5 Leadership Lessons: The Manager and the Monk
The Manager and the Monk is one of those books that comes along every now and again, that will shape and inspire your thinking. It is a deeply philosophical book with very practical applications. The book is essentially a conversation between Jochen Zeitz (@JochenZeitz), the former Chairman and CEO of Puma, and Father Anselm Grün, the financial manager of the Münsterschwarzach Abby near Würzburg, Germany. Zeitz is also co-founder and co-chair with Sir Richard Branson of The B Team.
Together Zeitz and Grün discuss important topics like success, culture, values, acting ethically, the environment, commerce, sustainability, strengths and weaknesses and awareness.
The book reflects their concern to think beyond the immediate concerns of business to how decisions could affect other people and the environment around them. "We should always be aware of the effects of our decisions." In the moment, it is often hard to remember that principle. Here are several thoughts from the book:
On Culture: Regarding culture, in my opinion, the most important leadership goals include integration, an open exchange of ideas, building confidence, and striving for greater equality. A leadership culture also has to be fun, and it must promote meaningfulness and innovation, regardless of how close to the wind you may sail sometimes.
On Hope: No one can lead a company or corporate group without having hope. Hope is something different from expectation, because the expectation I have for a person or a company can be disappointed. Hoping, on the other hand, means: "I am hoping for you and about you." Hope can never be disappointed, because I will not give up hope that another person will be able to change himself.
On Acting Ethically: They think that I can solve all problems, that I have always been kindhearted and understanding in dealing with others, and that I am always in harmony with myself. I realize that I must protect myself against such projections, for they are not good for me. They idealize me. If I were to identify myself with these projections, I would become blind to my weaknesses and would come to a standstill.
On Responsibility: Supervision limits the responsibility of every individual, but as human beings we cannot entirely do without it. Every person can and must have freedom in his work as in his life as a whole, in order to be able to assume responsibility. Every individual needs responsibility, for without it he loses interest and joy in his activities. We say that a person "takes on" responsibility. When we have the feeling that we can assume still more responsibility, then in my opinion we will find the means and ways to do this.
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5 Leadership Lessons: The Leader as Strategist
The Strategist is not a book about strategy, but a book designed to equip and inspire you to be a strategist. Author Cynthia Montgomery, says we have reduced strategy to a right-brain exercise and have lost sight of what it takes to lead the effort. The essential component of the strategy-making process is the leader.
Leaders must not ignore or underestimate their crucial and ongoing role as a strategist. “Strategy is not a destination or a solution,” writes Montgomery. “It is not a problem to be solved and settled. It’s a journey. It needs continuous, not intermittent, leadership. It needs a strategist.”
The myth of the super-manager—that a truly good manager can prevail regardless of the circumstances—is hard to let go. First, you must understand the competitive forces in your industry. How you respond to them is your strategy. Second, even if you understand your industry’s competitive forces, you must find a way to deal with them that is up to the challenge. Third, whatever you do, don’t underestimate the power of those forces.
Strategy is about serving an unmet need, doing something unique or uniquely well for some set of stakeholders. Beating the competition is critical, to be sure, but it’s the result of finding and filling that need, not the goal.
Nothing else is more important to the survival and success of a firm than why it exists, and what otherwise unmet needs it intends to fill. Every concept of strategy that has entered the conversation of business managers—sustainable competitive advantage, positioning, differentiation, added value, even the firm effect—flows from purpose.
After you’ve identified your purpose, aligned your activities and resources, and tested the results—all internal working steps—you are ready to summarize your strategy in a statement you can use to communicate both inside and outside your firm…. Make every word real. Make every word count. Long sentences and vague language can obscure your effort to describe what’s really important. At best, they’re unhelpful; at worst, they’re potentially misleading and distracting.
The most important thing is to understand that you are not a manager of strategy, or a functional specialist. Others can fill those roles. You are, first and foremost, a leader. Your goal is to build something that is not already there. To do so, you must confront the four basic questions you have already explored:
What does my organization bring to the world?
Does that difference matter?
Is something about it scarce and difficult to imitate?
Are we doing what we need to do in order to matter tomorrow?
As a leader, you must answer them.
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5 Leadership Lessons: Where Negative Emotions Come From
Brian Tracy and Christina Stein have written a book—Kiss That Frog—to help you root out the causes of the negative thoughts that are influencing your attitudes and behaviors more than you realize. It’s a critical issue for leaders.
“All emotions, especially negative emotions, distort evaluations. A person in the grip of a negative emotion is incapable of thinking clearly or rationally.”
Tracy and Stein have identified five major factors that cause people to create negative emotions and hold on to them:
Justification: You defend your negativity and your right to be angry. Negative emotions cannot exist unless you can justify your right to experience them to yourself and others. The more you justify yourself and convince yourself that the other person involved is bad in some way, that you are pure and innocent and are therefore entitled to feel the way you do, the angrier and more upset you become.
Identification: This means that you take things personally. You interpret what has happened as a personal attack on you. Having healthy emotional boundaries is essential, especially in a work environment. You can be compassionate without identifying with someone else’s emotions.
Hypersensitivity: To be extremely sensitive to the thoughts, opinions, or attitudes of others toward you. Peter Ouspensky called it “inward considering.” In extreme cases, hypersensitive people become paralyzed in that they cannot make a decision without getting the approval of other people.
Judgmentalism: The tendency of people to make negative assessments about others. When you judge another, you become emotional. And emotions distort evaluations. People often judge others because they want to control their behavior.
Rationalization: What happens when you put a socially acceptable explanation on an otherwise socially unacceptable act. Because of low self-esteem and weak egos, most people cannot admit that they have done or said something that was not thoroughly reasonable and justified.
Rehashing negative situations allows the negative emotions to grow. Keeping an eye on these factors leading to negative emotions can help you to stop the negative emotion the moment it is triggered.
You have a wonderful mind. But it is a two-edged sword. You can use it to make yourself happy, or you can use it to make yourself angry. Your goal should be to use your intelligence to keep yourself calm, in control, and at peace, no matter what is happening around you or to you.
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5 Leadership Lessons: Great Leaders Grow
Ken Blanchard and Mark Miller have penned another business fable, Great Leaders Grow. People and organizations are not fully alive unless they are growing. They ask, “will you be a leader who is always ready to face the next challenge, or will you be a leader that tries to apply yesterday’s solutions to today’s problems? The latter will ultimately fail,” say the authors. The solution is to GROW:
Growth is the leader’s fountain of youth. Growing, for great leaders, is like breathing. It’s not optional. It is not something you do in addition to your real job. It is at the core of your real job. Your capacity to GROW will determine your capacity to lead. If you get too busy with your job to grow, your influence and your leadership will stagnate and ultimately evaporate.
I don’t control whether I’ll be in a formal position of leadership. But I can control my readiness to lead.
My capacity to learn determines my capacity to lead. If I stop learning, I stop leading. If I’m not learning and growing, it will be impossible to leverage my talents.
Great leaders make the choice to GROW in four areas:
Gain Knowledge. Gain self-knowledge, knowledge of others, your industry, and the field of leadership
Reach Out to Others. You need to be proactive about helping others grow if you’re going to grow and learn. Teaching isn’t just about sharing information, it’s also about helping people draw out new learnings for themselves by the question you ask.
Open Your World. You will add much more value as a leader if you open up and expand your world with leadership experiences and life experiences. Be on the lookout for experiences inside and outside work that will make you a better leader over time.
Walk Toward Wisdom. Growth in wisdom has no formula, but it almost always involves at least one of four elements: rigorous self-evaluation, honest feedback, counsel from others, and time.
The two primary reasons leaders get off track are ego and fear. For many leaders, their ego is fueled by a heightened sense of confidence—you might call it overconfidence or pride. This, combined with the fear of losing control, often prevents leaders from serving people.
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5 Leadership Lessons: What if You Could Take Control of Your Life with One Decision?
Great leaders know they cannot let others determine their moods and behaviors. The decision is ours. David Pollay wrote The Law of the Garbage Truck to remind us that “it is not our duty to absorb the frustrations, anxieties, and disappointments of other people. We were not put on earth to carry other people’s negative energy, nor were we created to burden others with ours.” The Law of the Garbage Truck is straightforward:
Here are five lessons from David Pollay, to help us to focus on what really matters personally and professionally:
The Law of the Garbage Truck is about humility. No one is perfect. You don’t have to defend yourself every time one of your imperfections is pointed out. At the same time there is no need to judge others for their imperfections. If you let garbage trucks unnecessarily activate your defenses at every turn, you’re not following the play. Instead you’re allowing someone to tease you into a battle that’s not yours to fight, thus diverting your energy from the play you’re meant to run.
Other people are not the only ones who bring garbage into our lives—we create plenty of our own negativity that stirs memories of our past and makes us fearful of what we imagine awaits us in the future. When negative memories are invoked, we often indulge in looking for new meanings in them. As we engage these bad memories, and as they pass through our consciousness, we strengthen them. We feel the initial mood of disappointment, anxiety, and doubt all over again. By energizing these old memories with new thinking, we give them additional importance in our lives.
Many people spend their lives trying to get back at garbage trucks. They feel abused, challenged, or violated after being run over by one, so their mission is to hit back as soon as they can. They often think about what they could have said or should have done and fantasize about revenge. When you center your life on revenge and ruminate about every provocation and slight, you jeopardize everyone’s health, safety, and happiness—including your own.
