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12.05.13

Nelson Mandela Dies Today at 95

Nelson Mandela
Former South African President Nelson Mandela, died today at the age of 95. He spent 27 years in prison for battling the apartheid government, but it transformed him. He became the Mandela we know with a remarkable capacity to forgive and a moral courage that would heal the wounds of his country.

In 1993, he and Frederik Willem de Klerk were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize "for their work for the peaceful termination of the apartheid regime, and for laying the foundations for a new democratic South Africa." He went on the following year to become South Africa's first black president.

Richard Stengel, who collaborated with Nelson Mandela on Mandela’s best-selling 1993 autobiography, Long Walk to Freedom, wrote an article for Time Magazine in 2008 in which he extracted 8 lessons of leadership from Mandela’s life:
  1. Courage is not the absence of fear — it's inspiring others to move beyond it
    "I can't pretend that I'm brave and that I can beat the whole world." But as a leader, you cannot let people know. "You must put up a front." He knew that he was a model for others, and that gave him the strength to triumph over his own fear.
  2. Lead from the front — but don't leave your base behind
    For Mandela, refusing to negotiate was about tactics, not principles. Throughout his life, he has always made that distinction. His unwavering principle — the overthrow of apartheid and the achievement of one man, one vote — was immutable, but almost anything that helped him get to that goal he regarded as a tactic. He is the most pragmatic of idealists.
  3. Lead from the back — and let others believe they are in front
    Mandela loved to reminisce about his boyhood and his lazy afternoons herding cattle. "You know," he would say, "you can only lead them from behind." He would then raise his eyebrows to make sure I got the analogy. The trick of leadership is allowing yourself to be led too. "It is wise," he said, "to persuade people to do things and make them think it was their own idea."
  4. Know your enemy — and learn about his favorite sport
    As far back as the 1960s, Mandela began studying Afrikaans, the language of the white South Africans who created apartheid. His comrades in the ANC teased him about it, but he wanted to understand the Afrikaner's worldview; he knew that one day he would be fighting them or negotiating with them, and either way, his destiny was tied to theirs. He even brushed up on his knowledge of rugby, the Afrikaners' beloved sport, so he would be able to compare notes on teams and players.
  5. Keep your friends close — and your rivals even closer
    Mandela is a man of invincible charm — and he has often used that charm to even greater effect on his rivals than on his allies. He cherished loyalty, but he was never obsessed by it. After all, he used to say, "people act in their own interest." It was simply a fact of human nature, not a flaw or a defect. The flip side of being an optimist — and he is one — is trusting people too much. But Mandela recognized that the way to deal with those he didn't trust was to neutralize them with charm.
  6. Appearances matter — and remember to smile
    When Mandela was running for the presidency in 1994, he knew that symbols mattered as much as substance. He was never a great public speaker, and people often tuned out what he was saying after the first few minutes. But more important was that dazzling, beatific, all-inclusive smile. For white South Africans, the smile symbolized Mandela's lack of bitterness and suggested that he was sympathetic to them. To black voters, it said, I am the happy warrior, and we will triumph.
  7. Nothing is black or white
    Mandela is comfortable with contradiction. As a politician, he was a pragmatist who saw the world as infinitely nuanced. Every problem has many causes. Mandela's calculus was always, What is the end that I seek, and what is the most practical way to get there?
  8. Quitting is leading too
    Knowing how to abandon a failed idea, task or relationship is often the most difficult kind of decision a leader has to make. He knows that leaders lead as much by what they choose not to do as what they do.


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"We recall our terrible past so that we can deal with it, to forgive where forgiveness is necessary, without forgetting; to ensure that never again will such inhumanity tear us apart; and to move ourselves to eradicate a legacy that lurks dangerously as a threat to our democracy." (From the opening address at the debate on the report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, February 1999)

"The time for the healing of the wounds has come. The moment to bridge the chasms that divide us has come. The time to build is upon us." (From his Inaugural Speech as president of the Democratic Republic of South Africa, May 10, 1994)

Nelson Mandela

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 10:26 PM
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07.30.13

Henry Ford on Leadership

Fords Lessons
HENRY FORD was born 150 years ago, three weeks after the Battle of Gettysburg on July 30, 1863. At 16 left the farm to develop his skills taking an apprenticeship as a machinist in Detroit. Ford would often switch jobs when he felt he could learn more in another position. Ford learned by careful observation and trial and error.

Although, his first and second car companies failed, Ford learned more about cars, how to run a business, and more importantly how to attract talent to make his vision a reality.

The times Ford was born into and his impact on them understandably convinced him of the superiority of his own intuition. He had the problem that haunts many successful leaders: self-delusion. He believed what he wanted to believe and was certain that he always knew best.

Harvard professor Richard Tedlow observed in Giants of Enterprise, "If Henry Ford had died in February of 1914, after the announcement of the $5 dollar day, he would be remembered almost without qualification as a man of true greatness. His flaws were noticeable in his first half century of life, but they would have been forgotten…. As his wealth grew and his fame engulfed the whole world, he lost all perspective. No life better exemplifies the derangement of power."

His defiant, tenacious, and compulsive nature accounts for his early successes. His inner strength made his dreams possible but it didn't leave much room for introspection. Without a healthy self-awareness, Ford allowed his strengths to run amuck. If he was creative, he was irrational. If he attracted great talent, he also drove it away. If he was direct, he was insensitive. Without an inner compass, Henry Ford was a man of great extremes—for better and for worse. Henry Ford leaves us much to be admired but he also reminds us of the importance of a healthy self-awareness.

On Failure:
  • Failure is only the opportunity to begin again more intelligently.
  • Even a mistake may turn out to be the one thing necessary to a worthwhile achievement.
  • There are no dead ends. There is always a way out. What you learn in one failure you utilize in your next success.
  • Obstacles are those frightful things you see when you take your eyes off your goal.
  • When everything seems to be going against you, remember that the airplane takes off against the wind, not with it.


On Lifelong Learning:
  • Education is not something to prepare you for life; it is a continuous part of life.
  • Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young. The greatest thing in life is to keep your mind young.
  • All that I personally own of any value is my experience, and that cannot be taken away. One should not complain of having one’s fund of experience added to.
On Success:
  • It has been my observation that most people get ahead during the time that others waste.
  • If everyone is moving forward together, then success takes care of itself.
  • My best friend is the one who brings out the best in me..
  • Don’t find fault, find a remedy..
  • Quality means doing it right when no one is looking.
  • Paying attention to simple little things that most men neglect makes a few men rich.
  • Whether you think you can or think you can’t, you’re right.
  • You say I started out with practically nothing, but that isn’t correct. We all start with all there is. It’s how we use it that makes things possible.
On Passion:
  • You can do anything if you have enthusiasm. Enthusiasm is the yeast that makes your hopes rise to the stars.
On Character:
  • The greatest thing we can produce is character. Everything else can be taken away from us.
On Courage:
  • One of the greatest discoveries a man makes, one of his surprise, is to find he can do what he was afraid he couldn’t do.
On Initiative:
  • The unhappiest man on earth is the one who has nothing to do.
  • I am looking for a lot of men who have an infinite capacity to not know what can’t be done.
On Teamwork:
  • Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success.
  • You can take my factories, burn up my buildings, but give me my people and I’ll build the business right back again.
On Personal Responsibility:
  • What I greatly hope for these children, and for children everywhere, is a new attitude toward life – free from the gullibility which thinks we can get something for nothing; free from the greed which thinks any permanent good can come of overreaching others.
  • You will find men who want to be carried on the shoulders of others, who think that the world owes them a living. They don’t seem to see that we must all lift together and pull the weight.
  • The genius of the American people is self-reliance. The old principles that made us great – self-direction and self-help – are still contemporary and valid.
  • Chop your own wood and it will warm you twice.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 12:18 AM
| TrackBacks (0) | Leaders , Leadership

06.20.13

Phil Jackson's 11 Principle's of Mindful Leadership

Eleven Rings
Phil Jackson, considered one of the greatest coaches in the history of the National Basketball Association, has won 11 titles as a coach. The most in NBA history. Eleven Rings is a memoir that, for me, is more about leadership and relationships than basketball.

Jackson's principles are worth taking a look at. They support the idea that a leader's job is to build leaders at all levels. You could take back to your organization and put into practice today any one of the following 11 principles:

1. Lead From the Inside Out. Avoid fads. Lead from who you are. "As time went by, I discovered that the more I spoke from the heart, the more players could hear me and benefit from what I gleaned."

2. Bench the Ego. "The more I tried to exert power directly, the less powerful I became. I learned to dial back my ego and distribute power as widely as possible without surrendering final authority. Paradoxically, this approach strengthened my effectiveness because it freed me to focus on my job as keeper of the team's vision.

"Some coaches insist on having the last word, but I always tried to foster an environment in which everyone played a leadership role, from the most unschooled rookie to the veteran superstar. If your primary objective is to bring the team into a state of harmony and oneness, it doesn't make sense for you to rigidly impose your authority."

3. Let Each Player Discover His Own Destiny. Jackson's goal wasn't to provide all of the answers. "I've always been interested in getting players to think for themselves so that they can make difficult decisions in the heat of battle."

"My approach was always to relate to each player as a whole person, not just a cog in the basketball machine. That meant pushing him to discover what distinct qualities he could bring to the game beyond taking shots and making passes. How much courage did he have? Or resilience? What about character under fire? Many players I've coached didn't look special on paper, but in the process of creating a role for themselves they grew into formidable champions."

4. The Road to Freedom is a Beautiful System. Similar to the principles used to foster greater creativity and innovation in an organization, Jackson used a system known as the triangle offense. "What attracted me to the triangle was the way it empowers the players, offering each one a vital role to play as well as a high level of creativity within a clear, well-defined structure."

5. Turn the Mundane into the Sacred. Leaders take note. Jackson writes, "As I see it, my job as coach was to make something meaningful out of one of the most mundane activities on the planet: Playing pro basketball." He incorporated meditation into his team's practices. "I wanted to give players something besides X's and O's to focus on. What's more, we often invented rituals of our own to infuse practices with a sense of the sacred."

6. One Breath = One Mind. Players "often have to make split-second decisions under enormous pressure. I discovered that when I had the players sit in silence, breathing together in sync, it helped align them on a nonverbal level far more effectively than words. One breath equals one mind."

"If you place too many restrictions on players, they'll spend an inordinate amount of time trying to buck the system. Like all of us, they need a certain degree of structure in their lives, but they also require enough latitude to express themselves creatively."

7. The Key to Success is Compassion. "Now, 'compassion' is not a word often bandied about in locker rooms. But I've found that a few kind, thoughtful words can have a strong transformative effect on relationships, even with the toughest men in the room." Compassion breaks down barriers among people.

8. Keep Your Eye on the Spirit, Not on the Scoreboard. When a player is "playing within his natural abilities, he activates a higher potential for the team that transcends his own limitations and helps his teammates transcend theirs. When this happens, the whole begins to add up to more than the sum of its parts." He adds, "Most coaches get tied up in knots worrying about tactics, but I preferred to focus my attention on whether the players were moving together in a spirited way."

9. Sometimes You Have to Pull Out the Big Stick. Sometimes Jackson used "tricks to wake players up and raise their level of consciousness….Not because I want to make their lives miserable but because I want to prepare them for the inevitable chaos that occurs the minute they step onto a basketball court."

10. When in Doubt, Do Nothing. "Basketball is an action sport, and most people involved in it are high-energy individuals who love to do something—anything—to solve problems. However, there are occasions when the best solution is to do absolutely nothing….I subscribe to the philosophy of the late Satchel Paige, who said, 'Sometimes I sits and thinks, and sometimes I just sits.'"

11. Forget the Ring. We all hate losing. "And yet as coach, I know that being fixated on winning (or more likely, not losing) is counterproductive, especially when it causes you to lose control of your emotions. What's more, obsessing about winning is a loser's game: The most we can hope for is to create the best possible conditions for success, then let go of the outcome."

Jackson concludes with: "What matters most is playing the game the right way and having the courage to grow, as human beings as well as basketball players. When you do that, the ring takes care of itself."

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 10:33 AM
| TrackBacks (0) | Creativity & Innovation , Leaders , Management , Teamwork

06.13.13

The Ten Virtues of Outstanding Leaders

3 rules
Leadership and character are inseparable. In the Ten Virtues of Outstanding Leaders, philosophers Al Gini and Ronald Green, ask what is good leadership? They insist "that ethics, character, and virtue are essential to real leadership" and anything else is misleadership.

They define leadership as:
Leadership is not just a set of learned skills, a series of outcomes, a career, a profession, or a title. Leadership, at its core, is about character: specifically, a character attuned to its ethical responsibilities to others. The kind of character that, in regard to others, always tries to do the right thing, for the right reason, on purpose.
They suggest ten virtues or traits of character and as such they describe not just a leader's behavior but a clear sense of the way a leader thinks; the beliefs and motivations behind their actions. They note that these virtues are fragmentary in that they can exist apart from one another and rarely does any leader possess all of them.

1. Deep Honesty. Not just truth-telling but a bias for the truth. "It describes the leader's basic commitment to the truth, and a sense of shame or anger when deceitfulness replaces truth-telling." (James Burke, Johnson & Johnson)

2. Moral Courage. "Here one confronts a multitude of things that terrify people: fear of criticism or embarrassment; fear of poverty or job loss; fear of losing friends or being ostracized—even fear of being seen to be in the wrong. Overcoming self-doubt can be an expression of courage." Courageous leaders hold fast to their values and purpose even when there is no certainty that they will prevail. Courage is of particular importance because unlike the virtue of honesty, is not an aim in itself but it supports other moral claims. As such, philosopher Robert Merrihew Adams describes courage as a "structural virtue." (Abraham Lincoln and Rosa Parks)

3. Moral Vision. Great leaders not only "exhibit moral courage, they are also able to understand the meaning of the values they fight for and the importance of ethics in both human life and in the life of organizations and communities." They understand the consequences of ethical values and are able to share it with others. (Winston Churchill)

4. Compassion and Care. The ability to connect with and resonate to the needs of their followers. Leadership is a relationship. (Oprah Winfrey)

5. Fairness. Leaders should be fair in executing policies across the board. Fairness reinforces followers' trust. Everyone is special but not different. (Dwight D. Eisenhower)

6. Intellectual Excellence. Great leaders are teachable. They listen. "The vice that corrodes leadership, is self-sufficiency: a smug lack of interest in new information and the dismissal of others' opinions, especially when they challenge one's own views." (Franklin D. Roosevelt)

7. Creative Thinking. A tendency toward independence and creativity in thinking. It may show itself "in new ways of accomplishing organizational goals, and even of redefining those goals." In periods of great change a "premium is placed on leaders who can come up with original solutions or approaches." (Herb Kelleher)

8. Aesthetic Sensitivity. This virtue is not just an appreciation of the creation of beauty, but an ability to leverage it for the organizations advantage. "By paying attention to the aesthetic dimensions of their enterprise, outstanding leaders pioneer new products and services and actively shape the tastes of millions." (Steve Jobs)

9. Good Timing. This, like courage, is another structural virtue. It is necessary for the pursuit of any worthy goal. "Like deep honesty, good timing defies superficial outer appraisal. A leader who waits the precise moment to act may appear indecisive to those who urge a quicker response. Such a leader must also have the courage to weather criticisms." (Charles de Gaulle)

10. Deep Selflessness. The willingness to sacrifice oneself. In moments of great organizational uncertainty or crisis, a leader's self-sacrifice "could send a clear message as to what kind of conduct is needed to overcome the crisis and how earnestly the leader is committed to the cause of the organization. It conveys to followers the leader's strong conviction that 'we can do it,' and is an earnest invitation to participate." (Martin Luther King Jr.)

In the second part of the book they explore the meaning of each of these virtues through the lives of leaders that lived and exemplified them. "Virtue is learned," write Gini and Green, "by witnessing the deeds of others."

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 11:33 PM
| TrackBacks (0) | Ethics , Leaders

04.08.13

Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher Dies Today at 87

Margaret Thatcher
Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, the first and the only woman to become British prime minister, died today at the age of 87 from a stroke. Thatcher served from 1975 to 1990 as leader of the Conservative Party. She was called the "Iron Lady" for her personal and political toughness.

Thatcher was proud of her modest background and was known as a grocer's daughter. She studied chemistry at Oxford and may have even helped invent soft-serve ice cream where she worked as a research chemist after graduation. She was involved in politics from a young age, giving her first political speech at 20.

David Cameron, the Prime Minister, said: “We've lost a great prime minister, a great leader, a great Briton. She didn't just lead our country, she saved our country, and I believe she'll go down as the greatest British peacetime prime minister.”

The Republican minority leader in the Senate, Mitch McConnell, called Lady Thatcher a great ally who “never hesitated to remind Americans of their own obligations to the cause of freedom and of the need for political courage and confidence in the face of long odds.” The speaker of the House of Representatives, John Boehner, remembered the former prime minister as a “grocer’s daughter” who “stared down elites, union bosses, and communists to win three consecutive elections, establish conservative principles in Western Europe, and bring down the Iron Curtain.”

On Power
“Being powerful is like being a lady. If you have to tell people you are, you aren't.”

On Convictions
"I am not a consensus politician. I'm a conviction politician."

“Consensus: “The process of abandoning all beliefs, principles, values, and policies in search of something in which no one believes, but to which no one objects; the process of avoiding the very issues that have to be solved, merely because you cannot get agreement on the way ahead. What great cause would have been fought and won under the banner: ‘I stand for consensus?”

"If you just set out to be liked, you would be prepared to compromise on anything at any time and you would achieve nothing."

On Society
"There is no such thing as society. There are individual men and women and there are families.''

“It used to be about trying to do something. Now it's about trying to be someone.”

“Do you know that one of the great problems of our age is that we are governed by people who care more about feelings than they do about thoughts and ideas.”

On Character
“Watch your thoughts for they become words.
Watch your words for they become actions.
Watch your actions for they become habits.
Watch your habits for they become your character.
And watch your character for it becomes your destiny.
What we think, we become.
My father always said that... and I think I am fine.”

On Work Ethic
“Look at a day when you are supremely satisfied at the end. It's not a day when you lounge around doing nothing; it's a day you've had everything to do and you've done it.”

“I do not know anyone who has gotten to the top without hard work. That is the recipe. It will not always get you to the top, but it will get you pretty near.”

On Perseverance
“You may have to fight a battle more than once to win it.”

On Patience
“I am extraordinarily patient, provided I get my own way in the end.”

On Leadership
“Don't follow the crowd, let the crowd follow you.”

Thatcher 2013

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 10:52 PM
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02.18.13

Washington's Lessons: It’s Never too Early to Choose to Lead

Washingtons Lessons
GREAT LEADERSHIP doesn’t just happen. Great leaders are revealed in extraordinary circumstances, but they are made long before. A person’s quality of leadership radiates from their character. Consequently, it’s never too early to begin your leadership development.

George Washington filled many roles in his lifetime: a surveyor, frontier explorer, businessman, land speculator, soldier, farmer and statesman. A couple of examples from Washington’s childhood help to explain his successes later in life.

By age sixteen, Washington had copied out by hand, 110 Rules of Civility & Decent Behavior in Company and Conversation. They are based on a set of rules composed by French Jesuits in 1595. The first rule sets the tone of the others that follow: “Every Action done in Company, ought to be with Some Sign of Respect, to those that are Present.” There isn’t a leader that wouldn’t benefit from a daily reminder of this approach. Time and time again, these rules from his childhood played out in the conduct of his public life and defined his reputation. These rules and his concern for them integrated him as a leader and bonded him with those he led.

Young Washington
George Washington’s father died when he was eleven leaving him to be raised by his older brother Lawrence. By age fifteen his formal schooling was over and he had achieved the equivalent of only a grade school education. But his education never stopped. Washington was an avid reader, soaking up the works of historians and thinkers. He was especially drawn to the essays of the Roman philosopher Seneca and Joseph Addison’s play Cato with its lesson in selfless leadership. He studied the ideas of his contemporaries in writings and conversation. He also spent a good deal of time writing which helped to solidify his thoughts. Learning is more than discovery. It helps us to make sense of things. It’s more than collecting information—it is applying it in a constructive way to some area of our life.

It is the mindset of a leader to work on themselves harder than they work on others. A leader’s first responsibility is governing themselves. Historian Gordon Wood has written, “Washington became a great man and was acclaimed as a classical hero because of the way he conducted himself during times of temptation. It was his moral character that set him off from other men.”

Leadership is embodied in the way you look at the world and respond to it. It’s never too early to choose to lead.

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Of Related Interest:
  Lincoln's Lessons
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Posted by Michael McKinney at 12:01 AM
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12.27.12

Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf 1934-2012

Norman Schwarzkopf

Retired Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf, who commanded the U.S.-led international coalition that drove Saddam Hussein's forces out of Kuwait in 1991, died today at age 78 due to complications from pneumonia. He lived in retirement in Tampa, where he had served in his last military assignment as commander-in-chief of U.S. Central Command.

In a statement issued through his office, former President George H.W. Bush said he and his wife, Barbara Bush, were mourning Schwartzkopf's death. "Barbara and I mourn the loss of a true American patriot and one of the great military leaders of his generation," Bush's statement read. "A distinguished member of that Long Gray Line hailing from West Point, Gen. Norm Schwarzkopf, to me, epitomized the 'duty, service, country' creed that has defended our freedom and seen this great nation through our most trying international crises. More than that, he was a good and decent man—and a dear friend. Barbara and I send our condolences to his wife, Brenda, and his wonderful family."

Secretary of State Colin Powell, who was chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff during Desert Storm, recalled Schwarzkopf as "a great patriot and a great soldier." He continued, "Norm served his country with courage and distinction for over 35 years. The highlight of his career was the 1991 Persian Gulf War, Operation Desert Storm. 'Stormin' Norman' led the coalition forces to victory, ejecting the Iraqi Army from Kuwait and restoring the rightful government. His leadership not only inspired his troops, but also inspired the nation.

On Leadership Development
You learn far more from negative leadership than from positive leadership. Because you learn how not to do it. And, therefore, you learn how to do it.

On Character
Leadership is a potent combination of strategy and character. But if you must be without one, be without the strategy.

On Leadership
Do what is right, not what you think the high headquarters wants or what you think will make you look good.

On Courage
True courage is being afraid, and going ahead and doing your job anyhow, that's what courage is.

On Knowing Doing
The truth of the matter is that you always know the right thing to do. The hard part is doing it.

On Success
Success is sweet, but the secret is sweat.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 06:43 PM
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06.15.12

What’s Wrong with Leadership Training Today?

The End of Leadership
It’s a difficult time for leaders. “Our familiarity with and disrespect for our leaders,” writes Harvard professor, Barbara Kellerman in The End of Leadership, “coupled with our feeling entitled and being emboldened, saps their authority, which then drains their power and influence.”

Commenting on the 2011 budget-ceiling talks she finds that Barack Obama’s followers are “more disposed to resist him than to support him….No one was able to lead…and no one was willing to follow.” Perhaps no one was able to lead because no one was willing to follow.

Leading in America is now more difficult than ever “not only because we have too many bad leaders, but because we have too many bad followers.” Kellerman cites lack of involvement as the culprit, but it goes further than that. We have never been taught how to support a leader in the right way. Followership is as important a skill as leadership.

Kellerman notes that the contract—you lead, I’ll follow—between leaders and followers has been undermined “because of the information to which followers now have access, too many leaders are judged by too many followers to be unethical or incompetent or both.” Familiarity with our leaders had bred contempt. Technology has changed the social landscape providing us with so much more information. But it has, I would argue, informed us more broadly, but for the most part, not more deeply—if we even had the time or the inclination to go more deeply. I would also suggest that we are not, at times, very good judges. We lack facts and context much of the time. What frames our judgments are often selfish concerns—just like our leaders. And too, we rarely judge others in the manner that we would like to be judged.

The End of Leadership offers a report on the state of leadership and followership today. Kellerman has surveyed the history of leadership to pinpoint a trend—the diminishing power and influence of leaders and people in authority and the increase of power and influence of ordinary people—followers. In recent years, communications technology has played a large part. “The effect on leaders is to diminish them. The more we know about how leaders and managers manage, the more they tend to shrink.”

The contract between leader and follower has changed. The assumptions on which it was based has changed because first, “the old justifications for having power, authority, and influence are no longer so persuasive and second, because people in the present think of themselves are more important, more entitled than did people in the past.”

Kurt Anderson asked in New York magazine, Is Democracy Killing Democracy? He writes: So now we have a country absolutely teeming with irregular passions and artful misrepresentations, whipped up to an unprecedented pitch and volume by the fundamentally new means of 24/7 cable and the hyperdemocratic web. [There is ] the misapprehension that democratic governing is supposed to be the same as democratic discourse, that elected officials are virtuous to the extent that they too default to unbudging, sky-is-falling recalcitrance and refusal. And the elected officials, as never before, are indulging that populist fantasy. Just as the founders feared, American democracy has gotten way too democratic.

I wonder if we have—in our radical shift to the entitlement of followers and the bad leadership that encourages it—sowed the seeds for an overcorrection in the other direction. Perhaps we will find ourselves welcoming a society governed by extremely self-deferential leaders to sort it out. History shows us that when societies get to the point that they can’t properly govern themselves, they don’t get more disciplined and make the necessary corrections, they instead get behind anyone that will make all the “bad” go away—usually with negative consequences.

Because we have been able to “do” leadership in a way that has been less respectful of the follower and get away with it, doesn’t mean we were doing it right. While old methods of leadership are not tolerated at the present time, it doesn’t mean leadership itself has changed. The “right” way of leading people has never changed; our approach to leading people just swings back and forth from ditch to ditch. History shows us that we rarely get it “right.”

Kellerman observes that in the world in which we actually live, “leaders tend to put self-interest ahead of the public interest.” How true.

The idea that our leaders reflect who we are should give us pause. Much of the problem with leadership training, in my view, is that we are trying to develop something in leaders long after the train has already left the station. It’s not that it can’t be done. It’ is just much harder. Good leadership development begins much earlier in life.

Given our situation, Kellerman asks, how do we learn to lead in the twenty-first century? How to learn to lead when leaders are diminished from what they were, even in the recent past? How to learn to lead when resources such as power, authority, and influence are scarcer than before—and when any number of followers is as likely to be resistant as deferent? And, finally, how to learn to lead when the context itself is fraught with complexity and constraint?

Could we develop betters leaders if we developed better followers and would better followers create a pool of better leaders? Should we be training for followership? Should we be teaching the right kind of followership is leadership?

The End of Leadership is a vitally important book that every leader/follower should read and consider, but it is the tip of a much larger discussion about leadership, followership and society. Kellerman writes that “it is meant as a caution about the future of leadership in the twenty-first century. For nearly everywhere, leaders are found wanting, followers are restive, and the context is changing—sometimes at warp speed. So unless we get a grip, the prognosis is grim.”

Kellerman says that the leadership industry must make at least four changes:
  1. It must end the leader-centrism that constricts the conversation.
  2. It must transcend the situational specifics that make it so myopic.
  3. It must subject itself to critical analysis.
  4. It must reflect the object of its affection—change with the changing times.
Kellerman lays the foundation with this: “We need to think of leadership as a creative act—for which leaders and followers both are educated, for which leaders and followers both are prepared over a lifetime of learning….There are ways to educate women and men so they learn to be good, smart followers as well as good, smart leaders, and develop as large a capacity for contextual intelligence as for emotional intelligence.” Absolutely.

Of Related Interest:
  Good Followers Make the Best Leaders

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Given the precipitous decline of leaders in the estimation of their followers, are there alternatives to the existing models—ways of teaching leadership that take into account the vicissitudes of the twenty-first century?

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 03:19 PM
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06.11.12

Colin Powell's 13 Rules

It Worked For Me
Colin Powell has written a valuable memoir. It Worked For Me: In Life and Leadership is a collection of lessons learned and anecdotes drawn from his life. The 44 stand-alone chapters are an easy read and the stories make good points. The theme of the book is that it is all about people and relationships.

