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04.29.14

Six Critical Leadership Moments

Step Up
Step Up by Henry Evans and Colm Foster is about learning to recognize six critical leadership moments where we need to lead. These moments were areas that clients found difficult to deal with. Leadership is not someone else’s job. Anyone can recognize moments where leadership is required, know what to do and step up.

The six critical moments are:

Using anger intelligently in the workplace. The key is learning to respond rather than react. Anger is not an either/or emotion. There are levels of anger. “The problem for most people is not that they get angry; it’s that they become less intelligent when they do. Our beef is with stupidity, not anger.” If you understand your own anger you can recognize the opportunity to lead when you see anger in other people and become a catalyst for positive action. “Knowing that there is an optimal mood for every task that a group might undertake provides you with leadership opportunities. You can step up to help create the mood.”

Recognizing and dealing with “terminal politeness.” You and others may be avoiding important conversations that you should be having. They key is learning to skillfully distinguish between conflict with a person and conflict with his or her idea.

Making decisions when no one else making them. Rarely do you have perfect information, but you must be able to confidently decide on a course of action.

Taking ownership when others are externalizing a problem. What are you contributing to an ongoing problem? “Moments of leadership present themselves when the people around you are stuck in old ways of thinking and behaving.” Leadership moments involve those in which you must change as well as others. “It’s not easy for most people to accept the possibility that one of their most cherished and entrenched beliefs about how the world works may be wrong.”

Identifying and leveraging pessimism. Pessimists don’t belong in a leadership role but they do have value that you can and should leverage. They can “point out problems and shed light on tough issues that others may be avoiding. “Optimism is not the same as positivity, and pessimism is not the same as negativity. It is possible to be an optimist and have a slightly negative bias; you can see the trouble ahead but are confident in your ability to overcome obstacles and achieve a good result.”

Inspiring others to take action. This is about recognizing when you and others are stuck in unproductive and redundant dialogue. “You don’t have to be the group’s formal leader to recognize negative momentum and exercise the kind of leadership that will reverse that momentum.”

The authors note that you will not be successful enacting these behaviors unless you can do it in such a way that is emotionally safe for others for three simple reasons: the quality of your information deteriorates when people don’t feel safe talking to you, people will pursue goals beyond the point that makes sense out of fear of “crossing you,” and people simply don’t grow in a fearful environment.

Step Up contains concrete ideas for dealing with each of these areas with links to online resources.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 11:56 PM
| TrackBacks (0) | Leadership

03.04.14

Quick and Nimble: A Leadership Companion

Leadership
Adam Bryant has put together a great leadership companion with Quick and Nimble. There’s great advice on a wide range of leadership issues from Why Culture Matters to Alone at the Top. Here are several:

Why Culture Matters: A successful culture is like a green house where people and ideas can flourish—where everybody in the organization, regardless of rank or role, feels encouraged to speak frankly and openly and is rewarded for sharing ideas about new products, more efficient processes, and better way to serve customers.

A Simple Plan: “You have to be able to simplify things that are complex. At the end of the day, if the thirteen thousand people on the front lines don’t understand what you’re trying to do, forget it. You don’t stand a chance of making it work.” (David Barger, the CEO of JetBlue)

“We’re not a transparent culture so that we can be cool and it’s not about an open environment, because that’s not what makes a company transparent. It’s more around the fact that everyone needs to know where we are going and how we are going to get there. So we want everyone to understand our objectives and make that available to everyone as we’re evolving, so that people aren’t guessing and they’re not internally focused, because that’s one of the obstacles that a lot of companies fall into.” (Ryan Smith, CEO of Qualtrics)

Rules of the Road: “Ideas can come from anywhere. There are no titles around an idea. As the CEO, I’m the chief editor of the company, but I want the idea to come from anybody. There’s no bureaucracy around an idea. In fact, bureaucracy around an idea is the death of an organization. I tell people all the time: If you have a great idea, and you’re passionate about it, and it makes sense, and you can’t get your boss to hear your idea, then you should leave. That’s not an organization that you’re going to thrive in.” (Steve Stoute, Translation LLC and Carol’s Daughter)

A Little Respect: “By definition if there’s leadership, it means there are followers, and you’re only as good as your followers. I believe the quality of the followers is in direct correlation to the respect you hold in them. It’s not how much they respect you that is most important. It’s actually how much you respect them. It’s everything.” (Jeffrey Katzenberg, CEO DreamWorks Animation)

Play it Again and Again: “No matter how smart the people are that you are communicating to, the more of them there are, the dumber the collective gets. As the audience gets bigger and bigger, the bullet-point list has to be shorter and shorter, and the messages have to be simpler and simpler.” (Marcus Ryu, Guidewire)

Surfacing Problems: “I always ask, ‘Tell me one thing you really like about the company and one thing that frustrates you about the company.’ I always come out with at least one thing that is eye-opening.” (Ken Rees, CEO of Think Finance)

School Never Ends: “It’s about keeping them marketable. I encourage people: ‘Go out and find out what the market bears. You should do that and then come back and help me figure out what you need in your development that you’re not getting, because we owe that to you.’ I’ve been told by my associates that’s a countercultural approach to leadership: ‘You’re telling me to go look for another job?’ But my point is that I should be able to re-recruit them. I should be able to get them convinced that his is the best opportunity for them.” (Linda Heasley, former CEO of The Limited)

Alone at the Top: “Pacing is really important in an organization. I have in the past tended to overestimate the amount of change I can effect in the short run and then not fully appreciate the change I can effect in the long run. And so I’ve learned that it’s critical to think carefully about the pace of change, and it’s something that I’ve learned the hard way. it’s important to manage that carefully, because it’s not just about the pace of change that certain people in the company can manage. It's about the pace of change that the company as a whole can manage. You can push and push and nothing seems to happen, and then suddenly it takes off and you’re sort of running to catch up.” (Harry West, Continuum)

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 11:48 PM
| TrackBacks (0) | Leadership

12.02.13

Leading Through Uncertainty

Ray Davis
In times of great uncertainty, we must be leaders. In Leading Through Uncertainty, Ray Davis writes, “Effective leadership is motivating, and it can and should be the energy that propels a company through inevitable waves of change. Poor leadership can lead to disaster and has sunk more than a few companies and governments alike.”

Davis divides the book into three parts: leading yourself, leading your organization, and leading the way. He shares the ideas that have allowed Umpqua Bank—the West Coast’s largest independent community bank—to emerge from the economic crisis even stronger than before. The problem some will have with the book is that it requires a secure leader. A leader that can set his or her ego aside. And a leader that truly cares about their people, their organization and the people they affect.

Leading through uncertainty means leading with the truth. People can handle the truth. “The negative energy created by worrying is replaced with positive, productive actions and attitudes.” Of course, some leaders are afraid of the truth because it incriminates them and exposes their weaknesses.

Davis says, “I always tell our people that they’re entitled to get answers to every question they have. I let them know I’m not going to defend myself when it comes to their questions, but I will explain what’s going on. I also tell them that while they’re entitled to answers to every question, that doesn’t mean they are going to like the answers.”

Being truthful means acknowledging the problem. Saying peace when there is no peace—saying everything is fine when it isn’t—is only whitewashing that will erode trust and peace.

You must have a firm foundation in the basics, says Davis, and then walk the walk and talk the talk. We’re all busy but listening is essential. “I think it is a mistake for people in my position not to make themselves available to their customers, their people, and the community at large.” When you don’t have all the answers, listening goes a long way.

Leaders don’t lead in a vacuum. Secure leaders reach out to others. They give them the ability to provide constructive criticism which is hugely valuable of and by itself but it also serves to motivate and keep people involved in the process. “How else can a company get better if it’s not willing to listen to constructive criticism, if it’s not willing to listen to what it’s not doing as well as it could? If you’re not willing to listen, you’re not going to improve and you’re not going to grow.”

Great leadership begins with us. “I believe this starts with an introspective and honest inventory—first of yourself and then of your organization. Companies regularly evaluate their strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats to make sure they are focused on the right issues. I wonder, however, how many leaders do the same evaluation on themselves. I recommend this as a good starting point.”