For the Garbage Trucks in our lives: People who act like Garbage Trucks allow their anger, frustration, insecurity, and disappointment to drown out most everything good around them. Fortunately, people do not act like Garbage Trucks all the time. Eventually they’ll leave the safety of being a Garbage Truck—if even for a moment. They’ll do or say something nice, show concern, or offer their help on some occasion. It’s then that you must recognize their best. Let them know the good you see in them. Show them how much you care and how much they mean to you. When you look for and focus on the good in people, you help them see what is possible in their lives. You give energy to what is right about them. Your love and attention may be what enables them to change.
What about venting? Venting helps people understand your problems. Dumping leaves people feeling burdened by your problems. Venting is based on permission and turns into dumping when you do not have permission to unload your complaints, worries, frustrations, and disappointments on someone. Venting is time sensitive. Dumping, on the other hand, seems to have no end. It starts without consent and suggests that there is no likely solution. You waste people’s time and burden them with your garbage.
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5 Leadership Lessons: Tim Elmore’s Generation iY
Generation iY are the younger Millennials born after 1990. Their world has been defined by technology and shaped by the Internet— iPod, iBook, iPhone, iChat, iMovie, iPad, and iTunes—and for many of them, life is pretty much about "I," says Tim Elmore in Generation iY. “Generation Y is the largest generation in American history and the second half of this generation is different than the first half, measurably different.”
“[H]ere’s something that really saddens me: These kids really do desire to change the world; they just don’t have what it takes to accomplish their lofty dreams,” Elmore writes. “When the work becomes difficult, they change their minds and move on to something else. The new term for them is ‘slactivists’ – they are both slackers and activists.” Elmore argues that we need to change the way we interact with them, so that they can grow into adulthood and be the leaders they need to be.
Generation iY is an eye-opening book. It’s backed with research and filled with practical advice. This is an important book for parents and other adults that lead them. Elmore’s thought-provoking analysis will help you to not only rethink your approach in dealing with others, but rethink the assumptions that shape your own worldview.
Generation iY desperately needs mentors. Young people who spend most of their time with peers may drift into a lifestyle that won’t work in the real world. Many are truly lost and need to find their way back to a path that leads to maturity.
The truth is, not everything is an option in the real world. Sometimes there really is one right answer, only one good choice. Sometimes—quite often, in fact—someone else may decide what we will do, and we must go along with that decision….Sometimes there really is no choice, and kids will be better prepared for adult life if they understand this.
“You’re a winner just because you participated” is a lie we tell our kids and is just as bad as the “gotta be a winner” lie. Winning isn’t everything, but the insistence that “everyone is a winner” has diluted the value of achievement. What “everybody wins” means in reality, is that nobody wins. Kids have nothing to strive for, nothing to feel genuinely proud of. And when they launch into the real world, where there really are winner and losers, kids raised on “everybody wins” may be in for a rude awakening. What will they think when their boss doesn’t reward them for just participating?
For many adults, “download” is our default teaching method. We lecture. We direct. We preach. Students today are more geared to learn through uploading. They want to express themselves, and frequently they find out what they believe by hearing themselves talk. They grow through participation. And they’re used to the free flow of information with multiple sources, so they expect to interact with those sources. “Just listening” to a single voice is not only boring to them; increasingly, it doesn’t make sense.
Some call this generation the “connecteds.” Instead of using their youthful years to discover who they are and develop a lasting set of values to live by, they may become adults who can’t make it unless they are constantly on Twitter with their friends. Noise. Busyness. Connection. Talk. Volume. Speed. When will they ever unplug and discover their own identity? Will they ever experience the solitude that enables them to think or reflect on their lives? Will they become a generation so connected that they just parrot what peers are saying in their social network? Or will they be individuals who can think and act on their own without consensus from others?
Invest TIME with the next generation. “We must instill in Generation iY,” says Elmore, that “leadership is leveraging my influence for a worthwhile cause.”
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5 Leadership Lessons: Redesigning Leadership
John Maeda is the president of the Rhode Island School of Design. In Redesigning Leadership, he—with co-author Becky Bermont—pulls the leadership lessons from the ups and downs of his time there. In his transition from MIT to RISD he found that the two words “free pizza” were a powerful motivator to convene large numbers of students. “Making people work together can be fairly challenging, but getting them to eat together is somehow vastly easier. A meal is often a catalyst for a conversation that can lead to a collaboration, and a meal is a natural happening to signify closure when the collaboration has been completed.”
Leadership is never easy and it is made more difficult by what I perceive is a growing sense of entitlement we all feel in our culture. It’s not all good or bad, but it is something to deal with. Redesigning Leadership is a slim book, but it is full of great thoughts like these:
Learning something new means finding not just a new way to see the world, but often a new way to change the world. Artists constantly seek to find new and improved means to transform ideas into reality.
Artists rely on their intuition much more than those who are analytically trained. Analytical people tend to take a complex problem and reduce it to its component parts in an effort to solve it step by step. Artists, however, attempt to make giant leaps to a solution, seeming to ignore all constraints. By making those leaps, they sometimes miss the solution completely. But they are not afraid to miss the target.
Ironically, with all the communication technologies at our disposal today, it’s still difficult to get a message across to the person sitting right next to you in a reliable fashion. The shortest communication path between two people is a straight talk.
In forming any team, the most basic challenge: getting folks to take the big step away from just being themselves (the thing we all know best) and joining something larger (the thing we fear may let us down).
Whether brought by duty or desire, once people are in the same room, they’ve assumed the basic stance of being a team—which is to be together. Preconceived negative opinions don’t evaporate, but at least negativity can mix with positivity in the room, which by electrical principles results in the neutralizing of the respective +/- charges. I now consider this the most basic concept to leading a team.
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5 Leadership Lessons: What You Need to Know about Developing Teen Leadership
Dan Appleman has written a handbook for developing teen leadership. Based on over 20 years of real world experience, you will find ideas, techniques, examples and even sample statements to guide you. Developing Teen Leadership will not only help you develop leadership skills in yourself and others, but you will find ways to help teens help other teens on their leadership journey.
The challenge for most parents, teachers and teen advisors is first understanding what they believe about leadership. If we think leadership is telling people what to do, it is difficult to guide their understanding of what real leadership is. They learn best by example.
Appleman offers over 50 valuable thoughts that impact your effectiveness with teens. Here are just five:
Explore options, but leave the decision to them. As a youth advisor, it’s not your job to make things easy on the teens. On the contrary—since people learn from challenges, it is perfectly fine for you to challenge them. One of the best ways to do this is to help them see facets of problems and options that they may not have otherwise considered.
Listen. The fact that many teens are unwilling to talk to adults is not all, even mostly, their fault. The truth is that most adults are just terrible at listening (both to each other, and to teens and kids). So if you want to have the slightest hope of being heard, your first step is to learn how to listen effectively.
Don’t be the boss. When people think about leadership, they often think of authority. It’s easy to confuse the two. While exercising authority is a leadership skill, real leadership does not consist of telling people what to do. [Being bossy will get people to participate,] but that participation will usually be less than enthusiastic. The members of the group will tend to wait for instructions rather than take the initiative. And the boss will spend all their time running around, stressing out, and telling people what to do. Teaching teen leaders the difference between a leader and a boss will be an ongoing task.
Find ways to say yes. Teens and kids hear the word “no” all the time. It’s no wonder many stop asking. The reality is that teens are generally capable of far more than they are ever expected or allowed to do. Part of teaching leadership is to get teens to realize that they are capable of becoming leaders and accomplishing tasks. One of the best things you can do to encourage this is to, as much as possible, eliminate the word “no” from your vocabulary. Except for health and safety and rules issues, the answer should always be some variation of the word yes.
This is not a book about teens. It is a book about how we as adults relate to teens. Because the only tool we have to teach leadership skills (or anything) to teens is the control we have over our own actions. You can spend hours worrying about what the teens are doing or their attitude, but we can only control the things we do and our own attitude.
5 Leadership Lessons: The Velocity Manifesto
In today’s high-velocity environment, Scott Klososky believes you need to understand how to guide your organization in the implementation and usage of technology—in short, how your organization “does” technology.
[As a leader], you—not the IT department, nor the VP of IT, nor the chief information officer (CIO)—must understand, drive and be accountable for how technology is structured in order to reach the strategic goals of the operation….Technology enables velocity—the speed of getting products to market, the speed of delivery, the speed of analytics, and the list goes on. Speed is our friend in almost every case. An organization’s digital plumbing is what facilitates this speed, and it has become the single most important variable for success in many organizations.The Velocity Manifesto details key actions you must take to gain an advantage in the digital age. He covers three areas: Digital Plumbing (technology infrastructure), High-Beam Strategy (trendspotting), and creating a High-Velocity Culture (integrating different types of skills and lifestyles). Here are five insights from Klososky’s Manifesto:
We have an amazing ability as a species to solve problems and make improvements. One way to enhance your vision precision is to understand that we will solve the issues in all industries. We will find efficiencies and knock out things that don’t work the way we would like them to. So all you have to do is look at the industry you are in and identify all the things that are wrong with it….Next, you must begin to study how the solution to that problem will impact you, and find out whether you have any ability to solve it on your own.
The thing you want to be these days is a “fast follower.” The concept here is that you have a better chance of making a good investment in a trend or idea if you are not the very first—but also not the fifth, sixth, or seventh—into the market. Instead, you want to quickly follow the first movers who are trying to capitalize on a blossoming trend.
