Leading Blog


First Look: Leadership Books for February 2015

Here's a look at some of the best leadership books to be released in February.

  Act Like a Leader, Think Like a Leader by Herminia Ibarra
  The Hidden Leader: Discover and Develop Greatness Within Your Company by Scott K. Edinger and Laurie Sain
  The Creator's Code: The Six Essential Skills of Extraordinary Entrepreneurs by Amy Wilkinson
  Performing Under Pressure: The Science of Doing Your Best When It Matters Most by Hendrie Weisinger and J. P. Pawliw-Fry
  The Attacker's Advantage: Turning Uncertainty into Breakthrough Opportunities by Ram Charan

Act Like a Leader Hidden Leader Creators Code Performing Under Pressure Attacker's Advantage

For bulk orders call 1-800-423-8273

discounted books

Build your leadership library with these specials on over 100 titles. All titles are at least 40% off the list price and are available only in limited quantities.

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“Wear the old coat and buy the new book.”
— Austin Phelps

Posted by Michael McKinney at 08:16 AM
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LeadershipNow 140: January 2015 Compilation


twitter Here are a selection of tweets from January 2015 that you might have missed:
See more on twitter Twitter.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 08:23 PM
| TrackBacks (0) | LeadershipNow 140


10 Rules for Future-Proofing Yourself

The most common problem that modern professionals face is a lack of risk tolerance and a resistance to change.

Make Change Work
Scott Steinberg writes in Make Change Work for You, Scott Steinberg offers ten rules that successful people follow to future-proof themselves. But underlying it all is how we deal with fear. We need to find a quick way to neutralize its negative influences, find courage, and take positive action. He suggests we try the FEAR problem-solving method:

Focus: When you see a problem, study it closely until you’re sure you are seeing it objectively.
Engage: Intelligently respond to a problem with a solution, create an action plan and put it in motion.
Assess: Study the responses you get. If you are not on track, rethink the solution, rethink the audience, or rethink the way you’ve positioned yourself and your brand.
React: Having learned from the experience, adjust your tactic accordingly. Keep tweaking it until you find success.

The ten rules with Steinberg’s insights:

Rule 1: Be Courageous
Inflate your willingness to act. You don’t have to be without fear to succeed; just relentlessly practical. Fear only has power over us when we allow it to go unchecked or fail to correctly interpret the signals it’s presenting.

Rule 2: Make Fear Your Friend
Train yourself to review not to react. Instead of worrying about fear, worry about how you can capitalize on it to drive more positive outcomes. Fear alerts us to potential problems, drives growth, prompts us to make changes, fights complacency, keeps us nimble, makes us creative and provides a sense of urgency.

Rule 3: Turn Anxiety and Paranoia into Awareness
Leverage your paranoia to become more proactive. Use your anxiety to help you to be acutely aware of the world around you and potential problems and opportunities. Don’t let it cause you to freeze up. Use it to stay fresh.

Rule 4: Transform Failure into Success
The more you push past your barriers, the greater the rewards you’ll reap that lie beyond because they’ll be more uncommon and hold more value as a result. If you learn to push past the fear of failure, you can capitalize on areas of opportunity others have abandoned to create winning breakthroughs and create ongoing relevance on an infinite scale.

Rule 5: Master the Art of Improvisation
While conditions and events encountered may appear chaotic, irrational, and unpredictable from the inside, when viewed from a distance they are often the exact opposite. It’s not about being smarter or more experienced, it’s about being savvier or more resourceful. As a result, traits such as cleverness, practicality, and leadership are becoming far greater arbiters of success than abilities or accolades.

Rule 6: Play the Odds
Once you know the odds, make smarter and smaller bets. The more opportunities you have to win, the greater your chances of winning. Gamblers, risk takers, and forward thinkers—today’s mavericks—understand the importance of making safe bets. But they also realize that big wins come from playing the long shots a=that smaller, smarter wagers subsidize.

Rule 7: Experiment Constantly
Constantly tinker with ways to expand your horizons, grow your skill set, and disrupt your career or your organization. Work to expand your comfort zone. It’s all a work in progress.

Rule 8: Pick Your Battles
To stack the odds in your favor, pick and choose your battles. It’s a constant process of assessment and reassessment.