The book begins with his 13 Rules and why he has hung on to them over the years. Here they are with some of his thoughts on each:
  1. It ain't as bad as you think. It will look better in the morning. This rule reflects an attitude and not a prediction. I have always tried to keep my confidence and optimism up, no matter how difficult the situation. Things will get better. You will make them better.
  2. Get mad, then get over it. I’ve worked hard over the years to make sure that when I get mad, I get over it quickly and never lose control of myself.
  3. Avoid having your ego so close to your position that when your position falls, your ego goes with it. Accept that your position was faulty, not your ego. Loyalty is disagreeing strongly, and loyalty is executing faithfully.
  4. It can be done! Don’t surround yourself with instant skeptics. At the same time, don’t shut out skeptics and colleagues who give you solid counterviews.
  5. Be careful what you choose. You may get it. Don’t rush into things.
  6. Don't let adverse facts stand in the way of a good decision. Superior leadership is often a matter of superb instinct. Often, the factual analysis alone will indicate the right choice. More often, your judgment will be needed to select from the best courses of action.
  7. You can't make someone else's choices. You shouldn't let someone else make yours. Since ultimate responsibility is yours, make sure the choice is yours and you are not responding to the pressure and desire of others.
  8. Check small things. Success ultimately rests on small things, lots of small things. Leaders have to have a feel for small things—a feel for what is going on in the depths of an organization where small things reside. The followers, the troops, live in a world of small things. Leaders must find ways, formal and informal, to get visibility into that world.
  9. Share credit. People need recognition and a sense of worth as much as they need food and water. Share the credit, take the blame, and quietly find out and fix things that went wrong. Whenever you place the cause of one of your actions outside yourself, it’s an excuse and not a reason.
  10. Remain calm. Be kind. In the “heat of the battle”—whether military or corporate—kindness, like calmness, reassures followers and holds their confidence. Kindness connects you with other human beings in a bond of mutual respect. If you care for your followers and show them kindness, they will recognize and care for you.
  11. Have a vision. Be demanding. Purpose is the destination of a vision. It energizes that vision, gives it force and drive. It should be positive and powerful, and serve the better angels of an organization.
  12. Don't take counsel of your fears or naysayers. Fear is a normal human emotion. It is not in itself a killer. We can learn to be aware when fear grips us, and can train to operate through and in spite of our fear. If, on the other hand, we don’t understand that fear is normal and has to be controlled and overcome, it will paralyze us and stop us in our tracks. We will no longer think clearly or analyze rationally. We prepare for it and control it; we never let it control us. If it does, we cannot lead.
  13. Perpetual optimism is a force multiplier. Perpetual optimism, believing in yourself, believing in your purpose, believing you will prevail, and demonstrating passion and confidence is a force multiplier. If you believe and have prepared your followers, the followers will believe.


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Posted by Michael McKinney at 09:58 PM
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03.02.12

Eisenhower, Kennedy & the Power of Vision

Leading Forum
This is a guest post by leadership author and speaker, James Strock. Read the LeadingBlog post Serve to Lead: Make Your Life a Masterpiece of Service for more insights from James Strock.

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Serve to Lead, my book about 21st century leadership, includes respectful references to the management approach of Dwight Eisenhower.

Some readers, I learned, had been unaware of the scope of Ike’s accomplishments. Some young people have scarcely heard of the thirty-fourth president.

By contrast, many more people are aware of the leadership of John Kennedy, Ike’s successor. JFK is routinely ranked among the presidents most admired by Americans today.

There may be lessons in the differing public understandings.

Eisenhower Accomplishments Overlooked

Eisenhower
Eisenhower was immensely popular as president—and would have been readily reelected to a third term in 1960, were it constitutionally possible. Yet, in subsequent years, he was neglected by many historians and other observers.

More recently, Ike has been rediscovered. In his new book, Eisenhower in War and Peace, respected historian Jean Edward Smith makes the case for Eisenhower’s exceptional leadership in war and politics.

Ike: Civil Rights, Space

The Eisenhower administration broke ground in the long overdue struggle to accord African-American civil rights. Examples cited by Smith include:
  • Ike appointed Chief Justice Earl Warren and four other Supreme Court justices who would usher in a what is fairly seen as a “revolution” in civil rights jurisprudence. So, too, the Eisenhower administration appointed high quality judges in the South who would emerge as historic heroes of civil rights, such as John Minor Wisdom and Frank M. Johnson.
  • Eisenhower completed the long overdue process of desegregating the armed forces.
  • Eisenhower deployed the 101st Airborne to break the resistance to integration of Central High School in Little Rock.
So, too, he initiated the American space program, establishing the National Aeronautics and Space Administration in response to the Soviet Union’s successful Sputnik launch.

And yet… how many Americans today recall Eisenhower’s decisive role in civil rights or the space program?

JFK: Civil Rights, Space

By contrast, John Kennedy is indelibly identified with each.

It is impossible to know what Kennedy might have accomplished in the civil rights arena, had his life not been tragically truncated. As it was, his administration’s accomplishments were limited. In significant part this was because of his party’s reliance on the “Solid South,” and the conservative, rural coalition that held great sway in the Congress.

JFK did convey public support at key moments. One was his celebrated telephone call of support to Mrs. Coretta Scott King, following the jailing of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. during the 1960 campaign.

Most memorable was Kennedy’s June 11, 1963 speech on civil rights. He brought the American past, present and future together, declaring:
The heart of the question is whether all Americans are to be afforded equal rights and equal opportunities, whether we are going to treat our fellow Americans as we want to be treated. If an American, because his skin is dark, cannot eat lunch in a restaurant open to the public, if he cannot send his children to the best public school available, if he cannot vote for the public officials who will represent him, if, in short, he cannot enjoy the full and free life which all of us want, then who among us would be content to have the color of his skin changed and stand in his place? Who among us would then be content with the counsels of patience and delay?
King was moved to dispatch a telegram in response, calling the speech “one of the most eloquent, profound and unequivocal pleas for justice and freedom of all men ever made by any president.”

It is hard to imagine Eisenhower evoking such a response, despite the clear direction of his civil rights policies, and his personal expressions of commitment in various settings.

So, too, JFK reframed the space race, urging the American nation to “commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to earth.”

This extraordinary stretch goal was achieved, with the entire world witnessing it on television, on July 20, 1969.

Though Eisenhower set the stage for the moon shot, it is difficult to imagine his casting such a vision, setting off such a mission.

The Power of Vision

Dwight Eisenhower was, fundamentally, a military man. In many ways, his presidency represented the best of the armed forces. Ike was publicly modest, chastened by the keen awareness of war and fateful decisions. He was down-to-earth, focused intently on results. His manner of communication was skilled yet unpretentious. He was not eloquent per se, other than in the sense that his presence lent eloquence to his statements and sentiments.

Though he accomplished important things in civil rights and space, he is not generally recalled for his historical role in either. Ike was, ultimately, a president whose leadership was based built on management.

John Kennedy was a man of history and words. He was a skilled writer. He undertook to make himself a great speaker.

Where Eisenhower sought to inform, Kennedy sought to inspire. His ennobling vision, evidenced in the civil rights and space examples, created its own power. He would lead first, with management harnessed to serve its ends.

Had Kennedy fully appreciated Eisenhower’s deft management of large enterprises, he might well have avoided early missteps, such as the Bay of Pigs invasion.

Had Eisenhower had Kennedy’s skill with vision and communication, he might well be remembered more passionately, his achievements more clearly recognized.

From a distance, one might say that Eisenhower’s and Kennedy’s strengths as leaders were paired with their weak spots. Perhaps. Yet that need not stop up from striving to learn from both of their examples at their best, just they studied and learned from others.

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James Strock
James Strock is an author and speaker on 21st century leadership. He serves business, government and not-for-profit organizations. His books include Serve to Lead, Reagan on Leadership, and Theodore Roosevelt on Leadership. Website: jamesstrock.com

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 02:35 PM
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02.15.12

The Inner World of the Leader: On the Couch with Manfred Kets de Vries

Why do organizations attempt to function on the basis that executives are logical, rational, dependable human beings?

And why does the belief persist that management is a rational task performed by rational people according to rational organizational objectives?

These are just a couple of the questions and myths that Manfred Kets de Vries grapples with in his series, On the Couch with Manfred Kets de Vries.

Kets de Vries is a clinical professor of leadership development at INSEAD. His background in economics, management, and psychoanalysis, adds a great deal of richness and context to the study of leadership. Over the last three years Jossey-Bass has published a mostly revised and updated collection of his rather large body of thoughtful-provoking writing in this series of three books.
The opinion of one of the power holders in the [Harvard Business School] Organizational Behavior department was that I would never write anything. That particular person must have had a very good understanding of human behavior. One of the small pleasures of life is doing something people say you will never do. I believe that [Reflections on Character and Leadership] is my twenty-ninth book. I have always thought that academics are masters in character assassination.

Reflections on Character and Leadership
Kets de Vries begins the series with Reflections on Character and Leadership. In it he examines some of the major issues about leadership. What makes a leader? What is good leadership? And what is bad? What happens to organizations if a leader derails? What are the impacts of successful and failed leadership on followers and organizations?

Every leader needs someone who is willing to speak out and tell the leader how it is in order to create checks and balances—the counterweight of the person in power. Without such people leaders easily derail and organizations can become paralyzed by fear, mistrust and insecurity. He explains how leaders construct organizations that are great places to work.
The era of the highly structured organization is past….Clearly, some executives may not be able to deal with the ambiguities that this new kind of networking, boundary-less organization entails—the external boundaries in an organization can be removed fairly easily, but the boundaries inside people’s heads are more difficult to dissolve. Weaning some leaders away from their need for authority, structures, and controls may take considerable time and effort. In the long run, however, it will be well worth it. Eventually, they will enjoy their work more, and be more effective.

Reflections on Leadership and Career Development
Kets de Vries says that narcissism is an inescapable aspect of human nature—and leadership. It has had a generally bad press. “There is such a thing as a healthy dose and it lies somewhere on a wide spectrum that ranges from grandiosity and showmanship to denigration and coldness.” He begins Reflections on Leadership and Career Development by discussing narcissism and leadership.
Leadership can be pathologically destructive or intensely inspirational. But what is it about the leaders themselves that causes them to be one or the other? I believe the answer lies in the degree of narcissism in the personality of the leader in question.

He discusses the qualities characterize great leaders and the interactions, both positive and dysfunctional, between leaders and followers. “The truly effective leader “is the one who knows how to balance reflection and action by using self-insight as a restraining force when the sirens of power start singing.” He takes a look at leadership archetypes and how they operate within organizations—and how to deal with them. He concludes with an examination of the issues, anxieties, and opportunities that we face at midlife and beyond. How can we alter our perspective on life to become “twice-born”?

Reflections on Groups and Organizations
Finally in Reflections on Groups and Organizations, Kets de Vries looks at leadership issues in the context of groups and organizations. He examines various ways in which neurotic individuals create neurotic organizations. He describes how folie à duex—literally “madness shared by two”—works in an organizational setting; how individuals’ activity or passivity and tendency toward conformism can contribute to the process and what checks and balances could be used to forestall and manage dysfunctional leader-follower relationships.

Kets de Vries doesn’t believe leaders are born. While some seem to have a head start, leadership potential can be developed. “Leadership potential is a delicate interplay between nature and nurture.”

An effective leader is someone, says Kets de Vries, “who is a little like a Zen riddle, or kōan—a paradox who is comfortable dealing with paradoxes. Because a leader has to be active and reflective, an introvert and an extrovert, engaged in both divergent and convergent thinking. A leader needs IQ, but also EQ. A leader has to think atomistically, but also holistically, for the short term and the long term. Anyone who can balance these contradictions effectively will do well.”

He advocates the building of an organization wide coaching culture ad discuss how it can be implemented.
There are several basic things that any leader has to do: provide focus, understand what makes their people tick, set an example, and make things happen. However, the distinguishing factor between mediocre and great leadership is always the same: the creation of meaning….When it comes down to it, people are searching for meaning.

This series of books cannot be read quickly. Each book in the series seeks to understand leaders, human nature and its vicissitudes. They need to be reflected on. They will challenge your thinking, widen your perspective and inspire you to do better.
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Posted by Michael McKinney at 04:08 PM
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10.28.11

No Fear of Failure

Leadership
Gary Burnison, CEO of Korn/Ferry International, shares one-on-one conversations with a dozen successful leaders in No Fear of Failure. He found a common theme in these conversations: they each “exhibited tremendous courage around the possibility, and even the inevitability at times, of failure. In the face of uncertainty, they draw on an inner strength that allows them to strive for what is possible rather than become paralyzed by the risk of failure.”

Indra Nooyi, chairman and CEO of PepsiCo, on Learning: “The one thing I have learned as a CEO is that leadership at various levels is vastly different….As you move up the organization, the requirements for leading that organization doesn’t grow vertically; they grow exponentially….If you want to improve the organization, you have to improve yourself and the organization gets pulled up with you….Just because you are a CEO, don’t think you have landed. You must continually increase your learning, the way you think, and the way you approach the organization.”

Vicente Fox, former president of Mexico, on Humility: “The higher leaders rise, the further they move from where they began. The danger is that success will undermine their humility, leaving them out of touch and disconnected….There are so many temptations that would undermine your humility. You have to develop that part, work on it all your life. It’s easy to fall on the other side, especially when you are in power and have a position.”

Daniel Vasella, MD, chairman of Novartis AG on Stewardship: A vineyard owner pointed to a stone wall and explained how his grandfather had started building it and then his father added to it as did he. Vasella “found this to be a fascinating analogy. It’s like no great cathedral was build in one generation. There are several implications. First, you’re not here to take advantage but rather to add. Second, you will not finish. Third, it is very important that the overall vision of what is being built be shared by several people over time.”

Coach John McKissick, the “winningest” coach in football on Coaching: “I don’t coach football, I coach kids.” His code is “to live clean, think clean, and stop doing all the things that will destroy them physically, mentally, and morally, and to start doing things that will make them cleaner, finer, and more competent. That’s not a sacrifice. I tell them that all the time. ‘I’m helping you be a better person and a better player.’”

One of the most important leadership lessons Burnison learned in his career was that “leadership is all about the other person. No matter the topic—whether someone is being fired or has just told you about a serious health issue—that person should leave your office feeling better than when he or she entered.… For the CEO there is no off-the-cuff remark. Leadership demands introspection and an understanding of the clout that one’s words and actions carry.”

The conversations Burnison shares will influence your leadership in profound ways. As leaders, we need to keep learning. It’s key to our success. It’s sad how many leaders do not actively pursue their own leadership development. This book will help.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 09:49 AM
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10.05.11

Steve Jobs 1955-2011


Steve Jobs

One of the most remarkable innovators of our time, Steve Jobs has been called a Henry Ford, a Walt Disney, a Thomas Edison. "We are deeply saddened to announce that Steve Jobs passed away today," Apple said. "Steve's brilliance, passion and energy were the source of countless innovations that enrich and improve all of our lives. The world is immeasurably better because of Steve."

Here are a selection of his thoughts on life:

We don’t get a chance to do that many things, and every one should be really excellent.
Because this is our life.
Life is brief, and then you die, you know?
And we’ve all chosen to do this with our lives.
So it better be damn good. It better be worth it.
Be a yardstick of quality.
Some people aren’t used to an environment where excellence is expected.

I want to put a ding in the universe.

You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something—your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.

Remembering that I'll be dead soon is the most important tool I've ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure - these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.

No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don't want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It is Life's change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new. Right now the new is you, but someday not too long from now, you will gradually become the old and be cleared away. Sorry to be so dramatic, but it is quite true.

Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of others' opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.

Jobs told the Wall Street Journal, “Being the richest man in the cemetery doesn’t matter to me … Going to bed at night saying we’ve done something wonderful… that’s what matters to me.”

And he did.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 05:47 PM
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09.05.11

Ones Should be CEOs, Twos Should Not

Leadership
Vivek Ranadivé and Kevin Many say that technology is reaching a breaking point. The amount of data is even overwhelming computing capabilities. A new model of information technology is needed. A new model is being found by applying the predictive nature of the brain to the way computers "think."

Wayne Gretzky has famously said, “I skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been.” Sports commentators would say that he seemed to be two seconds ahead of everyone else. In The Two-Second Advantage, the authors write, “Like Gretzky on ice, the most successful people in various fields make continual, accurate predictions just a little ahead of and little better than everybody else.” They don’t need to be able to see ten years out; just enough ahead will do the trick.

Part of what is going on in the brain is a function called “chunking.” Predicting and chunking go together by looking for patterns and predicting outcomes. We chunk all types of information. It makes us efficient. If we didn’t chunk, we would think about everything as if it was for the first time. Teaching computers to do this will make them more useful—“two-second-advantage” predictive technology.

What caught my attention in their discussion of predictive thinking—from a leadership standpoint—was the idea of two types of leaders found at the top of organizations: Ones and Twos.

Ben Horowitz, of the venture capital firm Andreesen Horowitz, told the authors that each type thinks differently. “Ones are predictive. Twos have to rely on mountains of data to figure out what they think.” A one has a two-second advantage. They continue:
Ones tend to be founders. They are bullheaded and courageous. They tell people what to think, not what they think people want to hear. They see openings and get flashes of creativity—like Gretzky in a hockey game. They can take in everything that is happening at a company and see it from a higher level, the details blurring into instinct.

Make no mistake: Twos are still extremely important to a company, Ones need twos. The twos pay attention to details; they get things done.
Bill Gates is a prototypical one; Steve Ballmer is a two. Steve Jobs is a classic one.

The authors say that ones should be CEOs, and twos should not. Of course, a good CEO really needs to be both—and can be with practice—but only rarely do.

Of Interest:
  Why We Prefer Founding CEOs
  Ones and Twos
  Bloomberg Businessweek: Data Analytics: Crunching the Future

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 04:57 PM
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08.05.11

The Iconography of Leadership

Art critic Robert Hughes discusses the influence of Rome’s art on Roman history in his book Rome: A Cultural, Visual, and Personal History. He points out that like the propaganda of today, statues in ancient Rome perpetuated the power of leaders. He presents the “competent, effective and memorable” statue of the emperor Augustus found in the Villa of Livia at Prima Porta, as an example that has few equals as an image of “calm, self sufficient power.”

Hughes writes, “Until the advent of photography and then of TV, which effectively replaced them, propaganda statues were indispensable when it came to perpetuating the iconography of leadership. They were produced in mass numbers all over the world to celebrate the virtues and achievements of military heroes, political figures, wielders of every sort of power over all kinds of people.”

Augustus
He explains the ideology of the statue: “Take the design on the cuirass he is wearing, which shows—as most literate Romans would have known, though we can hardly be expected to—the recovery by Augustus of one of the army’s military standards, captured and taken away by the Parthians on the eastern frontier in 53BCE: the cancellation, therefore, of an unbearable disgrace. It also helps to know that the little figure of the love-god Eros next to Augustus’ right leg is there to remind us that his family, the Julians, claimed to have descended from the goddess Venus; its presence thus reinforces the belief that Augustus was a living god, while the dolphin next to it refers to Augustus’ destruction of Antony and Cleopatra’s fleet in the sea battle of Actium.”

Hughes states that we should not think of this as a unique piece. “The Romans,” he writes, “reveled in the cloning, copying and dissemination of successful images—successful, that is to say, especially from the viewpoint of ideology.”

Certainly, whether to perpetuate a myth or a truth, we do the same today. Images create a powerful story.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 03:51 PM
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05.05.11

Bill Roedy: From West Point to MTV

Bill Roedy
Bill Roedy, former Chairman and CEO of MTV Networks International, began working for HBO in 1979 when it was broadcasting only nine hours a day. There he learned that distribution was everything. It was to be his mantra at MTV—aggressive, creative, relentless distribution.

Roedy shares his experiences and lessons in What Makes Business Rock. From virtually nothing, he built MTV International into the largest media network in the world. For anyone involved doing business internationally, it is essential reading.

As manager of HBO’s national accounts, he learned that “In life as well as in business, the ability to sell is the foundation upon which success is built.” Some people don’t understand that he says, but even in Vietnam, although he had the formal authority to force troops obey my orders, I found that if people didn’t believe in the mission, I never got a total effort from them.” Leaders are always selling.

Although reluctant to leave HBO and move to London, in 1989 he became managing director of MTV Europe. What he inherited wasn’t working. He had to quickly create a better product, get more distribution and generate revenue. Getting the right people in place was crucial to creating an entrepreneurial organization. “Never take ‘No’ for an answer.” “Take chances.” “Break all the rules.”

Their objective was to be the most visually engaging channel in the history of European television. To make sure viewers always knew they were watching MTV, they put their logo in the corner of the screen and left it there. No one had done that before. (Now everyone does.)

Here is a lesson every leader could bear to keep in mind: as a leader, your opinion matters—maybe more than you know. But it can actually be having a negative impact. The MTV playlist is extremely important to its viewers and giving them what they want to hear is essential to MTV’s survival. Roedy says that in the beginning he attended those meetings if only to be the voice of reason and a subtle reminder that they were running a business. “But after attending half a dozen of these meetings I realized I was making a huge mistake. I was much older than our demographic and my musical tastes were very different. I was skewing the choices older.” So he stopped attending those meetings. “As much as I enjoyed being part of that process, I had to remind myself that I was a manager, and I had to delegate decision-making authority to those people I trusted.” How many leaders, for all kinds of well-intentioned reasons feel they have to leave their fingerprint on everything, while they are in-fact stifling their people and skewing the results?

Roedy’s success at MTV can be attributed to the fact that he was always reinventing. “The longer you stay with the same strategy, the more vulnerable you become to your competitors.”

His most important contribution was the idea, “Think global, act local.” MTV was already local to Europe, but it had to be broken down to the national level, country by country. “Learn the local culture and reflect it in every decision we make,” was their business strategy. He created a structure similar to what he learned in the military: small operating units in the field fighting the competition. “My belief was that the local people would best reflect the needs, tastes, and desires of the local audience, and because their jobs would depend on the bottom line, they were much less likely to make risky or destructive financial decisions. In Vietnam, I had seen over and over the benefits of dealing directly with the loyal population on their own terms, rather than trying to impose our beliefs on them.” Because of the complexities of operating an international business, you need be there on the ground to really feel it.

On MTV Arabia for example, they broadcast the call to prayer on the channel five times every day. For Ramadan they produced an animated film explaining the meaning of that important religious holiday to young people in a creative way and refrained for a month from showing any music videos.

Throughout the book there are stories of music celebrities—singing karaoke with Bono and Bob Geldof dressed as a nurse in Tokyo at 4a.m.—and others like Sumner Redstone, Robert Maxwell, Jeff Bewkes, Nelson Mandela, Jiang Zemin, Fidel Castro, Tony Blair, and the Dalai Lama. They add color to the book and make it all the more interesting. But read it for the insights into global business.

Related Interest:
  More lessons from Bill Roedy can be found on the LeadershipNow Facebook page.
  What Makes Business Rock

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 01:28 PM
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05.04.11

What Makes Business Rock

Leadership
After reading What Makes Business Rock by Bill Roedy, I have developed an appreciation for what it took to build MTV Networks International into what it is today. Former Chairman and CEO, Bill Roedy, has had a remarkable career.

Due to financial constraints, he followed his Dad into West Point. Not his first choice. He became a member of the “Century Club” collecting more than a hundred hours of punishment duty. But he did learn the “difference between fighting the system and finessing it.” He also learned many of the skills that would enable him to succeed in business, including “discipline, time management, the value of teamwork, and the importance of physical endurance.”

He learned how to prioritize. Survival depended on it. “Too often,” writes Roedy, “I have seen people focusing on the wrong things—things that are not going to directly or immediately affect their business….Leaders need to learn to cut through the chaff to determine priorities and to identify the real target.

After West Point he served in Vietnam in various command positions. “I learned the importance of making quick and firm decisions, communicating those decisions clearly to my troops, and then doing anything and everything necessary to implement them. I learned the importance of building morale, camaraderie, and a team spirit. I learned how to deal with the chain of command and how to get around it when necessary.”

From Vietnam he went to Northern Italy where he spent four years in command of three NATO nuclear missile bases. A good place to learn how to deal with pressure and stress. “There are few situations more stressful than commanding a nuclear missile site and trying to determine in 30 seconds whether the aircraft approaching the base was a friend or foe. There was no margin for error. We had to be perfect every day.”

Wanting to go into business, he resigned the military after 11 years and went to Harvard to get an MBA. As a child, Bill was so enthralled by the power of television that he would memorize the TV Guide and recite the schedule back to his mother. He knew he wanted to work in television so instead of the typical corporate route followed by his classmates, he took a job at a small start-up cable network called HBO.

Roedy’s background doesn’t make him the likely candidate to build MTV International, but it certainly prepared him for it. More on that tomorrow.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 11:46 PM
| TrackBacks (1) | General Business , Leaders , Management , Marketing , Teamwork

04.29.11

Presidential Decision Making: How and Why

Bob Woodward once wrote, "When you see how the President makes political or policy decisions, you see who he is. The essence of the Presidency is decision-making."

Leadership
Nick Ragone has selected 15 presidential decisions that were proactive and ultimately shaped the office and the country. In the process he reveals more of the man.

Looking back on decisions made, we often evaluate them based on our biases and current sensibilities. But to truly understand them we must see the world as they saw it. That is what Ragone does in Presidential Leadership. He takes each of these decisions and recreates them from the president’s perspective. It makes for an engaging and thought-provoking read.

All of the decisions he selected were controversial at the time and required courage to see them through. The thread that runs through them all is persistence and conviction. Often in these decisions, the president had to make a choice between the good of the Union and his own personal beliefs. While many more decisions are worthy of consideration, he chose to focus on:
  • Washington Puts Down the Whiskey Rebellion
  • Thomas Jefferson Purchases the Louisiana Territory
  • Andrew Jackson Rejects Nullification
  • Lincoln Signs the Emancipation Proclamation
  • Teddy Roosevelt Builds the Panama Canal
  • Woodrow Wilson and the League of Nations
  • Franklin Roosevelt and the Lend-Lease Program
  • Truman Drops the Bomb
  • Truman Fires MacArthur
  • Eisenhower, Kennedy, and the Race to the Moon
  • Lyndon Johnson and Civil Rights
  • Richard Nixon Visits China
  • Ford Pardons Nixon
  • Reagan and the Evil Empire
  • Barack Obama Takes On Healthcare Reform

In reliving these moments in the pages of this book, you will gain a new appreciation for what it took to bring them about, their consequences and the origins of some of the issues we face today.

Some of the decisions made were certainly a product of their time. What president today would deal with a tax revolt by personally leading 13,000 troops around the country in a show of force to intimidate the protesters as Washington did with the Whiskey Rebellion? But it proved to be the right thing to do. There was no bloodshed. “It was a rather anticlimactic ending to what many historians consider the greatest constitutional threat prior to the Civil War.

Then there is the colorful account of Andrew Jackson’s handling of the nullification crisis brought on by the Tariff Act of 1832. The Union was at stake. “Jackson,” writes Ragone, “had the perfect skills for the crisis, if not the demeanor. He was ruthlessly consistent with his rationale….He understood the importance of public support and was adept at rousing patriotism through his words and deeds. He wasn’t afraid to be forceful when necessary, yet he tempered his natural impulsiveness because he knew it wouldn’t serve him well. And he had the capacity to grow and learn, something that can’t be said for every holder of the office.” His convictions no doubt guided Lincoln three decades later.

Teddy Roosevelt’s approach to building the Panama Canal surely epitomizes the man. About his actions, Roosevelt said, “We would have a number of profound discussions, and they would still be going on now, and the Panama Canal would be in the dim future yet. We would have had a half century of discussion, and perhaps the Panama Canal. I preferred we should have the Panama Canal first and the half century of discussion afterword.”

The well narrated history alone makes this a great read, but there are great leadership lessons to be found here as well. Reading through the accounts, it is easier to see how one decision would frame decisions and issues far into the future. Each decision creates a pattern of interaction that then influences thinking and behavior over time. Every decision creates an emergent system. Our decisions matter.

What drove Harry Truman to fire Douglas MacArthur at the height of the Korean War? Did Gerald Ford know that his pardon of Richard Nixon could very well end his political career? Why did John F. Kennedy challenge America to reach for the moon?
* * *



Posted by Michael McKinney at 11:28 AM
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04.12.11

From Values to Action

From Values to Action
Former chairman and chief executive officer of Baxter International, Harry Kraemer, has written a genuine, back-to-basics book on value-based leadership: From Values to Action. He presents four interconnected principles that build on and contribute to each other:

Self-Reflection is the most important and is central to your leadership. “If you are not self-reflective, how can you truly know yourself?” writes Kraemer. “If you do not know yourself, how can you lead yourself? If you cannot lead yourself, how can you possibly lead others?”

Self-reflection allows you to transform activity into productivity for all the right reasons. It means “you are surprised less frequently.” It is essential in setting priorities. You can’t do everything. So reflection makes it possible to answer key questions like What is most important? and What should we be doing? in a way that is in line with your strengths and values and organizational goals.
Engaging in self-reflection on a regular, ongoing basis (preferably daily) keeps you from becoming so caught up in the momentum of the situation that you get carried away and consider actions and decisions that are not aligned with who you are and what you want to do with your life.
Balance and Perspective is the ability to understand all sides of an issue. Pursuing balance means you will have to grasp the fact that leaders don’t have all the answers. Kraemer says, “My task was to recognize when a particular perspective offered by one of my team members was the best answer….Leadership is not a democracy. My job as the leader is to seek input, not consensus.”

