The Husky Sled – What is Your Leadership Behavior?

Leadership from behind doesn’t mean you can lean back.

The husky sled is a perfect metaphor for various leadership situations. One leader and her team. I use this example for discussions about useful leadership behavior (I avoid the term leadership style, because behaviour emphasizes your active role).

Cheering up the huskies: Some are standing on the sled cheering the huskies up ‚let’s go‘ ‚you can make it!‘ ‚only 20 miles to go’…

Being a huskie: Some are in the middle of the pack, trying to drag like a dog themselves ‚Hey buddies, I’m like you guys. I don’t mind getting my hands dirty‘

Freeloader: Some do not lead at all and let the huskies drag ‚Hey guys. Our big boss wants X. We’re a team right? Whatcha gonna do?‘

Loner huskie: Some want to acheive a goal no matter if the others are on board ‚Hey guys, do X everybody!!! Aaargh, let me do it myself, step aside!‘

There’s a couple more possible constellations. You can easily draw them all on a flip chart to discuss pros and cons. Everybody will get it immediately and you don’t have to talk about academical leadership styles.

And as a conclusion, you can teach them that in real life – in the snowy solitude of Canada, just you and your huskies – you can’t rely on your own favourite ’style‘ – you need all leadership behaviours if you want to survive the adventure and bring everybody home alive.

And if you fall into a crack and break your hips, even the freeloader might be an option for a while, in that case I hope you have created a great team to carry you.

The right to remain silent

You have right to remain silent! Everything you say can and will be used to stretch the workshop endlessly…

As a facilitator or leader you should get the best out of everybody and invite everyone to participate. Ok. But experience teaches us to invest where it pays off most. Sometimes that is a few dedicated and smart people instead of ‚everyone‘.

Many workshop methods are designed to open the mouth of everybody in the room until e v e r y t h i n g has been said – by e v e r y b o d y.

The ‚let’s all ask each other syndrome‘ results in:

  • too many people invited to the workshop
  • precious sticky notes wasted
  • endless feedback rounds noone likes
  • a discussion that didn’t get under the surface

There is this story that a large number of people produces better estimation results than the best individuals. That is why, some say, we should utilize #swarmintelligence and enable #participation.

But can the problem that your workshop has to address really be approached by ideas, opinions and guessing?

In my workshops I encourage people to decide: ‚Hey, if you don’t have anything to say right now, it’s ok. You don’t have to contribute if you have no clue how. Thanks for saving everybody’s time!‘

Any moderator or leader should know when the moment has come and silence is the best way someone from the team can contribute at the moment.

(Not) Maslows Pyramid

Leadership Seminars often use Schulz von Thun’s 4 aspects of a message (communication) and Maslow’s pyramid of needs (motivation).

Here are 2 thoughts on Maslow (besides the fact that he never drew a pyramid but others did when they turned his thoughts into tools and money)

  1. In many graphics I have seen an old version of his pyramid, topped by „Self-actualization“. Too sad, because by 1971 he already changed his model, and put „Transcendence“ at the top: „Transcendence refers to the very highest and most inclusive or holistic levels of human consciousness, behaving and relating, as ends rather than means, to oneself, to significant others, to human beings in general, to other species, to nature, and to the cosmos“ – bam! Isn’t it inspiring? Why not use it in seminars instead of self fulfillment or self-actualization…
  2. When talking to young leaders it isn’t enough to invest some minutes in reflection about this pyramid. If you’re a trainer using it, you might instead want to take the pic below. It is about interaction. Ask them two questions:
    1. from wich level of the pyramid does your motivation to lead come from? (Security? Belonging? Self-fulfillment? Or even Transcendence?)
    2. at wich stage of your teammates pyramids does your day to day leadership aim? (Their security? Status? Their Self-fulfillment?).

I’ve seen leaders cry in this session.