In order to play a high-speed game, you need team members who can work at a fast pace—and you also need a team that can work without friction. … Your job as a leader is to create a culture that generates as little friction as possible by leveraging your employee’s strengths and minimizing their differences.
We have four very different generations in the workforce right now, and another on the way. We have leaders from one generation who can’t relate to the technology sophisticated younger generations, and young people who have a somewhat warped view of what the organization owes them….Younger generations will not operate like the current generation of leaders….If you want to hire and retain A players, you will have to provide a vibrant culture for Generation Y and the rest of the generations to come.
Our inventory of technologies is more like a palette of art supplies—it must be formed into technological systems by true artists….By viewing technology construction as an artistic endeavor rather than a mechanical one, we are freed to not only build applications that have a stronger ROI, but also to do a better job of managing IT people. Software engineers, developers, and programmers must be viewed as the artists of this generation.
5 Leadership Lessons: Five Lessons from Hank Moore
In The Business Tree: Growth Strategies and Tactics for Surviving and Thriving, corporate strategist and author Hank Moore shares some of the lessons he has learned over the years. Here are five:
You cannot go through life as a carbon copy of someone else. You must establish your own identity, which is a long, exacting process. As you establish a unique identity, others will criticize. Being different, you become a moving target.
People criticize you because of what you represent, not who you are. It is rarely personal against you. Your success may bring out insecurities within others. You might be what they cannot or are not willing to become.
If you cannot take the dirtiest job in any company and do it yourself, then you will never become “management.”
It’s not when you learn. It’s that you learn.
Achievement is a continuum, but it must be benchmarked and enjoyed along the way.
Moore suggests that you keep your own diary of lessons learned—both reasons for your successes and your failures. What could you add to this list?
5 Leadership Lessons: Artistry Unleashed
I received several requests to explain further the artistry in leadership. In Artistry Unleashed, Hilary Austen has included interviews with business people and professionals concerning their approach to their work. Their comments help to understand the application of qualitative thinking and artistry in the practice in leadership:
Eric Thomas teaches horsemanship and explains the need for awareness in the moment: “Everybody who rides has the same problem: we’re hoping what we learned yesterday will always apply. You often ride the problem you had a minute ago, or for the goal you want to achieve. But this is not a recipe. It changes every second, and you’ve got to change with it.”
Scott Cook, Intuit co-founder talks about surrendering to surprise: “I’m a big believer—and this is something I’ve come to learn—in savoring surprises. If there’s something that’s really a big surprise, upside or downside, that’s generally the real world speaking to you, saying there’s something you don’t yet understand.”
Here are a couple of comments from University of Toronto assistant professor of psychiatry Melanie Carr and could easily apply to leading in the moment—developing artistry in your leadership: “What I love about psychiatry is that it’s a blend of art and science. No matter how much we are able to see patterns and make predictions based on our scientific understanding, no two people are ever exactly the same. So, as a practitioner, your eyes have to remain “fresh.” I like the juxtaposition of pattern recognition and being mindful. People are like a puzzle. There are patterns and there are recurring patterns. But no one is the same. So you can never just pull out one thing and say, ‘I’m going to do this every time.’”
Gerry Mabin founder of Mabin School in Toronto: “In public schools, the curriculum is constantly pummeled down. And so a teacher has to teach in units. You know, we’re going to do our unit in geometry for a certain number of days, and then move on to the next unit. There’s no revisiting, no integration. It’s all tightly boxed. It’s a killer.” And he adds: “When you’re actually teaching, you’re honing everything; you’re customizing everything. Every question you’re asking, every decision you make, you’re reacting to what’s happening at the moment with the children, whether it’s one child or whether it’s a group of them.”
To me, this final comment by Hilary Austen applies to the art of leadership and leading in context (situational): “When awareness guides action, the application of skill can leave the realm of mere mechanics. Skill then flows in response to awareness of immediate or anticipated qualities. This means skill works automatically and responsively, rather than in reference to a recipe or a routine.”
Leadership: Artistry Unleashed
5 Leadership Lessons: Finding the Right Leader
The failure rate of executive transitions—up to 40 percent of all leaders fail in their new roles and are replaced or retired in their first eighteen months on the job—is one of the costliest problems any organization can face.
In The Right Leader, executive career advisor Nat Stoddard and Claire Wyckoff present a process to improve the search for top-level executives. While most selection processes evaluate the candidate’s ability and personality in addition to the company’s needs, they don’t go far enough. Stoddard points out that three other areas need to be considered: the candidates energy and character, and third, the organizations culture. The authors suggest ways to evaluate these additional areas. The thoughts they provide offer lessons for all leaders:
Recent studies show that executives usually fail because of bad behaviors stemming largely from bad attitudes toward themselves and others rather than from bad judgments, bad strategies, bad plans, or the lack of necessary skill sets.
A leader’s energy is a very important aspect of who they are; it affects both how they are perceived as well as their ability to endure and preserve against the stress and strain of their responsibilities and the work environment. Their energy level can set the tone for the entire organization.
Leaders who have been successful in one situation (where their values were closely aligned with those of that organization) will not necessarily be successful in a new situation if their values are not sufficiently aligned with those of the new organization.
Cultures are neither “good” not “bad”—they simply are. The strength of a culture is the degree to which there is alignment between the values of the organization and those of the individual members.
The importance of selecting new leaders whose values approximate those of the cultures in which they are embedded is critical because it is the fastest, most assured way to create organizational trust in the leader. Leadership is all about trust. Without trust, leaders become irrelevant functionaries who will fail to accomplish what they have been hired to do—lead.
5 Leadership Lessons: Learning to Avoid the Contribution Syndrome
Much of real management wisdom could be summed up in the sentence: “Slow down, and use your head.” In The Management Mythbuster, David Axson writes, “Perhaps the one good thing to emerge from these tumultuous times is that questioning the effectiveness of long-established management practices has gone from being interesting to imperative.” Many of the management practices are outdated says Axson. They are rigid, calendar-based and excessively financial in focus. They can’t keep up the speed of today’s world. We need management practices that function in real time.
He takes to task six traditional management practices that he believes are no longer suited to today’s business world. He argues: Strategic plans are of little use in times of great uncertainty and volatility; Operating plans and budgets provide a false sense of security; Management reporting is driven by an obsolete view of the world; Incentive compensation rewards poor performance and penalizes outstanding performance; Investments in staff education have been inadequate and misdirected; and Technology has failed to improve and in many cases has reduced the effectiveness of management.
In one section he asks, “What makes a successful leader?” From his experience he concludes that the most successful ones share one characteristic—they ask great questions. He observes:
Great questions are not complex questions; in fact, the best seem blindingly obvious. Unfortunately, a relatively small proportion of people in leadership positions have the courage, confidence, or even the basic common sense to ask the right questions.
Contribution Syndrome: No matter what the situation, it is the compulsion to contribute; to show how smart you are at every possible opportunity. Our whole merit system is based upon getting the answer “right.” As we move into the business world, contribution syndrome infects our every pore. We must be seen to be contributing in every meeting or on every project. For some, this manifests itself in a complete inability to sit quietly and listen. It seems part of their DNA to feel that if they are not talking, then they are not working.
As you move up the corporate ladder, a subtle change starts to take place. The best stop talking. They sit quietly, taking in the contributions of everyone else, and limiting their own contribution to asking a few pertinent questions that lead the discussion in a constructive manner.
The most potent question anyone can ever ask is the simple three-letter inquiry, “Why?” In the world of commerce it is best used in serial repetition. Ask the “why” question at least five times in response to earnest arguments for a particular scheme or plan.
The key is to keep asking dumb but great questions. This demonstrates a level of humility that is essential for effective leadership. Complexity has become synonymous with sophistication. How do we get better at asking great questions: practice.
5 Leadership Lessons: Lessons From Warren Buffett’s Top Business Leaders
In Behind the Berkshire Hathaway Curtain, Ron Chan has interviewed a number of CEOs and executives who have contributed to Berkshire’s Success. Here are some of the insights, philosophies an mindsets from people at the top of their fields:
Cathy Baron-Tamraz, President and CEO of Business Wire: “I think a liberal arts education is invaluable in preparing one for the working world. I look at the people I have hired these past 30 years, and to be candid, most of them have had a more general background than a strictly business background.” The whole idea of college is to learn about general principles by taking a variety of courses.
Randy Watson, President and CEO of Justin Brands: “I learned that to run a company and be a leader, it is not about the individual, but how the team of people work together to accomplish something for the greater good. It is about working in unison. My job is to make sure that I have the right people in the right place, and then I stay out of their way.”
Stanford Lipsey, Publisher of the Buffalo News: “As an advertising executive, I learned to be observant and flexible. I learned to pick up information from my clients so that I could prepare data to attract them. As the saying goes, ‘persistence succeeds when all else fails!’ I just kept trying and trying.”
Brad Kinstler, President and CEO of See’s Candies: “Spotting talent is more of an art than a science. You’ll never know whether you have an eye for it until you put your managers out in the playing field and observe the way they perform. What I realized is that there is no right or wrong when it comes to picking talent. In fact, you can’t even tell who will be the next leader until he or she becomes one. Leaders come in different shapes and sizes, and it is often during a crisis or other extraordinary situation that their true ability emerges.”