Because he believes we are more effective if we balance all areas of our life, he prefers the term “life balance” over “work-life balance.” It’s not an either or proposition. “When you identify too closely with your work, you can easily lose perspective and become unable to look at all angles in a situation.” He recommends implementing a “life-grid” to keep track of where you are spending your time and to hold yourself accountable.

True Self-Confidence is know what you know and you don’t know; to be comfortable with who you are while acknowledging that you still need to develop in certain areas. (Comfortable not complacent.) Why TRUE self-confidence?
There are people who adopt a persona that might make others think that they have self-confidence, but they are not the real deal. Instead, they possess false self-confidence, which is really just an act without any substance. These individuals are full of bravado and are dominating. They believe they have all the answers and are quick to cut off any discussion that veers in a direction that runs contrary to their opinions. They dismiss debate as being a complete waste of time. They always need to be right—which means proving everyone else wrong.
Genuine Humility is born of self-knowledge. Never forget where you started. “Genuine humility helps you recognize that you are neither better nor worse than anyone else, that you ought to respect everyone equally and not treat anyone differently just because of a job title.”

From Values to ActionAfter describing each of these principles, Kraemer explains how these four elements play in everyday situations such as talent management and leadership development (“The values based leader is looking for people who exhibit the values that are most important to her.”), setting a clear direction (You’ve been tasked with creating a quick strategy, the first step is to listen. “This is precisely the time that you need to draw upon the capabilities of the excellent team you’ve put together.”), communication (“Never assume you have communicated enough.”), motivation (“What you must do is relate to others by letting them know who you are and the values you stand for.”), and execution (“As you become a leader, you will shift from knowing the right answers to asking the right questions.”).

Kraemer describes a values-based leader well: “Self-reflection increases his self-awareness. Balance encourages him to seek out different perspectives from all team members and to change his mind when appropriate in order to make the best possible decisions. With true self-confidence, he does not have to be right, and he easily shares credit with his team. Genuine humility allows him to connect with everyone because no one is more important than anyone else.”

From Values to Action is an outstanding book and filled with important concepts that any would-be leader would benefit from.

* * *


* * *

Of Related Interest:
  Taking Another Look: Leading Minds on Reflection Part 4
  Taking Another Look: Leading Minds on Reflection Part 3
  Taking Another Look: Leading Minds on Reflection Part 2
  Taking Another Look: Leading Minds on Reflection Part 1
  Consider: Harnessing the Power of Reflective Thinking in Your Organization

Posted by Michael McKinney at 04:13 PM
| TrackBacks (0) | Communication , Human Resources , Leaders , Leadership Development , Management , Personal Development , Positive Leadership

04.06.11

Onward: You Are There with Howard Schultz

Leadership
Onward tells the story of a company suffering from the side effects of its own success made worse by the recent financial fiasco and what its returning CEO did about it. It’s a story of a company’s return to the why.

Howard Schultz realized that by 2007, Starbucks had begun to fail itself. It was obsessed with growth and lost sight of what made it “Starbucks” in the first place—the essence of what they set out to do 40 years earlier—to inspire the human spirit. Starbucks had lost its “point of view.” He writes, “No single bad decision or tactic or person was to blame. The damage was slow and quiet, incremental, like a single loose thread that unravels a sweater inch by inch.” This is usually how we experience derailment. We wake up one day and find ourselves somewhere other than where we had planned on being. Tangents are like that.

With sales and passion already slipping, the economic meltdown at the end of 2008 only made matters worse. In an inspiring and detailed narrative, Schultz tells from his perspective, how he got the company back on track and innovated around core values. It’s a sometimes emotional look at the thinking behind what worked and what didn’t. And it is told with dignity.

Onward is a valuable resource for leaders and is for that reason alone, worth re-reading. It was interesting to watch Schultz’s leadership evolve through the process and instructive to observe how he handled the board, personalities, tough choices, frustrations, progress and setbacks.

Here are some of his thoughts:
There are moments in our lives when we summon the courage to make choices that go against reason, against common sense and against the wise counsel of people we trust. But we lean forward nonetheless because, despite all the risks and rational argument, we believe that the path we are choosing is the right and best thing to do. We refuse to be bystanders, even if we do not know exactly where our actions will lead.

If not checked, success has a way of covering up small failures.

I believe leadership is about instilling confidence in others.

I’ve never bought into the notion that there is a single recipe for successful leadership. But I do think effective leaders share two intertwined attributes: an unbridled level of confidence about where their organizations are headed, and the ability to bring people along.

Reigniting people’s hearts and minds had to be done in person. For all the promise of digital media to bring people together, I still believe that the most sincere, lasting powers of human connection come from looking directly into someone else’s eyes, with no screen in between.

Grow with discipline. Balance with rigor. Innovate around the core. Don’t embrace the status quo. Find new ways to see. Never expect a silver bullet. Get your hands dirty. Listen with empathy and overcommunicate with transparency. Tell your story, refusing to let others define you. Use authentic experiences to inspire. Stick to your values, they are your foundation. Hold people accountable but give them the tools to succeed. Make the tough choices; it’s how you execute that counts. Be decisive in times of crisis. Be nimble. Find truth in trials and lessons in mistakes. Be responsible for what you see, hear, and do. Believe.

* * *

Posted by Michael McKinney at 11:17 AM
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03.25.11

The Steve Jobs Way

Apple is on a roll and we want to know how Steve Jobs does it. The Steve Jobs way is, in a word, passion.

Passion drives his perseverance and momentum through setbacks.
Passion obliges his attention to detail.
Passion necessitates his intense focus.
Passion fuels his outbursts.
Passion compels him to encourage those around him.
Passion urges him to compete with himself.
Passion informs his decisions.

Passion is the “magic.”

Steve Jobs
Jay Elliot writes The Steve Jobs Way as an early insider at Apple, which makes his take on Apple and Jobs all the more interesting and nuanced. Elliot, while sitting in a restaurant, was hired by Jobs to be the senior vice-president and as it turned out, his sounding board.

Jobs succeeds because he follows his passions. “He understands the mindset of the people he wants to create products for because he is one of them. And because he thinks like his future customers, he knows he has seen the future.”

At the same time, Jobs does not rely on focus groups. That might be good for incremental change, but to “make a dent in the universe,” you need people that focus on what the experience could be. Elliot says Jobs loved to quote Henry Ford: “If I had asked my customers what they wanted, they would have told me, ‘A faster horse.’”

Not only is Jobs enthusiasm infectious, but he thinks regularly about how to build enthusiasm. At Apple, meetings were driven by ideas and those who had them and were not dictated by hierarchy as in most organizations. “He knows that you have to become the product to lead well. He finds powerful ways to make certain every employee is convinced that he knows their contribution is essential to the product’s success.” Innovation is a group activity at Apple. “Imagine,” says Elliot, “working on a product so desirable that the members of the development team can hardly wait to finish it so they could each have one of their own.”

One-time Apple executive Jean-Louis Gassé endorsed Steve’s management style with a memorable phrase: “Democracies don’t make great products—you need a competent tyrant.” People who worked for Steve forgave him, or at least tolerated his style, in part because more than anything else, he was a product tyrant, totally dedicated to delivering the products he envisioned.

Jobs is the ultimate user. Everything is designed around the customer experience. Former employee Donna Dubinsky recalled a decision Jobs made that illustrates this value:
We were moving from 300 dpi printers to 1200 or something—some generational shift. What to do with the old inventory? You cut the price and blow them away. You make money from customers who want the bargain.

Instead Steve said, “Take them off the list. People need to buy the new one.”

Donna had discovered an important point about Steve. His choice violated basic Harvard-taught business principles but showed how he has always been all about what’s good for the customer: “These printers are outdated, they’re not what people should be buying, let’s just get rid of them.”
From watching the Apple/Jobs split in 1985 first-hand, Elliot saw that “learning how to make yourself understand, learning how to be persuasive, is critical for a business leader.…It was an object lesson in what happens when a company does not have a cohesive product strategy and is organized functionally instead of in distinct product groups.”

Elliot’s appraisal of Steve Job’s leadership is helpful for anyone wanting to get a better look “behind the curtain” from someone who was there and worked closely with Jobs. The perspective is valuable. The stories and anecdotes alone are worth the time.

Elliot recounts an interview Jobs had with Daniel Morrow on what it takes to be an entrepreneur:
“I think you should go get a job as a busboy or something until you find something you’re really passionate about.” He believes that “about half of what separates the successful entrepreneurs from the non-successful ones is pure perseverance.

You put so much of your life into this thing. There are such rough moments in time that I think most people give up. I don’t blame them. It’s really tough and it consumes your life.”

You have to be burning with “an idea, or a problem, or a wrong that you want to right.” If you’re not passionate from the start, you’ll never stick it out.

* * *

Posted by Michael McKinney at 07:14 AM
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02.16.11

Frances Hesselbein: To Serve is To Live

Leadership
Frances Hesselbein is a remarkable leader because she doesn’t try to get others to think of her as a leader, she tries to get others to think of themselves as leaders. Reading her autobiography, My Life in Leadership, I was struck by the importance she places on inclusion, respect, civility, decency, honor, honesty and faithfulness. It’s not surprising then, that she never thought of herself as a “woman leader,” but always as “a leader who is a woman.”

Hesselbein didn’t start out to be a leader, but she became one by expressing her best self in all that she did. An example for all would-be leaders to follow. Her mantra is, “to serve is to live.”

Her father was her hero and when he died, she dropped out of college to help support her family. Later she married and raised a family with no intention of leaving her hometown in Pennsylvania. Later to help out, she volunteered to serve as a Girl Scout Troop leader.

Eventually, as doors opened for both her and her husband, she was asked to head the Girl Scouts of the USA which she did from 1976 to 1990. From her contribution there, she was named “Best Nonprofit Manager in America” by Fortune Magazine. In 1998 she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in recognition of her exemplary leadership as CEO of Girl Scouts of the USA, her role as the founding president of the Drucker Foundation, and her service as “a pioneer for women volunteerism, diversity, and opportunity.”

My Life in Leadership is full of lessons. Here are just five of the lessons she has learned along the way. I’m certain you’ll find at least one that will improve your leadership approach and thinking.

  Lesson about Diversity and Inclusion:

“If we value diversity and inclusion, then we must ask, ‘When they look at us, can they find themselves?’ This is the powerful question that uncovers whether an organization practices what it preaches.” At the Girl Scouts of the USA she worked hard to make sure people of all races and backgrounds could find themselves in the organization.

She writes: “One of the most important parts of transforming a large and complex organization is inclusion: engaging all of the people every step of the way.... Inclusion is a powerful value: when we open up the organization, dispersing the leadership, including people from across the enterprise, there is a new energy, a new synergy.”

  Lesson about Developing Leaders at all Levels:

At one point she asked her staff to introduce themselves to each other at a meeting. She shares the story of a staff member that understands what it means to think like a leader—be a leader—no matter where you find yourself in an organization:

“My name is Troy. I work in the mail room, and I like to think of myself as the heart of the organization. Everything that comes into the organization comes through me. Everything that goes out of the organization goes through me. I am the heart of the organization!” She adds, “Troy’s ‘heart’ brought to us new insight about the importance of every person and every position. I’ve never forgotten Troy and that moment.”

  Lesson about Respect for Others:

When making a decision about change you can’t stall in indecision but you can’t run over people either. She explains how she handled a touchy situation and then writes:

“When does the sled take off? Is the question for all leaders, knowing that we can fail if the sled leaves too early with too few people on it, or we can wait too long, and someone else will have filled the need and eaten our lunch…. It takes managerial courage to decide that it is time for the sled to take off when many are hesitant to climb on board. A leader respects their opinions and their positions, but cannot be deterred by them. Later these people may change their minds and join you, but if you act in a dismissive way that diminishes them, they never come back. Save the face and the dignity of the people who oppose the initiative. That is a key principle in managing change and mobilizing people around that change.”

  Lesson in Seeing Yourself Life Size:

In 1981, at a GSA meeting, Peter Drucker told them: “You do not see yourself life size. You do not appreciate the significance of the work you do, for we live in a society that pretends to care about its children, and it does not.” Hesselbein said, “I wanted to refute this, but could think of nothing to say. Drucker continued, “And for a little while, you give a girl a chance to be a girl in a society that forces her to grow up all too soon.” Hesselbein adds, “We took him seriously.”

How many of us see what we do “life size?”

  Lesson on Listening:

Hesselbein says the number one element of listening is “banish the but.” She writes: If we want people to listen, we must banish “but” from our vocabulary. How many times have we had someone tell us how well we performed—and we were feeling good about the feedback, listening carefully—then we heard “but,” and the positive, energizing part of the feedback was lost in the “but” and what followed it. “But” is nobody’s friend—listener or speaker. “And” provides the graceful transition, the nonthreatening bridge to mutual appreciation, the communication that builds effective relationships.

Hesselbein believes that “in the end it’s the quality and character of the leader that determines the performance.” As President and CEO of the Peter Drucker Foundation for Nonprofit Management (now the Leader to Leader Institute), she was asked what the two most powerful messages were that he left with her. She said, “Think first, speak last” and “the leader of the future asks; the leader of the past tells. Ask, don’t tell.”

In the foreword, Jim Collins sums up well the example of Frances Hesselbein:
No matter what knocks you down, you get up and go forward. You might be appalled by horrifying events, but never discouraged. You might need to deal with mean-spirited and petty people along the way, but never lose your own gracious manner. You might need to confront a litany of brutal facts and destabilizing uncertainties, but it is your responsibility, as a leader to always shine a light.

* * *

Posted by Michael McKinney at 06:00 PM
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02.14.11

The Wisdom of Booker T. Washington

Booker T Washington
Booker T. Washington (1856–1915), the first African-American to receive an honorary degree from Harvard, was an American educator, author, orator, and political leader.

Washington was born into slavery to a slave mother and a white plantation owner in Franklin County, Virginia. He became a national figure with his Atlanta Address of 1895, in which he advocated vocational education for blacks as a way to improve race relations, making him a popular spokesperson for African-American citizens.

Through the support of wealthy philanthropists, he was able to raise funds to establish and operate thousands of small community schools and institutions of higher education for the betterment of blacks throughout the South. In 1901, his popular autobiography, Up From Slavery, was first published and has been translated into many languages.

On Leadership
  • Few things help an individual more than to place responsibility upon him, and to let him know that you trust him….Every individual responds to confidence. (Up from Slavery: An Autobiography)
  • If you want to lift yourself up, lift up someone else.
  • There are two ways of exerting one's strength: one is pushing down, the other is pulling up.
  • Most leaders spend time trying to get others to think highly of them, when instead they should try to get their people to think more highly of themselves. It’s wonderful when the people believe in their leader. It’s more wonderful when the leader believes in their people! You can’t hold a man down without staying down with him.
On Respect
  • One man cannot hold another man down in the ditch without remaining down in the ditch with him.
  • To hold a man down, you have to stay down with him.
  • I will permit no man to narrow and degrade my soul by making me hate him. (Up from Slavery: An Autobiography)
On Work
  • I have learned that success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life as by the obstacles which he has overcome while trying to succeed. (Up from Slavery: An Autobiography)
  • Excellence is to do a common thing in an uncommon way.
  • Nothing ever comes to one, that is worth having, except as a result of hard work. (Up from Slavery: An Autobiography)
On Execution
  • We must reinforce argument with results.
On Friendship
  • Associate yourself with people of good quality, for it is better to be alone than in bad company.
On Service
  • My whole life has largely been one of surprises. I believe that any man’s life will be filled with constant, unexpected encouragements of this kind if he makes up his mind to do his level best each day of his life—that is, tries to make each day reach as nearly as possible the high-water mark of pure, unselfish, useful living. I pity the man, black or white, who has never experienced the joy and satisfaction that come to one by reason of an effort to assist in making some one else more useful and more happy. (Up from Slavery: An Autobiography)
  • The longer I live and the more experience I have of the world, the more I am convinced that, after all, the one thing that is most worth living for—and dying for, if need be—is the opportunity of making someone else more happy and more useful. (Up from Slavery: An Autobiography)
On Success
  • Success always leaves footprints.
  • I have begun everything with the idea that I could succeed, and I never had much patience with the multitudes of people who are always ready to explain why one cannot succeed. (Up from Slavery: An Autobiography)

Booker T Washington Lecture
Booker T. Washington speaking to an audience at Carnegie Hall on the occasion of the Tuskegee Institute Silver Anniversary lecture in 1906. Mark Twain is seated on stage just behind Washington.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 12:44 AM
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02.06.11

Ronald Reagan on Leadership

Ronald Reagan
Ronald Reagan, the 40th president of the United States, was born one hundred years ago today, February 6. In nearly every poll he is regarded, with Washington and Lincoln, as one of the three best presidents America has ever had. This is due in large part because he governed with focused self-confidence and he never considered his position to place him above those he led.

In her memoir, Personal History, the late Katharine Graham, former publisher of the Washington Post, tells a story about a dinner at her home attended by the Reagans and others in November 1988. When the Reagans arrived they were surrounded by well-wishing friends. Graham remembers that after someone knocked against a glass and spilled a drink, “I was dumbstruck,” she recalls, “at seeing the president of the United States down on his hands and knees in the middle of the crowd, picking up the ice.” Reagan possessed a servant quality that resonated with millions of people in America and abroad.

On Vision:
  • To grasp and hold a vision, that is the very essence of successful leadership - not only on the movie set where I learned it, but everywhere. (Remarks at a Luncheon Hosted by Artists and Cultural Leaders in Moscow, May 31, 1988)
On Communication:
  • Most often it’s not how handsomely or eloquently you say something, but the fact that your words mean something. (An American Life)
  • I won a nickname, "The Great Communicator." But I never thought it was my style or the words I used that made a difference: it was the content. I wasn't a great communicator, but I communicated great things, and they didn't spring full bloom from my brow, they came from the heart of a great nation—from our experience, our wisdom, and our belief in the principles that have guided us for two centuries. They called it the Reagan revolution. Well, I'll accept that, but for me it always seemed more like the great rediscovery, a rediscovery of our values and our common sense. (Farewell Address January 11, 1989)
On Negotiation:
  • I don't take too seriously the statement of positions in advance of negotiations. Everyone wants to preserve their position at their highest price before negotiations, and for them to do otherwise is to give away something they might not have to give away once the negotiations start. (Question-and-Answer Session, February 23, 1983)
  • You’re unlikely to get all you want; you’ll probably get more of what you want if you don’t issue ultimatums and leave your adversary room to maneuver; you shouldn’t back your adversary into a corner, embarrass him, or humiliate him; and sometimes, the easiest way to get things done is for the top people to do them alone and in private. (An American Life)
On Mistakes:
  • Now, what should happen when you make a mistake is this: You take your knocks, you learn your lessons, and then you move on. That's the healthiest way to deal with a problem. (Speech about Iran Contra, March 4, 1987)
On Leadership:
  • The greatest leader is not necessarily the one who does the greatest things. He is the one that gets the people to do the greatest things. (Interview with Mike Wallace, 60 Minutes, December 14, 1975)
  • Our people look to us for leadership and nobody can provide it if we don’t. But we won’t be very effective leaders unless we can rise above the specific but secondary concerns that preoccupy our respective bureaucracies and give our governments a strong push in the right direction. (An American Life)
  • Somebody once said that life begins when you begin to serve. Maybe if there’s a feeling that you can be of service then you feel you have to do it. (Interview with Mike Wallace, 60 Minutes, December 14, 1975)
  • If no one among us is capable of governing himself, then who among us has the capacity to govern someone else? (First inaugural address as governor of California, January 5, 1967)
On Compromise:
  • The minute you begin saying, ‘This is good or bad politically,’ you start compromising principle. The only consideration I want to hear is whether it is good or bad for the people.” (An American Life)
On Courage:
  • Don’t be afraid to see what you see. (Farewell Address January 11, 1989)
On Management:
  • I don’t believe a chief executive should supervise every detail of what goes on in his organization. The chief executive should set broad policy and general ground rules, tell people what he or she wants them to do, then let them do it. He should make himself (or herself) available, so that the members of his team can come to him if there is a problem. If there is, you can work on it together and, if necessary, fine-tune the policies. But I don’t think a chief executive should peer constantly over the shoulders of the people who are in charge of a project and tell them every few minutes what to do. (An American Life)
  • Set clear goals and appoint good people to help you achieve them. As long as they are doing what you have in mind, don’t interfere, but if somebody drops the ball, intervene and make a change. (An American Life)
  • Much has been said about my management style, a style that's worked successfully for me during 8 years as Governor of California and for most of my Presidency. The way I work is to identify the problem, find the right individuals to do the job, and then let them go to it. I've found this invariably brings out the best in people. They seem to rise to their full capability, and in the long run you get more done. (Speech about Iran Contra, March 4, 1987)
On Counsel:
  • I told the cabinet members that I didn't want them to speak up only on the matters that affected their own departments. They were all my advisors, I said, and I wanted to hear everything that each of them had to say about whatever topic we were considering, whether it involved their department or not, including any reservations they might have about a proposal; this gave me the opportunity to get opinions from a variety of perspectives, not only from the people who might be supporting a certain project or program. (An American Life)

Reagan believed that it is important for a leader to rise above secondary concerns to remain consistent and focused. His most important task was keeping his staff focused despite daily distractions. One of his aides recalled: "It was striking how often we on the staff would become highly agitated by the latest news bulletins. Reagan saw the same events as nothing more than a bump in the road; things would get better tomorrow. His horizons were just not the same as ours."

James Strock sums it up well in his book, Reagan on Leadership: “As with all leaders of consequence, Reagan’s ability to lead others was an outgrowth of his ability to govern himself.”

* * *

Of Related Interest:
  Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Library

Posted by Michael McKinney at 12:15 PM
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12.27.10

“If they do that, I don’t consider them a leader.”

We need to get over the notion that a leader is a perfect person with a set of qualities that are balanced and in perfect alignment. And to be less makes you, you know … a manager. If that were the case we might as well forget about being a leader. We’re just not up to it. And yet life goes on and people do lead—in spite of themselves. And their humanity gives us all hope that we too can lead, influence, have an impact, and create meaning.

A good leader is a person that knows their weaknesses, makes (sometimes really stupid) mistakes, admits them, makes an effort to do better, and moves on. In spite of their own inadequacies they jump back in every day and work for a cause bigger than themselves. The challenge is not in avoiding mistakes; it is in knowing how to deal with them when they are made.

A good leader knows they can’t do it on their own. They have limitations. They need the support and effort of those around them. In fact, they put people on their team specifically because they are lacking in one area or another. A leader doesn’t let their weaknesses hold them back.

A good leader understands that leadership development is a life-long process of continual learning; continual improvement. Being a leader isn’t a place you arrive at. It’s is something you grow into and grow with if you are going to be effective. Leadership without growth is not sustainable. If you are in it for the long-term, you have to be teachable, not perfect.

Perfection doesn’t qualify you as a leader, but knowing what to do about your inadequacies, foibles, quirks, weaknesses, and blunders makes it possible.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 12:19 AM
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11.16.10

Decision Points

George W Bush
Leadership matters because we have choices. Leaders expose our choices and provide depth to our horizons. It is fitting that President George W. Bush’s book is about choices. The world changed after 9/11 and became increasingly uncertain and lacking precedent.

While not intended to be an exhaustive biography, Decision Points does describe what it was like for George W. Bush to serve as president. More importantly, it is an account relating how he made the key decisions he made during his presidency. He writes, “Throughout the book, I describe the options I weighed and the principles I followed. I hope this book will give you a better sense of why I made the decisions I did. Perhaps it will even prove useful as you make choices in your own life.” Whether you agreed with him or not, it is enlightening to see the issues from his point of view. A point of view most of us will never have. It reminds me of a line from the TV series 24 by Noah Daniels the acting President of the United States, “You know Tom, it’s easy to think you’ve got all the answers when none of the ultimate responsibility lies with you. But sittin’ in this chair.… Until you sit in this chair, you don’t know anything.”

President Bush covers among other things, in nearly 500 pages, the decision to quit drinking, stem cell research, 9/11, Afghanistan, Iraq, the Surge, counterterrorism programs, Katrina, his freedom agenda, and the financial crisis. Reflecting on his eight years, he writes, “After the nightmare of September 11, America went seven and a half years without another successful terrorist attack on our soil. If I had to summarize my most meaningful accomplishment as president in one sentence, that would be it.”

Here are several excerpts:

• In the presidency, there are no do-overs. You have to do what you believe is right and accept the consequences.

• Quitting drinking was one of the toughest decisions I ever made. Without it, none of the others that follow in this book would have been possible. Yet without the experiences of my first forty years, quitting drinking would not have been possible either.

• The summer of 2006 was the worst period of my presidency. I thought about the war constantly. … Most of all, I thought about our troops. I tried to imagine how it would feel to be a twenty-year-old on the front lines, or a military mom worrying about her son or daughter. The last thing they needed to hear was the commander in chief whining about how conflicted he felt.

• One of my favorite books is the fine historian David McCullough’s biography of President Harry Truman. I admired Truman’s toughness, principle and strategic vision. “I felt like the moon, the stars, and all of the planets had fallen on me,” he said when he took office suddenly in the final months of World War II. Yet the man from Missouri knew how to make a hard decision and stick by it. He did what he thought was right and didn’t care much what the critics said.

• That is the nature of the presidency. Perceptions are shaped by the clarity of hindsight. In the moment of decision, you don’t have that advantage.

• One of the lessons I took from [Theodore] Roosevelt and Reagan was to lead the public, not chase the opinion polls. I decided to push for sweeping reforms, not tinker with the status quo.

• Self-pity is a pathetic quality in a leader. It sends such demoralizing signals to the team and the country. …In the presidency, as in life, you have to play the hand you’re dealt.

• The nature of the presidency is that sometimes you don’t choose which challenges come to your desk. You do decide how to respond. … As I hope I’ve made clear, I believe I got some of those decisions right, and I got some wrong. But on every one, I did what I believed was in the best interests of our country.

Regarding Iraq, Bush writes, “Years from now, historians may look back and see the surge as a foregone conclusion, an inevitable bridge between the years of violence that followed liberation and the democracy that emerged. Nothing about the surge felt inevitable at the time.” It’s easy to overlook the thought that lead to the decisions made.

