2012 – spring Issue

Leadership Message - Move to the Funk

What? Move to the funk? No, I'm not suggesting a return to the disco dancing craze of the 70s. A speaker I once heard issued the command, "move to the funk," as part of a talk on leadership. He was making the point that great leaders are eager to take on challenges, are willing to have difficult conversations, and refuse to ignore issues that require their attention. They move toward the funk.

I spent the early part of my career as a teacher. Classrooms present interesting opportunities to practice leadership principles. Effective teachers understand this idea of moving toward the funk. One challenge in managing a classroom is to ensure that minor distractions don't become major distractions. A teacher moving toward a student who is having difficulty paying attention often helps that student re-engage with little disruption to the rest of the class. Ignoring bad behavior almost always results in more bad behavior. Effective teachers get really good at moving toward the funk.

If you are old enough to remember the television show Leave it to Beaver, you'll recall that nearly every jam the Beav found himself in had two parts. There was the original dilemma, almost always followed by a cover-up, a story, or some version of avoiding the truth. The lesson that Ward often had to deliver at the end of the show was something along the lines of, "Beav, if you'd only told the truth, everything would have been all right." The Beav needed to learn to move toward the funk.

In life and in our roles, we are not classroom teachers or characters on a TV sitcom. Still, I think we could all become better leaders by moving toward the funk. What is funk? It's the challenge, the difficulty, the unspoken issue, or the unresolved conflict that threatens your task, goal, or project. Funk could be a deadline that is in jeopardy. Funk could be an underperforming team member or it could be someone with unrealistic expectations.

Whatever FUNK you have - great leaders move toward it and face the challenge.