David Sokol, Chairman of the Board of MidAmerican Energy Holdings Company: “When I was a 27-year-pld project manager, I had to lead some older and more experienced managers. The reality was that some of them were uncomfortable working with me. The only thing I could do was to keep my head down, check my ego at the door, and work extremely hard to prove that I was capable of leading. I didn’t try to convince them of anything other than the need to accomplish everything as a team.
“My father taught me that it is difficult to control others’ perceptions, but I can always control my own actions, and these actions can, over time, alter those perceptions. I constantly show my colleagues that I am an active listener, and I make sure to explain my rationale for every decision and to consider their opinions. That is all I can do, because the reality is that it will soon become clear whether or not I am capable.”
5 Leadership Lessons: The Wisdom of Bees
When talking about wisdom, bees often come up. Aristotle, Marcus Aurelius and Emerson all spoke about bees. And for good reason. They have a lot to teach us. Beekeeper, management consultant and professor, Michael O’Malley, has extracted 25 lessons for leaders in The Wisdom of Bees. Here are five:
Protect the Future. Bees don’t focus exclusively on the most productive flower patches at any given time, and for good reason. Conditions change rapidly for bees and they can ill afford wide swings in pollen and nectar intake….When a lucrative vein of nectar is discovered, the entire colony doesn’t rush off to mine it no matter how enriching the short-term benefits. The colony has internalized a very important natural rule: someday the nectar in that location will stop flowing and they need to be prepared to rapidly reallocate resources to other productive sites. The best way to ensure that there will be a short run is to focus on the long run….As the bees clearly advise through their behavior, overexploiting a rich patch just because it is there is a death trap.
Distribute Authority. With many thousands of employed workers, the queen couldn’t possibly direct all of the actions in the field from her command post.…While the queen is the generic heart and soul of the hive, she is by no means the only leader….Those closest to the information should make the relevant decision. Decentralization is one of the hallmarks of the honeybee colony. Foraging decisions, for example, are made by the foragers. The information doesn’t travel up to the queen and back again. If you are thinking of shifting greater power away from the organizational core and into the field, however, consider these facts first: 1) bees have clear objectives; 2) they are excellent communicators and are able to quickly take in and consolidate information—and transform that information into coordinated action; and 3) they are reliable workers that are very good at what they do.
Order and Innovate Through Fuzzy Constants. Much of the activity of bees is calibrated to constants that allow them to find their way home. When an organization adopts and fastens itself to a few immutable principles, the system as a whole becomes more reliable. A degree of error in the form of initiative, original thinking, and experimentation can then be tolerated. Constants do not drive out originality; they make it possible.…Where several solutions exist in shifting, complex settings, organizations require the intrusion of some variability—but never to the point of disorder.
Keep Your Balance. One of the principle ways that bees moderate extreme behaviors is through genetic diversity….This genetic diversity produces bees within the same hives that are differentially sensitive to environmental conditions. For example, bees keep the temperature of the hive relatively constant at about ninety-three degrees Fahrenheit….The bees heat the hive by contracting two sets of flight muscles and cool the hive by flapping their wings. However they don’t do this all at the same time….Fortunately, the bees differ in their sensitivity to temperature and alter their behavior at different times in response to climatic conditions….Managers should strive to hire capable people who, as a group, provide the team with a range of perspectives and worldviews. Otherwise organizations can become closed societies. In addition to making conscious effort to hire in a fair-minded way, take time to select people who are naturally inquisitive and who have varied interests.
Prepare For Leadership Changes. A colony headed by a high-quality queen has a more robust worker population and greater honey yield. It matters a great deal who is at the top. Consequently, it is not surprising that the workers in the hive pay close attention to the queen’s ability to propagate and are sensitive to declines in her performance. The queen’s ability to lead is determined ultimately by the minions, a truth unfortunately lost in many organizations. Leadership depends on the consent of the people to follow. In the instance of bees, the voice of workers is loud and clear….If the honeybee teaches us anything, it is that organizations cannot survive without a leader and, therefore, the colony prevents costly voids in leadership by planning for successors in advance of the obvious need. Colonies die without their top bee; organizations become pathological sans leadership.
"As you look for ways to improve your organization,” says O’Malley, “it would not be outlandish to take a step back and ask yourself, What would a bee do?"
5 Leadership Lessons: Getting Your Leadership in Gear
Rhett Laubach has written a book to help you get your leadership in gear. Leaders in Gear is filled with 37 practical behaviors, strategies and tactics to lead yourself and others and 22 ideas to improve your presentations.
The best way to have the strength, power and dedication to do all the little things to get and stay into Leader Gear is to put your focus on a greater purpose and mission….This “greater than me” perspective provides fuel when times get tough. Getting into Leader Gear is a daunting task. Staying there is even more demanding. Put and keep your focus on the greater cause, whatever that is for you. It could be your team, customers, core beliefs or faith.
Big performers don’t see themselves as big performers. They see themselves as growing performers. They are constantly getting better, learning, stretching, risking, pursuing and running. Big performers are in a never-ending battle with complacency.
Many people don’t grasp the concept of how to create genuine happiness because they are blinded by the hard work it requires and because many times it involves being entirely others-focused.
Good time managers don’t have to cut corners to meet deadlines. They don’t have to skip breakfast, drive too fast, be short with people, under-deliver on a project, etc. The basic rules of successful living exist, are well-known and are achievable if you manage your time instead of letting your time manage you.
The Threshold Thread concept states that all high achievers have developed the ability to push their capabilities further than the average person. Their threshold for hard work is higher. Their patience threshold is longer. Their commitment threshold is stronger. Will Smith has been quoted as saying that the true secret to his success is an insane work ethic. He uses running as an example. If you were on a treadmill beside him he knows one thing for certain—you will get off first.
5 Leadership Lessons: How to Lead a Fierce Competitor Company
How to be a Fierce Competitor by Jeffrey Fox offers some important reminders for business leaders. Although fierce competitor companies are in a word “flawless,” don’t let that intimidate you from reading this book. Every chapter has valuable, actionable advice. Not surprisingly, Fox has pieced together examples from an assortment of companies (not your run-of-mill examples) to show “what you need to be doing, how you need to be thinking, and the risks you need to take” to be a company that does it right. The advice is directed at leaders, but it shouldn’t be taken to mean exclusively top management. Here are five lessons for leaders at all levels:
Leaders don’t push others they push themselves. “Great leaders will exhibit levels of confidence that exceeds levels of certainty….They lead the organization with confidence, even when uncertain. They are sometimes fearful but always fearless.” Field Marshall Rommel told his commanders: “Be an example to your men, in your duty and in private life. Let the troops see that you don’t spare yourself in your endurance of fatigue and privation. Always be tactful and well-mannered and teach your subordinates to do the same. Avoid excessive sharpness or harshness of voice, which usually indicates a man who has shortcomings to hide.”
“Kitchen cabinet” is a term from Andrews Jackson’s presidency. He formed an unofficial group of advisors that entered through the back door to maintain their privacy (and value to Jackson). “Leaders need people they can trust. They need people who can and will deliver the unvarnished truth, the organization scuttlebutt, reactions to ideas, solution suggestions. These people may be inside the organization or on the board, but most often they will be outsiders. These people are the leader’s ‘kitchen cabinet.’”
Keep your hand on the tiller. “Employees know when the captain, the leader, takes his or her hand off the tiller. They sense that the company, like a sailboat, is adrift, off course, in trouble. People in the company will face any storm. Employees are not stupid. They just want to know what they should do. They want to be led. They want certainty of purpose in the people in charge.”
“Control what you can control….Roll with that which is beyond your control….When it is raining, the Chinese have a roll-with-it expression: ‘Let it rain.’ You can’t control the rain. So roll with it. Let it rain. But you can control whether or not the company has umbrellas, raincoats, storm water catchment basins, levees.”
Never Forget the Third Shift. "The 'third shift' is a metaphor for those people and those groups of people who toil in relative anonymity in the organization. They may be the workers on the night shift; the scientists in distant labs, behind locked doors, working on the next breakthroughs; the customer service people dealing with problems and one irate customer after another; the field repair people fixing critical customer machinery on a weekend or holiday; the caregivers that empty bed pans. These people may not be omnipresent, but they are critical to the continuing success of the company. Great managers recognize such people, give them credit, give sincere thank-yous."
5 Leadership Lessons: Colonel Bob Stewart on Leading Under Pressure
Leadership Under Pressure is a book of lessons learned and shared in personal stories by Colonel Bob Stewart. He was the first British United Nations Commander in Bosnia. On return from Bosnia Stewart was awarded the Distinguished Service Order for “cool courage and inspirational leadership.”
Stewart believes that leadership is universal and is not confined to a few special people. “It is universal, normal and quite ordinary too…. Leading in its basic form is the ability to show the way and guide others to achieve something.” Here are just several of the lessons he presents:
Leaders make things happen. The reason why people are placed in charge is so that they can make choices that work and make circumstances better. If officers or business executives were to simple follow orders without question and execute a plan according to a set formula, the job could be done by anyone who passes by. What separates officers from soldiers, and business executives from other employees is the fact that both groups are deliberately positioned to determine strategy and then lead others.
In Bosnia I considered briefing and communication to all members of my battalion to be even more vital than for conventional operations. I put great emphasis on each soldier being able to make his or her own decisions when it was necessary. Repeatedly I told everyone that they were all leaders because whatever they did mattered and would have consequences. Obviously if soldiers are so empowered, they must know exactly what is planned and their part in it.