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Of Related Interest:
  President and CEO = Head of Support

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 11:22 PM
| TrackBacks (0) | Change , Leadership

11.15.13

The White Knight Syndrome

white knight
As a leader it is easy to think that we alone possess all anyone needs to know; to think that our view of the world is the right one. After all, the view looks pretty good from where we sit. We’ve thought everything through. We have access to more information than anyone else. We have a way of doing things and it works—for us. So what rational person would question you? What could they possibly know that you don’t?

We can get a little self-important and think that we need to mount our white horse and begin a crusade to save the kingdom—charging through the organization bringing everyone in line with our way of thinking and our way of doing things. We know best and if they can see it, well then, they’re wrong. But before we do we should consider these questions:

Is this about me? Of course not. But before you get on your high horse, ask yourself if the issue is truly a right-wrong issue or simply a matter of opinion or approach? No one likes to be questioned, but the questions serve as a tool to help us grow. They keep us in check. If we're not being questioned, we have an even bigger problem. We have made our leadership about us—and everyone around us knows it. Only we are deluded enough to think otherwise.

Is there a connection I can build on? Find connection with the other side—even if you have only their intentions to consider. Rarely is anyone going out of their way to do the wrong thing. Most often it is their execution that is bad. Their timing can also be at the core of the problem. All these things can be fixed without diminishing the other side. Finding areas where you agree gives you something to build on and shows respect.

Am I motivated by the desire to establish my authority? If you have to correct someone, you should never leave them there. As a leader, your job is to build up not to put down. There are times when you have to correct but it should only be done in an effort to grow others and not to control them. If correction is about control, it’s about you—and you’ve lost before you’ve even gotten out of the gate.

Most crusades are about ego. They are designed to leverage differences. Stamp out opposition. Differences of opinion and approach serve to sharpen us, grow us, and open our thinking. If it is different it will make you uncomfortable. But that doesn’t necessarily make it wrong. Growth is risky, uncomfortable, and messy. Over time our own thinking numbs us if it is not challenged. It desensitizes us to the reality around us.

The most valuable people we have around us are those people who are willing to question us, consider another approach, and test our assumptions. We need these people if we are to grow into the leader we could be. It’s not about us.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 10:49 AM
| TrackBacks (0) | Leadership

10.30.13

The 8 Elements that Bring People Together

Finding Allies, Building Alliances
Working together to solve a common problem provides us with a more complete picture of the problem, and can offer us more options, synergies and solutions, than we could achieve by working alone. Many of the issues we face will require collaboration at some level to solve or even manage them.

In Finding Allies, Building Alliances, authors Mike Leavitt and Rich McKeown, state, “The ability to get things done with collaborative networks is the next generation in human productivity.” We need to be able to form and work with and through value alliances. Value alliances are “a group of participants with aligned interests in pursuing an outcome with value for each of them.” These alliances can last long enough to solve the issue they came together to solve or they can be ongoing as an alliance enterprise to oversee the solution to the problem.

But value alliances are not always easy. “Value alliances require that participants subordinate their egos, their agendas, their preferred styles, and their biases—not to mention their organizational agendas—in favor of a shared benefit.” Some people just don’t have the aptitude—the collaborative intelligence if you will—to work well with others. “People with high collaborative intelligence make an effort to understand the views and needs of others; they listen honestly, thoughtfully and objectively. They don’t lock into positions prematurely. While they may possess strong points of view, they make an effort to hear other perspectives and will adjust their points of view once convinced they need adjusting.”

The authors have had a lot of experience creating, working with, and successfully resolving problems through effective value alliances. They share the good and the bad and the lessons learned along the way. They answer why you form value alliances, the eight key elements required for a collaborative effort to succeed, how you select productive participants and how you deal with the inevitable issues that come up dealing with other people. Their case is well thought out and clearly presented.

From their experience they have discovered why some collaborative efforts have failed and why others have succeeded. From that background they detail the 8 elements required for a collaborative network to succeed:

1. A Common Pain is a shared problem that motivates different people/groups to work together in ways that could otherwise seem counterintuitive. Value alliances “exist at the intersection of self-interest and common interest.” We often become collaborators when we discover that we can solve a problem on our own. “Few people are willing to place themselves in a collaborative position of they have an alternative.” (As a side note, leaders, because of their position and the authority it brings them, usually have an alternative—my way or the highway. The best leaders collaborate anyway.)
Collaborations require time, money, and people. The collaborative process is more complex, slower, and messier than independent decision making. To be willing to give up a degree of independence and control, a given leader must believe the problem poses a serious threat to the enterprise.
2. A Convener of Stature is a respected and influential presence who can bring people to the table and, when necessary, keep them there. “The inability to turn down an offer is one sign that you’re dealing with a convener of stature.” The book lays out the roles and responsibilities of the convener.

3. Representatives of Substance. The collaborative participants must bring the right mix of experience and expertise for legitimacy and have the authority to make decisions. Look for participants who possess at least one and ideally all three varieties of substance: authoritative, cognitive, and reputational. Sometimes it is wise to create additional layers of participants beyond the primary or core group. “Omitting people from the collaboration often guarantees that they’ll become external critics or even saboteurs.”

4. Committed Leaders are individuals who possess the skill, creativity, dedication and tenacity to move an alliance forward even when it hits the inevitable rough patches. Value alliances require committed leaders who fulfill many of these ten roles: organizer, diplomat, technician, teacher, counselor, matchmaker, salesperson, referee, judge, and disciplinarian. “If committed leaders can consistently achieve consensus, they will move the alliance forward. Finding consensus is an art form that alliance leaders must master.”

5. A Clearly Defined Purpose is a driving idea that keeps people on task rather than being sidetracked by complexity, ambiguity and other distractions. It is important to identify and deal with purpose creep—“an inexorable broadening of scope that eventually makes it impossible to relieve the common pain that drew the group together in the first place.” The authors provide a step-by-step guide to creating a purpose in a collaborative setting. They advise, “find a golden mean: big enough to matter and small enough to do.” And add, “As a committed leader, you need to develop a sixth sense for when people are setting goals that are too difficult to achieve or too wide-ranging; you also need to grasp when you’ve shrunk the purpose to the point that its achievement won’t have any real impact.”

6. A Formal Charter establishes rules that help resolve differences and avoid stalemates. The three crucial parts of a charter are: the Purpose section, the Principles section, and the Operating Procedures.

7. The Northbound Train is an intuitive confidence that an alliance will get to its destination, achieve something of unique value, and that those who aren’t on board will be disadvantaged. The idea is, “decisions that matter to me are going to be made and I need to be there. The train is headed north and I want a seat on it.” They explain why a northbound train slows and what to do about it. “The feeling generated by a northbound train is what carries the collaboration to its destination.”

8. Defining Common Ground. “Participants and leaders need to discuss the beliefs and ideas that they take for granted in their collaborative efforts.” A Common Information Base keeps everyone in the loop and avoids divisive secrets and opaqueness. “Defining common standards boils down to the capacity of collaborators to reach foundational agreements.” People are coming from all different places with different values and beliefs, but to get to the point where there is a recommendation or decision that everyone can buy into, and to hold the collaboration together until that point is reached, “Agreement about operating modes and information protocols is necessary.”

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Finding Allies, Building Alliances brings clarity to an important topic. Collaborations are not easy. But it is the job of leadership. This book will help you to better understand the dynamics of collaboration. Interestingly, they explain why the Articles of Confederation could not work and why the United Sates Constitution does.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 12:43 AM
| TrackBacks (0) | Leadership , Problem Solving , Teamwork

10.09.13

The Good Struggle

Leadership
Not surprisingly, Joseph Badaracco has written an essential read for leaders of all kinds. The Good Struggle addresses the question of how to lead successfully and responsibly in our uncertain, high pressure, turbulent world.

Badaracco says that the inescapable pressures of leadership are intensified today because of the market-driven world in which we live.

