A Pyrrhic Victory
In 279 BC, 40,000 Romans battled for two days against 40,000 Greeks and their 20 war elephants in the hills of southeastern Italy near Asculum. The Greeks were under the command of King Pyrrhus. According to the great Carthaginian general Hannibal, he was the greatest general the world had seen since Alexander the Great.
The first day of battle accomplished little. The two sides fought an indecisive battle. Over the next day, the Romans were forced back, but Pyrrhus was unable to capture their camp. Finally, at the end of the day, seeing the futility of continuing, the armies separated. The Romans had lost 6,000 men and the Greeks 3,500 including many officers. It was a costly victory for Pyrrhus. At dawn the next morning, in response to congratulations for his victory over the Romans, the historian Plutarch relates that Pyrrhus confessed “one more such victory would utterly undo him.” The battle had been won at too high a cost. Although they never defeated Pyrrhus on the field, the Romans were able to win a war of attrition. Henceforth, no soldier would cheer a Pyrrhic victory.
We, too, have battles to fight from time to time. Some battles though, can be won at too high a cost. As Pyrrhus admitted, some battles can literally undo us. If we are not careful we can let situations and our ego get the best of us. We can undermine our purpose of serving and lifting up those we lead. Winning an argument can destroy our influence and cost us a relationship.
In Pearls of Wisdom, Joyce Brothers wrote, “There is a rule in sailing where the more maneuverable ship should give way to the less maneuverable craft. I think this is sometimes a good rule to follow in human relationships as well.” Relationships are what leadership is all about. As the leader we are the more maneuverable ship. Being immovable or stubborn, just because we are right, doesn’t move us closer to our goal. It is up to us to step back, bend, or give way and let the other person pass. Later we might try a different tack if it is really that important to make the point. Hitting a difficult person head on is rarely the appropriate action.
When we come up against conflict, we must ask ourselves if winning this one is really that important. How will winning affect my ability to work with this person? What is motivating me to win? We don’t need to fight every battle. We should choose battles that in the final analysis will strengthen our relationships and improve our effectiveness.
The Acid Test of Leadership
A title or a position can be akin to the Emperor's Clothes. We can become blinded by our titles; blinded to our impact and effectiveness in our role. We can become unable to see what others around us can see. They can create a hazard to our ability to see ourselves and our motives clearly. A title can open doors, but our staying power will come from our ability to influence others. The real strength of a leader is the ability to elicit the strength of a group. Our accomplishments are restricted by our ability to lead—influence—others. Leadership is intentional influence. But how are we doing this—by force of power?
If leadership is about influence then the acid test of leadership must be the following question:
If you were stripped of your title – the politics of leadership, the power to punish and reward people – would they still follow you? Would you still get results from them?
It's good to ask yourself this question periodically and adjust your approach accordingly.
Former Russian Leader Boris Yeltsin Dead at 76The flamboyant Boris Yeltsin (1931-2007), died today of heart failure at the age of 76. Russia's first freely elected president has been credited with engineering the final collapse of the Soviet Union and pushing the country into democracy and a market economy.
The Financial Times comments, “Boris Yeltsin had the physical and moral strength to bear on his shoulders the colossal burden of a country in a ferment of transition, its economy struggling with the twin tasks of discarding a tenacious old system and adjusting to an unfamiliarly fast-moving new one. At the beginning of his rule he was able to grasp, either instinctively or through a quick intelligence, much of what was required.”
His contemporaries may judge him a bit harsher remembering him for being out of touch and hesitant to act against crime and corruption. Yet on the international stage, many will remember when in August 1991, he climbed on top of a tank to successfully stare down a coup attempt against Gorbachev. His open defiance clearly marked the end of the USSR.
Yeltsin’s leadership by and large, did not rely on status and fear. Very much the strategic leader, he developed a populist style. He had an ability to connect with the Russian people. It is from here that he derived much of his power. His problem was that didn’t really didn’t know what to do with the power once he got it.
The Economist concludes, “The former construction engineer was not a great builder of institutions; the democracy was flawed. But he had the right instincts. For liberating Russians from the yoke of the one-party state and the planned economy, he deserves immense gratitude. Yet his nepotistic and capricious rule spawned colossal lawlessness and corruption, paving the way for his authoritarian successor, Vladimir Putin.”