There is nothing better than personally gained knowledge of what is happening. In both military and commercial life visits are probably the best way of getting up to speed on the reality of what is happening.
“Look downwards before you look upwards” my father had advised when I arrived at Sandhurst in 1967. His meaning was clear. Care about those who work for you before you concern yourself with pleasing superiors.
I find it interesting when organizations opt for anonymous surveys. That worries me a little, even though I understand the good reasons for it. I think my worry is why company leaders feel they will not get the truth without this condition. Surely if company employees feel valued and secure they will also believe that any constructive comments they make will not be misinterpreted and possibly threaten their positions or jobs?
5 Leadership Lessons: How Men and Women Lead Differently
Men and women are hard-wired to lead each other differently. Understanding that the human brain is hard-wired with its gender, we can use this information to become more gender-intelligent and balanced. Utilizing these differences gives the organization a competitive advantage. In Leadership and the Sexes, Michael Gurian and Barbara Annis reveal these differences:
In women’s brains, there are more active sensorial and emotive centers, and better linkage of these centers to language centers; men’s senses don’t generally work as well as women’s. Men don’t process as much emotion, and men don’t tend to link as much complex emotion or sensorial detail to words. Men downplay emotion, even at the risk of hurt feelings, in order to play up performance. Men are chemically and neurally directed toward immediate rewards from performance, and they often prod—and sometimes humiliate or shame-coworkers in this direction. Women work constantly toward helping others express emotions in words rather than just in actions and search for a method for direct empathy when someone’s feelings are hurt, even at the expense of current goals.
In men’s brains, the cerebellum tends to be larger than in the female brain. The cerebellum is the center for action and physical movement. Thus, men tend to communicate more nonverbally, with more emphasis on movement and physicality than women’s emphasis on words. Men also often misread women’s facial expressions of frustration or annoyance—leading women to think that men don’t care. Additionally, men often listen without as much facial expression as women exhibit. Women can tend to feel not heard by men who recline away from them or listen with a blank face.
Men’s brains enter a “rest state,” a zone out state, more easily than women’s. This happens many times per day naturally for men – comparatively, women’s brains do not shut off in this way except in sleep. Men’s brains also enter a rest state when quantities of words become overwhelming during communication. Men are more likely to “zone out” if discussions become lengthy or wordy. In a meeting, men may keep themselves awake by what might appear to be fidgeting—clicking a pen, tapping, looking away, and the like.
Men’s brains circulate more testosterone than women’s, as compared to women’s greater neural emphasis on oxytocin. Testosterone is a competition/aggression chemical. Oxytocin is a bonding chemical. Quite often during communication, men will try to compete while women try to bond. The more support women build around them, the lower their stress level.
Women tend to be more interactive, wanting to keep interactions extended and vital until the interaction has worked through its emotional context. So much more sensory and emotive information is processed through female brain flow that female leaders tend more than men do, to seek more interactions in a day. Men tend to be more transactional in their interactions. Once the transaction of the interaction is complete, they tend to move away from the interaction and back to their more solitary task.
5 Leadership Lessons: Fierce Leadership
Fierce Leadership by Susan Scott is a remarkable leadership book for its candor and practicality. She gets to the heart of many relationship issues that prevent us from really connecting with others and limit our performance.
Though the title may seem provocative, the term fierce refers to the type of leadership that engages and connects with people at a deep level. The fierce leaders’ most valuable currency is relationships and emotional capital. Scott writes, “Everywhere, people are hungry to connect, to be seen and known as the unique individuals they are, and this has an immediate and powerful impact on how we design business strategies and market our products and services and ultimately on whether our businesses succeed or fail. Yet much business communication is still stuck in the information age. Too often we treat our conversations and our relationships as we do our e-mails—one way, directive, quick, clipped, efficient.”
Scott suggests another approach to some widely accepted "best practices" moving for instance, from 360 Anonymous Feedback — to 365 Face-to-Face Feedback. The goal here is to have “open, honest, face-to-face conversations, 365 days a year, with the people central to your success and happiness…. When we stay current with one another, our formal performance reviews will contain few, if any, surprises.”
Some leadership lessons:
A careful conversation is a failed conversation because it merely postpones the conversation that wants and needs to take place.
What argument am I waging? Are you waging? What are we trying to be right about? The question is not whether our beliefs are right or wrong. We can tell the stories, point to the evidence, build an impressive case. You’re right! Who could possibly argue with the facts? The question is, how are your beliefs working for you?
John Doerr said, “The moment of truth is when you ask, ‘Are these the people I want to be in trouble with for the next five, ten, fifteen years of my life?’ Because as you build a business, one thing’s for sure: You’ll get in trouble.”
In meetings, people stubbornly cling to their ideas (sometimes at length!) in an attempt to impress others with the brilliance of their thinking. Their goal is to influence. It does not occur to them that an equally valid goal would be to be influenced, to have their own learning provoked. Nothing new emerges, because individuals are focused on being right rather than on making the best possible decisions for the organization.
The culture is not some nebulous and mysterious force out there somewhere. You are the culture. I am the culture. And each of us shapes that culture each time we walk into a room, pick up the phone, send an e-mail. Fierce leaders know that they influence the culture one conversation at a time, responding honestly or guardedly when asked what they think.
5 Leadership Lessons: Getting Your Relationships Right
When we think of leadership we naturally regard the objective and view with suspicion the subjective. We value hard data over soft data; reason over instinct; the external world over the internal world. John Townsend writes that “Great leaders succeed by harnessing the power of both the external world and the internal world. You, as a leader, are probably more trained, prepared, and experienced in the external world than you are in the inner one.”
Townsend wrote Leadership Beyond Reason to help you understand and utilize the soft skills – that which is beyond reason. He says “you ignore what is beyond reason at your own peril….Leading from your inner world ultimately produces better results in your leadership.”
He divides our inner world into five areas: values, thoughts, emotions, relationships and transformation. As leadership is about connecting with those you lead and a primary focus of leadership, let’s pull five lessons from Townsend on relationships:
“You internalize anyone who is significant to you, past and present. As well, the people you are leading are currently internalizing you. As a leader, you have the responsibility of knowing that people are storing mental and emotional pictures of how you relate to and lead them.” These are our relational images. It reminds me of a quote from Shakespeare, “There is a history in all men's lives.” This includes you too. We relate to others in ways that others have related to us. This of course has an impact on the connections we can make with others.
Develop good and healthy relational images. “Take in the good and forgive and grow from the bad.” He explains, “Some of your own significant relationships may have been with people who were cold, controlling, manipulative, self-centered, critical, or even abusive. This can create distorted or nonfunctioning pictures of how relationships should work.” Is your leadership drawing on images that don’t work for you?
“An important relational ability for leaders is to see people as separate from you and from their roles with you. Your people want to work with you, or they wouldn’t be with you. But you aren’t their reason for existing. They have lives, dreams, and concerns of their own. You need to be able to identify and understand that. Sometimes leaders assume everyone has the vision as strongly as they do or are as committed as they are. That can be a mistake and can undo what you are trying to accomplish with them.”
“Relationship provides the bridge over which truth can be conveyed. In your leadership, your people will experience truth in the absence of relationship as harshness, judgment, or condemnation. They will resist it and refuse it, either actively or subtly. Truth is hard to swallow if you don’t feel connected with the truth teller. That is why being “for” the other person, letting them know that, and being as emotionally accessible as possible, at the time of the reality, is critical.” Often “counseling” or performance appraisals derail on this issue as no sense of being “for” the other person has been established. Trying to develop a relationship “at the time of the reality” is too late. Do it now.
“The better you can relate, the better you will be able to influence and motivate…. Passion is ignited when the real self connects with the right task environment…. You can’t create passion, not for yourself or for anyone else. Your job is to create the right environment for the chemistry to happen. You do this by personal research. You must spend the energy to know your people and learn which tasks intersect with their passions. It will be different for different individuals; it’s not a one-style-fits-all program. But when you develop this relational ability, and get to know the insides of your people, the value and benefits are enormous.
Developing your relational abilities will help you read the landscape. Townsend adds, “The leader who misses relational aspects is surprised when people become distant, resentful, or just leave. The relational leader sees the signs coming a long way away and has time to do something about them.”
5 Leadership Lessons: Business Wisdom from Bob Seelert
How do you gain business wisdom—the understanding to “do the right thing, at the right time, for the right reasons”? It is most easily gained by learning vicariously from other people’s experience like from the lessons found in Start with the Answer. Bob Seelert, Chairman of global advertising agency Saatchi & Saatchi, has written a compendium of wisdom gained from over 40 years of wide-ranging experience in the business world.
Seelert says that the most fundamental lesson is that you need to start with the answer in mind and work your way back to the solution. “You have to know where you are going, have the courage to take the first step to get there, and constantly hone the means by which you will reach your destination. Today, too many companies are solution-obsessed and don’t spend enough time up front figuring out the destination, the true answer and outcome they are aiming for. You can waste a lot of time and money implementing solutions if you don’t know where you are going.”
Seelert encapsulates each instructive story with a lesson:
BOB’S WISDOM: Leadership is intangible. The first step is earning the trust of people you work with. Everything else follows from that.
BOB’S WISDOM: Taking the best of the past, and linking it to the present and desired future is the most dynamic way to build a business.