“Almost everything—how we manage our organizations and our lives, how we make decisions at work and at home, and even how we think about ourselves—is deeply shaped by markets and market-based thinking.”

This creates greater uncertainty, obscures right choices, and puts pressure on us to abandon principles that we used to rely on. Responsible leaders find themselves engaged in the good struggle: “a long effort, demanding perseverance and courage, to make good on serious but profoundly fallible commitments in an uncertain and often unforgiving world.” He adds, “Struggle has always been central to accomplishing anything worthwhile, and this is especially true today.”

He offers five enduring—inescapable—questions. Responsible leadership consists of thoughtful and lived answers to them.

Am I Really Grappling with the Fundamentals? “The first responsibility of leaders is intellectual. It is the struggle to develop—to the extent possible—a deep, careful, analytical, data-driven understanding of the driving forces in the markets and society around them and to keep this understanding loose, flexible, and revisable.” Grasping the fundamentals can “reduce the chance of being blindsided, by encouraging the mental habit of looking for emerging patterns and odd developments with larger implications. It also promotes modesty, a healthy, low-level paranoia, and vigilance rather than hubris.”

He notes that everything now is modular—constantly being recombined. “Recombination also makes it much harder for leaders to inculcate values when people in their organizations know they and their leaders are basically modules in a plug-and-play world and could be moving on soon. The natural instinct is to take care of yourself, here and now.”

What Am I Really Accountable For? “Without clarity about accountability, leaders and their organization can drift or zigzag aimlessly.” Of course, many leaders do not want to be accountable to anyone or anything. “Accountability originates in an obligation to make good on the spirit of some jointly designed, provisional, and evolving objectives.” Here’s the question for any leader: “What pressures, scrutiny, and risks do we want to create or invite in order to build a strong, resilient, responsible organization?”

How Do I Make Critical Decisions? We need a broader view of critical decisions. Instead of viewing them as deep, abiding pledges that we must make good on, we need to see them more as evolving commitments. That is, “a pledge, by a leader and an organization, to move in particular direction, but to do so in a flexible, open-ended way.” Decision making has to be as fluid as the markets around them. “Execution as learning.” “Instead of periodic big decisions, responsible leaders make or orchestrate an unending series of smaller ones—all aimed at some larger, broad, flexible objective.”

Do We Have the Right Core Values? Values are important because “they may be the only force that can counter the power of markets and market-based thinking….Today’s ever-present markets have their own implicit values, and they can easily overwhelm whatever values leaders want to instill in their organizations.” To lead responsibly, leaders must commit to “clarity, meaningful projects, and bright ethical lines. In different ways, each of these helps leaders and organizations respond to the risks and opportunities created by pervasive market forces.”

Why Have I Chosen This Life? People seek positions of leadership not despite the struggles involved, but because of them. “Responsible leadership is a challenge that—despite its inevitable risks, frustrations, and failures—demands and merits the best efforts of talented men and women, tests their competence and their characters fully, gives purpose and intensity to their lives, and helps them lead the kind of lives they really value.” The purpose of our struggle matters.

Badaracco writes, “If the purpose of life is ease and comfort, no sensible person would take on the demands of leadership.” Perhaps in developing leaders at all levels we need to change that very prevalent mindset. Without it we can’t discover what we are and the person we are meant to be.

Badaracco doesn’t offer hard answers because they are evolving answers and should be individual answers created from introspection and reflection. But the insights and provocative concepts are enough to get you thinking in new ways.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 11:24 AM
| TrackBacks (0) | Leadership , Leadership Development , Thinking

09.16.13

Why We Need Strangers

Strangers
Part of the reason we get stuck and part of the reason we lack the feedback we need is that we are surrounded by the familiar. The familiar that continuously reminds us that we are doing the best we can and that we are doing it right. We are mired in the familiar when what we need is the strange.

We need strangers. “These strangers,” writes Alan Gregerman in The Necessity of Strangers, “whom we quickly choose to ignore or form an opinion about, are the people who force us out of our comfort zones and challenge us to question the knowledge, belief, and habits we hold dear.”

Gregerman asks, “What if strangers are actually, in many ways, more important than friends?” Interesting question.

There are two issues here. “First, most of us just don’t have enough friends or a diverse enough set of them to give us the breadth of insight and perspectives we need to continually stretch our thinking and to grow. And second, the exact reasons why we count on friends are the same reasons that their input may not be ideal for our efforts to stretch and grow.”

Maybe it’s not who you know but who you could know that will determine your success and growth.

While we tend to be adverse to outsider's thinking, our real aversions, says Gregerman, “should be to see our own thinking as the only way to move forward. The real trick is to “pick the right strangers with ties to what we hope to accomplish and then ask them the right questions.”

Gregerman suggests that 99% of all new ideas are based on an idea or practice that someone or something else has already had.

New employees are a great source of fresh ideas, but we tend to quickly shape them into the way we do things. “They arrive filled with different ideas and fresh perspectives based on a new and different set of work and life experiences—ideas, perspectives, and experiences that might actually make us more efficient, effective, innovative, customer-focused, and successful if we were willing to listen.”

If we don’t focus on the strange but instead focus on the different that we could tap into, we might grow in ways we never imagined. “Everyone matters. And that’s an idea that leaders must convey.”

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The Necessity of Strangers is an excellent analysis on why we need to seek out the new and different. Gregerman suggests ways we might do this on a daily basis. When it comes to hiring, collaboration, and managing, most organizations reward “group think” in the name of strengthening their culture. When in fact, the opposite is what unlocks potential and leads to breakthrough ideas.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 10:42 PM
| TrackBacks (0) | Change , Creativity & Innovation , Human Resources , Leadership

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

07.24.13

The Business of Belief

"Belief has been a most powerful component of human nature that has somewhat been neglected," says Peter Halligan, a psychologist at Cardiff University. "But it has been capitalized on by marketing agents, politics and religion for the best part of two millennia."
Business of Belief
Tom Asacker reveals the role of belief in leadership in The Business of Belief.

For leaders and organization, belief is the issue. It is at the core of who we are, why we do what we do, or approach to change, and how we lead. "If you want to change the world, if you want to change your world, if you want to succeed at work, in the marketplace, or in any other social endeavor or organization, belief is your Holy Grail" writes Asacker.

Beliefs are nothing more than working assumptions. Belief may or may not be true or even rational. But belief is at the heart of making your leadership work.

We fight for choice and fight wars to protect choice, but we don't always live with choice, we more often live with our own self-imposed dogma. "Choice is liberating, and belief flourishes with the freedom to choose. But every choice also chains us, because it rejects a world brimming with competing opinions and possibilities. Our believing minds simply cannot function while brooding over all of those chains. The psychic strain would paralyze us. And so we ignore them."

We want control over our world. And that desire impacts how we operate in the world. "If we believe we know what's happening around us, especially the near term future and general direction, we feel safe. That's why we resist change and want our agendas and ideologies to prevail."

This is where, I believe leadership comes in. And Asacker addresses that in part two:
Those skilled at motivating people to cross a new bridge to change their beliefs and behavior, are not trying to cajole or manipulate them against their will. Rather, they seek to guide them to a new destination, a transformed way of feeling, thinking and acting that's aligned with their personal desires and values.

Effective leaders know that the first essential step to changing people's behavior is to understand their perspectives and embrace their desires and beliefs. Everything else flows naturally from there.
To paraphrase industrial designer Dieter Rams, good leaders "must have an intuition for the reality in which people live." It's one of the reasons that self-centered leaders struggle. Great leaders, as Asacker writes, must design new beliefs. "Creating belief is about affect before effect. It's about finding people who want to believe and making them feel comfortable." It's about making it ours.

And this is key: "Making it ours is not giving us control of the ship. Rather, it's connecting the voyage—especially the questions, highlights and successes—to our desires and choices." That's leadership.