World Reaction to His Death:
Former Soviet President Gorbachev: "I express the very deepest condolences to the family of the deceased on whose shoulders rest major events for the good of the country and serious mistakes. A tragic fate."
British Prime Minister Tony Blair: "It is with sadness that I learned of the death of former president Yeltsin. He was a remarkable man who saw the need for democratic and economic reform and in defending it played a vital role at a crucial time in Russia's history."
Exiled Russian multi-millionaire and critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin, Boris Berezovsky: "For me personally he was a teacher -- he made me a free person. If my mother taught me how to love then Yeltsin taught me not only how to understand what a free person is but also how to become free.
"Russia has a lost a brilliant reformer. No-one has done as much for Russia as Yeltsin did. He was a unique person and absolutely Russian in his soul, in his impulsiveness and in his intellect."
Vytautas Landsbergis, first president of Lithuania after it was declared independent from the Soviet Union: "Yeltsin was a decent man and he could not stand political intrigues. His rise to the post of Russia's president was a very good thing for the Baltic states. It was Yeltsin's Russia, which recognized Lithuania's independence by signing a bilateral treaty in the summer of 1991. He also stood to defend us when Gorbachev let the Soviet troops storm buildings in Vilnius."
President of the European Commission Jose Manuel Barroso: "Mr. Yeltsin was a key reference in the post-Communist transition in Russia. As president he had enormous challenges and difficult mandates but he certainly brought East and West closer together and helped replace confrontation by co-operation.
"He is best remembered when standing up to the coup d'etat aimed at restoring a dictatorial regime in Russia. With great personal courage he had merit in defending freedom. The Commission sends its condolences to Mr Yeltsin's family, the Russian authorities and the people of Russia."
Boris Yeltsin in his own words:
"A man must live like a great brilliant flame and burn as brightly as he can. In the end he burns out. But this is far better than a mean little flame."
"It is especially important to encourage unorthodox thinking when the situation is critical: At such moments every new word and fresh thought is more precious than gold. Indeed, people must not be deprived of the right to think their own thoughts."
"You can make a throne of bayonets, but you can't sit on it for long."
Google Ranked the World’s Most Powerful Brand
The second annual BRANDZ™ Top 100 Most Powerful Brands ranking in cooperation with the Financial Times was announced today by leading global market research and consulting firm Millward Brown. Google has risen to the top of this year's ranking, taking the number one spot with a brand value of $66,434 million. Google is followed by:
In addition, delivering on the promise of environmental responsibility helped boost the value of major brands including BP ($5,931 million), Shell ($4,679) and Toyota ($ 33,427 million).
Commenting on this year's BRANDZ™ Top 100 ranking, Eileen Campbell, global CEO of Millward Brown said: "There are tons of actionable insights that can be derived from these rankings. They prove that a blend of good business leadership, responsible financial management and powerful marketing are an unbeatable combination that can be leveraged to create and grow corporate wealth." Strong brands have the power to create business value. They impact much more than revenues and profit margins. Strong brands create competitive advantages by commanding a price premium and decrease the cost of entry into new markets and categories. They reduce business risk and help attract and retain talented staff.
Fast Company Interview with Sir James DysonThe discussions on Appreciative Intelligence and Charles Pellerin’s views on the social leadership aspects of project management, parallel a good short interview in the May issue of Fast Company with Sir James Dyson. Here are a couple of his comments:
FC: You once described the inventor's life as "one of failure." How so?
I made 5,127 prototypes of my vacuum before I got it right. There were 5,126 failures. But I learned from each one. That's how I came up with a solution. So I don't mind failure. I've always thought that schoolchildren should be marked by the number of failures they've had. The child who tries strange things and experiences lots of failures to get there is probably more creative.
FC: Not all failures lead to solutions, though. How do you fail constructively?
We're taught to do things the right way. But if you want to discover something that other people haven't, you need to do things the wrong way. Initiate a failure by doing something that's very silly, unthinkable, naughty, dangerous. Watching why that fails can take you on a completely different path. It's exciting, actually.