BOB’S WISDOM: Once you’ve identified the company’s best resources, blowing up the old and beginning anew can be the fastest way to put a troublesome past behind you.
BOB’S WISDOM: Closing a plant is a sad day, so treat people adversely affected as fairly as possible. Your larger obligation though, is to make the company a great place for the employees who are staying on.
BOB’S WISDOM: When a message is important, never be afraid to repeat yourself. People rarely get it the first time around.
5 Leadership Lessons: Amp Your Team, Rock Your Business
If you were alive in the 70s, you no doubt will remember the band 38 Special (i.e., Caught Up in You and Hold on Loosely). In Jam! by Jeff Carlisi, Dan Lipson and Jay Busbee, 38 Special founding member Carlisi has culled the lessons in teamwork and leadership from his two decades with the band. Businesses and rock bands share a lot of the same issues. “Both require the right mix of marquee names and supporting cast. And both can suffer more from success than they can from failure.”
Whenever you find yourself part of a new team, Carlisi says you should be asking yourself these questions:
What’s my role in this group?
What do I bring to the group that no one else can?
How am I contributing to (or detracting from) the success of the group?
How much responsibility will I have in keeping the group afloat?
Which of my teammates can I learn from, and what can I learn?
Your career will take a downturn. There’s no way around it. So prepare for that downturn by surrounding yourself with the smartest and most effective support team possible. They’ll pick you up when your down and help you find a way out when you’re lost.
It’s OK to be small but if you’re got bigger dreams, you’ve got to understand what’s necessary to achieve them. We knew we needed a change. We needed to stop following in the footsteps of our forefathers. Everything we were trying to do had already been done by people who were much, much better at it than we were. What’s the point of trying to do something when you’re only 50 or 75 percent as good as the best? Why not break out and be the best in your own field?
Times change and tastes change with them. You’ve got to accept that fact going into any endeavor … so do everything you can to prepare for them. Your work is a large chunk of your identity. And when it goes, a large chunk of your self goes with it. There’s no way to prevent that, but you can start searching around to make connections between what you’ve done before and what you could be doing next. Eventually something will click for you, and when it does, you’ll find it every bit as rewarding as your previous career.
Related Interest: Sex, Leadership And Rock N' Roll: Leadership Lessons from the Academy of Rock by Peter Cook Cook cites Sydney Pollack on authenticity:
You go to leadership school, and try to pitch your voice the same way that the boss did there, and have your office decorated the same way his is, and that’s not real leadership. Real leadership probably has more to do with recognizing your own uniqueness than it does with identifying your similarities.
5 Leadership Lessons: Ultimate Leadership - Leading in Context
An important concept in helping you to synthesize all of the leadership material you find is presented in Ultimate Leadership by Russell Palmer. The central idea is that there are basic principles of leadership that all effective leaders apply regardless of their personal leadership style, but they often need to be applied in a very different manner depending on the circumstances and the constituent groups involved.
Success or failure can often depend on modifying leadership styles to suit a different context.
General P.X. Kelly: "Listen carefully to the principles of leadership we will teach you here at Quantico, but always apply them within the framework of your own personality. A successful leader never languishes in the comfort of a swivel chair. The most important of all troop-leading steps, yet the one most often neglected, is the last – to supervise. And you supervise by being out with and devoting the bulk of your time to our most important product – people. You can always catch up on what you thought was essential paperwork during the evenings or on weekends, but once neglected, you will find it extremely difficult, if not impossible, to catch up on people."
When they have to lead partners and peers who have relatively narrow specializations, leaders need a broad view. One of the problems in today’s society is that we develop more and more people with narrowly specialized knowledge. The best subject from an educational standpoint for a leader is the study of history. Reading biographies is also particularly helpful.
Too often we view failure and adversity as the absence of success, whereas in reality they are just stations along the way that have to be passed through in order to reach your goals. That is why I believe tenacity and resilience are among the most important attributes of leaders, and never more so than when leading change. It’s critical that you understand what success is, in the eyes of your followers, if you are going to bridge their aspirations with your and cause real change.
Clarity is the antidote to anxiety.
5 Leadership Lessons: The First Billion Is the Hardest
Now at eighty, T. Boone Pickens looks back on his past, his comeback and future in The First Billion Is the Hardest. (I don’t know about you, but I’ve found that to be so true.) He also shares a few thoughts on leadership and management:
Leadership is the quality that transforms good intentions into positive action. It turns a group of individuals into a cohesive unit. You don’t manage people, you manage things.
Leading people is like raising money. It’s easier to get people to give money to your cause if you dig into your own pocket first. In the same way, people tend to follow your lead if you set a good example.
Give as many employees a stake in the business as possible. Those who have a strong financial stake in a business tend to think and act like owners.
Encourage constant, uninhibited, and open two-way communication. I want to know what my people are hearing, reading, and thinking. If they aren’t talking to me, I’ll ask them. And they know that I listen to them. Not every conversation leads to a decision.
Lead but also listen. A real leader never leads by fear. I develop a rapport so no one is afraid to question my opinions or decisions. They do it openly but respectfully, and I welcome it. The best way to avoid confusion, misconceptions, and disasters is to have fearless, open discussion.
5 Leadership Lessons: Axiom: Powerful Leadership Proverbs
Bill Hybels of Willow Creek Community Church, wrote Axiom: Powerful Leadership Proverbs with church leadership in mind. However, you will find pearls of wisdom that apply to any situation you find yourself in. That’s the thing about good leadership principles. They are timeless and they can be applied in any context. Here are five of the 76 guiding principles that have shaped his leadership:
Values Need Heat: When you heat up a value, you help people change states. Want to jolt people out of business as usual? Heat up innovation. Want to untangle confusion? Heat up clarity. Want to eradicate miserliness? Heat up generosity! New “states” elicit new attitudes, new aptitudes, and new actions. It’s not rocket science. It’s just plain chemistry. Which is a lot about heat….Over time, sufficiently hot values will utterly define your culture.
DNA Carriers: Great leaders take the time to explain to their team what they feel deeply about—what issues they would take a bullet for and why. Then great leaders show their staff members how to live out that DNA. They appeal to the employee’s desire to be part of something very cool and than make a hero out of each one who rises to the occasion. Sure, the final decision rests in the hands of the employee—“Will I or won’t I live out all that it means to be part of this organization?”—but effective leaders challenge and inspire their staff to become bona fide DNA carriers.
No Eleventh-Hour Surprises Please: One of the most harmful things a colleague can do to a leader is to toss an eleventh-hour surprise in his or her lap. Last-minute grenades ask an otherwise proactive person to become reactive, a well-paced problem solver to become a firefighter, and a long-term planner to focus all energies only on the next twenty-four hours. “I want an environment that helps keep blood pressure stable, the nuttiness quotient low, and fire drills and soap operas to a minimum. Please, no eleventh-hour surprises.”
Speed of the Leader, Speed of the Team: Leaders must never expect from others anything more than they are willing to deliver themselves. They should never expect higher levels of commitment, creativity, persistence, or patience than what they themselves manifest on a regular basis.
Pay Attention to Greetings and Goodbyes: Everyone who works for a highly motivated leader carries with them a low-grade concern that that leader is going to use them and then toss them out. They worry that aside from getting the leader’s agenda done, they’re not at all necessary. Deep down, they simply want to know that they’re more than just a cog in someone else’s wheel. I make it a habit to do a personal, enthusiastic, genuine, warm, highly relational, look-you-in-the-eye greeting to every single person sitting around the table before I even think about starting the meeting.
5 Leadership Lessons: Transparency
In a series of three essays, authors Warren Bennis, Daniel Goleman, James O’Toole and Patricia Biederman, illuminate what it means to be transparent in a world where technology makes transparency all but inevitable. The reality is that we can never assume that we are alone or unwatched.
The leaders who will thrive and whose organizations will flourish in this era of ubiquitous electronic tattle-tales are the ones who strive to make their organizations as transparent as possible.
Legislation alone cannot make organizations open and healthy. Only the character and will of those who run them and participate in them can do that. The first time a top executive blows up or punishes someone delivering bad news, a norm is established. If leaders regularly demonstrate that they want to hear more than incessant happy talk, and praise those with the courage to articulate unpleasant truths, then the norm will begin to shift toward transparency.
Any time an organization makes a seriously wrong decision, its leaders should call for an intensive postmortem. Such learning opportunities are too often overlooked. The tendency is simply to call on the public relations department to spin the matter, to make another inadequately thought-out decision, and perhaps to scapegoat, even fire, a few staff members.
Indeed on of the most dangerous myths of modern organizations is that it is better to make a bad decision than no decision. Instead of mythologizing the leader who acts quickly or on hunches, we should cultivate leaders who are not afraid to be labeled wishy-washy when prudent caution and additional study are called for.
5 Leadership Lessons: How the Best Get Better and Stay That Way
Sports psychologist and executive coach Graham Jones believes that the real key to excellence in both sports and business is mental toughness. In the current Harvard Business Review he writes that the most successful people do five things to get better and stay that way.
Learn to Love the Pressure. To do that you must dedicate yourself to constant self-improvement. That is made a lot easier if you learn to compete with yourself and block out the drama of those around you. It’s a choice. “Greg Searle, who won an Olympic gold medal in rowing, is often asked whether success was worth the price. He always gives the same reply: ‘I never made any sacrifices; I made choices.’”