In part three, Asacker turns to what we can do personally to understand and manage our own beliefs. He issues this challenge:
Face it: We are either breaking out of our spirit-sucking routines and breaking through to new insights and experiences, or we are breaking down. So when the opportunity to step out of your comfort zone arrives, and it definitely will come, take it. Say no to the sure thing and say yes to a creative challenge. Say no to short-term, comfort producing activities, and say yes to fear, passion and leadership.
I've only scratched the surface here. The Business of Belief is full of thought provoking ideas and statements that will make you think. Perhaps I should say they will distract you. "Distractions and difficulties turn on our thinking mind, which undermines belief by overriding our instincts." May you be distracted.

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In The Business of Belief, Tom Asacker describes the job of leadership from the perspective of beliefs—yours and theirs. It's a critical message that every leader should read. For more insights, follow him on Twitter: @tomasacker

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 03:14 PM
| TrackBacks (0) | Change , Leadership

03.12.13

Leadership and the Art of Struggle: 5 Things You Can Do

Struggle is a part of any human endeavor and leadership is no different. The problem is we view struggle as a negative. But struggle is how we grow. Without them we can’t reach our full potential as leaders.

Leadership
We like to think of our leaders as flawless. We like to be perceived as flawless—or at least we like people to think we have everything under control. But as Joe Badaracco has pointed out, “leadership is a struggle by flawed human beings to make some important human values real and effective in the world as it is.”

It may sound counterintuitive, but considering the benefits illuminated by Stephen Snyder in Leadership and the Art of Struggle, we should welcome it as an important element of the leadership process and our own personal development. Snyder writes that we should face struggle “head on—not hiding from it or feeling shame—because struggle is the gateway to learning and growth.” It can also help us to discover our purpose and meaning and develop the adaptive energy necessary to sustain our leadership for a lifetime.

Struggles have three defining characteristics:
Change: Every struggle is triggered by some type of change.
Tensions: Change creates a natural set of tensions.
Being out of Balance: Change and its ensuing tensions throw a leader off balance. This may happen without us even being aware of it, but acknowledgement of it is central to regaining control.

In the world we live in today, this is a common occurrence often leading to burnout unless we learn to see struggle through a different lens. Snyder recommends:

Adopt a growth mindset. The first step in accomplishing this is through reflection—being aware of what is going on around you. Snyder’s former colleague at Microsoft, Frank Gaudette, used to say: “I reserve the right to wake up smarter every day.” A good mantra to make our own.

Center your mind, body and spirit. We all need some way to anchor ourselves and gain perspective that we practice daily like exercise and diet, prayer, connecting with nature, meditation, and/or journaling.

Build your support community. “Create a community of people whom you can connect and bond with and from whom you can seek advice and feedback.”

Overcome your blind spots. Blind spots by their very nature are hard to recognize. And they are frustrating because they blind us from seeing why people may be responding to us in counterproductive ways—leading us to finger pointing rather than personal responsibility. “Blind spots,” writes Snyder, “are the product of an overactive automatic mind and an underactive reflective mind.”

A fairly common blind spot Snyder calls the Conflict Blind Spot. This blind spot can cause someone to interpret every interaction through a distorted lens. It reinforces the perception that the other person is wrong and we are right.

Recommit, pivot, or leap. When we struggle we have essentially three options. The first is to recommit and stay the course. The second is to pivot and make a course correction. And third is to leap into uncharted territory far beyond our comfort zone. Choosing the right option requires that we examine ourselves and determine which choice is most consistent with our personal values or mission statement.

Every struggle is a chance to learn and to confront who we are and what we are becoming. Seen in that light, they are a gift. And our ability to deal with our own struggles effectively has an impact on those around us. Not only does it create a more positive environment to function in, but it provides a constructive example for others to follow.

Snyder has written an outstanding and practical book to help us to rethink the challenges and problems we face along the way. One of the best you’ll ever read on the topic.

(The Adaptive Leader Profile is available from Snyder Leadership Group.)

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Struggles are an inevitable part of the leadership journey. With every episode of struggle, there is a learning opportunity. Snyder offers insights as how to accept and reconcile the struggles you find in your own leadership journey.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 10:27 PM
| TrackBacks (0) | Leadership , Leadership Development , Personal Development , Problem Solving

02.06.13

People are Job 1

Trustworthy Leader
As a leader if you are not devoting your time to people issues, you’re missing the big picture. Amy Lyman, author of The Trustworthy Leader, was once asked what could you do if you only had five minutes a day to devote to people issues? It is a stunning question on its face but reveals something deeper.

Lyman explained that “leading is a full-time job. If you want to be a successful leader, you need to devote all of your time to people issues….Five minutes a day—or even five minutes an hour—is the wrong approach.” The problem is we tend to separate our “work” from the “people” issues; respond to people issues when asked to, but focus our intellectual talents on the mechanics of the specific tasks in front of us.

Lyman makes the point that people are integral to our ability in every single area in our organizations and if we do not include consideration of people in every aspect of our work, then we are doing ourselves and our organizations a great disservice. Yet it is not uncommon to find leaders who see people as the problem—the distraction—that takes them away from their work. Our work is people.
Trustworthy leaders…understand the complexity of bringing together a group of human beings to pursue extraordinary accomplishments. They are masters at guiding, directing, encouraging, and challenging people to contribute their best, in part because they ask the same of themselves. Trustworthy leaders know that their relationships with other throughout the organization are key to their success—however success is measured.
Lyman identifies six elements that both influence how a leader acts and reflect how that person thinks about being a leader:

Feels Honored—Sense of honor and gratitude for being asked to lead and acknowledging the responsibility that comes with it.

Inclusive—Promotes the inclusion of every person into the larger community of the organization.

Ability to Value and Engage Followers—Pay attention to followers and learn from them, support their contributions and connect with them beyond their work roles.

Openly Shares Information—Employees contributions will be magnified to the degree that they have access to useful information.

Develops Others—Help employees to learn, grow, and discover their talents. It’s part of who they are because they think about others more than themselves.

Ability to Move through Uncertainty to pursue Opportunities—The skillful weighing of risks and rewards attached to the opportunities available is one of the most important actions that leaders can take on.
When employees see their leader act with honor, feel included, choose to follow, have access to information they can use, and are supported in their development, they will support their leader’s efforts to try novel approaches and find the best way forward.
Trustworthy leaders succeed in the marketplace because their trustworthiness provides them with two key competitive advantages: first, they benefit from the cooperation of employees with each other, across departments, and throughout the organization as a whole; and second they engender a deep, strong commitment among employees to the long-term success of the company, its mission, and its vision as expressed by the leader.

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Trustworthy Leaders know that being trustworthy is the critical factor that separates their leadership success from that of others.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 08:56 PM
| TrackBacks (1) | Leadership

10.16.12

If it were just about leading, would you still want to be a leader?

Imagine for a moment that you as a leader didn’t have all the perks that seem to accompany positions of leadership—no lease car, no reserved parking space, no special dining rooms, offices, furnishings or refreshments and certainly not the compensation that creates jealousies. Would you still want to be a leader?

What if no one had to think that your way was always the best way? What if you had to ask as much as you told? What if being “in-charge” meant that it was your job to put others first? What if those you led got all the credit? Would you still want to lead?

What if all you got were the intrinsic rewards of leadership—the satisfaction of seeing others grow to their potential, perform to their best ability and knowing that you enabled that to happen, knowing that you were the catalyst, the spark, the steady, guiding hand throughout the process? Would that be enough to motivate you to lead? To deal with the downside of leadership?

Surgeon GeneralLeadership is hard work. It carries with it personal demands and expectations and complexities and ambiguities that most people never imagine when they decide to embark on the leadership journey. Perhaps it should come with a Surgeon General's Warning: May cause headache, nausea, loss of appetite, insomnia, neurosis, anxiety, indecision, depression, and hair loss.