Of Related Interest:
  When Making Judgments about Our Leaders and Others

Posted by Michael McKinney at 02:12 AM
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11.12.10

30 Surprising Facts About George Washington

Weekend Supplement

IN Washington: A Life, Ron Chernow calls Washington “the most famously elusive figure in American history.” In 928 pages—the longest single-volume biography of Washington ever published—Chernow wants to render George Washington real and credible. And he succeeds. Chernow offers these facts about George Washington.
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  • Washington was the only major founder who lacked a college education. John Adams went to Harvard, James Madison to Princeton, and Alexander Hamilton to Columbia, making Washington self-conscious about what he called his "defective education."
  • Washington never had wooden teeth. He wore dentures that were made of either walrus or elephant ivory and were fitted with real human teeth. Over time, as the ivory got cracked and stained, it resembled the grain of wood. Washington may have purchased some of his teeth from his own slaves.
  • Washington had a strangely cool and distant relationship with his mother. During the Revolutionary War and her son's presidency, she never uttered a word of praise about him and she may even have been a Tory. No evidence exists that she ever visited George and Martha Washington at Mount Vernon. Late in the Revolutionary War, Mary Washington petitioned the Virginia legislature for financial relief, pleading poverty—and, by implication, neglect by her son. Washington, who had been extremely generous to his mother, was justly indignant.
  • Even as a young man, Washington seemed to possess a magical immunity to bullets. In one early encounter in the French and Indian War, he absorbed four bullets in his coat and hat and had two horses shot from under him yet emerged unscathed. This led one Indian chief to predict that some higher power was guiding him to great events in the future.
  • By age 30 Washington had survived smallpox, malaria, dysentery, and other diseases. Although he came from a family of short-lived men, he had an iron constitution and weathered many illnesses that would have killed a less robust man. He lived to the age of 67.
  • While the Washingtons were childless—it has always been thought that George Washington was sterile—they presided over a household teeming with children. Martha had two children from her previous marriage and she and George later brought up two grandchildren as well, not to mention countless nieces and nephews.
  • That Washington was childless proved a great boon to his career. Because he had no heirs, Americans didn't worry that he might be tempted to establish a hereditary monarchy. And many religious Americans believed that God had deliberately deprived Washington of children so that he might serve as Father of His Country.
  • Though he tried hard to be fair and took excellent medical care of his slaves, Washington could be a severe master. His diaries reveal that during one of the worst cold snaps on record in Virginia—when Washington himself found it too cold to ride outside—he had his field slaves out draining swamps and performing other arduous tasks.
  • For all her anxiety about being constantly in a battle zone, Martha Washington spent a full half of the Revolutionary War with her husband—a major act of courage that has largely gone unnoticed.
  • Washington was obsessed with his personal appearance, which extended to his personal guard during the war. Despite wartime austerity and a constant shortage of soldiers, he demanded that all members of his personal guard be between 5'8" and 5'10"; a year later, he narrowed the range to 5'9" to 5'10."
  • While Washington lost more battles than he won, he still ranks as a great general. His greatness lay less in his battlefield brilliance—he committed some major strategic blunders—than in his ability to hold his ragged army intact for more than eight years, keeping the flame of revolution alive.
  • Washington ran his own spy network during the war and was often the only one privy to the full scope of secret operations against the British. He anticipated many techniques of modern espionage, including the use of misinformation and double agents.
  • Washington tended his place in history with extreme care. Even amid wartime stringency, he got Congress to appropriate special funds for a full-time team of secretaries who spent two years copying his wartime papers into beautiful ledgers.
  • For thirty years, Washington maintained an extraordinary relationship with his slave and personal manservant William Lee, who accompanied him throughout the Revolutionary War and later worked in the presidential mansion. Lee was freed upon Washington's death and given a special lifetime annuity.
  • The battle of Yorktown proved the climactic battle of the revolution and the capstone of Washington's military career, but he initially opposed this Franco-American operation against the British—a fact he later found hard to admit.
  • Self-conscious about his dental problems, Washington maintained an air of extreme secrecy when corresponding with his dentist and never used such incriminating words as 'teeth' or 'dentures.' By the time he became president, Washington had only a single tooth left—a lonely lower left bicuspid that held his dentures in place.
  • Washington always displayed extremely ambivalence about his fame. Very often, when he was traveling, he would rise early to sneak out of a town or enter it before he could be escorted by local dignitaries. He felt beleaguered by the social demands of his own renown.
  • At Mount Vernon, Washington functioned as his own architect—and an extremely original one at that. All of the major features that we associate with the house—the wide piazza and colonnade overlooking the Potomac, the steeple and the weathervane with the dove of peace—were personally designed by Washington himself.
  • A master showman with a brilliant sense of political stagecraft, Washington would disembark from his coach when he was about to enter a town then mount a white parade horse for maximum effect. It is not coincidental that there are so many fine equestrian statues of him.
  • Land-rich and cash-poor, Washington had to borrow money to attend his own inauguration in New York City in 1789. He then had to borrow money again when he moved back to Virginia after two terms as president. His public life took a terrible toll on his finances.
  • Martha Washington was never happy as First Lady—a term not yet in use—and wrote with regret after just six months of the experience: "I think I am more like a state prisoner than anything else… And as I cannot do as I like, I am obstinate and stay home a great deal."
  • When the temporary capital moved to Philadelphia in 1790, Washington brought six or seven slaves to the new presidential mansion. Under a Pennsylvania abolitionist law, slaves who stayed continuously in the state for six months were automatically free. To prevent this, Washington, secretly coached by his Attorney General, rotated his slaves in and out of the state without telling them the real reason for his actions.
  • Washington nearly died twice during his first term in office, the first time from a tumor on his thigh that may have been from anthrax or an infection, the second time from pneumonia. Many associates blamed his sedentary life as president for the sudden decline in his formerly robust health and he began to exercise daily.
  • Tired of the demands of public life, Washington never expected to serve even one term as president, much less two. He originally planned to serve for only a year or two, establish the legitimacy of the new government, then resign as president. Because of one crisis after another, however, he felt a hostage to the office and ended up serving two full terms. For all his success as president, Washington frequently felt trapped in the office.
  • Exempt from attacks at the start of his presidency, Washington was viciously attacked in the press by his second term. His opponents accused him of everything from being an inept general to wanting to establish a monarchy. At one point, he said that not a single day had gone by that he hadn't regretted staying on as president.
  • Washington has the distinction of being the only president ever to lead an army in battle as commander-in-chief. During the Whiskey Rebellion of 1794, he personally journeyed to western Pennsylvania to take command of a large army raised to put down the protest against the excise tax on distilled spirits.
  • Two of the favorite slaves of George and Martha Washington—Martha's personal servant, Ona Judge and their chef Hercules—escaped to freedom at the end of Washington's presidency. Washington employed the resources of the federal government to try to entrap Ona Judge in Portsmouth, New Hampshire and return her forcibly to Virginia. His efforts failed.
  • Washington stands out as the only founder who freed his slaves, at least the 124 who were under his personal control. (He couldn't free the so-called 'dower slaves' who came with his marriage to Martha.) In his will, he stipulated that the action was to take effect only after Martha died so that she could still enjoy the income from those slaves.
  • After her husband died, Martha grew terrified at the prospect that the 124 slaves scheduled to be freed after her death might try to speed up the timetable by killing her. Unnerved by the situation, she decided to free those slaves ahead of schedule only a year after her husband died.
  • Like her husband, Martha Washington ended up with a deep dislike of Thomas Jefferson, whom she called "one of the most detestable of mankind." When Jefferson visited her at Mount Vernon before he became president, Martha said that it was the second worst day of her life—the first being the day her husband died.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 05:50 PM
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11.02.10

Political Leadership and Compromise

On Election Day our minds turn to political leadership. Men and women are elected with the expectation that they will honor commitments they have made to the voters. This often leads politicians to take a short-term view of almost everything. At the same time, plagued by reality, a politician (or any leader for that matter) may find that they have to change direction or offer compromise. This leads to the “disconnect” we frequently have with political leaders. The problem facing politicians is that reality doesn’t sell. (And of course, we play a hand in that.) So frequently, what gets them into office is not the approach that will get the job done. It is a dilemma all leaders face. It’s a dilemma that requires a certain degree of wisdom.

Prudent flexibility, adaptability and compromise are necessary qualities for leadership. Yet we often hold in high esteem leaders who don’t back down more than those that compromise their position. No one wants to be viewed as weak. But a leader that will not change or even listen to the need for change can cause irreparable damage. It’s easy to get lulled into a sense of our own permanence. We must remember that leadership is temporary. It is a sacred trust that we hold for only a short time. The skill is in understanding what one can be flexible about and what one should not. We should never compromise principles, but approaches (even the proper understanding of how those principles are applied) may need to be adapted. Values and approaches are distinct from universal laws and principles and are derived from them. The former may change; the latter never does.

The fact too remains, that we may be wrong, our perceptions might be faulty and our assumptions may be without foundation. When faced with the facts, we need to be able to change direction and chart a new course without losing site of the ultimate goals. Stefan Stern recently wrote in an excellent post on knowing when to shift your position, “If you are heading full speed ahead for the rocks it is time to change direction….Good leaders adapt to changed circumstances, and admit it when they have made a mistake.”

In the introduction to Profiles in Leadership—an excellent collection of essays on leadership—biographer Walter Isaacson shares a historical perspective on compromise:
The greatest challenge of leadership is to know when to be flexible and pragmatic, on the one hand, and when it is, instead, a moment to stand firm on principle and clarity of vision. Even the best leaders get this wrong sometimes. I learned this when writing a biography of Franklin. His instinct was to try to balance the conflicting values that were at issue during moments of tough debate and to find common ground. At the Constitutional Convention he was, at eighty-one, the elder statesman. During that hot summer of 1787 the rivalry between the big and little states almost tore the convention apart over whether the legislative branch should be proportioned by population or with equal votes per state. Finally, Franklin rose to make a motion on behalf of a compromise that would have a House proportioned by population and a Senate with equal votes per state. “When the table is to be made, and the edges of the planks do not fit, the artist takes little from both, and makes a good joint,” he said. “In like manner here, both sides must part with some of their demands.” His point was crucial for understanding the art of true political leadership: Compromisers may not make great heroes, but they do make great democracies.

The toughest part of political leadership is knowing when to compromise versus when it is necessary to stand firm on principle. There is no easy formula for figuring that out, and Franklin got it wrong at times. At the Constitutional Convention he went along with a compromise that soon haunted him, permitting the continuation of slavery. But he was wise enough to try to rectify such mistakes. After the convention he became the president of a society for the abolition of slavery. He realized that humility required tolerance for other people’s values, which at times required compromise of one’s own; however, it was important to be uncompromising in opposing those who refused to show tolerance for others.
Hoover-FDR
This is also made apparent in another essay—from the same book—by Professor Alan Brinkley on how Herbert Hoover and Franklin Roosevelt dealt with the Great Depression. He writes that in 1928 Hoover was one of the most admired people in America largely due to his extraordinary management and unchallenged brilliance. “People that interacted with him routinely referred to him as the ‘great man.’”

FDR on the other hand was not as well regarded and was mostly known for his connections and family background. “In the end, however,” writes Brinkley, “Herbert Hoover left the white house thoroughly discredited, repudiated, even hated, while Franklin Roosevelt was revered by much of the world when he died in office.”

The difference was flexibility. Hoover was “A victim of his convictions, convictions that seemed to him close to absolute….Hoover’s unshakable principles shackled him time and again in his effort to deal with the Depression.” On the other hand, the quality that separated Roosevelt “most decisively from Hoover, was his pragmatic, experimental nature.”

The contrast between Hoover and Roosevelt, Brinkley concludes, “suggests that leadership cannot succeed through ideals and strong convictions alone. The world is a complicated and ever-changing place, and a great leader must be capable of adapting to change and understanding the diversity of the ideas and principles that shape history.” Roosevelt was more successful in guiding the United States through the two greatest crises of the twentieth century, “in part because his values were appropriate to his time but also because he understood that values must reflect the realities of his age.”

Of Related Interest:
  Confusing Principles and Approaches

Posted by Michael McKinney at 10:21 AM
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07.29.10

Whom Do You Need to Thank? The Unsung Heroes

McChrystal
On the occasion of his retirement ceremony at Fort McNair Washington, D.C., July 23, 2010, Army General Stanley McChrystal took a moment to thank his wife, Annie, for always being there for him. It is a reminder to thank those people that make it possible for you to do what you do. Here are his remarks:
Annie's here tonight. No doubt she walked the 50 feet from our front door in cute little Italian shoes of which we have an extensive collection. (Laughter) In Afghanistan, I once considered using Annie's shoe purchases as an argument to get Italy to send additional forces. (Laughter) But truth be known, I have no control over that part of the McChrystal economy. (Laughter)

But she's here like she's always been there when it mattered. Always gorgeous. For three and a half years, she was my girlfriend then fiancée and, for over 33 years, she's been my wife.

For many years, I've joked, sometimes publicly, about her lousy cooking, terrifying closets, demolition derby driving and addiction to M&M candy, which is all true. But as we conclude a career together, it's important for you to know she was there.

She was there when my father commissioned me a second lieutenant of infantry and was waiting some months later when I emerged from Ranger School. Together, we moved all we owned in my used Chevrolet Vega to our first apartment at Fort Bragg. The move, with our first days in our $180-a-month apartment, was the only honeymoon I was able to give her, a fact she has mentioned a few times since.

Annie always knew what to do. She was gracious when she answered the door at midnight in her nightgown to fight Sergeant Emo Holtz, a huge mortarman, carrying a grocery bag of cheap liquor for a platoon party I'd hastily coordinated that evening and not told Annie about following a Friday night jump. I got home not long after to find Annie making food for assembling paratroopers. Intuitively, Annie knew what was right and quietly did it.

With 9/11, she saw us off to war and patiently supported the families of our fallen with stoic grace. As the years passed and the fight grew ever more difficult and deadly, Annie's quiet courage gave me strength I would never otherwise have found.

It's an axiom in the Army that soldiers write the checks but families pay the bills. And war increases both the accuracy of that statement and the cost families pay.

In a novel based on history, Steven Pressfield captured poignantly just how important families were and, I believe, are today. Facing an invading Persian army under King Xerxes, a coalition of Greek states sent a small force to buy time by defending the pass at Thermopylae and were led by 300 special, selected Spartans. The mission was desperate and death for the 300 certain.

Before he left to lead them, the Spartan king, Leonidas, explained to one of the Spartan wives how he had selected the 300 from an entire army famed for its professionalism, courage and dedication to duty.

"I chose them not for their valor, lady, but for that of their women. Greece stands now upon her most perilous hour. If she saves herself, it will not be at the gates. Death alone awaits us and our allies there but later in battles yet to come by land and sea.

"Then Greece, if the gods will it, will preserve herself. Do you understand this, lady? Well, now, listen, when the battle is over, when the 300 have gone to death, then all Greece will look to the Spartans to see how they bear it. But who, lady, will the Spartans look to?

"To you. To you and the other wives and mothers, sisters and daughters of the fallen.

"If they behold your hearts riven and broken with grief, they too will break and Greece will break with them. But if you bear up, dry eyed, not alone enduring your loss but seizing it with contempt for its agony and embracing it as the honor that it is in truth, then Sparta will stand and all Greece will stand behind her.

"Why have I nominated you, lady, to bear up beneath this most terrible of trials, you and your sisters of the 300? Because you can."

To all who wear no uniform but give so much, sacrifice so willingly and serve as such an example to our nation and each other, my thanks.
Whom do you need to thank?

Posted by Michael McKinney at 02:10 PM
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06.07.10

John Wooden: It Takes a lot of Strength on the Inside to be Gentle on the Outside

I first met John Wooden (October 14, 1910 – June 4, 2010) in the early eighties when working on a presentation product for his pyramid of success. He truly was a legendary teacher who based his life on sound principles. As with nearly everyone he came into contact with, he had a positive influence. Not surprisingly, his Dad, Joshua Wooden, took the time to lay a firm foundation for him. Upon his graduation from Centerton Grade School, his Dad gave him a card with seven suggestions to follow:
  1. Be true to yourself.
  2. Help others.
  3. Make each day your masterpiece
  4. Drink deeply from good books, especially the Good Book.
  5. Make friendship a fine art.
  6. Build a shelter for a rainy day.
  7. Pray for guidance and count and give thanks for your blessings each day.
In his book, The Essential Wooden, John Wooden tells a story of his Dad’s leadership to illustrate the point that it takes a lot of strength on the inside to be gentle on the outside. It’s a good lesson for all of us:
Scattered around the farmland where I grew up in Centerton, Indiana, were gravel pits. The county would pay local farmers to take a team of mules or horses into a pit and haul out loads of gravel for use on Morgan County roads. Some of the pits were deeper than others, and it would be tough for a team to pull a wagon filled with gravel out through the wet sand and up a steep incline.

One steamy summer day a young farmer—20 years old or so—was trying to get his team of horses to pull a fully loaded wagon out of the pit. He was whipping and cursing those two beautiful plow horses that were frothing at the mouth, stomping, and pulling back from him.

Dad watched for a while and then went over and said to the farmer, “Let me take ‘em for you.” I think the farmer was relieved to hand over the reins.

First Dad started talking to the horses, almost whispering to them, and stroking their noses with a soft touch. Then he walked between them, holding their bridles and bits while he continued talking—very calmly and gently—as they settled down.

Gradually he stepped out in front of them and gave a little whistle to start them moving forward while he guided the reins. Within moments, those two big plow horses pulled the wagon out of the gravel pit as easy as could be. As if they were happy to do it.

No whip, no temper tantrum, no screaming and swearing by Dad. I’ve never forgotten what I saw him do and how he did it.

Over the years I’ve seen a lot of leaders act like that angry farmer who lost control and resorted to force and intimidation. Their results were often the same, that is, no results.

So much more can usually be accomplished with Dad’s calm, confident, and steady approach. For many of us, however, the temptation, our first instinct, is to act like the farmer—to use force rather than to apply strength in a measured and even gentle manner. Unfortunately, in my early years the former—force—was close in some respects to my own approach as a leader.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 12:50 PM
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05.31.10

General Douglas MacArthur's Principles of Leadership

General Alexander M. Haig, the former Secretary of State who served in SCAP (Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers) headquarters during the occupation of Japan and in Korea, recalls a story of MacArthur's style of leadership as a young Brigadier in World War I:
He was in the trenches with a unit that had to seize some ground and it was a very difficult task of leaping out of the trenches and charging through machine gun fire to the objective and said to the young officer in command, he said, "Young man, if you do this and you seize those enemy positions, I'm going to give you a Silver Star." And, the young fellow looked at him. He said, "No, come to think of it," he said, "I know you're going to do it," and he pinned the silver star on the young officer's chest and needless to say, that young fellow charged at extra speed to the objective at the other end. So, this was the kind of leadership that Douglas MacArthur exercised.
MacArthur's confidence was derived from the depth of his convictions. William Addleman Ganoe recalled in his 1962 book, MacArthur Close-up: An Unauthorized Portrait, his service to MacArthur at West Point. During World War II, he created a list of questions with General Jacob Devers, they called The MacArthur Tenets. They reflect the people-management traits he had observed in MacArthur. Widely applicable, he wrote, “I found all those who had no troubles from their charges, from General Sun Tzu in China long ago to George Eastman of Kodak fame, followed the same pattern almost to the letter."

Do I heckle my subordinates or strengthen and encourage them?
Do I use moral courage in getting rid of subordinates who have proven themselves beyond doubt to be unfit?
Have I done all in my power by encouragement, incentive and spur to salvage the weak and erring?
Do I know by NAME and CHARACTER a maximum number of subordinates for whom I am responsible? Do I know them intimately?
Am I thoroughly familiar with the technique, necessities, objectives and administration of my job?
Do I lose my temper at individuals?
Do I act in such a way as to make my subordinates WANT to follow me?
Do I delegate tasks that should be mine?
Do I arrogate everything to myself and delegate nothing?
Do I develop my subordinates by placing on each one as much responsibility as he can stand?
Am I interested in the personal welfare of each of my subordinates, as if he were a member of my family?
Have I the calmness of voice and manner to inspire confidence, or am I inclined to irascibility and excitability?
Am I a constant example to my subordinates in character, dress, deportment and courtesy?
Am I inclined to be nice to my superiors and mean to my subordinates?
Is my door open to my subordinates?
Do I think more of POSITION than JOB?
Do I correct a subordinate in the presence of others?

Posted by Michael McKinney at 09:27 AM
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05.30.10

Why is the Essence of Leadership So Hard to Grasp?

Leadership Illusion
Why is the essence of leadership so hard to grasp? In The Leadership Illusion, authors Tony Hall and Karen Janman attribute it to the way in which we view leaders. We tend to over-emphasize character and underplay context. This gets to the heart of the leadership illusion: seeing leaders and leadership in one dimension. We ignore the context. When we evaluate the causes of the success or failure of leaders, we tend to “focus predominantly on the individual (sometimes the context), but very rarely both at the same time. The need to see someone as “fabulously successful or woefully inadequate” is strong. This causes us to underestimate the importance of context and connections when thinking about leaders and leadership. Leadership is not a solo performance.

The leadership illusion also influences how we predict leaders and train for leadership. When examining what makes for successful leadership we search for personal attributes and tend to ignore their context and connections. This caused Harvard professor Richard Chait to refer to some leadership researchers as organizational meteorologists. “His view being that we have as much a chance of predicting whether it will rain or shine three weeks hence as we have of reliably finding ourselves a suitable leader.” They write, “There are some aspects, some attributes, of an individual that make them successful as a leader. But we need to evaluate the person and the context in order to be clearer about whether what we perceive is real or illusory.”

Additionally, leaders should not be developed not in a vacuum but in the context within which they are to lead and in an environment that is fully supportive of that. “It doesn’t matter how effective a development technique may be in improving individual skills, if the organizational context is not supportive or consistent with the skills you have developed, the learning is likely to have little impact….There are far too many organizations that invest significant time and money in developing their people, but forget to develop or change the organization in tandem.” Do we develop strengths or weaknesses? “Our view is that you work on the skills and abilities that you need in order to perform effectively in your context….the end result being that development may encompass both strengths and weaknesses, as long as they are relevant to performance.”

The demand placed on us by living in such a connected world, has lead Hall and Janman to the concept of network leadership. Relationships matter. Developing the right kind of social capital is an increasingly important function for effective leaders. What kind of social capital to develop is context dependent.

Network leaders “bridge and they bond. They exhibit a balanced form of leadership that mixes the old with the new; combine radical approaches with received wisdom; and develop both breadth and depth of relationships.”
Leaders are not independent entities. Leaders do not exist by themselves in organizational space, but are spatially extended (through their networks). In this way the concept “individual leader” loses its meaning. … The network thus becomes an irreducible element of physical description.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 08:00 AM
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04.23.10

Theodore Roosevelt’s The Man in the Arena Speech 100th Anniversary

Sarbonne
One hundred years ago today, ex-President Theodore Roosevelt spoke at the Sorbonne in the Grand Amphitheater at the University of Paris. He had come to Paris with his son Kermit, just days before—by way of the Orient Express—to give his Citizenship in a Republic speech.

The speech emphasized his belief that the success of a republic rested not on the brilliance of its citizens but on disciplined work and character; the quality of its people. He told the audience: “Self-restraint, self-mastery, common sense, the power of accepting individual responsibility and yet of acting in conjunction with others, courage and resolution—these are the qualities which mark a masterful people.” And importantly, a democracy needed leaders of the highest caliber in order to hold the average citizen to a high standard. They were to do this not by words alone but by their deeds as well. “Indeed, it is a sign of marked political weakness in any commonwealth if the people tend to be carried away by mere oratory, if they tend to value words in and for themselves, as divorced from the deeds for which they are supposed to stand.”

Roosevelt firmly believed that one learned by doing. It is better to stumble than to do nothing or to sit by and criticize those that are “in the arena” he explained. “The poorest way to face life is with a sneer.” It is a sign of weakness. “To judge a man merely by success,” he said, “is an abhorrent wrong.” The famous paragraph from that speech, reproduced below, expressed the standard by which he judged himself and others:
It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, and comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.
Read the complete text of that speech: Citizenship in a Republic by Theodore Roosevelt

Trivia: Theodore Roosevelt was the first President to fly an airplane, to own a car, to have a telephone in his home and travel outside the borders of the U.S. while still in office.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 12:39 AM
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04.21.10

Mark Twain on Leadership

Mark Twain
Mark Twain (Samuel Langhorne Clemens) died of a heart attack one-hundred years ago today, at his home in Redding, Connecticut. He left behind a wide range of comments regarding leadership ideas and principles.

It could be said that he believed in Management By Wandering Around. In his autobiography he wrote, "In religion and politics people's beliefs and convictions are in almost every case gotten at second-hand, and without examination, from authorities who have not themselves examined the questions at issue but have taken them at second-hand from other non-examiners, whose opinions about them were not worth a brass farthing." Firsthand knowledge is a competitive advantage.
  • A statesman gains little by the arbitrary exercise of ironclad authority upon all occasions that offer, for this wounds the just pride of his subordinates, and thus tends to undermine his strength. A little concession, now and then, where it can do no harm is the wiser policy. (From A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court)
  • The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who cannot read them.
  • The miracle, or the power, that elevates the few is to be found in their perseverance under the promptings of a brave, determined spirit.
On Encouragement:
  • I can live for two months on a good compliment.
On Success:
  • Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great.
  • Success is a journey, not a destination. It requires constant effort, vigilance and re-evaluation.
  • The secret of success is making your vocation your vacation.
  • Work and play are words used to describe the same thing under differing conditions.
On Courage:
  • Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear - not absence of fear. Except a creature be part coward it is not a compliment to say it is brave. (From The Tragedy of Pudd'nhead Wilson)
  • It is curious that physical courage should be so common in the world and moral courage so rare.
On Vision:
  • You cannot depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus.
  • Don't part with your illusions. When they are gone, you may still exist, but you have ceased to live.
On Execution:
  • The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret of getting started is breaking your complex, overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks, and then starting on the first one.
  • Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.
On Ethics:
  • Always do right. This will gratify some people and astonish the rest.
  • I am different from [George] Washington; I have a higher, grander standard of principle. Washington could not lie. I can lie, but I won't.
On Communication:
  • The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and the lightning bug.
  • It is better to keep your mouth closed and let people think you are a fool than to open it and remove all doubt.
  • If you have nothing to say, say nothing.
Twain was not a successful businessman. After emerging from bankruptcy in 1901, Twain advised, "To succeed in business, avoid my example." He was however, a witty and shrewd moralist and critic of human nature. A century after he wrote his last words, Twain still remains relevant.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 07:07 AM
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02.15.10

George Washington: It’s Never too Early to Choose to Lead

Great leadership doesn’t just happen. Great leaders are revealed in extraordinary circumstances, but they are made long before. A person’s quality of leadership radiates from their character. Consequently, it’s never too early to begin your leadership development.

Young Washington
George Washington filled many roles in his lifetime: a surveyor, frontier explorer, businessman, land speculator, soldier, farmer and statesman. A couple of examples from Washington’s childhood help to explain his successes later in life.

By age sixteen, Washington had copied out by hand, 110 Rules of Civility & Decent Behavior in Company and Conversation. They are based on a set of rules composed by French Jesuits in 1595. The first rule sets the tone of the others that follow: “Every Action done in Company, ought to be with Some Sign of Respect, to those that are Present.” There isn’t a leader that wouldn’t benefit from a daily reminder of this approach. Time and time again, these rules from his childhood played out in the conduct of his public life and defined his reputation. These rules and his concern for them integrated him as a leader and bonded him with those he led.

George Washington’s father died when he was eleven leaving him to be raised by his older brother Lawrence. By age fifteen his formal schooling was over and he had achieved the equivalent of only a grade school education. But his education never stopped. Washington was an avid reader, soaking up the works of historians and thinkers. He was especially drawn to the essays of the Roman philosopher Seneca and Joseph Addison’s play Cato with its lesson in selfless leadership. He studied the ideas of his contemporaries in writings and conversation. He also spent a good deal of time writing which helped to solidify his thoughts. Learning is more than discovery. It helps us to make sense of things. It’s more than collecting information—it is applying it in a constructive way to some area of our life.

It is the mindset of a leader to work on themselves harder than they work on others. A leader’s first responsibility is governing themselves. Historian Gordon Wood has written, “Washington became a great man and was acclaimed as a classical hero because of the way he conducted himself during times of temptation. It was his moral character that set him off from other men.”

Leadership is embodied in the way you look at the world and respond to it. It’s never too early to choose to lead.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 02:45 PM
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02.10.10

Leaders Make Connections

The Financial Times ran an excellent analysis on February 3rd by Edward Luce concerning the very tight inner circle—just four people—that Mr. Obama relies on for advice. In America: A Fearsome Foursome, Luce advocates a broader circle of advisers and notes, “To be successful, presidents need to separate the stream of advice they get on policy from the stream of advice they get on politics.” Intellectually we know that we need to get their advice and information from a wide variety of sources. In practice, however, it doesn’t always happen. We like to talk to those with whom we are comfortable with and share our views. It’s very reassuring. But dangerous.

Dangerous because it clouds our vision and makes us less agile. More importantly, seeking the opinions of others helps to make them feel a part of a larger purpose, connected to the leader and a part of a community. This points to a basic function of leadership: to make connections.

LBJ 02 1968
The point is made well in a follow-up letter to Luce’s article, published in the Financial Times, from Francis Bator, Harvard Kennedy School emeritus professor. Before coming to Harvard in 1967, he was for three years deputy national security advisor to President Lyndon B. Johnson. He shared the following story with FT readers:
Treasury Secretary Henry Fowler, shrewd, effective, a superb negotiator, but somewhat shy of Lyndon Johnson, would occasionally feel in need of a presidential laying on of hands even when he had no serious presidential business. After one such occasion - it had ended with Fowler, sitting on the edge of the Oval Office loveseat, reading in monotone from his own memo on the floor in front of him, while the president was plucking yellow news tickers from the ticker machine at the opposite end of the Oval – LBJ turned on me, angrily: “What on earth did you bring him in here for, wasting my time ...” and so forth, but then stopped himself mid-sentence. “No, I’m wrong. Make me see him when he asks even if he has no real business! While you staff fellows are safe in the White House, these cabinet fellows are out there every day being shot at, on the Hill, in the papers, on TV. They are my field generals. Never forget that. They’ll be useless to me if they don’t feel connected to me. Always treat them with dignity.
A leader’s position is in the middle; to share and connect. In a world bent on differentiation, leaders must make connections.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 12:00 AM
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11.17.09

Derailed: Five Lessons Learned from Catastrophic Failures of Leadership

Leadership
Derailed is about the traps you and I can fall into. Sometimes they are the result of the sense of entitlement that leaders can fall prey to. Sometimes they are the result of thinking and behavior that has worked (we think) in the past, so why change it now. Sometimes they are the overuse of a strength that we have yet to discipline. Sometimes we don’t even have a clue and so we get derailed and go around blaming others and asking “Why me?”