Fixate on the Long Term. Map out short-term goals in every area that affects your performance to make sure you meet your long-term goal. Long term success is paved with small achievements.
Iron Sharpens Iron. “Train” with the people who will push you the hardest. “Smart companies consciously create situations in which their elite performers push one another to levels they would never reach if they were working with less-accomplished colleagues.”
Reinvent Yourself. Once you become the benchmark, you need to keep reinventing yourself. To do this you need to develop an insatiable appetite for feedback; you need to be “hungry for advice on how to develop and progress. One word of caution, however: While it’s good to feel challenged, you need to make sure that any feedback you get is constructive. If criticism doesn’t seem helpful at first, probe to see if you can get useful insights about what’s behind the negative feedback. Get more specifics. You should be able to see concrete improvements in your performance after getting detailed coaching advice.”
Celebrate the Victories. Think of it as constructive celebration. Otherwise it can lead to complacency. “Celebration is more than an emotional release. Done effectively, it involves a deep level of analysis and enhanced awareness. The very best performers do not move on before they have scrutinized and understood thoroughly the factors underpinning their success.”
In the end, the keyword is resilience. Jones concludes, “Most of those participating in the Olympics this summer will walk away from the games without grabbing a single medal. Those with real mettle will get back into training again. That’s what truly separates elite performers from ordinary high achievers. It takes supreme, almost unimaginable grit and courage to get back into the ring and fight to the bitter end. That’s what the Olympic athlete does. If you want to be an elite performer in business, that’s what you need to do, too.”
A Navigation System for Women in the Workplace
Dondi Scumaci has written a book – Designed For Success – to help women navigate their careers. She says, “I am passionate about helping people release their potential so they can have real impact, leverage their God-given talents and maximize opportunities in life and in business.”
Many of the principles presented here, of course, apply to both men and women. But she has tailored it to address the unique obstacles women face in the workplace including how to overcome the natural aversion to negotiation, how to send the right message with your wardrobe, overcoming female stereotypes
Women bring a unique set of traits to the workplace that are not as valued as they should be. Their strength lies in developing and applying them to whatever they are involved in and not trying to emulate male traits. In the book she offers Ten Commandments for Women in the Workplace. Here are some takeaways on developing your leadership capabilities:
You have to be something before you can get something. Maybe we don’t actually say it, but there are times when we hold back the best of who we are because “that’s not our job”? Admit it. Haven’t you ever thought, “That’s not my problem,” or “I don’t get paid enough to put up with this!”? OK, I’ll go first. I have. When it comes to personal leadership, we can’t wait for the position to demonstrate it. We can’t wait for the promotion to make the difference, because the difference is what makes the promotion.
Knowing how you fit – how your work fits – into the bigger picture, is really important. When you understand the flow of work and the broader objectives of the organization, you work in context.
Check for alignment between what you are doing and what matters most to your organization. The more aligned you are with the goals and priorities of the organization, the more valuable and relevant you become.
Instead of trying to increase compliance with your processes, view them from your customer’s perspective and find ways to make them more user friendly. You become more valuable to the organization when you search for and deliver solutions. At this level you are not waiting for an assignment. You are actively engaged in the process of continuous improvement.
The most valuable, vital employees are rivers, not reservoirs of information. They do not collect and store knowledge. They allow knowledge to flow through them by coaching and mentoring others, They give information away.
5 Leadership Lessons: Charles Handy's Wisdom
Charles Handy’s memoir, Myself and Other More Important Matters, is full of candid insights from a thoughtful life. Here are a few lessons to take away:
If all your expectations with life work out well then you probably haven’t pushed yourself far enough. There may be lives out there that you could have lived had you dared more.
I learnt that in most human situations there is no textbook answer, that everyone is different and that you have to make your own judgments most of the time, make your own decisions and then stand by them. Only in technical matters does the expert know better.
Schools, at every level, prefer to teach what can be taught, rather than what needs to be learnt.
Organizations are not machines.
My belief is that most people have a fundamental understanding of what makes organizations work. They just need to be reminded of it and encouraged to apply their understanding to their own work. The late Sumantra Goshal of the London Business School once described Peter Drucker as practising the scholarship of common sense. I would like that said of me. For example, it is only common sense that people are more likely to be committed to a cause or mission if they had a hand in shaping it. That does not need research to prove it. Nor do you have to see the research to know that groups are likely to produce better results than the same individuals acting on their own.
5 Leadership Lessons: Inside Welch's Communication Revolution at GE
Bill Lane joined GE as a speechwriter in 1980, and became the Manager, Executive Communications for the Company, and Jack Welch’s speechwriter. In his book Jacked Up: Inside Welch's Communication Revolution at GE, he tells stories from his experiences with Jack Welch and other key players, with the candor that Welch prized above all.
The vanity of communications is about never – ever – allowing anything but your best face, and that of your organization, to ever, ever, appear in front of your constituencies or your employees or your mates.
I fell prey to a typical attitudinal conceit, a root cause of presentation disasters: the belief that what you think is so important is also considered to be so by the audience. The best presentations I’ve done in my life are ones about which people I respected came up and said: “It was great, but it was too short. I wanted to hear more.” All first draft presentations are too long and should be cut. Second, third, and forth drafts should be cut further.
Never, ever, make a presentation you do not feel is excellent—a home run. If you don’t spring up to the podium because you can’t wait to do it, something is probably wrong.
The domination or orchestration of company meetings may sound like the machinations of a control freak, a meddler, an autocrat, or dictator. That is precisely what I am describing; but it also the picture of a leader, and how a leader can capture ownership of his key meetings and his organizational communications, virtually overnight. These meetings were Jack’s megaphone, and everybody knew it. Do the people who attend your key meetings know whose thoughts a views they are hearing?
[Jack] would tune out, and write-off, people who made presentations that had an air of “going through the motions” or “reporting” rather than passionately advocating some course or other.
Lane asks: "What jobs are you disqualifying yourself from because of poor presentation skills? These efforts are fairly easy to acquire, and involve the architecture and effort in the presentation itself, rather than theatrics and what color dress you wear."
5 Leadership Lessons: What is Your Intention?
Our intentions—our attitude going in—has a profound affect on the results we get and the stress we experience along the way. Our intentions affect what we do, what we say and how we say it and how we come across in the process. Greg Hicks of Foster, Hicks and Associates and author of LeaderShock, writes that we are so in the grip of LeaderShock—overwhelmed, overloaded and overstressed—that we find ourselves so busy doing that we don’t take time to choose our attitude. We end up allowing it to control us rather than the reverse. “Because attitude animates your actions, once your attitude is set you’re in the best position to decide what behavior is going to work best.” Here are five leadership lessons on Intention from LeaderShock:
When we don’t assertively set our Intentions, we passively or unconsciously choose something else. Our outcomes are haphazard, and we become hostage to people and events that lead us astray. Intention adds directionality and power to human endeavor.
Choosing your day isn’t about denying problems, sugarcoating them, or guaranteeing specific results. It’s about intensifying your focus on that which is uplifting and self affirming.
The Rigidity Trap is everywhere. By locking into rigid assumptions we rarely achieve what we want. Chaos is not the opposite of rigidity. Healthy flexibility is where you want to be, inviting unexpected options and discovering new possibilities before making any final decision. If life is indeed a journey, we as leaders would be wise to pay more attention to the odyssey and less to the final destination toward which we’re headed.
When we find ourselves merely trying to survive the pressures created by limited time, money, and people resources, we tend to take as much as we can. This survival mentality eventually isolates us from a community that could otherwise provide us with everything we want.
When we see feedback as negative, or give all our power to the person giving the feedback, we set ourselves up for a long, hard fall. Our Intention should be to see feedback as nothing more than new information; never as an attack.
5 Leadership Lessons: Great Advice from Accidental CEO, David Novak
While Yum Brands chairman and CEO David Novak calls himself an accidental CEO, his rise to the top, while perhaps not planned, was no accident. His advancement speaks to the power of right choices made throughout life based on the knowledge gained from cultivating lessons from life and seeking out advice. His memoir, The Education of an Accidental CEO, is written in the first person and full of advice that we can all gain from reading. Nothing here is earth-shaking or new, but it is helpful to see the successful working of these principles in the life of someone who took them to heart. Here are a few of the lessons we can take away:
I don’t think as a leader that you just go tell people to do something. I believe you plant the seeds and share with them what you know and let them draw their own conclusions—which may even be better than your own.
One thing I’ve learned over the years is that you never get promoted until most people in your company can already see you in the position. [Former chairman of PepsiCo, Wayne Calloway], took me aside and said to me, “David, I have no doubt that one day you are going to end up running something. So why don’t you just focus on what you need to do today in order to be ready when you get there.”
I can’t stress enough the essential nature of really hearing what someone has to say even if it is totally contradictory to your own beliefs….It’s something that I have to constantly remind myself of, and others, to do to this day. [Coach Wooden told him], “Most leaders have enough ego as it is, so you don’t need anyone around to inflate it any further.
One of the greatest failures to execute is the lack of follow-up. This seems obvious, yet very few companies place as much emphasis on accountability as they do on figuring out what they want to get done.
Self discovery is the key to learning, whether it’s learning how to do something new or better or learning something about yourself. You can tell the same thing to people a thousand times, but they don’t really own it until they discover it for themselves.
5 Leadership Lessons: James M. Kilts on Building the Right Team
In his instructive memoir Doing What Matters, James Kilts gives credit to his team for the turnaround he engineered at Gillette. Picking the right people is key to the success of any team. Here are some of his thoughts on building the right team.