Because of its demands, without a doubt, good leaders should be rewarded. But we need to ask frequently, “What are we in it for?” If we are in it for ourselves or just to make our dreams come true, our gains will go when we go. In our own mind, it can’t be about what we get but what we give. If we’re in it for the rewards, it will skew our thinking and diminish our role as a leader. It will create a culture where everything rests on the leader. And that’s not leadership, that’s self-promotion.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 10:15 AM
| TrackBacks (0) | Leadership

08.24.12

Leadership as Provocative Competence

Leadership
Jazz has always been a good metaphor for the art of leadership. In Yes to the Mess, Frank Barrett knocks it out of the park. How do we create a culture where people can innovate? Barrett wants us to look at leadership differently and increase our leadership repertoire beyond hierarchical models, “so that we more fully appreciate the power of relationships.” And in that he succeeds.

Barrett introduces us to what he calls Provocative Competence. It is the capacity “to create the discrepancy and dissonance that trigger people to move away from habitual positions and repetitive patterns.” Barrett says “Leadership as a design activity means creating space so that people will be tempted to grow on their own.”

Herbert Simon, who won the Nobel Prize in Economics in 1978 for his research on decision making in organizations, believed that we should not think of leaders as making decisions on past data, “but as creating forms so that people can flourish in the future,” or as Barrett expresses more clearly, as shaping “worlds of interpretation in which others can make meaningful contributions.”

The outcome then, is to enliven activity and rouse the mind to life. It isn’t about authority but is “relational moves within an unfolding context” and are judged by “how well they work with the resources at their disposal … and how effectively they help free their own potential and that of others.”

Barrett breaks provocative competence down into five component parts:

First, it is an affirmative move. “What makes these interventions powerful is that the leader holds a positive image of what others are capable of. This often means seeing other people’s strengths better than they see their own strengths.”

Second, provocative competence involves introducing a small disruption to routine. “What makes provocative competence an ‘art’ is the introduction of just enough unusual material that it engages people to be mindful—to pay attention in new ways.” Timing and pacing is important he cautions. “Leaders who disrupt on a regular basis or try to be provocative all the time are obnoxious, and are eventually ignored and probably mimicked.”

Third, it is important to create situations that demand activity. People are expected to jump in and work it out and discover as they go.

Fourth, provocative competence means facilitating incremental reorientation by encouraging repetition. There is a balance here. “Not all repetition is the same. Sometimes you need to repeat a gesture and then start to notice it from a slightly different angle…. Even while people are learning on old habits, they have to attend to new cues and new options, and start to manage and process information within a new, broader context.”

Fifth, provocative competence involves analogic sharpening of perspectives and thought processes. “This is the point at which people look back at what is emerging and jump into the morass as they make comparisons, links, and connections to a larger, emerging whole.” This is the thrust of innovation. Net effect: “People start to notice affinity between pieces that previously seemed disconnected; resemblances that no one noticed before start to emerge.”

Of course, notes Barrett, “different groups have different levels of performance, and leaders certainly have to deal with imperfect talent, but saying yes to the mess means finding affirmation in the best of what already exists.” That’s the job of a great leader. It’s what separates leaders from bosses. “That’s a true gift: to be able to see people at their very best when their current behavior is far less than that.

Of Related Interest:
  Making Your Team Swing
  Leadership: Artistry Unleashed
  Does Your Leadership Have “White Space?”

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 05:59 PM
| TrackBacks (0) | Creativity & Innovation , Leadership , Management

08.17.12

Heroic Leaders and Passive Followers

As leaders, if we take too much control and do not encourage others to take responsibility, we set ourselves and others up for failure.

Roger Martin calls it the responsibility virus and it always begins with the germ of fear. “This vacillation between over- and under-responsibility is an endless loop. Fear of failure drives them into an initial extreme position. The extreme positions of over- and under-responsibility drive them into failure. Failure causes them to flip into the other extreme. And so on.”

He adds that “Advising leaders to stop being heroic and exhorting passive followers to become more aggressive doesn’t get the job done. Heroic leaders and passive followers are pursuing what they feel, at that time and place, to be the optimal course of action.” But it is destructive. Yet we see it played out all the time in organizations, in part because we have a hard time wrapping our minds around the true function of leadership.

Martin explains that, “Take-charge leadership is the stuff of Hollywood and history books, deeply ingrained in our consciousness.” A heroic leader is one who takes on more responsibility than they can handle. And it undermines rather than builds followers.

In an article for the Stanford Innovation Review, Martin writes: “Take-charge leadership misapplied not only fails to inspire and engage, it produces passivity and alienation.

“When leaders assume 'heroic' responsibility for making critical choices, when their reaction to problems is to go it alone, work harder, and do more – with no collaboration or sharing of leadership – their 'heroism' is often their undoing.

“Such action often leads to an organizational affliction I have dubbed the 'responsibility virus.' A leader senses a subordinate flinch under pressure and responds by taking a disproportionate share of responsibility, prompting the subordinate to hesitate and become passive. The heroic leader reacts by leaping to fill the void. The passive employee retreats further, abdicating more responsibility, becoming distant, cynical, and lethargic. The leader, unable to cope with an impossible workload, becomes contemptuous and angry. A once-promising project becomes rudderless and spirals toward failure.”

Are you acting over-responsibly?

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 07:02 PM
| TrackBacks (0) | Leadership

07.30.12

Influencing Up

Leadership
If you’re trying to make a significant contribution you will have to influence people you can’t control. In other words, you will need to influence up.

Often we get in our own way when trying to influence. In Influencing Up, authors Allan Cohen and David Bradford we have to overcome these barriers:
  • The assumptions you hold about how hard to push
  • An unwillingness to raise a tough issue or have a difficult conversation with your boss
  • A combative tone that provokes the exact reactions you dislike
  • Fear of being turned down
  • Inability to let go of your own concerns long enough to remember to give something valuable to get cooperation
  • Any problems you might have dealing with authority
Cohn and Bradford deal with all of these issues. Beside any self-examination you will need to do, you will need courage to deal with two influencing up issues:

First, the impact of large power differentials. Obviously, the greater the power differential between you and the powerful person, the more difficult influence becomes.
Unfortunately, this kind of large power gap tends to produce dysfunctional behavior for people on both sides of the equation. Relatively high-power people tend to overvalue their own contributions and undervalue others’, whereas those with less authority tend to overestimate higher-level individuals’ power and underestimate their own.
Second, becoming a partner with high-powered people. Partner does not necessarily mean equals. It’s a matter of “joining with” not just “reporting to” and taking responsibility for developing the partnership. To do that you need a clear understanding of your boss’s world.

Characteristics of this partnership are:
  • both partners are committed to the organizational goals and the success of the other,
  • you must be motivated by the desire to help and not just personal advancement,
  • you need to be proactive (a leader in your own right),
  • both partners must be honest and transparent, and free to offer honest feedback giving each other the benefit of the doubt,
  • and you must accept the differences between you and your partner.
Just as leaders should ask themselves, “Why am I doing that?” so should junior partners ask themselves, “Why aren’t I doing that?” Not all bosses of course, are interested in the idea of influencing up and this is one area where the partnering mind-set really helps.
You need to carefully examine the interests, power, knowledge, and agendas of every relevant individual, group, or organizational stakeholder—and determine who influences others. Although you might not be able to sway a powerful person, he or she might respond to someone else’s argument. Who has those connections? This complete analysis is critical for selling ideas or proposals, gaining backing for projects, neutralizing resistance, or otherwise making a difference.
Building on the model they first presented in their book Influence Without Authority, Cohen and Bradford deal with challenges of power differentials and partnering and how to overcome them in a step-by-step, straightforward way.

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As long as you don’t inadvertently give away your power, are willing to do your homework, and act with reasonable courage, you can increase your influence with a variety of high-power people.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 10:42 AM
| TrackBacks (0) | Followership , Leadership , Personal Development

07.20.12

Success is Oftentimes Wrongly Associated with External Gains

Joe Frontiera and Daniel Leidl present a valuable commentary on success in Team Turnarounds. The thoughts here have a direct application to leadership. Why we do what we do. Something to think about over the weekend.
Success is oftentimes wrongly associated with external gains, such as social standing, a high profile, an influential job title, a trophy that proves one team is better than its opponent, or a car that symbolizes wealth. But success is actually something much more personal, reflecting an internal commitment to specific values, characteristics and belief.