It can happen to anyone. And it is something we have to constantly be sensitive to because these traps are character issues that can disqualify us from leadership. Author Tim Irwin writes, “No matter how brilliant, charming, strategic, or commanding in presence a leader is, the consequences of a failed character are extraordinarily disabling and will bring down even the strongest among us. Similarly, if our character is inadequate, eventually we will miss the warning signals and slam into a parked freight train.”

To illuminate the impact and nature of derailment, Irwin profiles six leaders that either through arrogance, lack of self-awareness, a sense of entitlement, greed, self-discipline, or a combination of any or all, derailed. Derailment is a process. Irwin suggests that there are five stages: a failure of self-/other-awareness, hubris, missed early warning signals, rationalizing and finally derailment. A lack of self-awareness is the foundation of all derailments.

These are all issues of character. And stressful times only make us more of who we already are. Authenticity, self-management, humility and courage are dimensions of character that when properly developed, help us to avoid derailment. We can only be as good a leader as the character we possess.

Derailment is not inevitable, but without attention to development, it is probable. He writes, “Derailment is especially rooted in the failure to prepare, to grow personally and professionally, and to develop the qualities needed to stay on track…. Attention to our development means we must be constantly alert and self-aware and have a lifelong commitment to learn, to grow, and to prepare.”

To combat derailment you need to adapt five habits says Irwin. First, you need to develop a habit of openness. “Openness to feedback reflects our interest in being a learning, growing person.”

Second is the habit of self-/other-awareness. “It is critical that we regularly tune into how others see us.” When we find a big difference, we have a blind spot that needs to be addressed.

"We are all put to the test, but it never comes in the form or the point we would prefer, does it?"
~Anthony Hopkins, The Edge
The third habit is to cultivate personal early warning systems that can tell us when we are at risk of derailment. “The key is to monitor ourselves and to pay attention to our own signals or feedback from others. Exerting control over stress means that we do whatever is necessary to lower the stress level to one at which our performance is not compromised.”

We also need to develop a habit of accountability. “The leaders most susceptible to derailment refuse to have their opinions, decision, and actions questioned…. Accountability means that, even when we are not required to answer to others because of our position or corporate policy or law, we intentionally place ourselves in a relationship with someone who tests our motives and our actions.”

Finally, is to develop the habit of resiliency. “Resiliency is the ability not only to bounce back from adversity but also to grow from it.” A clear sense of purpose widens our perspective and helps us to become more resilient.

Sometimes we need a wake-up call to finally deal with our own issues. But we can learn vicariously. And that’s the best way to learn if we have the discipline. Tim Irwin’s book is a great place to begin. A guide for asking the hard questions.

Of Related Interest:

  Free Online Assessment: Tim Irwin has developed an online assessment This exercise will help you to identify your risk for derailment in four key areas. There are 48 questions within this assessment. It should take you 5-10 minutes to complete.

  12 Keys to Greater Self-Awareness

Note: This title is part of the publisher’s Nelsonfree program. By purchasing this book, you can also download both the e-book and the audio versions for free. Three for the price of one!

Posted by Michael McKinney at 12:30 PM
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11.02.09

Nestlé's Paul Bulcke on Staying the Course

Paul Bulcke became chief executive of Nestlé SA in April 2008. An inauspicious time to take over the world's largest food company. Deborah Ball reports on an interview with Bulcke. In the short (2:35 min) video embeded below, he reflects on being authentic, developing a culture of competitive intensity and making people feel they have ownership.


He says, “If your strategy is right, stick to the strategy. Maintain your inspiration which is long term, but do act short term.” Here is a brief excerpt from the article:
WSJ: What is the worst piece of management advice you've received on how to deal with a downturn?

Mr. Bulcke: The worst thing would be to start to react to short-term pressures and jeopardizing your long-term view. That's selling your soul because it loosens up your long-term inspiration and the discipline of your organization. That is a very dangerous place to be.

WSJ: How do you motivate people?

Mr. Bulcke: You talk about things. In spite of thinking that this is a huge company, we have many ways of connecting, and even more now than ever before. My team transmits this and the multiplying effect is tremendous. I go to almost all of the training courses that we hold at a center near here—I've been 20-25 times—where I talk about things. When you're consistently talking about these same things, you feel the traction and feel the company move quite rapidly in that direction.
Bulcke adds, “We are a long-term company. We are not going to do what I sometimes call "Hoopla" management, and do something damaging. We will be responsible.”

Of Related Interest:
  Business Leaders Have Much to Learn From Orchestras, says Nestle CEO Peter Brabeck-Letmathe

Posted by Michael McKinney at 09:53 AM
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08.11.09

Ten Lessons on the Meaning of Political Greatness

Walter Newell plumbs the depths of history in The Soul of a Leader, “in order to illuminate the recent past, the present, and the challenges to come. Taken together, while they not add up to a recipe for the perfect leader, they at least show how moral, psychological, and intellectual resources we inherit from the traditions of the West, its experiences and its reflections on statecraft from ancient times onward, can give us a compass for the challenges America’s next generations of leaders will inevitable face.”
  1. Character trumps brains—or at least formal education. “Neither Winston Churchill nor Abraham Lincoln received a formal university education, and their names live on among the greatest leaders of any age.”
  2. Inspiring rhetoric is necessary—but only in moderation. Leaders must realize “that words are not all-powerful against reality. The ability of leaders like Jefferson, Lincoln, and Martin Luther King Jr. to inspire with words was matched by years of hard slogging, and the occasional compromise, to win over opponents or the undecided.”
  3. Moral conviction is necessary—but only in moderation. “Sometimes choosing the lesser evil ends up doing the most good….On the other hand, no rule is infallible, and sometimes a stance of uncompromising moral conviction does earn the greatest admiration.”
  4. A leader embodies the times. “When a leader finds his moment, we feel we already know him. He is like us, he faces what we face.”
  5. A leader must have two or three main goals, and not try to do too much. For successful leaders “their main aims had years, even decades, to incubate. By the time they gained high office, they had the luxury of changing tactics as needed, because the strategic goal was firmly fixed.”
  6. Time will run out. Leadership is temporary.
  7. History will choose its leaders. “History itself will create an energy and identify itself with the right leader.” The moment when a leader “seems to walk with history….You must learn to anticipate that wave, be ready to ride it without being dumped by it.”
  8. The great leader wants power badly—but not too badly. “One may have to be content with having done one’s duty.”
  9. Greatness can turn out to be villainy. “Charisma can conceal a dark side.”
  10. The great leader must be prepared to ignore all of the above. “When in doubt, the great leader must be bold and stick to his guns—must lead, not follow.” It may mean reversing yourself. “People admire honest effort even if it turns out to be flawed.” Does this always work? No. People “take comfort from a leader who cares enough to try something big.”

Posted by Michael McKinney at 03:25 PM
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07.06.09

Letters from Leaders: Advice for Tomorrow's Leaders

Over a period of seven years Henry Dormann has compiled 77 letters from political, religious and business leaders targeted at motivating young leaders and teaching them what is needed to be great. The advice and stories found in Letters from Leaders give you much to think about. Here are a few thought starters:

  A philosopher once said, “He who has a why to live can bear almost any how.” I would add, “He who has a why to lead can bear almost any trial.” ~Leslie Bains, CEO Modern Asset Management

  I strongly believe that the responsibility of leadership is to shape the debate—to practice and project the right attributes—whether in a business enterprise, in our society, and even in our religions. ~Farooq Kathwari, CEO Ethan Allen

  True leadership must have follower-ship. Management styles can vary, but even an autocrat needs people who believe and simply don’t follow from fear. ~James Robinson III RRE Ventures

  Your reputation and integrity are everything. Follow through on what you say you’re going to do. Your credibility can only be built over time, and it is built from the history of your words and actions. ~Maria Razumich-Zec

  You should recognize that criticism is not always a put down. If you take it to heart, maybe it will guide the way you ought to be going. ~Joseph Flom

  If you can’t live through adversity, you’ll never be good at what you do. You have to live through the unfair things, and you have to develop the hide to not let it bother you and keep your eyes focused on what you have to do. ~Maurice “Hank” Greenberg

  He who does not believe in miracles is not a realist. ~Anton Rupert, Rembrandt Group

  You create opportunities by performing, not complaining. ~Muriel Siebert

King Abdullah II of Jordan offers this encouragement to those in any walk of life that are making the commitment to lead:


* * *
Provide Leadership through Courage

A school teacher, a farmer, a soldier, an athlete, a mother, and an entrepreneur can provide leadership when they decide to confront the challenges of life with honesty, courage, determination, and a sense of optimism.

I have always found that one’s confidence and positive attitude in dealing with issues, challenges, and difficulties usually secure over half a victory in the battle to succeed. This is true, regardless of the scope or complexity of the issues.

So my advice to the young generation is for them to always provide leadership through courage, and to always focus on doing the correct thing in life. These are basic facts that we all, I suppose, learnt at kindergarten. But they remain valid for all of us as we struggle through life to make a difference for the poor, hungry, and oppressed and to provide meaning to life, one that is full of hope, promise, and success.

* * *

Posted by Michael McKinney at 02:12 AM
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06.18.09

What History Can Teach Us About Leadership

Leadership Nuggets

Power Ambition Glory
A couple of years ago while browsing in a local bookstore in Naples, Florida, for something interesting to read, I came across Hannibal Crosses the Alps by John Prevas. It’s the story of the ancient Carthaginian commander who accomplished something that neither his allies nor his enemies thought possible: He led an army, including horses and elephants, over the Alps in winter and then defeated his Roman adversaries in their own backyard.

As I reviewed the book in Forbes magazine, two thoughts occurred to me about leadership: (1) Anyone who accomplishes something great, something unique, whether in business or in politics, often does so by defying the conventional thinking of his time. (2) Even though more than two thousand years have passed since Hannibal crossed those Alps, the elements of what it takes to be a successful leader have not changed. They are simple and obvious, or should be: motivating those who follow you to share your vision; inspiring through example; a sense of duty and responsibility to those who trust and depend on you; the capacity to see a problem and the skill to fix it; developing and maintaining a proper perspective on yourself in the face of success or adversity; setting and achieving goals; understanding people’s limits and knowing when to drive hard and when to ease up on both subordinates and competitors.

The ancient Greeks tell us that nothing is more important than good leadership for the harmonious functioning of society and nothing hurts more than the lack of it. Our times cry out for leadership— political, financial, and even ethical. Many people are asking today, “Where have the good leaders gone?” In a recent New York Times column about global gridlock entitled “Missing Dean Acheson,” David Brooks posed this question, noting that Americans are about to enter their nineteenth consecutive year of Truman envy. Ever since the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, Brooks observed, people have yearned for a return to a time when leaders such as Harry Truman and George C. Marshall were able to create successful, forward-looking global institutions and policies to confront the challenges that faced America at the end of the Second World War. Brooks asked, “Why can’t we rally that same kind of international cooperation to solve our current economic crisis, confront terrorism, slow down global warming, limit nuclear proliferation and a host of other pressing problems today?”

Ours is a complex and stressful time. We face the most serious financial crisis since the Great Depression of the 1930s and foreign policy issues that if left unsolved could bring us to the brink of nuclear war. Rising new powers in the world today, such as China and India, are changing traditional Western ways of conducting worldwide politics and business. Old powers such as Russia and the members of the relatively new Europe an Union are seeking to advance their influence in the international community. Responses to these developments require effective leadership. The financial crisis and America’s recent foreign policy setbacks can be traced directly to a failure of leadership.

But where do we turn for leadership, and what do we want in our leaders? History is one place to look. The past is filled with leaders who possessed extraordinary capabilities, enjoyed tremendous success, and directed societies that experienced problems similar to our own. Their successes and failures as leaders can help us develop a valuable perspective as we grapple with our problems and try to prepare for the future. Similarities between those who ruled the empires of the ancient world and many of today’s corporate and political leaders are remarkable. Times and circumstances may change, but the principles of sound leadership do not.

Adapted from Power Ambition Glory: The Stunning Parallels between Great Leaders of the Ancient World and Today . . . and the Lessons You Can Learn by Steve Forbes and John Prevas

Posted by Michael McKinney at 12:15 AM
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06.05.09

Newswire: Herbert Hoover and His Times

NewsWire
    The following is from the American Heritage magazine Summer 2009 edition and is excerpted from Herbert Hoover (The American Presidents Series: The 31st President, 1929-1933). It is a good analysis of Herbert Hoover’s time in office.
  • The Wrong Man at the Wrong Time
    by William E. Leuchtenburg, American Heritage Summer 2009

    On March 4, 1929, Herbert Hoover took the oath of office as the thirty-first president of the United States. America, its new leader told the rain-soaked crowd of 50,0000 around the Capitol and countless more listening to the radio, was “filled with millions of happy homes; blessed with comfort and opportunity.”

    He spoke in a monotone, but his words were oracular. “We are steadily building a new race, a new civilization great in its own attainments,” he claimed. “I have no fears for the future of the country. It is bright with hope.” One assertion more than any other articulated the theme of his inaugural address: “In no nation ‘are the fruits of accomplishment more secure.”

    Through much of his term, critics would fling those words back in his face. He had been, in the phrase of the day, asking for it. “Never in American history,” observed a journalist in 1932, “did a candidate so recklessly walk out on a limb and challenge Nemesis to saw it off.

    Hoover believed that the country was going through a short-term recession much like that of 1921, and hence that drastic remedies were not required. Businesses continued to report year-end profits; the stock market recovered by several points; and, in contrast to past panics, no large bank or corporation had collapsed. Hoover has been roundly criticized for not realizing that the stock market crash signaled the onset of the Great Depression, but no one else—including liberals—had any perception that the slump would last over a decade.

hooverville
The president had no sense of how to reach out to a desperate nation. Hoover, observed Sir Wilmot Lewis, Washington correspondent of the Times of London, “can calculate wave lengths, but cannot see color. . . . He can understand vibrations but cannot hear tone.” The biographer Henry Pringle wrote that Hoover didn’t use a single gesture when speaking in public but read with “his chin down against his shirt front—rapidly and quite without expression.”

* * *

Posted by Michael McKinney at 07:22 AM
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04.14.09

The Making of a Leader: Jamie Dimon

The House of Dimon
It is not surprising that The House of Dimon by Patricia Crisafulli is full of praise for JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon. When the financial crisis hit, Dimon was the only CEO ready to answer the call for help. As the book brings out, this can only come from preparation and his philosophy of “doing the right thing” no matter what the short-term cost.

His success has put him on a pedestal, which is not a comfortable place to be in this day and age. He told CNBC, “The pedestal is a terrible place to be…. I almost want to get knocked off the pedestal so I don’t have to hear this any more.” Too often, when we look at someone on a pedestal we make the mistake of assuming perfection and expect uninterrupted success. This is a mistake as it leaves no room for growth – theirs or ours. People find themselves on pedestals because they live lives of continual growth. When they make a mistake – as they eventually do – we like to discount everything that came before it and go off in search of a make-believe land where everything always comes out right. It doesn’t exist. If we do this we short-change ourselves and miss the appropriate lessons to apply in our own lives.

Dimon has been tried and tested and has succeeded. Fortunately this provides us with ample opportunity to glean valuable lessons in leadership and in running a business. His thinking and methodology has lessons we can all use to make our lives and leadership more effective. Here are some:

The Credit Crisis: “I think you’re going to be writing and learning from this for years: cases and books about different things from SIVs to accounting to the business purpose of CDO-squareds to regulatory rules to globalization to the balkanization of regulation…. Honestly, I think if you made a list today, you probably wouldn’t get half of them. We’re in the thick of it.”

Lessons Learned: “Experience and judgment—I don’t think they’re replaceable. You go to a lot of businesses—they don’t remember how bad things can get. It takes someone who has been there. We will never forget the aftermath of the housing bubble, but 40 years from now, believe me, someone is going to forget again somewhere.”

Dealing with the Downside: “Look where you could be wrong; admit when you’re wrong. To me it’s important to do that because I want everybody to do that, so that we actually make a better decision the next time.”

Buying Bear Stearns: “We weren’t looking to buy Bear Stearns. We wouldn’t have bought it on its own, but we were asked to look at it. We knew the financial system was extremely delicate and Lehman [Brothers bankruptcy] helped prove that.”

The Bear Stearns Negotiations: “The amazing story wasn’t the financial engineering. After I got the call from [Bear Stearns CEO] Alan Schwartz, I called [JPMorgan Investment Bank co-CEOs] Steve Black and Bill Winters, and then we had 50 or 100 people get dressed and come back to work. And by 12 hours later, there were 500 and 1,000 people working on it in every department: bond trading, equity, equity derivatives, all these areas—tax, legal, compliance, systems, ops [operations]—everyone doing their job. And that’s the amazing kind of thing: people acting that way—just trying to figure it out very quickly. That really enabled us to do [the Bear Stearns deal]. And then the comfort that when we bought the company we could actually manage all that.”

Loyalty: “If you walk into my office and say, ‘Jamie, I’m loyal to you,’ it makes me nervous. I want you to say, ‘I’M loyal to the company … or the principles … what we’re trying to build,’ not to the individual, and I think it’s a very important distinction.”

Risk Disclosure: “If you wouldn’t treat your mother that way, don’t treat the client that way. If this piece of paper tells the client how much risk they’re taking and you don’t want to give it to them, they’re probably taking on too much risk. Give them the paper.”

Financial Discipline: “You’ve got to have disciplined reporting and a disciplined review of [what’s] reported. And then it’s got to be widely shared with smart people who also have experience and judgment. You will minimize problems. You’ll still have them, by the way, but they should hopefully be smaller and fewer.”

Being Prepared: “Always have a column called ‘worst ever’ and make sure you can survive under that.”

Life Priorities: “My children, my family—but especially the children I’m responsible for, even though they’re kind of on their own… They’re way up here. Right next to that is humanity. Honestly, we’re not all here just for ourselves.”

Marriage and Children: “I do think that the hardest things to do in life are marriage and kids. They are like complete secrets until you do it. We teach you everything, but we don’t teach you that… You’ve got to work [at] those things.”

Posted by Michael McKinney at 11:31 AM
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10.22.08

Herb Kelleher: My Best Lesson in Leadership

Herb Kelleher
Herb Kelleher, founder and Chairman Emeritus of Southwest Airlines wrote in the Leader to Leader Journal, "What's the secret to building a great organization? How do you sustain consistent growth, profits, and service in an industry that can literally change overnight? And how do you build a culture of commitment and performance when the notion of loyalty -- on the part of customers, employees, and employers -- seems like a quaint anachronism? I can answer basically in two words: be yourself.

"My best lesson in leadership came during my early days as a trial lawyer. Wanting to learn from the best, I went to see two of the most renowned litigators in San Antonio try cases. One sat there and never objected to anything, but was very gentle with witnesses and established a rapport with the jury. The other was an aggressive, thundering hell-raiser. And both seemed to win every case. That's when I realized there are many different paths, not one right path. That's true of leadership as well. People with different personalities, different approaches, different values succeed not because one set of values or practices is superior, but because their values and practices are genuine. And when you and your organization are true to yourselves -- when you deliver results and a singular experience -- customers can spot it from 30,000 feet."

Posted by Michael McKinney at 12:14 AM
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09.28.08

Fixing the Financial Crisis Once and For All

Hoping to sound like leaders, Washington lawmakers want to get to the bottom of this financial crisis and create regulations to keep it from ever happening again. I don’t think is comes as any surprise to anyone that greed—on the part of both borrowers and lenders—is at the bottom of it. You can’t regulate greed out of existence. Regulation just improves creativity. Greed is regulated by character. Character is built at home, in our schools, in our churches, and yes, in our businesses.

Copyright LeadershipNow - WallStreetGreed
No one likes to talk about character because it isn’t a quick fix, it often goes against our inclinations, it’s not immediately measurable, you can’t take credit for it, and it’s a time consuming, never ending process. George Eliot wrote in Middlemarch: “Character is not cut in marble; it is not something solid and unalterable. It is something living and changing.” It’s built in individuals day by day in little, almost imperceptible ways over the course of a lifetime. The problem is that we have only given a patronizing nod to character and politely moved on with the business at hand. How will I get mine if I don’t play it like everyone else? We learn too late, without character, no one gets anything.

Character needs to be part of the very fiber of the organization. It must be a part of its philosophy and vision. I don’t mean a statement of values we hang on the wall, but a statement of behavior beginning with the CEO on down. Tom Peters wrote in Thriving on Chaos that “effective visions are beacons and controls when all else are up for grabs….To turn the vision into a beacon, leaders at all levels must model behavior consistent with the vision at all times.”

In July, Hugo Dixon opined in the Wall Street Journal, “Greed for higher returns entices investors to take risks; fear causes them to avoid excess. When markets are healthy, the two are finely balanced. Problems emerge when that balance is lost.” You will find character behind this balancing act. Character stabilizes both people and markets. Character is inseparable from the culture in which it is formed.

Nothing will fix the financial crisis once and for all, but character will regulate it. Greed is a human issue and it will always be with us. It will always be something we need to train ourselves, our children, and our employees to regulate from within. The consequences can be devastating.

Apparently, Mr. Gekko, greed is not good. Lou Mannheim was right, “The main thing about money, Bud, is that it makes you do things you don't want to do.” Or shouldn’t do.

Related Interest:
  Ethics: Reinforcing Fixed Points

Posted by Michael McKinney at 11:04 AM
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09.26.08

Richard Branson: There Is No Reverse Gear On This Thing

Business Striped Bare
Richard Branson is the quintessential entrepreneur. Business Striped Bare is his candid account of what the Virgin companies are all about—what they hoped to do, what they actually did, how they got where they are, and why it matters. He shares the experiences and key principles that have brought him success (or not, and what he has learned from it). He explains:
There are many ways to run a successful company. What works once may never work again. What everyone tells you never to do may just work, once. There are no rules. You don’t learn to walk by following rules. You learn by doing, and by falling over, and it’s because you fall over that you learn to save yourself from falling over. It’s the greatest thrill in the world and it runs away screaming at the first sight of bullet points….So all I can do for you now is map the territory I’ve seen. The good news is, I’ve covered a lot of territory.
And he has. You will find great stories in here about how things came to be and almost didn’t. He covers a wide range of interrelated topics: people, getting the brand right, delivering on the brand, learning from mistakes, innovation, the value of entrepreneurs and leadership, the wider responsibility of business and his thoughts on success.

Here are a few excerpts with common themes that can be applied in any context:
A manager should basically be a considerate person who is as interested in the switchboard operator and the person who cleans the lavatories as he or she is in the fellow managers. In my view, a boss who is willing to party with all of their people—and pay attention to their personal concerns—has the markings of a great leader.

Inspire people to think like entrepreneurs, and whatever you do, treat them like adults. The hardest taskmaster of all is a person’s own conscience, so the more responsibility you give people, the better they will work for you.

One thing is certain in business. You and everyone around you will make mistakes. When you are pushing the boundaries this is inevitable—and it’s important to realize this. Even when things are running well, there is always the prospect of a new reality around the corner. Suddenly, all the good decisions you made last week are doing you untold damage. … Failure usually occurs when leaders avoid the reality of business. You have to trust the people around you to learn from their mistakes. Blame and recriminations are pointless.

The secret to success in any new sector is watchfulness, usually over a period of many years. It’s hard to spin waiting and watching into a vibrant business lesson, but of there’s one thing you can take away from this chapter, let it be this: that Virgin’s sudden emergence as a leader in cutting-edge industries was decades in the making. You need a huge amount of curiosity to make it in a new sector.

Too many top executives are given massive payouts and allowed to walk away, leaving others to sort things out. I think the opposite should happen. In most cases, leaders should stay on until any problems are sorted out—or a solution found—and then they can go and with a fraction of the money they would earn if successful.
Branson says the stakes have never been higher. No one in business can unmake anything. The first law of entrepreneurial business is “there is no reverse gear on this thing.” He shows how Virgin is trying to get it right and hopes you find inspiration in it. His book will definitely get your mind moving in new directions.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 03:14 PM
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09.25.08

Newswire: Lincoln's Leadership

NewsWire
September 25, 2008 • The Daily Free Press Boston University

Dan Seliber, a columnist for Boston University’s The Daily Free Press, wrote a piece today on the standard of leadership set by Abraham Lincoln. Here is an excerpt from a well-written look at Lincoln’s Leadership:2009LincolnCent
You cannot call yourself an educated American without understanding the significance of Lincoln's leadership during a national crisis. This is especially true in light of the moral leadership vacuum that is today's federal government.

You also cannot be an educated American without understanding all of the Founding Fathers' achievements. Without George Washington, there would be no United States of America, let alone one that even minimally functions to this day. The historian David McCullough, speaking about his Revolutionary War chronicle, "1776," said of Washington and the rest of those merry men, "We can never know too much about them," an assessment that also functions as a clever justification to buy his book.

Surely McCullough is correct. The men who built the United States were, indeed, some of the bravest and most brilliant Americans who ever lived. To this day, they remain underappreciated by millions of their contemporary countrymen, in a nation that, as Dan Rather cautioned on Tuesday night in [Boston University’s] Metcalf Ballroom, no longer understands the idea of civics.

Heck, I'm flabbergasted simply by their youth: At the time the Declaration of Independence was signed in 1776, Thomas Jefferson was 33. John Adams was 40. Washington, commanding the Continental Army, was 44. Alexander Hamilton, writing the Federalist Papers in 1787, was a scant 32. "Founding Fathers" isn't even accurate. "Founding older brothers" is closer to the truth. It recalls funnyman Tom Lehrer's great line, "It's a sobering thought that when Mozart was my age, he'd been dead for two years."

By the same token, we as Americans could never learn enough about Lincoln. I have only just begun Doris Kearns Goodwin's recent biography, "Team of Rivals," but its title alone hints at one of Lincoln's greatest unheeded precedents: When he was elected president for the first time, he chose all the men who had run against him for the nomination-most of whom hated him-to serve in his cabinet as his closest and most trusted advisers. Why? Because he knew they were the smartest and most qualified men for the job, and in such a monumental crisis as the Civil War, personal animosities must be cast aside for the good of the country.
* * *

Posted by Michael McKinney at 09:42 AM
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07.21.08

Mandela: His 8 Lessons of Leadership

Nelson Mandela
Richard Stengel has assembled from his time spent with and observing Nelson Mandela, a Time magazine article, Mandela: His 8 Lessons of Leadership. In brief, the 8 lessons are:
  1. Courage is not the absence of fear — it's inspiring others to move beyond it
    "I can't pretend that I'm brave and that I can beat the whole world." But as a leader, you cannot let people know. "You must put up a front." He knew that he was a model for others, and that gave him the strength to triumph over his own fear.
  2. Lead from the front — but don't leave your base behind
    For Mandela, refusing to negotiate was about tactics, not principles. Throughout his life, he has always made that distinction. His unwavering principle — the overthrow of apartheid and the achievement of one man, one vote — was immutable, but almost anything that helped him get to that goal he regarded as a tactic. He is the most pragmatic of idealists.
  3. Lead from the back — and let others believe they are in front
    Mandela loved to reminisce about his boyhood and his lazy afternoons herding cattle. "You know," he would say, "you can only lead them from behind." He would then raise his eyebrows to make sure I got the analogy. The trick of leadership is allowing yourself to be led too. "It is wise," he said, "to persuade people to do things and make them think it was their own idea."
  4. Know your enemy — and learn about his favorite sport
    As far back as the 1960s, Mandela began studying Afrikaans, the language of the white South Africans who created apartheid. His comrades in the ANC teased him about it, but he wanted to understand the Afrikaner's worldview; he knew that one day he would be fighting them or negotiating with them, and either way, his destiny was tied to theirs. He even brushed up on his knowledge of rugby, the Afrikaners' beloved sport, so he would be able to compare notes on teams and players.
  5. Keep your friends close — and your rivals even closer
    Mandela is a man of invincible charm — and he has often used that charm to even greater effect on his rivals than on his allies. He cherished loyalty, but he was never obsessed by it. After all, he used to say, "people act in their own interest." It was simply a fact of human nature, not a flaw or a defect. The flip side of being an optimist — and he is one — is trusting people too much. But Mandela recognized that the way to deal with those he didn't trust was to neutralize them with charm.
  6. Appearances matter — and remember to smile
    When Mandela was running for the presidency in 1994, he knew that symbols mattered as much as substance. He was never a great public speaker, and people often tuned out what he was saying after the first few minutes. But more important was that dazzling, beatific, all-inclusive smile. For white South Africans, the smile symbolized Mandela's lack of bitterness and suggested that he was sympathetic to them. To black voters, it said, I am the happy warrior, and we will triumph.
  7. Nothing is black or white
    Mandela is comfortable with contradiction. As a politician, he was a pragmatist who saw the world as infinitely nuanced. Every problem has many causes. Mandela's calculus was always, What is the end that I seek, and what is the most practical way to get there?
  8. Quitting is leading too
    Knowing how to abandon a failed idea, task or relationship is often the most difficult kind of decision a leader has to make. He knows that leaders lead as much by what they choose not to do as what they do.