Fast Company Podcast: Sir James Dyson On Getting It Right
Charles Pellerin on Project ManagementAppreciative Intelligence—the ability to perceive the positive inherent generative potential within the present—is an important component to develop as part of organizational culture. AI contributes to a high incidence of innovation and creativity and the potential development of previously unnoticed strengths in people. This happens by the actions of leaders at all levels, to encourage people to look at everyday issues—the commonplace—in a new way; by telling a new story.
Former Director of Astrophysics for NASA, Charles Pellerin believes that most projects fail around social and leadership issues. Both "unknown and unnamed" social undercurrents are at the root of many, if not most, project difficulties. NASA publication, ASK Magazine talked to him about project management and how social and leadership issues come to play in why projects fail. Here are some excerpts from that interview:
Can you explain what you mean by "social issues," and how they relate to leadership?This would help to explain the recent experiment reported in the Washington Post by Gene Weingarten to discover if violinist Josh Bell—and his Stradivarius—could stop busy commuters in their tracks. Surprisingly, he did not. If our story is to ignore street musicians and includes the belief that no famous musician would ever do it, then we will ignore street musicians and we will not scan the streets looking for our favorite artists. (If you haven’t read it yet, do so. It’s a great story.)
Pellerin has been developing since his retirement from NASA in 1995, a leadership/culture assessment and learning system called "Four-Dimensional (4-D) Leadership." He states, “We began with workshops, and then added coaching, and now have Web-based diagnostics customized for NASA projects. Simply put, we make three measurements in each of the social dimensions -- directing, visioning, relating and valuing—that we believe are fundamental to effective leadership and efficient cultures.
“I truly believe that we can identify and address the root cause of most project difficulties. That's my story. And many of the projects I'm working with are choosing to run that story as well -- because they see results. You know, no story is "good" or "bad." Some just get you the results you want and some don't.”
In April 1990, shuttle Discovery launched the Hubble Space Telescope into its planned orbit. However, within weeks it became obvious that there was a serious problem with the primary mirror. Authors Tojo Thatchenkery and Carol Metzker describe the events that followed in their book Appreciative Intelligence: Seeing the Mighty Oak in the Acorn.
Congress demanded an explanation for the failure. The project and its creators became the butt of late-night television jokes. Stress was high among NASA engineers, as were health problems. “It was traumatic,” said Charlie Pellerin, the former director of NASA’s astrophysics division, who oversaw the launch of the Hubble. Nobody could see how to fix the problem, which many seemed afraid even to address.Appreciative Intelligence is defined as “the ability to perceive the positive inherent generative potential within the present.” More simply, it is “the ability to see the mighty oak in the acorn. It is the ability to reframe a given situation (or person), to appreciate its positive aspects, and to see how the future unfolds from the generative aspects of the current situation.” These three characteristics form the foundation of appreciative intelligence.
Reframing is about shifting reality by choosing what feedback we will ignore and what feedback we will pay attention to. Appreciating the positive is the ability to see the positive aspects of any given situation. To see how the future unfolds from the present refers to the ability to see what can be done instead of what can’t. Appreciative intelligence is the mindset that allows you to step back and access the situation and move forward instead of being thwarted by circumstances.
Appreciative intelligence can of course, be developed by consciously expanding your responses to situations as they occur. Asking yourself different questions by questioning your assumptions (what you know to be right), looking for positive and different meaning in what you experience, and becoming what Saul Bellow calls a first-class noticer, will help you improve your appreciative intelligence.
Additionally, keep in mind the AI qualities of persistence, conviction that your actions matter, tolerance for uncertainty, and irrepressible resilience. As these qualities develop, so too will your creativity and success in finding resolution to the issues you face. Appreciative Intelligence: Seeing the Mighty Oak in the Acorn provides in more detail what I have outlined here.
Tomorrow we’ll look at what Charles Pellerin has to say about leadership and project management.
The Prepared Mind of a Leader : Eight Skills Leaders Use to Innovate, Make Decisions, and Solve Problems
Quiet Leadership: Six Steps to Transforming Performance at Work
First, Take a Look at Yourself
When things aren't going right we tend to look around for the cause of the problem and blame others. What we should be doing is looking at ourselves.
One skunk's Ah-Ha experience:
"I always thought they didn't want me around because I was a skunk, well...you know it turns out they didn't want me around because I was a jerk."