Success comes from helping others, from being the best you can be through fair and considerate participation, from a commitment to honesty and integrity, and from giving everything you have to achieving a specific goal. In this sense, success varies from person to person, and although more external measures of success do exist, they become much less important to the individual striving to attain a personal ideal.

Of Related Interest:
  How to Turn Your Team Around in Six Stages

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 06:17 PM
| TrackBacks (0) | Leadership

06.21.12

Love Works

Leadership
We’ve heard that love is the killer app from Tim Sanders and Mark Sanborn says that “when we allow love to define who we are as we work, we become irresistible leaders with a contagious passion for what we do.”

Joel Manby says that Love Works, but it’s hard. On the other hand, easy doesn’t get it done. It’s easier to “hit the numbers” than to worry about how our decisions impact the lives of others. It’s easier to fire someone than to work with them. But easier doesn’t build trust, it doesn’t grow and nurture a strong culture that brings out the best in people, and it doesn’t build a lasting, healthy organization that attracts the very best and stands the test of time.
Leading with love is a higher testament to one’s leadership acumen than simply taking the well-trodden path toward fear-based, power-hungry management. Leading with love demands commitment, strong will, and patience, but the results are second to none.
Manby says love is an action and not a feeling. He identifies seven behaviors: to be patient, kind, trusting, unselfish, truthful, forgiving, and dedicated. These are the bottom line behaviors for leading with love.

Leading with love is a lifestyle choice says Manby, and should part of what he calls your be goals as opposed to your do goals. Your be goals are completely within your power to execute.

How will you lead?

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 11:23 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
| TrackBacks (1) | Followership , Government , Leaders , Leadership , Leadership Development

05.08.12

What Matters Now

What Matters Now
What Matters Now by Gary Hamel is probably one of the most important books you could read this year. It is an invitation to rethink the fundamental assumptions we have about capitalism, management, institutions, and life at work. It is, as Hamel describes it, “a blueprint for creating organizations that are fit for the future and fit for human beings.”

The book is divided into five fundamental, make-or-break issues that will determine whether your organization thrives or dives in the years ahead: values, innovation, adaptability, passion and ideology. Here are some of his thoughts that become more powerful as they sink in:

Values Matter Now.

• What matters now is that managers embrace the responsibilities of stewardship.

• Every institution rests on moral footings, and there is no force that can erode those foundations more rapidly than a cataract of self-interest.

• I think corporate life is so manifestly profane, so mechanical, mundane, and materialistic, that any attempt to inject a spiritual note feels wildly out of place—the workplace equivalent of reading the Bible in a brothel.

Innovation Matters Now.

• Post these simple questions on your company’s idea wiki: First, what are the thoughtless little ways we irritate customers and what can we do to change that? And second, what are the small, unexpected delights we could deliver to our customers at virtually no additional cost?

• Whenever you identify a convergent belief, ask, does this rest on some inviolable law of physics, or is it simply an artifact of our devotion to precedent? By working systematically to surface these invisible dogmas, you can turn reactionaries into rebels.

• To innovate, you need to see your organization and the world around it as a portfolio of skills and assets than can be endlessly recombined into new products and businesses.

Adaptability Matters Now.

• To thrive in turbulent times, organizations must become a bit more disorganized and unmanaged—less structured, less hierarchical, and less routinized.

• There are only two things, I think, that can throw our habits into sharp relief: a crisis that brutally exposes our collective myopia, or a mission so compelling and preposterous that it forces us to rethink our time-worn practices.

• To put it bluntly, the conversation about “where we go next” should be dominated by individuals who have their emotional equity invested in the future rather than the past. It needs to be led by individuals who don’t feel the need to defend decisions that were taken ten or twenty years ago.

Passion Matters Now.

• It’s impossible to unleash human capabilities without first expanding the scope of employee autonomy. People need the freedom to challenge precedent, to “waste” time, to go outside of channels, to experiment, to take risks, and to follow their passions.

• How, many policies in your company exist only to preserve that fiction that the higher-ups really are in control? How many rules enforce standardization at the expense of initiative and passion, while delivering few if any performance benefits?

Ideology Matters Now.

• The creed of control reigns supreme. If you doubt this, ask yourself: Is your organization any less rules-driven than it was ten or twenty years ago? Do people on the front lines feel any less controlled? Are their freedoms any less abridged? And are little cogs any less obsesses with becoming big cogs?

• Give someone monarch-like authority, and sooner or later there will be a royal screw-up.

• We don’t have to content ourselves with an organizational model that was designed to serve the interests of ancient military commanders and smokestack-era CEOs.

It’s time to re-invent our leadership. This book will help in that process.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 09:54 PM
| TrackBacks (0) | General Business , Leadership , Management

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
| TrackBacks (0) | Leaders , Leadership , Leadership Development , Management

02.08.12

Lead With Purpose

Without a clear sense of purpose, organizations become listless. John Baldoni says in Lead With Purpose that it falls to the leader to make certain that organizational purpose is understood and acted upon. Retired Army colonel, George Reed told Baldoni that the importance of this cannot be underestimated:
I don’t think you can hit purpose enough as a senior leader. It is one of those things that can be undercommunicated by an order of magnitude. You cannot oversell, overpronounce “Here’s why we’re here.”
The problem is that leaders think that they have communicated it enough, but the urgencies of the day cause people to forget their original intentions and their passion. It causes leaders to forget too. Repetition is essential. Baldoni states:
How well leaders use purpose to create the vision, mold the mission, and shape the values will serve as a testament to their ability to bring people together for a common cause.
It may begin with an explanation of what the organization does, says Baldoni, but it is vital that it be linked to the organizational culture and values. That means having clear-cut, definite goals, putting people first, and importantly, reducing purpose to a simple and memorable statement.

Leadership
Baldoni has illuminated seven key people-smart things that organizations must do to succeed in the new future:

Make purpose a central focus. Organizations that succeed are those that know where they are headed and why. Leaders of purpose tap into the power of narrative to help employees make sense of adversity and have faith in their organization’s ability to not just survive, but continually adapt and thrive.

Instill purpose in others. Prioritize people. People have to know what they are doing and why they are being asked to do it. To cultivate and leverage high-performing people, emphasize mission, values, creation, collaboration, and execution, establish clear expectations for behavior, and embrace the credo: “Honor the workforce.”

Make employees comfortable with ambiguity. Purpose can provide clarity in unsettled times. Leaders who find clarity in chaos, practice the virtues of pragmatism, and teach critical thinking skills will make living with uncertainty easier for their people—and themselves.

Turn good intentions into great results. Even in a tough world and a people-sensitive company, it’s a bottom-line fact: the work still has to get done. Leaders of purpose balance creativity with practicality; keep a firm eye on efficiency, effectiveness, and accountability; and strive to instill ownership in every individual worker.

Make it safe to fail (as well as prevail). Reasonable risk, daring to try something radical while keeping a grip on what works and what doesn’t, is critical to every breakthrough success. Leaders of purpose explore the impetus for change—reason, urgency, action—before leaping; respect their people’s resourcefulness; and handle setback with grace.

Develop the next generation. Few senior business leaders will be in their current jobs five or ten years from now. Leaders of purpose prepare their people for a future beyond them by hiring with care, developing capable, competent employees who are able to rise to challenges and seize opportunities; and enabling others to lead.

Prepare yourself. Purposeful organizations need leaders who know themselves first; have the inner compass that points them in the right direction. Many leaders never take the time to do so. Take time to reflect on what you want to do, why you want to do it, and how you will do it.

Baldoni says to define purpose, you want to ask three questions:

What is our vision? Vision emerges from the sense of purpose. It forms the why, but it also embraces the future as in “to become” the best, the most noted, the highest quality, or the most trusted.

What is our mission? Your mission is the what of an organization; what it does.

What are our values? Neither vision or mission mean much if they are not reinforced by strong values. Values shape the culture. Values enforce the behaviors that employees cherish.