I thought the eighth lesson – Quitting is leading too – was an important point. Moving in a new direction from what has or hasn’t been working is usually a very difficult thing to do, but often necessary in order to stay relevant. The full article is full of great antidotes from the life of Mandela. Nelson Mandela celebrated his ninetieth birthday last week.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 10:25 PM
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07.04.08

John Adams - We Live, My Dear Soul, in An Age of Trial

John Adams
John Adams has always been an American hero, but never a popular one. Despite having been one of the principle architects of American independence, Adam’s believed that “Mausoleums, statues, monuments will never be erected to me.” Adams guided and shaped – managed really – the revolution. Perhaps it was this fact – his involvement in all aspects – that is the reason he never stood out as much as some of his contemporaries in American history.

In Revolutionary Management, Alan Axelrod writes that Adams was a man of nuance. It was an aspect of his character that “makes it so difficult for Americans to transform him into a one-dimensional icon.” Adams saw his task differently. He “believed that his task was both to incite and to control human passion….Tear down, by all means, yes. But tear down only that which separates Americans from their rights….Adams wanted to elevate the revolution above personal revenge and above the realm of mere human passion. He wanted to make it an exercise of law.” We can be thankful for that.

In assessing Adams’ life, one is struck by his sense of duty. You can sense this in this famous quote taken from a letter to his wife Abigail in 1780: “I must study politics and war that my sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy, geography, natural history, and naval architecture ... in order to give their children a right to study painting, poetry, music, architecture, tapestry, and porcelain.” He was a man that we would term authentic. He had the will and the courage to integrate action and belief. Personal responsibility was key.

John Gardner once wrote, “The citizen can bring our political and governmental institutions back to life, make them responsive and accountable, and keep them honest. No one else can. The one condition for the rebirth of this nation is a rebirth of individual responsibility.”

On this day it is worth rereading the Declaration of Independence that was approved by Congress on this day in 1776. Shortly thereafter, Adams wrote his wife, “You will think me transported with Enthusiasm but I am not. I am well aware of the Toil and Blood and Treasure it will cost Us to maintain this Declaration, and support and defend these States. — Yet through all the Gloom I can see the Rays of ravishing Light and Glory. I can see that the End is more than worth all the Means. And that Posterity will triumph in that Days Transaction, even although We should rue it, which I trust in God We shall not.”

More on John Adams:
  Revolutionary Management: John Adams on Leadership by Alan Axelrod
  Adams vs. Jefferson: The Tumultuous Election of 1800 (Pivotal Moments in American History) by John Ferling
  John Adams (HBO Miniseries) DVD
  John Adams by David McCullough

Posted by Michael McKinney at 11:16 AM
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06.25.08

What Makes a President Great?

The Leaders We Deserved
Having grown weary of the of what he terms as the presidential ratings game, historian, teacher, and politico Alvin Felzenberg decided to present a new ranking in his book, The Leaders We Deserved (and a Few We Didn't): Rethinking the Presidential Rating Game. Instead of evaluating the presidents and giving them a single score, he had devised six criteria to better account for their actual contribution to history. The first three criteria are: character, vision and competence. They give insight as to how they would handle the next three criteria: economic policy, the preservation and extension of liberty, and national security and defense. While you may disagree with his conclusions, you will no doubt find it useful in evaluating presidents and by extension it will give you a framework to appraise future presidential candidates.

Based on this exercise, Felzenberg gives a list of what we should look for in presidential candidates:

A Sense of Purpose. “Nearly all presidents who earned a rating of great or near great articulated specific goals that they wanted to achieve as president.”

Examine How They Met Adversity. “All of he great and near great presidents emerged from conflicts and disappointments they encountered stronger and more resilient ten they had before. This is what made their previous ordeals transformative. All regarded these adversities as learning experiences, however painful. None emerged from such setbacks regarding themselves as victims. None were known to complain or whine—at least out loud or in public—about their private misfortunes.”

Broad Life Experiences. “Most great and near great presidents had multiple occupations, not all of them in politics, before coming president. Through the depth and breadth of their experiences, successful presidents learned how to relate to people in all walks of life.” Presidents

A Natural Curiosity. “Great of near great presidents remained curious all their lives about the world around them and about the cause of the problems they were called upon to solve.”

A Well-Developed Sense of Integrity. Look for honesty (“doing what one said he would do, or explaining why unforeseen circumstances necessitated a different course”), courage (‘meeting adversity head-on, often at political or personal risk”), and integrity (“placing the interests of one’s office and one’s country ahead of personal convenience or interests, or those of one’s associates”).

Humility. “Although confident in their abilities, successful presidents held their egos in check. All great and near great presidents understood that they would receive the credit for the achievements of their subordinates. For this reason they strove to find outstanding ones…including on occasion, former rivals and members of the opposition party.”

The nation’s worst presidents had some or all of the following traits we would do well to avoid:

• Watch out for cynicism and complacency.
• Stay away from whiners.
• Keep away from know-it-alls.
• Steer clear of candidates with a narrow focus.
• Be leery of unrelenting ideologues.
• Stand guard against bearers of grudges.
• Eschew tendencies toward bald assertions of power.

According to Felzenberg we certainly deserved Lincoln, Washington, Theodore Roosevelt, Truman, Reagan, Ford, and surprisingly enough, Coolidge, among others. As he did with so much else, Ronald Reagan knew precisely what he was doing when he ordered Calvin Coolidge’s portrait hung in the White House cabinet room.

Of the presidents we least deserved, most proved especially adept at mastering the electoral machinery of their respective eras and, sadly, at little else.

The Leaders We Deserved is carefully considered and not only provides a fresh perspective on our nation’s presidents, but will give you a few surprising insights as well. A good book to read in this election year. Below is a list of the top twelve presidents based on Felzenberg’s criteria:

PresidentCharacterVisionCompetenceEconomic PolicyPreserving
& Extending Liberty
Defense, National Security & Foreign PolicyAverage Score
Lincoln
5
5
5
5
5
5
5.00
Washington
5
4
5
5
4
5
4.67
Roosevelt, T.
4
5
5
5
3
5
4.50
Reagan
5
5
3
5
4
5
4.50
Eisenhower
5
3
5
4
4
4
4.17
Roosevelt, F.
3
4
5
3
4
5
4.00
Taylor
5
4
4
3
4
3
3.83
Grant
4
5
3
3
5
3
3.83
McKinley
5
3
4
4
2
5
3.83
Truman
5
4
4
2
4
4
3.83
Kennedy
3
4
4
4
4
4
3.83
Coolidge
5
3
4
4
4
2
3.67

Posted by Michael McKinney at 08:21 AM
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06.20.08

Caesar’s Leadership: Stick to Your Guns

Leadership Nuggets At the town of Placentia on the banks of the Po in northern Italy, Caesar faced a full-scale mutiny by his troops. Led by malcontents in the ninth legion, the soldiers demanded more pay, but the heart of their complaint was that there were no spoils in this war as there had been in Gaul. They would fight for months to defeat an army or conquer a town, then Caesar would forgive his enemies and march on. His soldiers craved gold, women, and slaves, not clemency for the vanquished.

Caesars Legion
The whole episode at Placentia is a fascinating study in Caesar’s psychology of leadership. The rebellious army had Caesar in a difficult position. He was waging a civil war against an empire with vast resources at its disposal. All Caesar had to counter Pompey and the Senate was his army. If he lost their backing, the war was over—and the soldiers knew it. They therefore expected concessions or they would pack their bags and go home. From the soldiers’ point of view, it was a perfectly reasonable request. They were risking their lives and futures to follow Caesar. If he lost this war, they would receive no rewards. Any survivors, in fact, would be lucky to escape with their lives.

Most generals would have called the mutinous leaders together and worked out a compromise—but not Caesar. Instead, he ordered the whole army to assemble and then began to speak. He said he felt like a father faced by spoiled and unruly children. He had always seen to their needs before his own and had provided them with everything he had promised. Did they really want to see Italy laid waste like Gaul or Germany? Did they think they were better than their fellow Romans on the other side? They were proud soldiers fighting a war of principle, not a horde of ravaging barbarians sacking cities for plunder. They demanded their own way? They would not get it. Armies, he declared, cannot exist without discipline. He would therefore decimate the entire ninth legion, executing every tenth man among them as punishment and a warning to any who might question him in the future.

The whole army begged Caesar to reconsider and spare the ninth legion. They were wrong to defy him, they confessed, and earnestly beseeched him not to kill men who had served him bravely for many years. Caesar reluctantly agreed to show mercy on the condition that he was given the names of the ringleaders of the rebellion, twelve of whom he would choose by lot and execute. This they did, sparing the life of one innocent man and killing in his place the centurion who had vengefully accused him. Caesar had faced down thousands of his own men and won their respect and loyalty by not yielding an inch.

Adapted from Julius Caesar by Philip Freeman.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 09:10 AM
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06.16.08

McCain and Obama: What Kind of Leaders Are They?

McCain Obama
David Gergen, director of the Center for Public Leadership at the Harvard Kennedy School, thinks that while we have gotten a sense of where our presidential candidates stand on important issues and a general idea of their background, we need to more about them as leaders. How do they engage followers, listen, treat allies and adversaries? How well do they persevere and respond to the unexpected and the urgent?

Gergen wrote in the Boston Globe that unfortunately “voters are typically left with more than candidates’ self serving, bumper sticker-caliber assertions: ‘strong leadership,’ ‘proven leadership,’ ‘new leadership,’ etc.” He adds, “perhaps more urgently than at any time since Franklin D. Roosevelt was in office, the United States needs an extraordinary leader in the White House.”

To this end, last month the Center for Public Leadership in association with The Ken Blanchard Companies, convened a group of more than 200 people to develop questions for the candidates that get at their leadership capabilities. The following list of 15 questions from that meeting, is to serve as a kind of “job interview” to get at the candidates’ leadership capacity:

    Who Are You Really?

  1. Values: What are your five core values and how do they shape how you lead?
  2. Attributes & Competencies: What are the attributes and competencies you value most in yourself that will serve you well in the White House?
  3. Weaknesses & Mistakes: Recent American history has many examples of leaders whose weaknesses brought them down. What are your tendencies that could cause your presidency to fail?
  4. People I Have Learned From: What historical figure has exercised leadership in a way that you aspire to? What were their strengths? Tell us about a situation that tested their leadership.
  5. Multicultural Experience/World View: What experiences have helped you deeply understand the mindset and values of other cultures?


  6. Who Will Be at The Table With You?

  7. Building a Team: Tell us about a high performing team that you’ve built. What made it high-performing?
  8. Coalition Building: Can you share some examples of when you were a catalyst who brought groups with polarized opinions together so that all voices were at the table?
  9. Increasing Participation: The internet and technology have flattened the political playing field, allowing for more participation and collective decision making. How will you create a more participatory democracy and give people the opportunity to influence decision making?
  10. Increasing Participation: Young people have engaged in this election in greater numbers than ever before. Please give us some examples of how you have listened and responded to the next generation in your campaign. How will you keep the next generation engaged?


  11. How Will You Decide?

  12. Decision Making Style: The president’s role requires decisiveness. Please share some examples of your ability and willingness to be decisive. Can you tell us about a time when a lack of decisiveness got you into trouble? In retrospect, what would you have done differently?
  13. Judgment: Tell us about a time when your judgment was tested in crisis. What do you want us to appreciate about your judgment?


  14. How Will You Act? And What Will You Act On?

  15. Leading Change: Can you give us an example of how you have overcome resistance to bring about a needed change?
  16. Innovative Thinking: How will you create an environment for innovation within your leadership team?
  17. Building the Confidence of Others: What are the first few things you’ll do to raise confidence at home and abroad?
  18. Priorities Indicative of Values: The USA ranks 1st in incarceration and 18th in high school graduation. What leadership skills and values do you bring to the challenge of reversing these numbers? Can you point to three things in your past that will help us understand that you care about this challenge?

What questions would you ask?

Posted by Michael McKinney at 08:53 PM
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05.25.08

Tom Peters on the Definition of Leadership

Weekend Supplement

Tom Peters’ offers his definition of leadership in the video below. He begins by expressing a truth that is more important than the definition itself. It is not often understood by those seeking to understand the shortcomings of leadership. “Leadership in the 21st century AD is exactly what it was in the 21st century BC. Leadership is about the development, the inducement of people to grow way beyond where they believed they could go. Nothing has changed.” Leadership hasn’t changed. Leadership is influence.

Peters’ definition is summed up in this quote from Robert Altman's lifetime achievement Oscar acceptance speech: "The director allows an actor to become more than they've ever dreamed of being." He says that great leaders are dealers in hope. He cites Churchill and Franklin D. Roosevelt as examples.


leadership blog

Posted by Michael McKinney at 06:56 PM
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05.19.08

Golda Meir: A Study in Leadership

I knew a man that met with Golda Meir in 1971. He said that she was no ordinary woman. Yet, he said, paradoxically that was because she was such an ordinary woman. He described her as "an exceptionally intelligent, capable, balanced and understanding mind." He said she had that rare quality of seeing things precisely as they are. Her vision was in sharp focus. Her mind was capable of piercing through the extraneous and confusing details to the central important point. She remained unconfused by the labyrinth of branches and twigs, and had the trunk of the tree in clear view.

Golda Meir was indeed a remarkable woman.
Golda
Golda by Elinor Burkett has been released to coincide with the start of Israel's 60th Independence Day celebrations this month. This well-balanced biography is an interesting story beginning with her family fleeing Russia where she was born in 1898, to begin again in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. There she developed a passionate commitment to Zionism, married and pushed for their eventual relocation to Palestine in 1921. She put the cause of Zionism above all else, sacrificing even her personal life.

She worked tirelessly raising money and used her gifts of charm and oratory to promote the cause. Some of her personal characteristics – self-confidence, intransigence, myopic vision, doggedness – brought her much criticism later in life, but they were exactly what was called for at that time and place in the formation of a country. She certainly had her own way of doing things. Ben-Gurion once said, “She had faith when others wavered. She believed in the absolute justice of our cause when others doubted.”

Golda Meir
Her force of personality and determination knew no bounds. Unfortunately, her lack of subtlety and her limited repertoire of response to problems, limited her effectiveness. One of her greatest critics, Uri Avneri, attributed to her: “complete intolerance, complete disdain for any other opinion, a kind of primitiveness which was her strength. Burkett writes, “The younger men, even those who despised her, found themselves unable to resist her perfectly pitched amalgam of guilt, motherhood, historical privilege, and ruthless application of conscience.”

Eventually, the aftermath of the 1973 Yom Kippur War brought her time to an end and the embattled prime minister resigned in 1974. She died on December 8, 1978, at the age of 80.

She was a great leader and this is a great study in leadership – both the good and the bad – of an ordinary woman who became an extraordinary leader. In the end Burkett writes:
A woman of greater wisdom might have resigned and let the younger generation battle it out, no matter the cost. A leader of foresight might have told her people everything they didn’t want to hear, that the situation was not sustainable, that a dozen problems were woven into the national fabric, and that they were living on quicksand. A creative prime minister might have devised new approaches to everything from ethnic divisions to peacemaking. And an innovative might have burst the national bubble of arrogant self-confidence by explaining that the political system was ossified or acknowledging that Israelis were not, in fact, the new superheroes.

But the Israelis of the early 1970s weren’t looking for wisdom, foresight, creativity, or innovation. They didn’t want to be challenged; they were thrilled to be led by a woman who amplified their smugness. Not-so-silent coconspirators to the inflexibility and dogmatism they now deride, lauded their prime minister, heaped her with the kind of approval ratings few world leaders could begin to hope for, and cajoled her to remain in power well beyond her day.”

Posted by Michael McKinney at 03:49 PM
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04.25.08

Of Chess Players and Banner-Wavers

“It’s a great huge game of chess that’s being played—all over the world—if this is the world at all, you know.”
—Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland
Dimitri K. Simes and Paul J. Saunders explained in The National Interest, why America needs chess players—not banner-wavers. “We have increasingly lost the ability to look squarely in the mirror before judging others and taking them to task.”
American leaders have taken their own share of ruthless, and even brutal, decisions….Such decisions, while obviously regrettable, were the result of the types of difficult choices that great powers must often make. But then it behooves us not to preach too loudly about our own sense of morality. It also means that, in crafting an effective foreign policy, we shouldn’t be blinded by our own rhetorical claims to ethical perfection—or to fail to recognize that many states see us as a “normal country”—one that pursues its own interests by any means necessary and often makes moral judgments about others that appear influenced by those interests.

Supporting one’s friends while condemning one’s opponents is nothing new; but when that is combined with a messianic predisposition to view the world as divided into the children of light and the children of darkness—with no need to compromise with, understand the motives of or address the concerns of those deemed opponents—this becomes truly dangerous. The refusal of most politicians to acknowledge the clear connection between U.S. conduct in the Middle East and the hatred of the United States among Islamist extremists that motivated the September 11 attacks is a case in point. The United States has had serious reasons for pursuing the types of policies it has—but it is foolhardy to ignore the evidence that there are costs. The Arab-Israeli dispute is clearly a key litmus test of American policy for many Muslims—but this fact has not been a subject of discussion, even after being raised in the Republican presidential debates. And while plenty of experts on the region have made this argument, it is not reflected where it counts: among political leaders or even most of the mainstream media.
Alice In Wonderland It is an interesting observation and points to a trap for leaders when they fall prey to grand delusions. There is an interesting 10-part series of articles in the Vision Journal--Messiahs! Rulers and the Role of Religion—that examine "throughout history, the desire of some men to become savior-gods and the proclivity of people to move toward them and support them, thereby giving legitimacy to their rule and encouragement to their fantasies of omnipotence. We will also see that religion is all too often harnessed and manipulated in the pursuit of such deification. Those who pretend at godhood, or who simply use it as a political device, often claim for themselves a unique anointing, the status of superman, or the ability to create supreme law. In their delusions, they become mistaken messiahs." Here is a link to each article in the series:

  Men As Gods
  The Coming of the "Christian" Emperor: Constantine the Great
  The Fall and Rise of the Roman Empire
  Aspects of Empire—Roman, Holy and German: Otto the Great
  Where the Sun Never Set: Charles V
  I Am Called to Change the World: Napoleon
  Hearts of Darkness: Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini Part 1
  Dictators' Downfall: Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini Part 2
  Purging the People: Lenin and Stalin
  Oriental Christs: Mao Zedong, Pol Pot and Kim Il-sung
  The Final False Messiah

Posted by Michael McKinney at 07:00 PM
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02.18.08

Quarrel Not At All: The Stuff of Command

President Lincoln
In President Lincoln: The Duty of a Statesman, the follow-up to Lincoln’s Virtues, William Lee Miller, writes that if you knew Lincoln before he became president, you knew that it was part of Lincoln’s character to be capable of overlooking slights to himself, but you might question whether he could, at the same time, “command armies and make the demanding decisions of a nation at war.”
The stuff of command, especially in a giant deadly conflict, would not seem ordinarily to combine well with the stuff of forbearance and generosity. Executive skill and vigor, like a surgeon’s skill, would appear to require a certain withdrawal of empathy. The resolution necessary to great statesmanship would appear to invite, if not even to require, a certain ruthlessness with those whose wills and complex humanity complicate, impede, and even defy one’s vigorously pursued purpose.
In a letter to Captain James M. Cutts who had been found guilty in a court-martial of conduct unbecoming of an officer of a gentleman, Lincoln offered this advice:
Quarrel not at all. No man resolved to make the most of himself, can spare time for personal contention. Still less can he afford to take all the consequences, including the vitiating of his temper and the loss of self-control.

Yield larger things to which you can show no more than equal right; and yield lesser ones, though clearly your own.
Miller writes:
Interpreting Lincoln, we might say: We overestimate our own interest, and we underestimate our adversary’s, so that the advice to yield on all small matters, and on all matters than even to our distorting eyes seem equally balanced, is a moral corrective. Here is a lawyer, and a politician, and a war leader in the midst of tremendous battles giving this surprising advice: quarrel not at all.
Lincoln was a man possessed magnanimity and discriminating judgment, who was able to rise above vindictiveness to win the battles that mattered most. Miller’s book on Lincoln holds many lessons for leaders of today. He shows how Lincoln learned to balance his strengths and weaknesses in a way that made him one of the greatest and most respected leaders in modern times.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 09:37 AM
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02.17.08

Best Presidents In History - 2008 Harris Poll

Harris Interactive conducted an online poll within the United States last month. They asked over 2000 adults: Which one of the following presidents do you think was the best overall president in our history?

The list included all presidents since Franklin Roosevelt, along with some of the more famous from earlier in American history – George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Andrew Jackson, Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson and Calvin Coolidge.

Scores were tallied by adding the percentage of those who answered “best” and “second best” for each president. Among modern leaders, Ronald Reagan ranked highest, but even his cache could not compete with the mighty Abe Lincoln, who was named the top president by 20 percent of those surveyed.

Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln, who is at the center of this rare photo, delivers his inaugural address from the Capitol's east portico.
Here are the results:
  1. Abraham Lincoln
  2. Ronald Reagan
  3. Franklin Roosevelt
  4. John Kennedy
  5. George Washington
  6. Bill Clinton
  7. Thomas Jefferson
  8. Harry Truman
  9. Theodore Roosevelt
  10. George W. Bush
  11. Dwight Eisenhower
  12. Jimmy Carter
  13. Richard Nixon
  14. George H.W. Bush
  15. Lyndon Johnson
  16. Gerald Ford
  17. John Adams
  18. Andrew Jackson
  19. Woodrow Wilson
  20. Calvin Coolidge

Posted by Michael McKinney at 12:02 AM
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01.22.08

Sir John Harvey-Jones Dies at 83

harvey-jones
Sir John Harvey-Jones, one the great industrial leaders of his generation, died peacefully in his sleep on January 9th after a long illness. He was knighted in 1985 for his service to industry.

The Economist reported, "His hair was long and scruffy, his ties ludicrous and his manner jovial bordering on Falstaffian; a board meeting, for him, was a debate, punctuated by gales of his maniacal laughter. Few were better at the brisk summing-up and the clear, no-nonsense decision. He could not have been more unlike the dull, grey-suited types in most British boardrooms." (He was chairman of The Economist from 1989 to 1994.) In his book Making It Happen: Reflections on Leadership he wrote:
I believe business is still a fascinating an dextremely worthwhile activity, which places demands upon every human attribute you can command. Courage, compassion, balance, humour, listening, communicating, passion, caring and risk-taking are the keys to business success — and indeed to success in living.

More about Sir John Harvey-Jones:
  The Times London
  BBC News Obituary
  The Telegraph UK
  The Economist Obituary

On This Blog:
  Sir John Harvey-Jones on Change

Posted by Michael McKinney at 09:34 AM
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01.11.08

Sir Edmund Hillary Dies Today at 88

edmund hillary
New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark announced today that Sir Edmund Hillary (b. July 20 1919), the New Zealand beekeeper-turned-mountaineer, had died this morning at the age of 88.

In 1953, Edmund Hillary, who with his Sherpa guide Tenzing Norgay, became the first known men to conquer Mount Everest, the world's tallest peak. Harry Gordon wrote in The Australian, “That Hillary was first to step onto the 8848m summit has been the subject of much subsequent controversy, but it is a superficial and somewhat pointless distinction since neither of them could have reached the top without each other's or the whole team's help. Indeed the expedition was a textbook example of teamwork where, through the sustained efforts of everyone, the two most suitable climbers made it to the summit of the mountain.”

In an interview, Sir Hillary talked about leadership:
There are some people who are natural leaders, who have the ability to think quickly or choose the right decisions at the right moment. But I think there are an awful lot of us who have to learn how to be a leader, and in actual fact, I believe that most people, if they really want to, can become competent leaders.

I think I was the prime example of someone with relatively modest abilities, but I think I learned to become a reasonably competent leader. Even practice is quite a useful attribute in this respect. As you do more expeditions and more adventures, you get more experience and you know more clearly what to do in moments of emergency. But I certainly never regarded myself as a natural leader.
Sir Hillary devoted all of his life to helping the Sherpa people of Nepal through the Himalayan Trust he created in 1960. In a 1995 interview with James Clash, Hillary said, "I think the most worthwhile things I've done have not been on the mountains or in the Antarctic, but doing projects with my friends, the Sherpa people. The 27 schools we've now established, the hospitals—those are the things I would like to be remembered for."
Everest


In November 2007 a institute was founded to recognize and foster outstanding international leadership in the name of Sir Edmund Hillary—the Hillary Institute. The Institute is creating a new international award—to be known as the Hillary Step—to be awarded to a person who displays great leadership in their chosen field. The Hillary Step will be bestowed every four years and will be worth $NZ 1 million. The Hillary Step is intended to recognize someone who has already displayed outstanding leadership, but who is still in mid-career so as to help further their work.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 11:07 AM
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12.12.07

Paul Johnson’s Heroes: Lessons for Today's Leaders

Paul Johnson: Heroes
Paul Johnson’s Heroes is a pleasure to read. With his knack for illuminative details and command of the language, he has produced a series of short biographical essays that draw you through the book and leave you with a lot to think about. He notes that heroes have not always been appreciated and the status accorded them can be fleeting and arbitrary. By way of example he writes:
In the troubled times which followed the end of the Napoleonic Wars, caused by lower wages, unemployment and higher food prices, the term became abusive. When ever the Duke of Wellington made his appearance, a certain kind of London mob (there were many different kinds) would shout: “No heroes! We want no heroes!” For the self-conscious proletariat, the “Man on Horseback” was a political enemy. They threw stones through the windows of Apsley House, the duke’s London residence. He had the windows boarded up but refused to replace the glass, as a reminder to people of how volatile was popularity an dhow fickle the crowd, applauding him as a hero one moment, detesting him the next.
Consider too, Genghis Khan was “reviled for nearly a millennium as the archetypal mass murderer and rapist, despoiler, arsonist and ravager” yet “since the collapse of the Soviet empire in Central Asia, has become there a state-sponsored hero, especially in Azerbaijan and Mongolia.”

“No people in history were more in need of heroes than the Hebrews.” And so Johnson begins his examples with the judges Deborah, Judith and Sampson leading to their greatest hero, King David. Continuing on, his survey of heroes spans almost 3000 years of Western history and ranges from, Alexander and Julius Caesar, to the unlikely Mae West and Marilyn Monroe, to Lincoln and Churchill, to Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher and Pope John Paul II. Here are some of his comments from the book:
  • Ronald Reagan: "I have never come across a person, certainly not in public life, who was so thoroughly and fundamentally at ease with himself."
  • George Washington: "The United States of America has been fortunate in many ways, especially in the magnificent endowment of nature. But not the least of its blessings was the man who first led it to victory, then made the new nation that emerged law-abiding, stable and prosperous, as well as free. This double achievement is without parallel in history."
  • Thomas More: "More has a lot to teach the twenty-first century. He had a curiously modern gift for words, and he articulated the culminating drama of his life -- the still, small voice of conscience defying an ideological despotism -- with stunning aptness, so that to us he resembles the hero of a contemporary morality play."
  • Robert E. Lee: "Lee was a true hero. He insisted on making possible for others the freedom of thought and action he sought for himself."
  • Abraham Lincoln: "He was a good man on a giant scale. He invariably did the right thing, however easily it might have been avoided. Of how many other great men might this be said?"
  • Emily Dickinson: "The best [of her poetry] is sublime, moving, unforgettable, magic, and the woman who produced it is undeniably, in her obstinate, tiresome, brave, unflinching, desperate and triumphant way, heroic."
  • Winston Churchill: "In the pursuit and enjoyment of power, he was always not merely careful but punctilious in observing the constitutional rules and respecting those persons and institutions charged with upholding them. This to my mind is the quality in Churchill which makes him so quintessentially the democratic hero."
  • Margaret Thatcher: "Thatcher was a good, kind and gentle creature, wonderfully considerate to her staff, always thinking of other people and doing things for them, unasked, and never cross if she got no thanks."
  • Pope John Paul II: "He had, it seemed to me, a strong sense of priorities, an unfailing ability to separate the essential from the peripheral, and to keep to the point, obliging others to do likewise. His intellect was burly, gripped hard and never relaxed until the job was done."
  • Modern Leaders: "The great majority of heads of government, in my experience, are hardened egoists, corrupted by exercising power even if not already corrupted by getting there. The few exceptions, like Harold Wilson or Willy Brandt, tend to be weak men."
  • Good government: "After nearly sixty years of writing history, and also of observing contemporary history makers in action, I am convinced that successful government depends less on intelligence and knowledge than on simplicity – that is, the ability to narrow aims to three or four important tasks which are possible, reasonable and communicable."
Johnson states that heroic behavior is to be found in every age and in all kinds of places. He asks, “How do we recognize the heroes and heroines of today?” He puts forth four principle identifiers we should take note of:

First, an absolute independence of mind, which springs from the ability to think everything through for yourself, and to treat whatever is the current consensus on any issue with skepticism.