Neuroscience in the Workplace PodcastIn this recording, David Rock speaks with John Case, CEO of Electrolux Home Care Products North America about how neuroscience links to the performance strategies implemented in his organization. John first heard David speak in Las Vegas and found that neuroscience helped to explained why his business strategies have worked.
Listen Now / Total time: 36:29 minutes
Snooze You Lose?
Like me, you probably worked right through National Sleep Awareness Week (March 5-11, 2007) this year. For many, lack of sleep is a source of pride. It seems to imply that what we are doing is too important for mere mortals. Getting the proper amount of sleep isn’t equated with a go-getter. Getting caught napping is downright embarrassing. Yet research shows that sleep is one of the most important activities of the productive person.
Professor Sara Mednick in Good Magazine asks, “Can afternoon naps save your life?” Apparently they can. “Scientists are discovering more and more evidence to suggest that a midday rest can improve your alertness, cognition, mood, cardiac health, and weight.”
Sleep affects your ability to learn and memory. Research would suggest that the more important you are the more sleep you should get. You need the extra time for your mind to process all you learn and do in a day.
We are in the midst of a fatigue epidemic that affects health, safety, productivity, and the bottom line. Sleep loss has been shown to increase our inflammatory and stress responses, which naps can bring back to normal levels.The National Sleep Foundation recommends an average of 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night for adults. Here are some tips for good sleep:
The National Sleep Foundation reports that "a team of American and Greek researchers undertook an epidemiological study of 23,681 Greek adults with no history of heart disease, stroke, or cancer. They asked participants about the frequency and duration of their naps and about other variables that might affect heart health and found that those participants who napped regularly (three or more times a week, for 30 minutes or more) had a 37% lower risk of dying from heart disease. This finding was especially true for working men.
"Oftentimes getting adequate sleep at night is challenging. Napping offers a way to augment nighttime sleep, increase alertness, and possibly lower stress levels."
Take a nap!
The Courage to InitiateRelying on a single person to lead the charge reflects a dysfunctional concept of leadership. It sets up expectations that can’t be met. No one person can do everything. No wise leader would. Leadership is a group activity. There is an implied interdependency.
Everyone has the capacity for leadership. Often what most people lack is the courage—the courage to initiate. Initiative means moving outside your comfort zone. It means seeking out opportunities and being willing to act.
Nearly everyone can see a need or see where changes need to be made. What is uncommon though, are people who are willing to take the initiative; to do something about it. Leadership is not always seen in the brightest or the most talented, but it is always found in the courageous.
You may not be able to be the CEO but you should think as the CEO. The CEO mindset involves taking the time to think about the forces that are shaping the future of both you and your organization. Managing yourself in this way is important not only to the organization but also to your own personal development.
The NeuroLeadership Summit and Why It Matters to Executives
The First Global NeuroLeadership Summit is about a month away. The Summit still has a few places open, so if you want to attend, you should put in an application as soon as you can.
The organizers have decided decided to film the Summit. This will allow the filming of several important neuroscientists—such as Matt Lieberman, Stellan Ohlsson and Kevin Ochsner—who are important to the field but are unable to attend the Summit. This will film be available online after the Summit.
The Summit will focus on the latest discoveries in neuroscience and how those discoveries can be used to help organizations:
The study of neuroscience has provided us with a deeper understanding of why people find change so unsettling....The more we understand the phenomenon of change, the more effectively we can manage it. Neuroscience shows us why some common practices work well, such as allowing people to take ownership of a new initiative. It also explains why some don’t succeed. For example, using threats or incentives to implement organizational change is rarely sustainable.
A Tutorial On Letter Writing
Here is a lesson in communication from the pen of Benjamin Franklin. The following letter was written 230 years ago in reply to letter from a stranger who identified himself only as Lith. Lith is angry that he didn't get a prompt reply from Franklin. Franklin's response provides a counterpoint to those who think that they should be answered just because they ask. Some things are impolite or unreasonable to ask and some things are frankly none of our business. I’ve included the whole letter out of interest and for context. The lesson is highlighted in bold type.