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Lead with Purpose is an important book on a key concept. As Baldoni says, after identifying their own purpose, putting purpose to work for the organization is the challenge every leader faces. It’s important to remember too, that a leader demonstrates purpose first and foremost through their own behavior. Lead with Purpose was selected a best leadership book of 2011.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 11:38 PM
| TrackBacks (2) | General Business , Leadership , Management

01.27.12

Managing With a Conscience

We handicap our potential when we think we have to exploit others to get ahead. Succeeding is not a zero-sum game. We don’t look better when everyone else looks worse.

Leadership
Frank Sonnenberg makes the case in Managing with a Conscience, that the only sustainable way to succeed is the right way—not cutting corners—emphasizing the intangibles like trust, creativity, focus, speed, flexibility, relationships, loyalty, and employee commitment. While not readily measureable, they can make or break leaders and organizations. Sonnenberg believes that leaders who have a jaded view of intangible assets will never make the commitment required to reap their full potential.

Sonnenberg discusses at length, nine critical success factors that need to be built into the organization:
  • Passion that develops commitment to the organization’s mission, values, and goals
  • An innovative and creative environment and mindset that reinvents itself every day
  • Effective, focused and consistent internal communication to set priorities that focus the organization’s efforts and people on the resources that provide the greatest potential return.
  • Devotion to service excellence
  • A learning organization that adapts well to change
  • Responds with speed
  • Maintains a flexible structure by collaborating both internally and externally
  • Emphasizes that personal networking is an efficient and effective way to solicit ideas, access new sources of information, increase business development, and attract new hires
  • Understands that trust is foundational; it is what binds us together and makes work possible.
Sonnenberg hits these issues head-on. Managing with a Conscience is both an analysis and a practical how-to book. He demonstrates how to take management platitudes beyond the letter of the law. Asking the right questions helps to take you beyond mere compliance. People often get cynical about the latest initiative because they are not implemented on a meaningful level—and consequently they never really get the results you’re looking for. Sonnenberg helps you get to the intent. From the employee bill of rights:
Employees have the right to approach management. Management should announce an open-door policy. But announcing is not enough. Employees should feel comfortable approaching management. Ask yourself if you’re in your office long enough to be approached. Are you available at convenient times or only at 7:00 a.m.? Has your administrative assistant done everything to screen you from “outsiders” except put barbed wire outside your office? When a concern was brought to your attention, in confidence, did you divulge any part of the information? Do you just go through the motions of listening? It is up to you to take the initiative and get out of your office to meet with employees. Been seen on a regular basis so people don’t think you’re avoiding them.
Sonnenberg writes, “If your organization isn’t focused, someone is probably undoing something you just completed.” How true. As he notes, when people don’t know or understand the organizational purpose, they end up going in different directions, often competing with each other. And this is true in the social media environment, too. It is not unusual to see social media participants undoing an organization’s values and beliefs because they simply don’t understand them or can’t live them. They create conflicting messages that undermine the purpose of the organization.

“The costs to society,” writes Sonnenberg, “of everyone acting like random molecules bouncing off one another is just too great. We have no time to think about what is important. We judge someone’s worth by what we see on the outside rather than their inner worth. We envy someone who has achieved success without thinking about what they did to earn it.” We can change that, if we begin with our own example first.

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This comprehensive book is based on the idea that “what goes around comes around.” If you treat people right, they will treat you right. Sonnenberg believes that when you operate with the highest levels of trust and integrity, it makes you feel good about yourself, the people you work with, and the organization that you represent. It impacts how you view yourself and the way other people view you.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 04:34 PM
| TrackBacks (0) | General Business , Human Resources , Leadership , Management

01.03.12

Power Corrupts Sooner than You Think

In a letter to Bishop Mandell Creighton in 1887, Lord Acton observed that “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men.” British Prime Minister William Pitt also observed, “Unlimited power is apt to corrupt the minds of those who possess it.” Power is a tricky thing and we rely on it more than we should.

In a study by Adam Galinsky and others, they found that when people where power primed—temporarily made to feel powerful—they demonstrated a reduced tendency to comprehend how others see, think, and feel as compared with those that were primed with low power. They relied too heavily on their own vantage points and demonstrated less accuracy when assessing the emotions and thoughts of others. The possession of power or even the feeling of power tends to very quickly change how we think. We easily slip into thinking we are something we are not, to become absorbed with ourselves, to think, “It’s all about me.”

Our ego can quickly blind us to reality—self-deception sets in very quickly. We lose self-awareness and therefore our sense of the impact we are having on others. We would do well to remember the Stripes Rule. Denny Strigl, former CEO and president of Verizon Wireless, recalls in Managers, Can You Hear Me Now?:
When I became president of Ameritech’s cellular subsidiary, Ameritech Mobile, the chairman of Ameritech told me something that has stayed with me ever since. He said I would be managing an entire company, and as the company’s most senior manager, I should always remember that the “stripes” I have been given are on the coat I wear, not on the person who wears the coat. He cautioned me not to let the job go to my head because when I take the coat off, I will just be a person like any other.
Power, it seems, can easily become a handicap and not a blessing to leading well. But it often comes with the territory. A wise leader might keep Lord Acton’s words front and center.

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Very soon after we become aware of our own power, our thoughts begin to turn inward and we lose touch with those we are to serve. Power becomes a barrier reducing our ability to lead properly. Awareness of this fact is the first step toward managing it.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 09:25 AM
| TrackBacks (0) | Leadership , Management , Thinking

11.16.11

We Blame the 1%, But Still Call Them Our Leaders

Leading Forum
This is a guest post by Dave Ursillo, author of Lead Without Followers: How to Save Our World by Radically Redefining the Meaning of Leadership. Gen Y author Ursillo shares his personal journey into the meaning of leadership. Ursillo believes that we must choose to be a leader—in life and business—on the inside before we are seen as one on the outside. Therefore, we have to choose to lead without followers first.

Approval ratings have consistently hovered at historic lows for both American political parties for years. Thousands have organized in angered protests on a near monthly basis to express their distrust and impatience with the political and economic elite, spanning stark polarities of social groups like the Occupy Wall Street movement and the Tea Party. As his own approval ratings have fallen toward the abysmal ratings of former President George W. Bush—and with the 2012 Presidential Election now looming -- the inspired election of President Obama certainly feels like ancient history.

Clearly, the deep leadership problem that is wreaking havoc throughout our modern world is neither a Republican nor Democrat problem.

The real problem, as I contend in my new book Lead Without Followers: How to Save Our World by Radically Redefining the Meaning of Leadership, is that we have collectively, quietly, even subconsciously lost sight of what it really means to lead—the essential, fundamental, unshakeable human core of what leadership is, amongst and on behalf of others.

My book is a radical redefinition of leadership. By that, I mean to encourage you to rethink the very relation between a leader and followers. At first glance, we would all deduce that if you have no followers, you cannot lead, because you have no one to lead.

A quote that I often hear attributed to John C. Maxwell goes something to the effect of, "If you think you're a leader but no one is following you, you are just a guy going for a walk." This is the highly constrained, indisputable law of today's definition of leadership.

But what about what you do when you're on that walk? Do you come across others? Get presented with an opportunity to do good, do wrong, or resort to indifference? Become a hero or one of many bystanders who did nothing to help? Lend a hand? Offer a smile?

Nobody lives in a bubble. In our lives, we encounter countless dozens, if not hundreds, if not thousands of lives. Each seemingly routine and mundane interaction—even with a complete stranger you'll never see again—is an opportunity to positively, negatively, or neutrally impact his or her life, potentially forever.

To me, simply living in this world and among its peoples gives you the raw opportunity to become a bona fide leader. By simple choice, with some internal exploration, personal growth and everyday practice, you can become a highly influential leader that positively impacts the lives of others, every day—even without followers.

I argue in my book that "leadership" has become a far too limited term that is more accurately used to define the material wealth and career success of individuals among society—those who have succeeded in acquiring high salary, prestigious job title and social status, perceived popularity and power, and masses of followers. On a subconscious level, we socially acknowledge these qualifiers of material success as indicators of an individual's supposed ability to lead.

