker: “Todays top executives will increasingly work with different ideas and different cultures, speaking different languages, who have different ways of operating”. Drucker also meant that leaders needed to develop expertise in a totally new discipline,  something you are passionate about. He explain why he saw several advantages in this matter:

“Leaders would develop self – confidence in their ability to succeed in an entirely different field. Acquiring expertise simultaneously also offers a mental break from the pressure of concentrating on a single profession. The biggest breakthroughs frequently come not from inside a profession, but by applying something true in one profession but unknown in another”. By following his own advice, Drucker became an expert in Japanese art.

Physical and mental strength. Stress can be harmful for your body and soul, and we all know that being a leader can be a stressful task. You need to find ways in how to tackle the pressure. Roer add:”One of the most important methods to migrate stress is to take care of your main asset – you”.

Lead others.

Roer includes these seven topics: powerful questions, enthusiasm makes the day, motivate your team, celebrate your wins, handling conflicts, be a role model and be a mentor. Every topic is important but I have to chosen to talk of some.

Enthusiasm. Enthusiastic people has the ability to engage others. Why do these people stand out ? Roer add: “What sets these people apart is their passion. Passion for the topic, for their job, for everything they do. When you talk to them, they seem to be present – in the moment, focusing only on you and the conversation. It seems like they are able to connect with you somehow”.

Motivation. In our daily life we need food to survive, and as a leader you need to feed your colleagues with motivation if you want the organization to achieve its goals.

“Leaders have three ways to use emotions to address motivation in team members. By making our people feel that we understand their emotional issues, we can unlock seemingly hopeless situations. By actively contributing, we can fire up useful emotions in our people. And by developing our own authenticity as leaders, tearing off our emotional masks, we can help people engage with us”. Ref: Sebastien Henry,EQ and leadership in Asia.

Roer add: “As the leader, your focus is on creating as much motivation as possible from each one of your employees”. We are well aware of that criticism  kills motivation. “Research has shown that criticism removes motivation. Just remember the last time you got a negative comment – how did that make you feel ? The secret of motivation lies neither in being negative, nor overly positive – but in matching the tasks with the right skills”.

How do leaders motivate workers to achieve peak performance ? Cohen add: “Drucker said a leader must create a responsible worker, and suggested four ways to accomplish this task”

All of these four must be used to achieve the desired result:

Placing workers carefully. Putting people in the right jobs was a prerequisite to high motivation.

Demanding high standard of performance. This means work that engages and challenges their abilities and motivates them with high standards. “The idea that placing easier demands de – motivate workers and placing heavier demands motivates them seems counterintuitive, but it is how thing work”.

-Providing the worker with information needed. The worker should be given the information they need, whether they ask for it or not – to help them reach peak performance.

Encouraging managerial vision. “Drucker’s main reason for encouraging managerial vision had to do with workers seeing their work as contributing to the survival or success of the enterprise”.

Handling conflicts. Roer add: “If in a conflict situation, you have choices. And each choice you make can either intensify the conflict, or contribute to finding a solution”. Conflicts involves feelings and can lead to someone getting hurt.

“Conflicts is the perfect ground for emotions to grow and prosper. Emotional outbreaks in conflicts tend to fuel them in turn. It is easy to see emotions as troublemakers in a conflict. However, they can also be the keys for a way out that is satisfying for all parties”.  Ref: Sebastien Henry.

Here is what Roer say when approach emotional traps:”Avoid emotional traps, and try to understand the underlying causes of the conflict – is it simply a misunderstanding; is it a lack of information; is it a cultural clash ?” To handle and reduce conflicts, you have to surge for some keys. Roer add: “Use trust and respect as building blocks. Listen – instead of focusing only on making your own points. Another tip is to look for similarities and common grounds, instead of differences and gaps”.

How to be a role model. Leaders need to show their best if they want a healthy team. Roer add:”As a leader, your team and your organization is looking at you. They look at you, and to you, for advice on how to solve their everyday issues. They look at you even if they do not ask your opinions. And most importantly – they tend to look at you more than they listen to you”.

Drucker had very high ethical standards for all leaders. In his mind leaders were special people enrusted with special organizational and societal responsibilities. Still Drucker was aware leaders were human and sometimes erred and could not live up to the high standards expected from them. Some leaders failed their profession, organizations and the people they led, and society. Cohen add: “Some lost sight of the real goals expected of them and the reason they were in their positions of responsibilities. Other didn’t understand the implications of the responsibilities they had accepted, and put their own interests above those they led. Others were seduced by the power and the privileges that leadership brings”. To be open and transparent can also be a solution to avoid or reduce misunderstandings and conflicts. You don’t need to agree with the other person, but you can accept their different view on things.

Lead organizations. In Roer’s last part he includes these topics: Best practice  – for whom ?, measuring for good and for bad, what is your strategy ?, efficient production and mentor program to the rescue. All important and interesting and my focus is on best practice – for whom ? and mentor program.

 Best Practice – for whom ? It’s easy to be trapped into the same pattern. However if your organization want’s to move on, some changes are required. Roer add:”This is the very world in which we learn, teach and experience that if we want to succeed, we need to be innovative up in front and do things in new ways”.

“You cannot control what happens to you, but you can control your attitude toward what happens to you, and in that, you will be mastering change rather than allowing it to master you”.  Brian Tracy, US author

Mentor program to the rescue. Mentor programs and the purpose, is to harvest the great knowledge in your organization. Roer add:”Using mentor programs can create a fluid learning organization where the employees tap into the knowledge and experiences that resides in their colleagues”.

This book’s intention is meant to inspire leaders to reflect on their leadership and their role, and by answering questions after each topic it gives you even more time to reflect and practice and to develop your leadership skills.

In my mind reading this book is well spent time and worth the effort. In addition – by buying this book you also support a great cause – to fight malaria.

The Leaders Workbook, Kai Roer

Inger Lise E. Greger, MSc. Change Management 

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