Leading equals

“Leadership is about managing relationships.” Michael Feiner keeps emphasizing this critical point in his book The Feiner Points of Leadership.

This is an important principle especially when serving as a leader among equals/peers!

Feiner’s Seven Laws of Leading Peers…

  • #1 The Law of Equality – In every organization/environment there will be more leadership influence given to particular individuals due to their role. It is possible to be equals and yet one of the equals possess more organizational influence due to his/her role. Feiner says, “A peer relationship will only be successful if neither party feels he or she is the boss of the other. You must adopt a partnership mentality.” People recognize that some roles/positions within the organization come with more influence, and they will be okay with that UNTIL “a colleague’s [influence] morphs into swagger and hubris…. When people don’t feel equal, the foundation for a productive relationship is removed.” It is CRITICAL to remember in leading among equals that “everybody’s effort is equally important.” Without your peer’s contribution to the effort, your contribution will be lacking.
  • #2 The Law of Push vs. Pull – There are two ways to get your team to act… PUSH (declaring; mandating; asserting; etc.) or PULL (involving; questioning; listening; discussing; etc.). It’s basically the hard art (Push) vs. the soft art (Pull) of leadership. Feiner says that “The main problem with push… is that while it might elicit compliance, it’s much less good at encouraging commitment.” Effective leaders are capable of using both methods AND they know when to engage each method! “Both approaches can be effective depending on the person involved and the situation at hand. It generally takes more time to use pull (and when the leader takes this time, that is in itself a signal of commitment), so at moments of crisis, or when the time to ship has arrived, push can be entirely appropriate. The point, however, is that High-Performance Leaders use pull on some occasions and push on others, never relying on just one pitch to advance their argument. Because their colleagues know these leaders can use pull effectively, they recognize push, when they see it, as necessitated by circumstances, not as a signal of arrogance.”
  • #3 The Law of the Good Samaritan – This law basically states that friends don’t let friends fail without a fight! I won’t stand back and watch you flounder and fail, and I will expect the same from you!
  • #4 The Law of the Mirror – When there is a disagreement between the two of us I will look in the mirror before I look at you! Feiner says, “Don’t assume evil intent unless you’re sure of it, unless you see it. Instead, begin by looking in the mirror and asking what you’ve done or said – or not done or said – that has contributed to the problem. And if your automatic response is nothing, keep looking in the mirror. Each of us always contributes in some way to a problem with a peer. It’s so much more productive to move from blaming another to thinking how each of you has contributed to the problem.”
  • #5 The Law of Feedback – Again – “Too often a leader will complain to a subordinate or another peer about a problem with a colleague. Yet it’s the peer who’s the last to know – or who never knows. For partners to work well together and trust one another, it’s essential to be open with feedback, to display commitment to the team’s success by voicing it, and to demonstrate courage by raising what could be a sensitive issue.” Feiner wraps up the chapter with these summary words, “…if you’ve got a problem with a peer, you must step up and speak up, confronting the issue directly with him or her. Remember – feedback is a gift.”
  • #6 The Law of Trust – “Trust is the single most important element of peer-to-peer relationships.” The question then is how does a leader develop trust? “Being trustworthy develops trust.” The bottom line here is that talking behind people’s back, not following through on promises, being irresponsible, etc. all compromise trust. If you are going to effectively lead in the context of equals… you must be trusted!
  • #7 The Law of Tell Your Cat – DON’T gossip! “If you’re not willing to see it on a bulletin board or in an e-mail, don’t say it and don’t write it.” If you have to tell… tell your cat! “If leaders don’t uphold values, then no one will.” When you have the opportunity to talk negatively about someone else… DON’T!
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