To — Lith
Lee Iacocca’s 9 C's of LeadershipWhere Have All the Leaders Gone?, will be released on April 17th. In the meantime you can read chapter one Had Enough? in our Reading Room. Included in chapter one he presents his 9 C's of Leadership you will find briefly illuminated below:
1. A leader has to show CURIOSITY. He has to listen to people outside of the "Yes, sir" crowd in his inner circle. He has to read voraciously, because the world is a big, complicated place. If a leader never steps outside his comfort zone to hear different ideas, he grows stale. If he doesn't put his beliefs to the test, how does he know he's right? The inability to listen is a form of arrogance. It means either you think you already know it all, or you just don't care.
2. A leader has to be CREATIVE, go out on a limb, be willing to try something different. You know, think outside the box. Leadership is all about managing change -- whether you're leading a company or leading a country. Things change, and you get creative. You adapt.
3. A leader has to COMMUNICATE. I'm not talking about running off at the mouth or spouting sound bites. I'm talking about facing reality and telling the truth.
4. A leader has to be a person of CHARACTER. That means knowing the difference between right and wrong and having the guts to do the right thing. Abraham Lincoln once said, "If you want to test a man's character, give him power."
5. A leader must have COURAGE. I'm talking about balls. (That even goes for female leaders.) Swagger isn't courage. Tough talk isn't courage. Courage is a commitment to sit down at the negotiating table and talk.
6. To be a leader you've got to have CONVICTION -- a fire in your belly. You've got to have passion. You've got to really want to get something done.
7. A leader should have CHARISMA. I'm not talking about being flashy. Charisma is the quality that makes people want to follow you. It's the ability to inspire. People follow a leader because they trust him. That's my definition of charisma.
8. A leader has to be COMPETENT. That seems obvious, doesn't it? You've got to know what you're doing. More important than that, you've got to surround yourself with people who know what they're doing.
9. You can't be a leader if you don't have COMMON SENSE.
THE BIGGEST C IS CRISIS. Leaders are made, not born. Leadership is forged in times of crisis.
Henry Ford Dies Today in 1947
Sixty years ago today Henry Ford died in his bedroom in Dearborn, Michigan. He was 83. Will Rogers had remarked, "It will take a hundred years to tell whether he helped us or hurt us, but he certainly didn't leave us where he found us."
Ford, of course, revolutionized the manufacturing process, yet probably one of his greatest contributions was economic. His insistence that the company's future lay in the production of affordable cars for a mass market lead him—often at odds with his investors—to lower unit costs and to implement a highly criticized minimum wage scheme. Ford's quest to make the automobile accessible to all, helped to change the make-up of American society in general. As Lee Iacocca wrote in Time magazine, “[I]f it hadn't been for Henry Ford's drive to create a mass market for cars, America wouldn't have a middle class today.”
Tyranny of the Urgent
It is easy to succumb to the tyranny of the urgent. There is always something competing for our attention. Worse still we might find we have to deal with what Michael Watkins calls pyromaniacs—those people like to create fires for you to put out. The only way out is to get some perspective. In White Hat Leadership, author Ty Warren writes about the importance of making time to disengage:
Part of preparing to lead is recognizing when to step away to recharge. Most of us have experienced the benefits of taking time away from the office (or family) for a few days, then returning with new energy and a better perspective.The urgent will always be with us. How we handle it will determine how effective we are. Michael Watkins offers five strategies to help you deal with the urgent on his blog.
Once we begin to let the urgent take over the important we loose perspective and get sucked into a cycle that perpetuates the problem and drains us. Without direction, we mistakenly find ourselves trying to compensate by going twice as fast. We must take time out to think. The perspective you gain will help you to handle everything you do better.
Are you part of the problem? Do you create fires for others to put out? Take the “Are you a pyromaniac?” quiz.
Talent is Never Enough
“Talent is cheaper than table salt. What separates the talented individual from the successful one is a lot of hard work.”
Leadership Books: April 2007Here's a look at some of the best leadership books to be released in April.
Troublesome Young Men: The Rebels Who Brought Churchill to Power and Helped Save England by Lynne Olson
Five Minds for the Future by Howard Gardner
Where Have All the Leaders Gone? by Lee Iacocca
The Taboos of Leadership: The 10 Secrets No One Will Tell You About Leaders and What They Really Think by Anthony F Smith
Talent Is Never Enough: Discover the Choices That Will Take You Beyond Your Talent by John C. Maxwell
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