Effort is the price of admission. Everyone has to work hard, usually very hard. But if that effort doesn’t turn into results, something is wrong. Perhaps with the objectives or targets that were set. Or with the actions being pursued. Or maybe with the person involved. Whatever it is, effort without results indicates a problem that must be addressed.
Former Kraft CEO Mike Miles said, “We had a rule at Kraft that we were not going to hire any self-centered jerks.” Mime believes that there are enough smart people in the world so “you could pass up the smart jerks and wait for a smart, nice person to come through the door. If you did that you would have a society or culture . . . where people enjoyed their cohorts, [and] where they looked forward to coming to work every day.”
Weed out bad actors. Often, these were self-absorbed people who wanted to run a fiefdom in which their word was unquestioned. They were self-promoters who had no interest in developing people their people or working for corporate goals. Meeting individual targets and achieving personal self-fulfillment defined their efforts.
I especially like battle-tested managers. People who have had an easy road through there career and never ran into a tough business situation can be unreliable and unpredictable. If you observe someone when they are going through a difficult business situation, you learn a lot. You know if they can keep their composure, think clearly, and deliver the facts, honestly and with transparency, regardless of how bad the news.
The team aspect of leadership cannot be overstated. The team must be committed to the leader, but even more important, the leader must be committed to the team and to goals that go beyond your own self interest. You must believe in and be committed to the corporate objectives, to organizational goals, and you must give them a top priority.
5 Leadership Lessons: Measure of a Leader
Aubrey and James Daniels wrote a comprehensive and thoughtful book on leadership entitled, Measure of a Leader. It is a book that deserves far more attention. The premise is a new model of leadership that focuses on the behavior of followers. By becoming a better observer of human behavior we can become better leaders. They say that “most leadership writers limit their premises to the success of the leader at his or her particular venture.” There’s more to it than that. How you accomplish something is as important (if not more important) than what you accomplish. Here are a few lessons from their book:
In any undertaking that requires leadership, loyalty to the individual may be how the venture starts, but it is not how that venture thrives. If the leader cannot transfer personal loyalty to his vision, he has failed one of the critical tests of effective leadership.
When change exposes individuals to failure and punishment, they resist. When change increases the person’s access to reinforcement, they seek it out. Since one f the leader’s key functions is to lead change, he must view resistance as a signal that something is wrong with the process being used to achieve desired change rather than simply passing off the resistance to change as a normal characteristic of human behavior. Contrary to common opinion, it is not normal!
Learning to lead is a function of deliberate practice. You refine your techniques and skills by observing the followers’ responses. While you may pick up some pointers from the stories of others, you cannot simply imitate what they do. This intentional search for the impact of your actions will set you apart from those who try to replicate the actions of other leaders.
Managers need to learn the following rule: you don’t lead by results; you lead to results; and only behavior will get you there. It is important to differentiate between behavior and non-behavior. Of course, attitudes are not behaviors; competencies are not behaviors; values are not behaviors; employee involvement and commitment are not behaviors. Asking someone to smile more often may be infinitely more helpful than telling him to change his attitude.
Learning leadership is fundamentally a self-management task. But this task is made immensely more difficult if you think of it in terms of changing your personality, such as becoming more charismatic. Since leadership is defined in terms of the behavior of the followers, the task is to ask, “What do I want my followers to do?” and then “What must I do to produce that behavior?”
5 Leadership Lessons: What Really Matters According to John Pepper
Former president, CEO, and chairman of Procter & Gamble, John Pepper has written a very friendly and open account of his forty years at P&G. He spends a good third of What Really Matters describing his rise up the corporate ladder—what he did do and what he would not do again—and how learned to build and manage leading product brands. He stresses the importance of building a community of leaders and leadership within a company and promoting from within whenever possible.
“[A] characteristic of a vital community is holding ourselves accountable for delivering leadership results and being leaders in all that we do. A culture of leadership binds a community together as nothing else will. By achieving leadership, an institution attracts winners who will then motivate and energize each other to become even better. I cannot overstate the importance of this.”
“Over the years, I’ve seen that the strongest leaders are those who have enough confidence to seek input from others without losing the direction provided by their own internal compass. They understand that the objective of learning is not comfortable consensus. It is to make wiser, more informed choices.”
“We need to recognize that everything in our institutions, everything in life, depends on personal leadership, and personal leadership in turn depends on our being faithful to ourselves. Leadership is not some academic or abstract concept. It is very personal. Personal leadership makes things happen. Determine how you can best be of service in a particular situation, and you’ll know how to lead.”
“Positive feedback sustains people, provided it’s authentic. Honest conversation sustains all of us when it is with someone we respect. Why? Because it shows we matter.”
"Personal ownership is, above all else, something we do for ourselves. It is a choice we make by throwing ourselves into a business and by developing intimate contact with it. But we can nurture and encourage ownership among one another. How? By conveying trust and high expectations, authentically and honestly. Knowing you are trusted contributes mightily to your feelings of ownership. Just as some comments and questions can suppress a sense of ownership, others can turn it on. Consider the power of the simple question: How do you think we should do this?"
5 Leadership Lessons: Getting Unstuck
Getting Unstuck: How Dead Ends Become New Paths by Timothy Butler is an interesting look at a chronic human problem: not being able to see the forest for the trees. There are times when we get stuck and find ourselves stewing in our own juices.
Our stuck feeling comes from our inability to get our thinking moving again. Sometimes we get hit so hard that it is hard to get our mind off of the point of impact and instead focus on our response. The decision to get on with it, frees us to rally our resources and broaden our repertoire of responses. We will, with the proper outlook, grow to a higher capacity to handle the next crisis that life throws at us.
Bulter offers these thoughts:
“When we are at am impasse, we often cannot even sense this flow [the connection we feel to the energy in our life] — or to see how close we are to a dynamic dislodging that would place us back into the energy of the moving current….When we have run aground, we sometimes fail to realize that his is a necessary crisis; without it we cannot grow, change, and — eventually — live more fully in a larger world.”
“Self-images often seem to have lives of their own, separate from our daily reality, and they exert a powerful presence that affects decisions and distorts perceptions. These distortions lead us away from the ability to pursue the work and the relationship that hold the greatest promise for fulfillment.” These self-images keep us suck.
“The problem with any mental model is that it is always operating on information from the past. In contrast, true vision is never an arrangement or rearrangement of solutions that have worked in previous circumstances, but springs from the immediacy of today….Life is always breaking our mental model…A life shock momentarily awakens something I us, and for a moment we are fully alive, with no model at all. We all want this, to be touched directly by life itself.”
“When we are at an impasse, we need new information, especially information about what is missing rather than a summary of what is already there.”
Getting unstuck ultimately comes down to a choice. Our lives do not change without action. “The only way forward is to bring our whole person into the tension of the choice. The temptation when experiencing the tensions of a difficult choice is to seek a quick compromise, to find some middle ground that seems to offer some of the best of the conflicting pole. This rarely works and rarely satisfies.”
Butler offers some practical ways to get ourselves thinking again through practicing free attention and some healthy ways of looking at crisis in our life. His One Hundred Jobs Exercise presented in this book, is aimed at helping us to reexamine our outmoded mental models and identify essential work and life themes that will bring us back to our place (authentic) where we can offer our contribution.
5 Leadership Lessons: Robin Sharma
The ultimate competitive advantage of your enterprise comes down to a single imperative—your ability to grow and develop leaders faster than your competition. The more quickly you can get every single person in the company demonstrating leadership behavior—regardless of their position—the more quickly you will lead the field.
Being a leader isn’t about being liked. It’s about doing what’s right. Great leaders run their own race, making the right decisions and worrying little about public opinion. They are courage in action.
Try not to teach your fears to your kids. Introduce your children to what’s possible. If you see the world as a place of limitation, so will those little people you are raising.
Every day, life will send you little windows of opportunity. Your destiny will ultimately be defined by how you respond to these windows of opportunity. Shrink from them and your life will be small. Feel the fear and run to them anyway and your life will be big.
Remember, every great leader (or visionary or brave thinker) was initially laughed at. Now they are revered. Push the envelope. Refuse to accept anything remotely close to mediocrity. Let go of the chains that have bound you to the ordinary. And definitely leave the crowd.
These five lessons are from The Greatness Guide by speaker and leadership coach, Robin Sharma.
5 Leadership Lessons: Leadership and Motivation
A wise leader will involve the team in decision-making as far as possible, for the more that people share in decisions that affect their working life the more they are motivated to carry them out.
50/50 Principle: Fifty per cent of our motivation comes from within us and 50 per cent from without us—from our environment, especially the people around us. (These proportions may vary from person to person.) We are more like open systems than closed boxes.
Nobody inspires you more than the person who speaks to the greatness within you.
A Framework for Motivation:
1. Be motivated yourself. You can’t light a fire with a dead match.
Work as a form of service requiring skill, work that calls for creativity in all its rich variety, work that fosters a deep comradeship with our co-workers, is almost by definition work that motivates us to give our best. Or, putting it differently, when, as Kahil Gibran says, “Work is the expression of love, then motivation will never be our problem." Perhaps the real challenge of leadership today is to locate, release and channel the power of love that flows from deep inner springs within us all.
These five lessons are from Leadership and Motivation by internationally recognized leadership authority John Adair.
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