Dr. McNair is the primary author of the Ability series. The book RelateAbility will help you build better relationships, and AdaptAbility will help you better adjust to new conditions and situations. Wade’s latest book, LeadAbility: Transforming the Way We Live and Work Together, will help you become a better leader.
I like that LeadAbility is not your typical “how to lead better at work” book, but instead LeadAbility is about applicAbility :L) – leading in a wide range of situations including in our personal lives as well.
I also like the combination of practical techniques combined with academic and professional studies – a trademark of the Ability series.
Even from the first page of the book (copied with permission):
What makes a Leader?
What probably comes immediately to mind is a person that is bold, self-assured, and charismatic or has some other set of traits associated with high-profile and well-known leaders.
In 1954, Dr. Cattell set out “to determine the traits which characterize an effective leader.” His research revealed a set of traits that were believed to be innate, supporting the notion that leaders are born, and therefore only some people are destined for leadership. This view of leadership as an inborn set of traits has existed for some time.
However, my 20 years’ experience consulting and coaching leaders has made something very clear to me – EVERYONE has the potential to effectively lead others. Furthermore, research is supporting the wider view of leadership being an ability and a set of behavioral choices – well beyond the limitations of a “naturally born leader”.
Chapter 1 explains leadership and its underlying principles and assumptions. It also brings up (and sometimes debunks) many studies on leadership. Chapter 2 provides the leadership contexts of micro, mesa, and macro; it then dives into the six leadership choices required to become a better leader. Chapter 3 focuses on personal leadability and the importance of character. Chapter 4 focuses on team leadability and some really neat tools for team leadership development, including the Priority Matrix, which I’ll talk about below. Chapter 5 focuses on organizational leadability and the four levels of leadership. Chapter 6 covers various leadability and communication styles. Chapter 7 discusses leadership readiness and the skill of handling change. Chapter 8 summarizes the concepts in the book and raises some inspirational thoughts on leadership.
One of my favorite tools in the book is the Priority Matrix. With permission, I have copied this section from Chapter 4 (pages 66-69):
Important and Urgent
In Quadrant 1 we see the items that are both important and urgent. These are necessities and must be managed with the utmost attention. Crisis, emergency, and deadline are often words associated with items that fall in this quadrant. We have used the red icon with the exclamation point purposefully. Items in this quadrant take priority and override any other priorities on the matrix and must be completed.
Important and Not Urgent
In Quadrant 2 we see items that are important but not urgent. This includes items for day-to-day operations that need preparation and planning. We use a checkmark symbol, as these items are often routine and just need to be accomplished within the expected timelines. Be careful not to let items “rest” in this quadrant until they become urgent. Priority management challenges us to effectively plan and perform well on items in Quadrants 1 and 2, often simultaneously.
Urgent but Not Important
In Quadrant 3 we see items that are determined to be urgent but not important. I call these the “Great Deceivers”, as many times they are not nearly as urgent as we think. Here we often have tasks and responsibilities that may belong to others, or are priorities that have been set by someone else without your involvement. Their lack of planning becomes your urgent, but not important, priority. We use yellow purposefully as these tasks can take up more time and energy while not helping achieve your goals and objectives. Be wary and be willing to ask questions, most importantly “Why is this urgent?” and then determine if the item needs to move up to Quadrant 1.
Neither Urgent nor Important
In Quadrant 4 we see items that are determined to be neither urgent nor important. Based on that definition, we need to question if they should be on a list of priorities at all. Items in this box are what I call the “Great Distractors.” They include things we might enjoy doing, yet only serve as a distraction from the items or task we need to be doing. Social media is a key contributor to this box! Checking Facebook, twitter, and Instagram are neither urgent nor important for most people while at work. However, so much time and energy is taken in checking the apps and responding to and monitoring the multiple “conversations” involved.
One of the best practices in determining effectiveness is conducting a time study. In short, you write down all the things you are working on within each 30 or 60-minute period at the end of that period. For example, at 10 am I would look back at what I actually did in the last hour and write down some bullets. Do this for a week and, after collecting your data, look at the trends and see what insights you can gain on how you manage your priorities – at work and at home. Once we have a more realistic idea of what we actually do, we can more effectively plan and make decisions on how we prioritize.
I enjoyed reading this book and will definitely use a number of the tools including the Priority Matrix. Looking forward to reading Wade’s next Ability book!