Second, having made up your mind independently, the ability to act resolutely and consistently.

Third, to be able to ignore or reject everything the media throws at you, provided you remain convinced you are doing right.

And finally, to act with personal courage at all times, regardless of the consequences to yourself.

Who are your heroes?

Posted by Michael McKinney at 08:36 AM
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11.16.07

America’s Best Leaders: Eighteen Who Motivate People To Work Together To Accomplish Great Things

US News Leadership
According to a recent Center for Public Leadership/U.S. News & World Report poll, "more than three quarters of the respondents say they believe the country is going through a leadership crisis, up 7 percent from last year, a trend stretching across all demographic and political groups. Nearly 80 percent feel that unless it gets better leaders, the country will decline, while 51 percent believe that the United States is already falling behind other nations. And about two thirds say that today's leaders pale in comparison with those of 20 years ago."

Yet, U.S. News has found 18 people—America’s Best Leaders—they believe are helping to restore confidence in our leaders. The list is a collaboration between U.S .News and the Center for Public Leadership at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government.
US News Leadership
Leader was defined as a person who "motivates people to work collaboratively to accomplish great things." They selected 18 winners, including two partnerships, from a field of more than 200. The panelists rated the nominees from to 1 to 5 based on how well they met the following criteria: Sets Direction (25%), Achieves Results (50%), Cultivates a Culture of Growth (25%).

On their web site you will find a profile of each individual on the list:
  • Lee Hamilton and James Baker, Co-chairs, Iraq Study Group
    Their report made it hard for even the war’s firmest backers to argue for staying the course.
  • Kenneth Chenault, CEO, American Express Co.
    He revived Am Ex after September 11 created financial headaches and personal heartaches.
  • Kenneth Fisher, Chairman and CEO, Fisher House Foundation
    His foundation builds housing near military hospitals to accommodate soldiers’ families.
  • William H. Foege, Senior Fellow, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation
    His work with immunizations for the Gates Foundation has saved millions of lives.
  • Michael J. Fox, Founder, Michael J. Fox Foundation
    He has become the spokesman for Parkinson's disease and raised $90 million for research, too.
  • Mary Houghton and Ron Grzywinski, Cofounders, ShoreBank Corp.
    Since 1973, their bank has invested dollars and hands in Chicago’s grittiest neighborhoods.
  • Andrea Jung, Chairman and CEO, Avon Products Inc.
    She transformed the 120-year-old cosmetics company into 'the Company for Women.'
  • Fred Krupp, President, Environmental Defense
    He proved that teaming up with businesses was an effective way to solve pollution problems.
  • Nicholas Kristof, Columnist, the New York Times
    In his columns, Kristof shows a new generation that journalists can advocate for change.
  • Yo-Yo Ma, Founder and Artistic Director, “Silk Road Project”
    The cellist brought together the sounds from a historic trade route between Italy and Japan.
  • Nancy Pelosi, Speaker, U.S. House of Representatives
    As the first female speaker, she says her election “broke the marble ceiling” of Congress.
  • Arnold Schwarzenegger, Governor of California
    The former bodybuilder and actor works with the state Legislature in a nonpartisan way.
  • Ruth J. Simmons, President, Brown University
    Her successful fundraising and introduction of need-blind admissions have made her popular.
  • Pat Summitt, Women’s Basketball Coach, Univ. of Tennessee
    She’s had more wins to her name than any other college basketball coach in history.
  • Shirley Tilghman, President, Princeton University
    Sitting on the board to pick the president, she impressed her colleagues--and they chose her.
  • Harold Varmus, CEO, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center
    He believes scientists' work should immediately be available online to everyone in the world.
This list certainly isn’t inclusive and of course it has its limitations, but it is worth reviewing for some insights into how these individuals developed their leadership skills. The individual profiles/interviews are worth reading.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 07:53 PM
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09.28.07

Being a Role Model: Who's Watching You?

ca ripken
Former Baltimore Orioles shortstop Cal Ripken was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York on July 29, 2007. Before about 75,000 people, he delivered a good speech in which he emphasized the importance of living a good example. Here is the text of part of that speech:

We all hear about how baseball imitates life, which held especially true for my dad. He used to say that everything that happens in baseball happens in life and everything that happens in life happens in baseball. He certainly taught us about life through baseball. But I also have to admit that as a young man with a limited view of the world, baseball and life became one for me and it was difficult to see beyond playing the game.

Did you ever stop to think about how your life would unfold or imagine how you would like your life to turn out? One of those reflective pauses happened in my life when I was around 18 years old. I thought I had it all figured out, I would play big league baseball until about 45 and then worry about the rest of my life after that. It took me a little while, but I did come to realize that baseball was just one part of my life with the possible exception of this weekend, of course. This was never more clear to me than when we had children. I realized that the secret of life is life, and a bigger picture came into focus. Games were and are important, but people and how you impact on them are most important. While we all work to develop into productive people for our own happiness, it is also vital that we do so for the good of society as a whole.

As I came to know the importance of my role in the development of my children, I began to sense the impact I could have on other kids. It is all about coming to the realization that we all have within us the power to develop and pursue almost anything we set our mind to, and that is the message and opportunity we want to pass to all children.

We are the ambassadors for the future, just as a baseball player wants to leave his mark on the game and leave it a little better than he found it, we should all try to make this world a better place for the next generation.

When I realized that I could use baseball to help make life better especially for the kids, baseball became a platform. By trying to set a good example, I could help influence young people in positive and productive ways. And some of this became apparent to me in my earliest playing days. So as my major league career unfolded, I started playing a little more attention to my actions. I remember when Kenny Singleton showed me a tape of me throwing my helmet down after a strikeout and all he said was, "How does that look?" I remember learning about a family who saved their money to come to Baltimore to see me play. I got thrown out in the first inning and their little boy cried the whole game. I remember how I reacted with anger when dad was fired after an O-and-six start, and after each of those events and others, I vowed to act better the next time.

Yes, these were only little things, but as dad used to say, if you take care of all the little things, you'll never have a big thing to worry about.

As the years passed, it became clear to me that kids see it all, and it's not just some of your actions that influence, it's all of them. Whether we like it or not as big leaguers, we are role models. The only question is will we be positive or will it be negative. Should we put players up on a pedestal and require them to take responsibility? No. But we should encourage them to use their influence positively, to help build up and develop the young people who follow the game.

Sport can play a big role in teaching values and principles. It can be a huge developmental tool for life. Just think—teamwork, leadership, work ethic and trust are all part of the game and are also all factors in how we make the most of our lives. So an essential part of the job of every player and of all people for that matter is to help the young people of today learn these lessons so they can live better lives tomorrow.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 12:30 PM
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07.06.07

JFK’s Leadership Style

As we have discussed before, the idea of the great leader as sole player is flawed. The point leader can’t do it alone. It takes many leaders to support the point leader. John F. Kennedy is said to have wondered how a man could conceive of seeking the job of the president when the problems were obviously bigger than mortal man should have to handle. It can only be done through people in an environment where they can do their best. Good relationships are vital to the success of any leader.
Walt W Rostow


The late W. W. Rostow served as a major adviser on national security affairs to Kennedy. His observations of Kennedy’s leadership style are instructive:
It did not fit the hierarchical pyramids to be found in textbooks on administration: it was like the spokes of a wheel. When he formed a bond it remained firm. His enormous energy permitted him to deal with a great many people on a bilateral basis, weaving their efforts into his tasks as he saw them. His method was that of the extended family.… He put each member to work in ways that could help, according to his talents.

It was rooted in an assessment of human beings that was both affectionate and hard-minded. He actively enjoyed the variety of talents and personalities that assembled around him as the drive for the presidency gathered momentum. He respected each man for what he was. There was reliability in his acceptance of men to work with him. There was also a firm assessment of where each might be useful and where not.
Kennedy was able to create an environment without too many layers that fostered more open communication. At the same time, this requires thoroughness on the part of the leader so as to be certain that each task is covered by a capable person, while coordinating and leading in a way that doesn’t become dictatorial.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 01:12 AM
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06.20.07

Calls for Leadership: The Failed States Index 2007

Failed States Index
The Fund for Peace and Foreign Policy Magazine has just released the Failed States Index. It is a sobering survey of 177 countries ranked in order of their vulnerability to violent internal conflict and societal deterioration. It is based on 12 social, economic, political, and military indicators. (You can click on the map above to view a larger image detailing the status of various nations of the world, including your own.)

The third annual Index found the greatest improvements over the last year in Liberia, Indonesia, Democratic Republic of the Congo and Bosnia. Unfortunately, the risk of failure is running higher than last year in Lebanon, Somalia, Equatorial Guinea, and Niger. Although these countries may seem world's away, their problems have consequences for all of us.

Failing States have one thing in common—bad leadership. Foreign Policy concludes, “Many states must endure poverty, corruption, and natural disasters. But, for the weak, there is nothing more costly than a strongman calling the shots.” Billions in foreign aid and security are no match for bad leadership. Effective leadership can reverse a states slide to failure.

Three editorials from the last two days, speak to the leadership issue behind these problems. First, here are some comments from The Daily Star in Lebanon titled, “If Lebanon becomes a failed state again, failed leadership will be to blame:”
Lebanon's slide downward on the scale toward failure was more pronounced than that of any other country in the world. Who or what is to blame for the fact that Lebanon is once again rapidly on its way to becoming a basket case? Yes, the war with Israel created problems, but the leaders of Lebanon have compounded those "difficulties" and transformed them into an utter disaster. Leaders on both sides of the political divide are guilty of playing solely to their respective supporting audiences and ignoring everyone else. Not one has risen to the challenge of being a leader for all the Lebanese. [There exists a] paralyzing impasse that has been brought on by their political leaders' shared predilections for hubris and maximalism.
From AllAfrica Global Media, we have this opinion from Nurudeen Jattau in Nigeria:
It is needless to say that the tragedy of the contemporary nation-state of Nigeria is the seeming absence or the lack of visionary leadership in all spheres of governance. This precisely, is the singular reason why analysts are agreed that Nigeria may never reach anything close to its full potential as a nation. All things considered, and whichever way the pendulum swings, we must understand and appreciate the fact that leadership is invariably a means to an end, and not an end in itself.
Consider finally, an editorial by Fouad Al-Obaid in the Kuwait Times:
If one studies history and the civilizations that preceded us, one will most certainly not come across common names. However leaders on the other hand, do end up in the pages of history for several reasons. They do so when their failure is total and their incompetence is obvious to all. Just as much as they do so when their bravery, their tactics, their leadership capability along with their capacity to move minds and hearts in the most turbulent times is put to test and they succeed.

In the Arab World we seem to be lacking true leadership capabilities at least in modern times. Today, we need to find a source of inspiration in leaders that will set the path for a renewed socio-economic development scheme. We need people that have visions, leaders that are willing to fight in order to craft reality out of a vision. If one looks at the development of Qatar and Dubai, one can credit their leadership with bold vision which has projected their otherwise semi-arid desert lands into global hubs where transport, trans-shipment, and multinational corporations have established their home base in.
lebanon


[T]he lessons that need to be extracted from such success stories is that visions can become reality and in that field we are either lacking vision or having a hard time executing it properly. In either case, we clearly are doing something wrong. We today need leaders that are willing to perhaps sacrifice themselves for the better good of society. Reforms are never easy and it takes a strong leader to execute them.
Foreign Policy would agree with Mr. Al-Obaid. They write that effective leadership doesn’t necessarily make a leader popular. “But then, such leadership is exactly what more failing states need: a head of state who chooses continued reforms over his own power and recognition.

I am reminded of something John Lukacs wrote in 1993, “The great and enduring problems are political, not economic. They involve the lust for power, not for money. (But then, this has been true of mankind ever since Adam and Eve, misunderstood by Adam Smith as well as by Karl Marx.)” You don't have to look too hard to find applicable lessons here for any leadership role we find ourselves in.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 08:47 AM
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05.04.07

Presidential Courage

Presidential Courage
Michael Beschloss has written a series of stories in Presidential Courage about how nine American Presidents have, at crucial moments, made courageous decisions for the national interest even when they knew they might be jeopardizing their careers. The stories are brief overviews of trying times but are both poignant and encouraging. In his epilogue he writes:
From his own reading of history, John Kennedy feared that the changing political environment was making it more difficult fro Americans to practice the kind of leadership that had shaped our past.

In 1955, he complained that politics had become “so expensive, so mechanized and so dominated by professional politicians and public relations men.” Thanks to “the tremendous power of mass communications,” he wrote, “any unpopular or unorthodox course arouses a storm of protests.”
Beschloss continues with this prescription:
The ancient Romans surrounded their young leaders with paintings and sculpture to encourage qualities of greatness.

Should Americans ever follow such a practice, one of the public rooms of the White House might be enhanced with artifacts reminding Presidents that since George Washington, courage has been a requirement of the Presidency.

First might be the baseball that Joe DiMaggio asked Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev to sign. Then, moving backward through time, the dented helmet worn by one of the U.S. Marshals sent by JFK to integrate Ole Miss.

Next might be the Torah that moved Harry Truman to tears after he helped ensure the Jewish people a home—and the black cathedral radio that told FDR on Election Night 1940 that he might be defeated by the isolationists.

After that would be a miner’s torch given to Theodore Roosevelt by grateful anthracite coal workers, and T.R.’s relic of his own hero—the fold ring containing hair snipped from Abraham Lincoln’s head after his murder for liberating a race.

Beside the Lincoln ring would be the cameo that Andrew Jackson wore around his neck: the sad, soulful face of his wife, Rachel—victim, he was certain, of his plutocratic enemies.

Then propped upright, a serving plate from the beloved family home that John Adams called Peacefield—a reminder that if halting war with France cost him reelection, he could return to a rich life with Abigail, surviving comrades from the American Revolution and, in the end, when he was almost alone, his books.

Looming on a self above all these objects would be the quill pen and inkwell used by President Washington on those storm-swept nights in August 1795 to write all of those letters defending John Jay’s peace treaty with the British.

GWashington Master Bed
But not all Presidents are affected by historical artifacts. In that case, they might be taken up to Mount Vernon, and up the stairs to the bedroom where George Washington died.

Standing there, to this day, is the wooden four-poster deathbed where the Father of His Country looked up into his doctor’s kindly, worried eyes and croaked his near-t-last words.

General Washington was referring to his medical prognosis, but his words conveyed what he hoped his example would say to future Presidents of the United States.

What Washington told the doctor was, “Don’t be afraid!
Surround yourself with these stories.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 10:58 AM
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04.23.07

Former Russian Leader Boris Yeltsin Dead at 76

Boris YeltsinThe flamboyant Boris Yeltsin (1931-2007), died today of heart failure at the age of 76. Russia's first freely elected president has been credited with engineering the final collapse of the Soviet Union and pushing the country into democracy and a market economy.

The Financial Times comments, “Boris Yeltsin had the physical and moral strength to bear on his shoulders the colossal burden of a country in a ferment of transition, its economy struggling with the twin tasks of discarding a tenacious old system and adjusting to an unfamiliarly fast-moving new one. At the beginning of his rule he was able to grasp, either instinctively or through a quick intelligence, much of what was required.”

His contemporaries may judge him a bit harsher remembering him for being out of touch and hesitant to act against crime and corruption. Yet on the international stage, many will remember when in August 1991, he climbed on top of a tank to successfully stare down a coup attempt against Gorbachev. His open defiance clearly marked the end of the USSR.
Yeltsin on Tank 1991


Yeltsin’s leadership by and large, did not rely on status and fear. Very much the strategic leader, he developed a populist style. He had an ability to connect with the Russian people. It is from here that he derived much of his power. His problem was that didn’t really didn’t know what to do with the power once he got it.

The Economist concludes, “The former construction engineer was not a great builder of institutions; the democracy was flawed. But he had the right instincts. For liberating Russians from the yoke of the one-party state and the planned economy, he deserves immense gratitude. Yet his nepotistic and capricious rule spawned colossal lawlessness and corruption, paving the way for his authoritarian successor, Vladimir Putin.”

World Reaction to His Death:

  Former Soviet President Gorbachev: "I express the very deepest condolences to the family of the deceased on whose shoulders rest major events for the good of the country and serious mistakes. A tragic fate."

  British Prime Minister Tony Blair: "It is with sadness that I learned of the death of former president Yeltsin. He was a remarkable man who saw the need for democratic and economic reform and in defending it played a vital role at a crucial time in Russia's history."

  Exiled Russian multi-millionaire and critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin, Boris Berezovsky: "For me personally he was a teacher -- he made me a free person. If my mother taught me how to love then Yeltsin taught me not only how to understand what a free person is but also how to become free.

"Russia has a lost a brilliant reformer. No-one has done as much for Russia as Yeltsin did. He was a unique person and absolutely Russian in his soul, in his impulsiveness and in his intellect."

  Vytautas Landsbergis, first president of Lithuania after it was declared independent from the Soviet Union: "Yeltsin was a decent man and he could not stand political intrigues. His rise to the post of Russia's president was a very good thing for the Baltic states. It was Yeltsin's Russia, which recognized Lithuania's independence by signing a bilateral treaty in the summer of 1991. He also stood to defend us when Gorbachev let the Soviet troops storm buildings in Vilnius."

  President of the European Commission Jose Manuel Barroso: "Mr. Yeltsin was a key reference in the post-Communist transition in Russia. As president he had enormous challenges and difficult mandates but he certainly brought East and West closer together and helped replace confrontation by co-operation.

"He is best remembered when standing up to the coup d'etat aimed at restoring a dictatorial regime in Russia. With great personal courage he had merit in defending freedom. The Commission sends its condolences to Mr Yeltsin's family, the Russian authorities and the people of Russia."

Boris Yeltsin in his own words:

  "A man must live like a great brilliant flame and burn as brightly as he can. In the end he burns out. But this is far better than a mean little flame."

  "It is especially important to encourage unorthodox thinking when the situation is critical: At such moments every new word and fresh thought is more precious than gold. Indeed, people must not be deprived of the right to think their own thoughts."

  "You can make a throne of bayonets, but you can't sit on it for long."

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04.07.07

Henry Ford Dies Today in 1947

Henry Ford
Sixty years ago today Henry Ford died in his bedroom in Dearborn, Michigan. He was 83. Will Rogers had remarked, "It will take a hundred years to tell whether he helped us or hurt us, but he certainly didn't leave us where he found us."

Ford, of course, revolutionized the manufacturing process, yet probably one of his greatest contributions was economic. His insistence that the company's future lay in the production of affordable cars for a mass market lead him—often at odds with his investors—to lower unit costs and to implement a highly criticized minimum wage scheme. Ford's quest to make the automobile accessible to all, helped to change the make-up of American society in general. As Lee Iacocca wrote in Time magazine, “[I]f it hadn't been for Henry Ford's drive to create a mass market for cars, America wouldn't have a middle class today.”

Posted by Michael McKinney at 10:08 PM
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02.28.07

Firing Back: Coming Back After a Fall

Humpty Have you ever had a major setback? No. I didn’t think so. Me neither. But in the unlikely event you do or in the more likely event that you know someone who has or will, Jeffrey Sonnenfeld and Andrew Ward have created a well researched guidebook. Firing Back: How Great Leaders Rebounded After Career Disasters strives to help us through the approaches that have worked for some and those that have backfired on others.
Leaders should not be measured by how they bask in the gratification of their accomplishments. Rather, they should be measured by how they respond when fate deflates the joys of hard-earned triumphs. How well do they pick themselves up and get back in the race.
The most important thing is to put your defeat into the proper context. This is often difficult to do in a culture that sees failure as a very bad thing and finds it difficult to even discuss. They write, “It is, in fact, wrong to consider adversity a diversion off one’s path toward greatness. The subsequent resilience from calamities has been revealed as vital to the character formation and differentiation of heroic figures…. It is the ability to bounce back from adversity—to prove your mettle once more by getting back into the game—that separates the lasting great from the fleeting greats.”

They have developed a five-step strategy for rescuing and restoring your career and reputation—a leader’s most valuable asset—after a devastating professional setback.

1. Fight not Flight. This doesn’t mean to come out swinging, but to face the reality of the situation. “To stand up to the reality of the situation and not to flee from it or shirk the battles that lie ahead in restoring the reputation and career of the leader." Being able to pick your battles is an important component here.

In the Wall Street Journal, Peggy Noonan opined in an article entitled, Ford Without Tears these comments about the comeback and legacy of Gerald Ford.
He seemed lacking in vanity. There is no evidence that he was obsessed with his legacy. He didn't worry and fret about whether history would fully capture and proclaim his excellence, and because of this he didn't always have to run around proving he was right. He just did his best and kept walking. What a grown-up thing to do. Former, current and future presidents would do well to ponder this approach. History would treat them more kindly. The legacy of a man who spends his time worrying about his legacy is always: He worried about his legacy.
2. Recruit Others into Battle. This assumes you haven’t burnt your bridges. Build strong relationships now. You need to take responsibility for innocent close colleagues who suffer collateral damage with you and then leverage your support networks to reaffirm your credibility through the voices of others. Support from friends and family “can be very influential in reducing the levels of stress felt by the individual suffering from career setback and in encouraging coping behaviors.

3. Rebuild Heroic Stature. Explain the true nature of the adversity. Provide a rational explanation of the context behind any injustice or provide authentic contrition over any missteps you made.

4. Prove Your Heroic Mettle. Regain trust by demonstrating that the setback has not destroyed your professional expertise and character strength. Actions speak louder than words.

5. Discover a New Heroic Mission. Don’t merely define yourself by your past success or failure. Rather, define a new leadership vision and a new path for personal meaning in your work. You may find that you transcend past triumphs.

In all of this they caution:
Indeed, for many people, the failure to come back successfully is caused by an exclusive focus on the immediate problems of dealing with downfall—often practical and financial constraints that consume the person’s energy and will.

While these are indeed important constraints and require attention, they are focused on adjusting to the downfall rather than preparing for the rebound, and an all-consuming focus on these issues can lead to a spiraling down from which the person never fully recovers.

No one can truly define success or failure for us—only we can define them for ourselves.
Of Related Interest:
  Second Acts: Presidential Lives and Legacies After the White House

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02.19.07

Henry Kissinger on Vision: Seeing Through a Glass Darkly

Kissinger
Henry Kissinger, then U.S. Secretary of State, explained in an interview with Los Angeles Times concerning the risky restoration of U.S. diplomatic relations with China, the dynamics of vision. “What a national leader has to do at such a time, is to take his society and the world, insofar as the issues are international, from where it is to where it has never been. This means he cannot prove the destination is desirable until the society or the world gets there.

Nixon himself once told an interviewer that the mark of a leader "is whether he can give history a nudge." Nixon recognized that a leader should be inclusive. He wrote in a 1967 Foreign Affairs article, "Taking the long view, we simply cannot afford to leave China forever outside the family of nations, there to nurture its fantasies, cherish its hates and threaten its neighbors."

Related Interest: Nixon and Mao: The Week That Changed the World

Posted by Michael McKinney at 05:44 AM
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01.23.07

The Adaptive Leadership of Debra Cafaro

Cafaro
When the Wall Street Journal asked Debra Cafaro, CEO of Ventas, Inc. if there was one skill you need to lead a turnaround, she replied, “One of the reasons I love turnarounds is they’re the most complex situations. You have to call on every single skill you’ve got—strategic, tactical, theatrical, legal, social, intellectual. Not a lot of other situations require that.” Now that’s adaptive leadership!

She also noted that you “have to be willing to temporarily upset a lot of people in order to save the company. You have to withstand a lot of conflict, histrionics, screaming at meetings and toughness on all sides.”

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01.19.07

Bob Nardelli: “I want an autopsy!”

Bob Nardelli
As you know, after a board meeting on January 2nd, Home Depot announced the following day that the company and Bob Nardelli had "mutually agreed" that he would resign. Business Week reported, “As the news of his resignation on Jan. 3 shot through Home Depot's white-walled Atlanta headquarters and reached stores, some employees text-messaged each other with happy faces and exclamation points. ‘I think that it is being received well. Most people believed that Bob was autocratic and stubborn,’ says an assistant manager in an Atlanta store who asked not to be named.”

BW continues, “Nardelli alienated customers just as thoroughly as he did employees” and his “data-driven, in-your-face management style grated on many seasoned executives, resulting in massive turnover in Home Depot's upper ranks.”

Bruce Nussbaum, on his Business Week Innovation blog, wrote a post on “why command and control is so bad.” Bob Sutton pointed out on his blog that “a numbers-based and quality focused organization need not be top down, where bosses use numbers to lord over and push around their underlings.” While all of this is true, a numbers-based and quality focused organization may also be top down and still place an emphasis on people and with longer-term results. These aren’t either/or propositions. It requires a different kind of leader.

Jack Welch is reported by Patricia Seller in a June 9, 2002 article in Fortune, to have called Nardelli the “best operating executive I’ve ever seen”, but in the end he “had to go with his gut” in bypassing Nardelli for the top spot at GE. Nardelli understandably stunned and hurt, demanded, “I want an autopsy!” Maybe even Jack Welch saw something beyond the numbers. Perhaps at Home Depot, Nardelli finally got his autopsy.

Mr. Nardelli’s problem seems to be one of attitude. If you have respect for people, if you have their best interests at heart, you can still bring in the numbers. A leader’s people and political role is spotlighted now more than ever. Mr. Nardelli ultimately failed in this arena. "I used to play football," Nardelli said when asked about the challenges of being a public company CEO today. "In football, you always know the score. Now, it's like we are ice-skating, and you've got a bunch of judges on the sideline shouting out the scores." Let’s hope while Mr. Nardelli is fielding calls for his next job, he takes time to reflect on attitude. While Six Sigma is a valuable process tool, it can and should work within a framework of respect for people. Leadership is the same as it ever was and it's still about people.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 12:48 AM
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01.15.07

Martin Luther King Jr. and Adaptive Change

When trying to bring about a solution that requires adaptive change—a change in frame-of-reference, a change in attitudes, values and behaviors—the challenge “is to work with differences, passions, and conflicts in a way that diminishes their destructive potential and constructively harness their energy.”

In Leadership on the Line, authors Ronald Heifetz and Marty Linsky explain, “To sustain momentum through a period of difficult change, you have to find ways to remind people of the orienting value—the positive vision—that makes the current angst worthwhile.”
MLK I have a Dream


“As you catalyze change, you can help ensure that you do not become a lightning rod for the conflict by making the vision more tangible, reminding people of the values they are fighting for, and showing them how the future might look. By answering, in every possible way, the “why” question, you increase people’s willingness to endure the hardships that come with the journey to a better place.

This what Martin Luther King Jr.’s accomplished in his famous I Have a Dream speech. He painted a tangible vision when he said:
I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification - one day right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers. I have a dream today.

Interestingly enough, the civil rights speakers who were to speak on that day—August 28, 1963—argued amongst themselves who would speak when and for how long. MLK March King had agreed to not only speak at the end of the day, but to limit his remarks to four minutes. This would seem to have had the effect of virtually sidelining King as it was assumed that the newsmen would have to leave to prepare for the nightly news and the crowd would have thin out by then. However, the news crews and the crowds stuck around to hear King. His well-rehearsed but improvised words captivated everyone present. His four-minute limit stretched to over 16 minutes and the rest is history.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 07:11 AM
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12.27.06

Reactions to Gerald Ford's Death

"My family joins me in sharing the difficult news that Gerald Ford, our beloved husband, father, grandfather and great grandfather has passed away at 93 years of age… His life was filled with love of God, his family and his country.''
—Betty Ford, in a brief statement issued from her husband's office in Rancho Mirage, Calif.