Rule 9: Keep Forging Ahead
Be proactive and keep moving. The secret to getting ahead is to start to embrace the new ideas, projects, and activities that most rapidly or profoundly enhance your learning, capabilities, and connections and provide more pronounced opportunities to innovate, differentiate, and expand your horizons.

Rule 10: Stay Relevant
If you want to stay relevant you’ll have to keep course correcting. If you lose relevancy, you’ll lose value. Create a list of action steps that bridges the present and the future. Always be creating worth.

Steinberg concludes, “Being future-proof means being flexible, greeting change, and innovating your way out of problems by training yourself to put fear on the backburner, make decisions under duress, and make the most of the tools and resources available.”

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 11:38 PM
| TrackBacks (0) | Change


A Beautiful Constraint

Typically we look at a constraint as a negative. A problem to be solved.

But what if a constraint was the gift that opened up previously unimagined possibilities? What if a constraint was the gift that took you to the next level?

Beautiful Constraint
Authors Adam Morgan and Mark Barden remind us in A Beautiful Constraint that Google’s home page is as simple as it is because that was the limit of Larry Page’s coding ability at the time. The overall-wearing hero Mario is as colorful as he is because of the challenges of eight-bit technology. And which of us would be using Twitter at all today if it had a limit of 14,000 characters rather than 140?

We are all faced with the challenge of growing within the constraints of time, resources, method and /or people. Sometimes constraints are imposed on us and sometimes we benefit by placing constraints on ourselves. “We are living in an era of extraordinary people rewriting our sense of what is possible. They make an unarguable case that a constraint should be regarded as a stimulus for positive change—we can choose to use it as an impetus to explore something new and arrive at a breakthrough. Not in spite of the constraint, but because of it.”

Organizations of all types—business, churches and schools—and people from all walks of life would benefit from understanding how to reframe a constraint into a better way of doing something.

We begin the process by creating the right mindset. We need to increase our ambition relative to the constraint not to scale back our ambition to satisfy the constraint. That’s victim mentality. And that’s usually where we begin. Better yet, we can try to find a way to neutralize the constraint so we can deliver on our ambition. But the authors have created a path for us to become transformers—to find a way to use a constraint as an opportunity, possibly even increasing our ambition along the way.


Often transformers will impose constraints upon themselves to force themselves to unearth different, possibly transformative strategies and solutions. This helps to reduce path dependence or the assumptions and ways of thinking about solutions that define “the way we do things around here.” “Today’s path is really yesterday’s path.” We must examine all of the ingrained habits that may stand in the way of our being able to see and realize the possibilities in a constraint.

To bind our bold ambition to a significant constraint we have to ask a propelling question. The kind of “what if…?” question that forces us to think and behave in a better way. “If we don’t ask propelling questions of ourselves, someone is going to ask them of us, and by that time we will be behind the curve.”

To answer a propelling question we need to answer not with a “we can’t because” statement but with a “we can if” statement. It focuses the nature of the conversation on how something could be possible and not on whether it would be possible.

Then we get resourceful. What stops us from being more resourceful is the way we think about resources. We tend to think of the resources available to us as the ones within our immediate control. But there are all kinds of resources outside of our immediate control. One method is to create shared agendas. “We, who might appear to have little, need to help them see that we have what they want.”

There are organizations that routinely embrace constraints to make themselves better. The beautiful constraint process cannot be managed, it must be led. “When making constraints beautiful, motivation is method. Breakthrough happens when a propelling question meets strong emotions. Without activating the right emotions, it will be too easy to regress to the victim mindset.”

The authors note that “if we are heading into a more constrained future, then how we manage those constraints will determine how we progress.” As a leader, steering your organization towards constraints sooner rather than later, is an important source of competitive advantage. Raising the level of ambition alongside a constraint encourages growth and learning—both individually and organizationally—because it causes us to reexamine our current paths, assumptions, and ways of thinking.

A Beautiful Constraint is a outstanding book with inspiring examples that will spark your imagination to create your own beautiful constraint. It should be standard issue to every student as the thinking described here will serve them well in life.

What constraint will you go and make beautiful?

