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By Simeio Solutions

Advice on Managerial Courage from Asurion CSO Jim Desmond

Simeio’s June 10th Highlights from the “Ask Me Anything Coffee Talk Series”

Last Wednesday, Simeio held its most recent “Ask Me Anything Coffee Talk Series”. The topic was “Corporate Leadership and Managerial Courage. The session hosts were Randy Fields, Director of Strategic Client Engagements at Simeio Solutions, and Jim Desmond, Chief Security Officer at Asurion. Here are some of the highlights and questions from the session.

One of the key responsibilities of a leadership role is to motivate a group of people towards a common goal. An effective leader engages them in activities and projects that drive to successful results. I once heard it said, “people don’t leave companies, they leave leaders.” It takes a special kind of leadership to go from good to great. Leadership is the ability to influence others to do more than they would have done on their own. It requires skill, training, experience, and that ‘can do’ attitude. 

Courage is a necessary attribute of an effective leader. True leadership requires acting upon your beliefs, despite the risk of disapproval. Caving to the anxiety and fear of disapproval can prevent us from taking action and short-circuit our ability to lead. 

As we face challenges that can put us at risk of a potential job loss, or contention with others, we have to be careful not to bite off more than we chew. Courage can be taken in small, incremental stages. I call it a credibility bank of courage. Each time you take a relatively low-risk small stand or refute a practice or principle you feel is wrong, you build up your credibility and courage. As you see successful results in taking these small steps, you’re more apt to take a big step when needed. 

How do I start being a leader?

Don’t try and be someone you’re not; be authentic. Be honest and maintain a record of integrity around the things that you’re doing. Share your common goals with the team, and inspire them to be involved. It’s also important to receive “feedback”, without emotionally reacting. Even if you don’t want to hear it, you’re going to get it. Proactively asking for feedback will help you prepare for it, so you can respond appropriately. 

There are a few books we recommend. “The First 90 Days” by Michael D. Watkins, “The Strength Finder Assessment”, by Marcus Buckingham, “The Standout Assessment”, by Gallop, and “Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When the Stakes are High”, by Kerry Patterson. 

How do I handle something unexpected or negative within my team?

In the face of a storm, the true qualities of a leader are revealed. It’s important to keep your cool and still remain vulnerable. We’re all human. But when the storm is raging, it’s not the time for the leader to hide or deflect. This is when you need to be transparent and visible. Identify your core ideals, know yourself, and stick to them. If you stay grounded by them, you will succeed. People like consistency and integrity in their leaders. Once lost, trust is very difficult to regain. And that’s when leadership becomes ineffective.

How can leaders best provide feedback to the team in a productive way?

First, make sure your feedback is factual, and in the moment, not six months after the fact. Keep in mind, that focusing only on the negative won’t get you anywhere. A leader provides their people with an avenue to succeed. Identify the behavior you don’t want, and then show them what success looks like. 

What are the top traits a leader should have? And as a leader, how do you identify “upcoming” leaders in your organization? 

I look for someone who understands the vision and can keep the team focused. When I see someone who can be themselves, while sticking to the mission, with integrity and authenticity, that gives me confidence in their ability to lead. 

Developing up-and-coming leaders first requires knowing that the person wants to lead. The worst thing you can do is try to push someone into that role. Look for people that have the aptitudes for leadership. Those traits include trustworthiness, the ability to communicate well and provide constructive critiques and encouragement.  

The ability to delegate is critical, and it conveys trust. If a boss gives an employee a task, particularly if it is above the employee’s job description, that indicates they have earned a level of trust. It engages and motivates the employee. This also ties back to the courage we discussed earlier. It takes courage for a leader to delegate and depend upon others. Knowing when to relinquish control is a leadership attribute.  

What are the biggest pitfalls and challenges a leader might face? 

Hiring friends. If the relationship is not mature enough to maintain professional standards and expectations, it can tear you apart. There needs to be mutual respect and understanding of each person’s role. 

But the biggest pitfall is believing that you can do everything yourself when you really need to trust the team. A leader’s job is to provide resources and remove obstacles for their team. The moment you feel they have no value is when you will begin to fail. Also, be intentional about embracing diverse opinions and people with diverse backgrounds. 

How, as a leader, do I grow a diverse team?

Leadership has a metric ton of responsibility. And one of those responsibilities is to find great talent. Unfortunately, everyone has an inherent bias. Whether it’s gender, age, race, background, etc., a leader’s job is to remove unconscious bias and hire the best people for the job. Period. 

We all have weaknesses that we need to work on. Be willing to grow and evolve. Recognize your blind spots, and manage around them, so they don’t get in your way. A great leader always remains open to change and new ideas.

We’ve just touched upon some of the conversation. If you want to learn more, you can watch this, and other on-demand Coffee Talk sessions at https://www.brighttalk.com/channel/17142.

We hope you can join our next Coffee Talk where you can chat with IAM experts, ask questions and gain insights into how you can lower operational costs, and achieve greater security and privacy using IAM. Click here to sign-up