"I was deeply saddened this evening when I heard of Jerry Fords death. Ronnie and I always considered him a dear friend and close political ally. His accomplishments and devotion to our country are vast, and even long after he left the Presidency he made it a point to speak out on issues important to us all."
—Former first lady Nancy Reagan


"He had to bring our country back and make it whole again and he did it with dignity, he did it with great, great skill and sensitivity."
—Alexander Haig, Mr. Ford's former chief-of-staff


"Throughout his career, as a naval officer, congressman, vice president and president, Gerald Ford embodied the best values of a great generation: decency, integrity, and devotion to duty. Thirty-two years ago, he assumed the nation's highest office during the greatest constitutional crisis since the Civil War. In that troubled era, America needed strength, wisdom, and good judgment, and those qualities came to us in the person of Gerald R. Ford. … I was proud to know President Ford, and to have served in the White House as his chief of staff. He was a dear friend and mentor to me until this very day."
—Vice President Cheney


"President Ford is one of the most admirable public servants and human beings I have ever known. A man of highest integrity, his life-long dedication to helping others touched the lives of countless people. An outstanding statesman, he wisely chose the path of healing during a deeply divisive time in our nation's history. He frequently rose above politics by emphasizing the need for bipartisanship and seeking common ground on issues critical to our nation."
—President Jimmy Carter


"President Ford was a great man, a great leader and perhaps Michigan's greatest son. He served his country with distinction for his entire adult life. He will be remembered as a president who kept America together during one if its greatest crises. He and his wife Betty have demonstrated great courage and the highest values throughout their lives. He will be missed."
—Jane Abraham, co-chairwoman of the Michigan Republican Party


"Gerald Ford and I came from different sides of the aisle, but we forged a wonderful friendship as we served Michigan together in the House of Representatives. When his nation called on him to serve his country ... he rose up and held the country together. It will certainly be his legacy. I will remember him fondly and I will miss him dearly."
—U.S. Rep. John Dingell


"He became president of the United States during a trying time and immediately began the difficult process of healing a nation torn apart by scandal. He will be remembered for leading with integrity and character. He brought West Michigan values with him to Washington and maintained them throughout his rise from congressman… to vice president and president."
—U.S. Rep. Pete Hoekstra


Gerald Ford

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12.26.06

Former President Gerald R. Ford Dies Today at 93

Gerald Ford
Former president Gerald R. Ford died at 6:45 p.m. today at age 93. He was 38th (1974-77) and only unelected president in America's history. He was also the longest living president, followed by Ronald Reagan, who also died at 93.

From her husband's office in Rancho Mirage, Mrs. Betty Ford announced in a brief statement, "My family joins me in sharing the difficult news that Gerald Ford, our beloved husband, father, grandfather and great grandfather has passed away at 93 years of age. His life was filled with love of God, his family and his country."

President Ford epitomized servant-leadership. He did what was best for those he led no matter what the cost might have been for him politically. He believed in the importance of leading by example. He spent his career serving his country and healed his country. He was the right man at the right time. He was a humble, honest man and a great leader.

"The American people will always admire Gerald Ford's devotion to duty, his personal character and the honorable conduct of his administration," President Bush said in a statement tonight. "We mourn the loss of such a leader, and our 38th president will always have a special place in our nation's memory."

"During a time of disquiet and uncertainty, Ford, through his inherent decency, almost single-handedly restored the faith of the American people in their government" wrote Mark Updegrove in Second Acts.

President Ford closed his autobiography, A Time To Heal, upon leaving the White House in 1978 with these words, “My thoughts went back to the morning of August 1, 1974, when I received that first phone call from Al Haig. And I remembered how cloudy it had been in Washington that day. Now I looked out the window of the plane. The sun was shining brightly. I couldn’t see a cloud anywhere, and I felt glad about that.”

Information about the memorial contributions and how you can send a message of condolence to the Ford family can be found at www.GeraldFordMemorial.com
Gerald Ford


Quotes by Gerald Ford:

  Remarks upon granting a pardon to former President Richard Nixon, September 8, 1974: “As we are a nation under God, so I am sworn to uphold our laws with the help of God. And I have sought such guidance and searched my own conscience with special diligence to determine the right thing for me to do with respect to my predecessor in this place, Richard Nixon, and his loyal wife and family. Theirs is an American tragedy in which we all have played a part. It could go on and on and on, or someone must write the end to it. I have concluded that only I can do that, and if I can, I must.”

  Bicentennial Remarks at Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, July 4, 1976: “As we continue our American adventure…all our heroes and heroines of war and peace send us this single, urgent message: though prosperity is a good thing, though compassionate charity is a good thing, though institutional reform is a good thing, a nation survives only so long as the spirit of sacrifice and self-discipline is strong within its people. Independence has to be defended as well as declared; freedom is always worth fighting for; and liberty ultimately belongs only to those willing to suffer for it.”

  Bicentennial Remarks at Independence Hall Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, July 4, 1976: “The world is ever conscious of what Americans are doing, for better or for worse, because the United States today remains that most successful realization of humanity’s universal hope. The world may or may not follow, but we lead because our whole history says we must. Liberty is for all men and women as a matter of equal and unalienable right. The establishment of justice and peace abroad will in large measure depend upon the peace and justice we create here in our own country, for we still show the way.”

  Remarks at his final State of the Union speech, January 12, 1978: “My fellow Americans, I once asked you for your prayers, and now I give you mine. May God guide this wonderful country, its people and those they have chosen to lead them. May our third century be illuminated by liberty and blessed with brotherhood so that we and all who come after us may be the humble servants of thy peace.”

  Remarks upon receiving the John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award, May 21, 2001: “I have always believed that most people are mostly good, most of the time. I have never mistaken moderation for weakness, nor civility for surrender. As far as I'm concerned, there are no enemies in politics--just temporary opponents who might vote with you on the next Roll Call. . . . The ultimate test of leadership is not the polls you take, but the risks you take. In the short run, some risks prove overwhelming. Political courage can be self-defeating. But the greatest defeat of all would be to live without courage, for that would hardly be living at all.”

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12.15.06

Walt Disney: The Triumph of the American Imagination

disney
Walt Disney is arguably one of the most influential Americans of the twentieth-century. (The Atlantic listed him at number 26 in their recent listing of influential Americans.) He died 40 years ago today at age 65 in Los Angeles.

Steven Watts writes in The Magic Kingdom, "Walt Disney operated not only as an entertainer but as a historical mediator. His creations helped Americans come to terms with the unsettling transformations of the twentieth century. This role was unintentional but decisive. Disney entertainment projects were consistently nourished by connections to mainstream American culture — its aesthetics, political ideology, social structures, economic framework, moral principles — as it took shape from the late 1920s through the late 1960s.”

067943822X
The new biography of Disney by Neal Gabler is the best portrait of Disney to date. With unprecedented access to Disney family achieves, Gabler tells a story of a man that would not be deterred from his many disappointments and failures to fulfill his dreams and in the end, decidedly alter the American consciousness. Unfortunately for Disney, his dreams didn’t always bring him personal happiness.

Disney once remarked, "All the adversity I've had in my life, all my troubles and obstacles, have strengthened me... You may not realize it when it happens, but a kick in the teeth may be the best thing in the world for you."

Gabler concludes that of all Disney’s contributions, his greatest is that “he demonstrated how one could assert one’s will on the world at the very time when everything seemed to be growing beyond control and beyond comprehension. In sum, Walt Disney had been not so much a master of fun or irreverence or innocence or even wholesomeness. He had been a master of order.”

Posted by Michael McKinney at 12:06 AM
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12.06.06

The Era of Professional Management is Dead

Jeffrey Immeldt
About a month ago Jeffrey Immelt, Chairman and CEO of General Electric Company, visited the University of Virginia Darden School of Business. Speaking to the students, he stated, "The era of professional management is dead. The future is growth leadership."

The Darden School news release states:

To prepare, he advised Darden students to gain expertise in six key areas:
  • Be a fearless globalist and explore new opportunities wherever they exist.
  • View leadership from the perspective of innovation and product management
  • Simplify. "Doing things simply is a lot harder than doing them in a complicated way," he said. But simplification saves time and increases efficiency, while allowing for the free flow of ideas.
  • Be a salesman. In the digital age companies will sell fewer things to more people, Immelt said. Guessing correctly what those things will be and determining how to sell them will be a hallmark of the successful executive.
  • Like people (be a good student of organizational behavior). This helps maintain loyalty, while giving talented individuals a reason to stay at the company. "Convince them your vision is their vision," Immelt said.
  • Build trust. "Take care of your workforce," the executive said.

The Darden School Dean, Robert F. Bruner added some comments of Immelt’s talk on his blog:
To be a growth leader is to stimulate organic growth of a firm through close acquaintance with the needs of the customer. Thus, “domain knowledge” is important—the knowledge that can help you decide what to sell, to whom, and where to make it. Jack Welch believed in the theory of the “best available athlete,” the generalist who could be transferred successfully from turbines, to medical devices, and to TV production. Immelt believes that higher competition requires a closer knowledge of the customer than the best athlete model allows.

Robert Bruner
On the same post Bruner is also left some impressions of Immelt that are worth reading.

Robert Bruner himself is an interesting and articulate man. I especially appreciated his comments on “Getting a Life.” He writes, “High performance professionals must have a renewing life outside of the workspace. You can’t sustain a high rate of intensity without a break. This varies for everyone, of course. But the formula should include some kind of exercise, family or community-oriented engagement, and some strictly personal break time.” He shares what works for him in his own personal renewal program. Reading, cycling, food and wine, and foreign travel resonated with me.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 08:55 AM
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11.22.06

Pamela Thomas-Graham: A Woman For All Seasons

In a recent column by Harvey Mackay, author of Dig Your Well Before You're Thirsty, he shared his impressions of a New York Sun article written by Pranay Gupte. The article featured Pamela Thomas-Graham, the new head of Liz Claiborne. MacKay writes, “It fascinated me. I wondered how one woman could accomplish so many things and do all of them so well.” Here are some excerpts from that column:
Pamela Graham
There was a big clue. Throughout the article, Ms. Thomas-Graham praised her parents and their Presbyterian church for the values they instilled in her. "I was brought up to challenge myself, to try to be successful on my own terms. I was brought up to be focused. So I see myself as more fully engaged than ever before," Ms. Thomas-Graham responded when asked why she accepted the burden of revitalizing the flagship Liz Claiborne brand as well as nine others. The brands she oversees bring in annual revenues just shy of $1 billion.

Asked how she managed to transform CNBC.com [her last job] into one of the top ten financial Web sites in 18 months, she said, "I do not use brute force in my management style. I use my strategic abilities. I work hard to create a team environment. It’s extremely important for a leader to empower others in driving the success of the organization. I emphasize how essential it is to be nimble and always resourceful."

Her personality and conversational abilities helped her every step of the way. "Our parents expected us to know what was going on in the world," she said of herself and her older brother, who is the assistant dean of the University of St. Thomas Law School in Minneapolis. "My mother always emphasized that we should be able to hold a conversation on any topic for at least five minutes. This reinforced the value of knowledge and intellectual curiosity in us."

This ability is extolled as one of the essential qualities everyone must develop by no less a prestigious organization than Toastmasters. To succeed in life you generally have to be well rounded and well informed. You also must convert negatives to positives.

When I finally caught up to Thomas-Graham, she told me that some of her best advice is, "Don't get discouraged, and don't let other people define your potential. In high school, when I told my guidance counselor that I wanted to apply to Harvard, she said that was an unrealistic expectation. My parents and others encouraged me to apply anyway, and I became the first person from my high school to ever attend Harvard. So hold onto your dreams, even when others try to diminish them. And think big!"

Mackay’s Moral: You never know when a little word or something you may do may open up the windows of a mind that seeks the light.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 12:03 AM
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11.15.06

Anwar el-Sadat on Life and Leadership

Anwar el-Sadat was a remarkable leader. He became president of Egypt after Nasser’s untimely death in October 1970. For his efforts to bring about peace with Israel, he shared the 1978 Nobel Peace Price with Israel’s Menachem Begin. Just over 25 years ago, on October 6, 1981, Sadat was assassinated by terrorists. Here are some thoughts from his 1978 autobiography, In Search of Identity:
Anwar Sadat
  • Most people seek after what they do not possess and thus are enslaved by the very things they want to acquire. They become prisoners of their desires even though they appear to be free.
  • Nothing is more important than self-knowledge. My wide- ranging reading not only broadened my mind and enriched my emotions, it also helped me to know myself better. It is self-knowledge that makes a man’s actions proceed from objective, rather than puny subjective considerations.
  • Suffering crystallizes a soul’s intrinsic strength; for it is through suffering that a man of mettle can come into his own, and fathom his own depths.
  • If human values were relative, all laws—whether those based on revealed religions or those devised by man—would become meaningless. Most people today live in power-based communities, and the world has lost the lofty ideals which man has established down the centuries. Mankind has, I believe, no way out of its current predicament except the restoration of these ideals and the vindication of them in all walks of life.
  • An Arab aphorism says that a ruler is naturally opposed by half of his subjects, if he happens to be just, which, I believe, is true. A ruler is a solo performer on the stage, as it were, and, with the spotlight on him, people can see him very clearly but hardly notice anybody else. Any citizen with troubles, problems, or even trivial daily complaints will naturally blame them on the ruler.
  • To be gripped by fear is, I believe, the most degrading of all emotions for a human being. In fear personality disintegrates, the human will is paralyzed, and man acts as an automaton.
  • He who cannot change the very fabric of his thought will never be able to change reality, and will never, therefore, make any progress.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 06:58 AM
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10.09.06

Carly Fiorina On Leading Change

Fiornia-Tough Choices
Recounting her days at Lucent, Carly Fiorina writes in Tough Choices about the challenge of bringing about organizational change:
As is true whenever a new leader issues a challenge, a critical mass of the old-timers must rise to that challenge. If this fails to happen, the new leader is simply ignored. People who’ve never operated in large, complex companies are often surprised to learn that even a change agent with title and position can be effectively rendered powerless by people’s collective decision to maintain the status quo. A boss can hire and fire. A boss can reallocate people and money. A boss can measure and reward. A boss can threaten or inspire. Each of these actions and decisions will be analyzed and interpreted by an organization. Some interpretations will motivate change. But no boss, even a president or a CEO, can order people to change. No boss can force people to behave differently. People operate based on their own free will. They will make their own decisions, and in big companies those decisions are easy to hide.

Leadership is about making a positive difference, and anyone, from any position, can choose to lead.

People don’t want to be mediocre; they’re just sometimes afraid they can’t be any better, or that it won’t make any difference even if they are.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 08:18 AM
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10.08.06

Carly Fiorina: Hewlett-Packard Leaks

Tough Choices
The New York Times reported Thursday (October 5) that according to former Hewlett-Packard chief executive Carly Fiorina, she “ordered the first of a series of leak investigations into contacts by board members with journalists in January 2005.”

In her new book, Tough Choices, she writes that it began with the leak of a January 2005 meeting to the Wall Street Journal. After a suggestion by Larry Babbio that every Board member should resign, she wrote, “I suggested instead that we ask the Nominating and Governance Committee to launch an investigation to be conducted by outside counsel. On rare other occasions when we’d had an ethical issue arise in the company that warranted the Board’s attention, the Audit Committee had conducted an investigation with outside counsel. Because this was a matter internal to the Board, I felt the Nominating and Governance Committee should handle this one. No one argued.”

Fiornia continues:
Bob Knowling convened the committee by telephone ten minutes later. The members agreed that Larry Sonsini would interview each Board member. Bob requested that Larry use the interviews to conduct not only an investigation, but also an objective assessment of the Board. Beyond the leak, there was much about the Board’s dynamics that was disturbing. The committee agreed. Each Board member should be asked their views of the effectiveness of the Board, the qualifications of each Board member and how we could improve our meetings and deliberations. I thought it was a great idea. We needed to know what had happened to ensure that it never happened again, but perhaps we could also accomplish something more positive and productive. I thought we could weather this storm; we had weathered so many. I didn’t expect anyone to resign over this, nor did I intend to ask. I thought this could be a useful wake-up call to several board members who were not as smart as they thought they were.

It turns out I wasn’t as smart as I needed to be. Somehow, at some point during the next two weeks, certain Board members would decide to fire me.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 06:15 PM
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08.31.06

Desmond Tutu on Real Leadership

Desmond Tutu
Desmond Tutu, South African cleric and recipient of the 1984 Nobel Peace Prize, gave a speech recently at the Harold Wolpe Memorial Lecture in Cape Town. Here are some of his edited comments from that speech on Real Leadership:

I thought it might not be entirely inappropriate to talk about leadership—true, real leadership.

There is an episode in the Christian Gospels when the disciples of Jesus were bickering about leadership positions. So Jesus called them together to give them a profound lesson on true greatness real leadership and it turned out to be one of the most paradoxical statements ever. Just listen:
"And when the other ten apostles heard it, they began to be indignant with James and John. But Jesus called them to Him and said to them. You know that those who are recognized as governing and are supposed to rule the gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority and dominion over them. But this is not to be so among you; instead, whoever desires to be great among you must be your servant. And whoever wishes to be most important and first in rank among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to have service rendered to Him , but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many." (Mark 10: 41-50)

Now what kind of advice is that? Totally unrealistic, sentimental and utopian. They would make mincemeat of you in a hard nosed cynical world where it is dog eat dog, survival of the fittest, and devil take the hindmost, and everyone for himself in a setting of cut throat competition. But is that kind of success really what people in fact admire, indeed revere?

The leader is there for the sake of the led. The formula Jesus propounded clearly was not so utopian and unrealistic. Almost all who have become outstanding leaders have demonstrated this remarkable attribute of selfless altruism. The leader is there not for what he/she can get out of this exalted position. No, the real, the true leader knows the position is to enable the leader to serve those she leads. It is not an opportunity for self aggrandizement, but for service of the led.

Integrity: People look up to their leaders for inspiration; they somehow believe they embody their best ideals, attributes and characteristics. This is how they want to believe they would be at their best.

They want their leaders in a way to be a Colossus without blemish, a paragon of virtue, of impeccable moral standards, not an idol with feet of clay.

There surely is conduct which might be tolerated in a lesser mortal but that would be anathema in the Head of State. We speak of gravitas, of in our language shadow, isthunzi, a presence. We want to experience our head of state as being presidential. He/she is not an ordinary person.

Humility: Almost paradoxically we also are attracted to a head of state who is humble and approachable not arrogant and aloof.

People want their leader as it were to have charisma, to be regal and exalted, dignified, almost godlike as expressing the best about their idealized corporate consciousness and identity. But they also want them to be people of flesh and blood, not remote, but down to earth in touch with them, aware of their aspirations, anguish, needs and know where the shoe pinches.

No human being is infallible: Most politicians seem to have a massive allergy to admitting they might have been wrong. I suspect most of us find humble pie unappetizing. We do not like to admit that we made a mistake. It is our peculiar hubris.

A leader leads by leading: A true leader whilst eager to carry his constituency with him whenever possible, sometimes has to take a stand that is not too popular with his followers. But the real leader then demonstrates his mettle by leading through leading. It requires courage to do this, but the leader recalls that the tortoise makes progress only when it sticks its neck out. Leadership can be a lonely vocation.

Bishop Charles Albertyn used to tell us this story, In this establishment, there are only two rules. Rule No. 1 - The boss is always right. Rule no. 2, in case the boss is wrong refer to rule No. 1. It may seem as if the kind of leader who uses this style is always in charge, things happen, everybody dances attention. But in fact it is self defeating. It allows resentment and anger to build up in those who have been humiliated by the apparently decisive boss and then one day even the worm will turn.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 02:09 AM
| TrackBacks (0) | Leaders , Leadership

08.23.06

Highest Presidential Approval Ratings

AOL gathered together statistics from The Gallup Poll and USAtoday.com to rank nine presidents by their highest approaval rating. It is interesting and the results may surprise you. I wonder where FDR ranks?

9
Richard Nixon
Highest Approval Rating: 67%
(Date of Poll: Nov. 12-17, 1969)
8
Ronald Reagan
Highest Approval Rating: 68%
(Dates of Polls: May 8-11, 1981 and May 16-19, 1986)
7
Gerald Ford
Highest Approval Rating: 71%
(Date of Poll: Aug. 16-19, 1974)
6
Bill Clinton
Highest Approval Rating: 73%
(Date of Poll: Dec. 19-20, 1998)
5
Jimmy Carter
Highest Approval Rating: 75%
(Date of Poll: March 18-21, 1977)
4
Lyndon Johnson
Highest Approval Rating: 79%
(Date of Poll: Feb. 28-March 4, 1964)
3
John F. Kennedy
Highest Approval Rating: 83%
(Date of Poll: April 28-May 3, 1961)
2
George H. W. Bush
Highest Approval Rating: 89%
(Date of Poll: Feb. 28-March 3, 1991)
1
George W. Bush
Highest Approval Rating: 90%
(Date of Poll: Sept. 21-22, 2001)

Posted by Michael McKinney at 12:05 AM
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07.31.06

Tony Blair: The Impact of the Modern World on Leadership

Prime Minister Tony Blair, addressing on July 30, a gathering of executives from publisher Rupert Murdoch's Newscorp organization at Pebble Beach, said: "I am sometimes taken to task for being too ambitious in the radical nature of the policy changes I am seeking. I always have the opposite worry: not being radical enough."
Tony Blair


"The toughest test for any leader today is the sheer scale, pace and reach of change. There is no steady state in political leadership today. Countries, like companies, are faced with upheaval, uncertainty and require constant adaptation to changing times. Globalisation is creating vast economic opportunity but with it the same amount of insecurity. Social patterns of conventional community and family life have eroded. September 11th, changed the foreign policy. Two years ago, energy policy barely featured on the G8 or EU agendas. Now it dominates both: and rightly.

In these times, caution is error; to hesitate is to lose; yet many of the decisions are acutely, finely balanced.

Take the three isms that run throughout most political debates in Europe and the US today. They're not socialism or capitalism. They're: protectionism, isolationism, nativism, by which I mean, to do with migration and national identity. In each case the issue is: "open or closed." ... In this battle - "open versus closed" - those on the "open" side of the argument will meet fierce opposition. Yet the "closed" side of the argument in truth has nothing to offer a nation except the delusion that the tide of change can be turned back; or alternatively a weaker version of the same delusion, namely that hard choices can just be evaded.

[O]ur cause will only triumph if people see it as based on even-handedness, on fairness, on a deep and genuine passion to help others....[I]f we want the strong measures necessary to solve our world's challenges, we need a strong and unifying value base from which to put forward the solutions.

The world changes fast; the policy changes necessary to cope are hugely challenging; opposition from traditionalists is immense. In these conditions, political leaders have to back their instinct and lead. The media climate will be often be harsh. NGOs and pressure groups with single causes can be benevolent but can also exercise a kind of malign tyranny over the public debate.

For a leader, don't let your ego be carried away by the praise or your spirit diminished by the criticism and look on each with a very searching eye. But for heaven's sake, above all else, lead."

Posted by Michael McKinney at 12:07 AM
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07.03.06

George Custer and the Importance of Information

general custer
One-hundred Thirty years ago on June 25, 1876 on the banks of the Little Big Horn River, the Battle of the Little Big Horn also known as Custer's Last Stand took place. It was reported that on the banks of the Little Big Horn River was the largest concentration of Indians from six tribes that history has ever recorded. It has been estimated that there were anywhere between ten to fifteen thousand Indians with over 2,500 warriors. Custer was in no position to pick a fight. Sadly, he decided to ignore that information.

Leaders live and die on good information. Getting it is only half the battle. The other half is listening to it. Far too many leaders find themselves talking when they should be listening. Paying attention to information is especially important when it suggest that things are not what they seem to be. Custer's pride unfortunately cost him and those around him their lives.

Little Bighorn Battlefield

Posted by Michael McKinney at 03:47 PM
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05.29.06

General Douglas MacArthur:
The Soldier, The Gentleman

MacArthur
General Douglas MacArthur is regarded are one of the most effective generals in history. General George Marshall regarded him as our most brilliant. He accomplished this in large part because of his code of self-discipline. He believed self-discipline to be the key in enabling the leader to think clearly and act responsibly. Mastering your impulses and controlling your emotions allows one to bring balance and perspective to any situation. This ability to display the right amount of emotion was especially critical and valuable to him in his most trying circumstances.

Major William A. Ganoe recalled this aspect of MacArthur’s character in his book MacArthur Close-Up: Much Then and Some Now (1962) in the following excerpt as cited by William Manchester:
Of all his traits, Ganoe believes “the one that made the greatest impact was his unwavering aplomb, his astonishing self-mastery. I had seen men who were so placid or stolid they were emotionless. But MacArthur was anything but that. His every tone, look or movement was the extreme of intense vivacity. . . . As he talked, so he walked jauntily, without swagger. His gait and expression were carefree without being careless.” He possessed “a gifted leadership, a leadership that kept you at a respectful distance, yet at the same time took you in as an esteemed member of his team, and very quickly had you working harder than you had ever worked before in your life, just because of the loyalty, admiration and respect in which you held him. Obedience is something a leader can command, but loyalty is something, an indefinable something, that he is obliged to win. MacArthur knew instinctively how to win it.” He was, the adjutant concludes, “all contradiction. He commanded without commanding. He was both a patrician and plebeian. I could close my eyes and see him in his toga, imperiously mounting his chariot, and the next minute clad in homespun, sitting on the narrow sidewalk of Pompeii and chatting informally with a slave.”

But the toga fitted him best. “To him the word gentleman held a religious meaning. It was sacredly higher than any title, station, or act of Congress. It was an attitude of life to be cherished in every gesture and spoken word. It comprehended and excused no letdown in its execution. . . . Flying off the handle, berating or bawling out were cardinal sins, which I not once saw him give way to. In times of stress or stinging irritation, his voice grew low, falling to a deep bass and intoning, with a control so strong, it held motionless everyone within its sound.”

Posted by Michael McKinney at 12:20 AM
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04.21.06

Napoleon’s Six Winning Principles

napoleonNapoleon still manages to get a lot of press. In his new book Napoleon on Project Management, Jerry Manus effectively develops practical lessons from the career of the French leader. At the core of his analysis are Napoleon’s Six Winning Principles. These principles are meant to serve as a compass and not as hard and fast rules. However, Manus notes that “these principles work together and feed off one another like interlocking gears. A lack of any one of them will impede success." A chapter is devoted to each point, but here’s a quick summary:
  • Exactitude: awareness, research, and continuous planning
  • Speed: reducing resistance, increasing urgency, and providing focus
  • Flexibility: building teams that are adaptable, empowered, and unified
  • Simplicity: clear, simple objectives, messages, and processes
  • Character: integrity, calmness, and responsibility
  • Moral Force: providing order, purpose, recognition, and rewards
Manus writes that Napoleon’s downfall was that his success eventually led to his undoing. The principles that had brought him success began to unravel. He offers four critical warning signs that we need to watch for: power (self-righteousness), overzealousness (obsession), scarcity of effective leaders (disorder and mistrust), and an unbalanced lifestyle (leading to burn out and loss composure and health). The bottom line:
…if we adopt a compliance mentality as a result of our power, isolate ourselves from our leaders and subject-matter experts, and forget to involve our stakeholders in major decisions, we will turn around one day and there will be nobody behind us. And with nobody behind us, we can no longer call ourselves leaders.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 09:12 AM
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03.25.06

Scholars Rate Worst Presidential Blunders

The McConnell Center asked about 90 political scholars nationwide to nominate mistakes of former presidents because a current administration cannot be judged with historical hindsight, Gary Gregg, a political science professor who directs the McConnell Center, said. Thirty-seven scholars responded. Gregg then compiled a shortened list of 10 for the public to rank. That online survey had 423 responses. So buchanan who had the worst blunder? President James Buchanan, for failing to avert the Civil War, according to a survey of presidential historians organized by the University of Louisville's McConnell Center.

The survey's top 10 presidential blunders were announced Saturday during a President's Day weekend conference called "Presidential Moments."

"We can probably learn just as much - or maybe even more - by looking at the mistakes rather than looking at why they were great," said political scientist and McConnell Center Director Gary Gregg.

Scholars who participated said Buchanan didn't do enough to oppose efforts by Southern states to secede from the Union before the Civil War.

The second worst mistake, the survey found, was Andrew Johnson's decision just after the Civil War to side with Southern whites and oppose improvements in justice for Southern blacks beyond abolishing slavery.

"We continue to pay" for Johnson's errors, wrote Michael Les Benedict, an Ohio State University history professor emeritus.

Lyndon Johnson earned the No. 3 spot by allowing the Vietnam War to intensify, Gregg said.

Where does Bill Clinton's Monica Lewinsky scandal rank? Many scholars said it belonged at No. 10, saying that it probably affected Clinton's presidency more than it did American history and the public.

The rest of the top 10 blunders:

4: Woodrow Wilson's refusal to compromise on the Treaty of Versailles after World War I.

5: Richard Nixon's involvement in the Watergate cover-up.

6: James Madison's failure to keep the United States out of the War of 1812 with Britain.

7: Thomas Jefferson's Embargo Act of 1807, a self-imposed prohibition on trade with Europe during the Napoleonic Wars.

8: John F. Kennedy allowing the Bay of Pigs Invasion that led to the Cuban Missile Crisis.

9: Ronald Reagan and the Iran-Contra Affair, the effort to sell arms to Iran and use the money to finance an armed anti-communist group in Nicaragua.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 08:34 PM
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