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 10:02 PM
| TrackBacks (0) | Creativity & Innovation , Education , Learning


When Life Gives You Lemons, Make Lemonade

Weekend Supplement

100 years ago this week—January 10, 1915—Marshall Pinckney Wilder died. He was an American dwarf actor and humorist. Wilder was born with achondroplasia or dwarfism and also kyphosis or curvature of the spine. He became the first celebrity who attained fame in spite of his disability. He wrote a lot and always signed his letters, “Merrily Yours!”

In 1883 he made a trip to London and performed before the then Prince of Wales who later went on to become King Edward VII. He quickly became a favorite of the English royal family.

Wilder's career eventually branched into vaudeville and in 1904 embarked on a round the world tour. In a memorial to his life, The King of Jesters, Elbert Hubbard praised him for his optimism and achievements in the face of his disabilities. He wrote:
He was a walking refutation of that dogmatic statement, Mens sana in corpore sano. His was a sound mind in an unsound body. He proved the eternal paradox of things. He cashed in on his disabilities. He picked up the lemons that Fate had sent him and started a lemonade-stand.
Hubbard coined the concept "when life gives you lemons, make lemonade." It was later popularized by the likes of Dale Carnegie who used it in his book How to Stop Worrying and Start Living. Carnegie's wrote:
If You Have a Lemon, Make a Lemonade.

leadership blog

Posted by Michael McKinney at 08:28 AM
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Is What You Know Holding You Back?

Investor and entrepreneur Paul Kedrosky wrote in What Should We Be Worried About? by John Brockman: "Writer William Gibson once famously said that 'The future is already here—it's just not very evenly distributed.' I worry more that the past is here—it's just so evenly distributed that we can't get to the future."

brick wall
What we know has a bearing on what we learn. What we know can not only limit if we learn but it limits what we learn. What we know acts as a filter to what we learn. We naturally filter out things that don’t fit with things we already know. We are quite adept at putting a spin on what we learn so that it is consistent with what we already know.

In other words, we may be taking in more information, we may be studying more but we are not learning or doing anything new. We are merely reinforcing what we already believe to be true and ignoring or explaining away that which doesn’t fit with what we know.

In what way is old thinking holding you back?

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 03:47 PM
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There is No Magic in Failing

Despite all the talk about making you feel better about inevitable failures, failure is only an opportunity if you learn from it and then act on it.

What if you actually orchestrated better failures? Designed useful failures instead of hit or miss failures?

Fail Better
That’s what Anjali Sastry and Kara Penn suggest in their book Fail Better. “The right kind of failure instructs, refines, and improves ideas, work products, skills, capacities, and teamwork.” The idea is to “generate small, smart mistakes that enable your team its work requirements (a first-order performance goal) while building capacity, habits, and insight (the second-order, deeper change).”

To this end they offer the three-step Fail Better Method:

Launch your project. The goal of the launch phase is not to over plan and set things in stone, but to consider your project in context, anticipate outcomes as tied to a series of logical assumptions, pull together your resources, and get the right people involved. Plan your projects in such a way as to make any failures useful.

Build and refine. It can be helpful to think of your project as a cauldron for experimentation and learning—in which you will plan, act, and assess to decide the next step. Approach your project in cycles or chunks in which you plan, act, and assess, then take the next step, and even big projects become more tractable while enabling your team to learn and refine its plans.

Identify and apply what you've learned. The final step is embedding what you’ve learned not just within your team but organizationally.

No one can know exactly why things turn out the way they do. Even while learning from your mistakes, the corrective action is based on incomplete knowledge. You will need to “identify lessons learned while bearing in mind that your understanding is limited.”

Learning is a skill that is never taught, but it is a critical one as we go forward. A systems approach is essential. “Systems thinking teaches us that it’s more fruitful to take an endogenous view that seeks to explain how the results are a product of factors in which you play a part as well. You have much more power to shape outcomes if you can better understand how the problems and opportunities you face today are connected to your own past actions and are influenced by the structure of the industry, society, and ecosystem in which you play a role.”

Our biggest issues will not be solved with a single solution. Rather they will be solved bit-by-bit—even across groups—one effort at a time. Learning as we go.

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Of Related Interest:
  Learn or Die
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Posted by Michael McKinney at 10:23 PM
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