Barry Rock's Blog

Leadership Influenza

Leadership Influenza

Leadership Influenza

Influenza. Flu. It’s that time of year. We get vaccinations. We wash our hands. We cover our mouths. And, we give skunk-eye glances to those that don’t. Why? Because, the flu is so easily transmitted from person to person.

I did something a little weird this year. I was prompted by my yearly flu shot…it hurt this year! Any way, I looked up the origin of the term “Influenza.” Here is the Dictionary.Com entry on the origin of the word:

from Italian, literally: influence, hence, incursion, epidemic (first applied to influenza in 1743)…Since ancient times, influenza has periodically swept the world. Until recently, people could not tell how this illness, which we call the flu, could spread so widely. Before people knew that organisms cause disease, they thought the stars influenced the spread of influenza. Influenza comes ultimately from the Latin word influentia, meaning “influence of the stars.”

Interesting! In earlier days, people believed that this ailment was due to astrological influences. Without an understanding of viruses or the means by which to detect them, the presence and spread of flu was a mystery. Something was influencing our health. When all else fails, blame it on the stars!

Influenza discussions on a blog site devoted mainly to leadership and personal growth?!? Has the writer gone mad or turned seriously morbid? Maybe. But, let me draw a parallel that puts us right back on topic. Health and illness in our teams, families, organizations, and institutions are influenced by something or some”things.” I believe one of the root causalities of the state of health is the health (or lack thereof) of the leadership. Simply: healthy leaders and leadership generally exert positive influence on the well-being of the group. Conversely, unhealthy leaders and leadership generally pose a threat to the vitality of the organization. Leaders are carriers of health OR illness.

The characteristics of the leader or leaders infect those that come in contact. Just as surely as influenza is passed from person to person, so are attitudes, communication styles, concerns, carelessness, joy, pride, apathy…you name it. Like it or not, leaders are potent carriers for good or for ill. And, it doesn’t take long for whatever is transmitted from the leadership to permeate the whole.

I work by asking a lot of questions; they are essential to understanding and critique. Here are a few that may help determine what kind of “bug” you are carrying:

  • Am I consistent in my behavior?
  • Am I generally upbeat or downcast?
  • Am I quicker to find fault than I am to spotlight victory?
  • Is my language generally positive or negative?
  • Do people seek me out or avoid me?
  • Do I concern myself with overall health as much as the bottom line?
  • Do I recognize the humanity of my people or see them more as tools for tasks?
  • What is the prevailing mood of the organization?
  • Does my presence encourage or discourage open dialogue?
  • What am I purposely doing to influence the well-being of the team?

Who are we, if not measured by our impact on others? That’s who we are! We’re not who we say we are, we’re not who we want to be – we are the sum of the influence and impact that we have, in our lives, on others.   Carl Sagan

The signs of outstanding leadership appear primarily among the followers.   Max DePree

 You get the picture. And, seriously, cover your mouth when you cough!

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