Of course, making the assumption is matter simple logic: to rise to such a level of success, one has proven his or her intelligence and abilities—important necessities for leadership on business and political levels.

However, today, and especially as popular protests lambast the supposed "1%" of corrupt politicos and evil big bankers, have we quietly grown into investing far too much attention into the things that individuals have acquired—wealth, status, power, followers, etc.—to shallowly qualify them as the best potential leaders for our world?

Leadership today has become a dirty word. "Politician" is even dirtier. And as public rage swirls at the simple, commonplace status quo amongst the national zeitgeist, what it means to be a leader is becoming further convoluted.

If we are truly dedicated to changing what we see as wrong with our world and feel it necessary to inspire a new generation of leaders to help turn things around, we owe it to ourselves to take a good, hard, long look at how we each define leadership in its typically constrictive terms.

Maybe, just maybe, if we place renewed focus and energy into defining leadership more upon what drives us to do good—passion and inspiration, love and selfless giving, vision and dedication, positivity and hope—than the socially-admired material outcomes, we'll more quickly arrive at the solution.

Not everyone can lead as a CEO of a Fortune 500 company. There can only be one President of the United States. But everyone, in as little as being human, can take up the vital mantle of leadership in their every day lives based upon everything that they already have—even without followers.

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Leadership
Dave Ursillo is a former “politico” insider turned alternative leadership writer, author and speaker. The Rhode Island native teaches men and women how to become “leaders without followers” in any walk of life by discovering a personal and profound sense of inner leadership. At 23, Ursillo abandoned his fast-tracked career path in public service amid a crisis of identity and while battling depression. Opting for the unemployment line during a 100-year recession, Ursillo has built an expansive digital platform through a growing social media presence and as an avid writer, helpful personality and determined world-changer. Ursillo’s experiences from “his past life” span five governmental offices over six years from 2003 to 2009, including the White House Council on Environmental Quality under the Bush Administration in 2008 and as a “body man” to a state gubernatorial candidate in 2009. Since its inception in 2009, DaveUrsillo.com has reached over 70,000 readers from 173 countries. In June 2011, Ursillo and his blog were also seen in a feature story on CBS Sunday Morning about the world of blogging.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 05:17 PM
| TrackBacks (0) | Leadership , Leading Forum

11.11.11

What Did He Know and When Did He Know It?

Senator Howard Baker’s famous question, "What did the president know and when did he know it?" is about moral responsibility.

Leaders have a moral responsibility to the people they serve. Those relationships are a leader’s stock in trade and are to be valued above our agendas. For it is through the relationships we develop that we are able to accomplish anything at all.

Our actions set the tone for the whole team. They express our values and our priorities. Above all leadership is something we live.

It’s easy to get trapped in the agenda and forget why we are leading in the first place. The agenda is very visible and exciting. Lost in the agenda, we forget who we are and those we serve.

We can be so focused on the goal that we forget the process. We move so fast we can’t hear our own values. We have to slow down so that our values catch up with our behavior. If we don’t, we make poor judgments, we misplace our loyalties, confuse priorities, and forget the well-being of the people we lead and the example we provide. In short, we ask the wrong questions and so we get the wrong answers.

Before we choose to lead and throughout our leadership journey, we need to ask who we are and why we lead? It is that inescapable core that determines our behavior.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 05:16 PM
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11.02.11

Leading Views: You Can’t Do It Without Love

Leading Views In Up, Down, or Sideways, Mark Sanborn asks:

So how are you doing with love?

One method I use to assess myself in this area is to plug my name into a familiar passage from the Bible—1 Corinthians 13:4-7. It says,
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”
Replace the word love (and the pronouns that represent it) with your name, and if you’re like me, it will convict you and challenge you.

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It is instructive to replace the word “love” with “leadership.” It becomes a definitive statement about what leadership is all about. Try it!

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 01:20 PM
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10.24.11

Great by Choice

Leadership
It is a defeatist attitude to think that luck or circumstances primarily make you what you are. Luck, both good and bad happen to us all. We cannot control much of what happens around us, but the choices we make, as Jim Collins and Morten Hansen’s research confirms, determine our success.

In Great by Choice, the authors rightfully assert that we have entered an extended period of uncertainty and turbulent disruption that might well characterize the rest of our lives. The question then is, what is required to perform exceptionally well in such a world?

For their study, the authors chose a set of major companies that achieved spectacular results over 15 or more years while operating in unstable environments. They call these companies "10Xers" for providing shareholder returns at least 10 times greater than their industry. Then the authors compared those companies—Amgen, Biomet, Intel, Microsoft, Progressive Insurance, Southwest Airlines, Stryker—to similar, but less successful, "control" companies: Genentech, Kirschner, AMD, Apple, Safeco, PSA and United States Surgical.

10X LeadershipThese 10Xers didn’t survive on chaos, they survived in chaos. They achieved spectacular results not because they experienced different circumstances, but because they displayed very different behaviors. 10Xers shared a set of behavioral traitsfanatic discipline, empirical creativity, and productive paranoia—all held together by a central motivating force, Level 5 Ambition—the passion for a cause larger than themselves and infused with the will to do whatever it takes to make good on that cause.

Fanatic Discipline: Extreme consistency of action. Don’t overreact to events.
Empirical Creativity: Bold, creative moves from a sound empirical base.
Productive Paranoia: Highly attuned to threats and changes especially when things are going well. Fear and worry is channeled into preparation, contingency plans, buffers and margins of safety.

10X Leadership Behaviors

20-Mile March: This is the discipline to stay the course in both good times and bad. This means maintaining a lower bound and an upper bound, a hurdle that you jump over and a ceiling that you will not rise above, the ambition to achieve and the self-control to hold back. A 20-Mile March provides a tangible point of focus that keeps you moving forward.

Fire Bullets, then Cannonballs: 10Xers increase their luck by firing lots of bullets instead of a big un-calibrated cannonball. The underlying principle is, be creative, but validate your creative ideas with empirical experience.

Leading above the Death Line: 10Xers build in buffers because the only mistakes you can learn from are the ones you survive. They zoom-in and zoom out to manage risk and recognize luck.

SMaC: Specific, Methodical and Consistent. Tactics change from situation to situation, whereas SMaC practices can last for decades and apply across a wide range of circumstances. “Steve Jobs didn’t so much revolutionize the company as he returned it to the principles he’d used to launch the company from garage to greatness two decades earlier.” There is always the struggle to find the balance between continuity and change. I find too many are wedded to one ditch or the other.

Certainly luck plays a part. The authors found that the difference between the 10X companies and the comparison companies wasn’t the good or bad luck they got, but what they did with it. Key comment regarding luck: “If the ratio of head to tails tends to even out over time, we need to be skilled, strong, prepared, and resilient to endure the bad luck long enough to eventually get good luck.” Mountain climber “Malcom Daly had to be lucky enough to survive the fall, but he also had to be strong, skilled, and resilient before the 44 hours of peril after his two-hundred-foot fall.”

The organizations they studied were paranoid about chance events and complex forces out of their control, but they focused on what they could do, seeing themselves as ultimately responsible for their choices and accountable for their performance—no matter what the sequence of coin flips.

A thought provoking book that, like Collin’s other work, takes us back to basics. In conclusion they ask:
When the moment comes—when we’re afraid, exhausted, or tempted—what choice do we make? Do we abandon our values? Do we give in? Do we accept average performance because that’s what most everyone else accepts? Do we capitulate to the pressure of the moment? Do we give up on our dreams when we’ve been slammed by brutal facts?

In the end, we can control only a tiny sliver of what happens to us. But even so, we are free to choose, free to become great by choice.


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Greatness is not primarily a matter of circumstance. Greatness is first and foremost a matter of conscious choice and discipline. The factors that determine whether or not a company becomes truly great, even in a chaotic and uncertain world, lie largely within the hands of its people. It is not mainly a matter of what happens to them but a matter of what they create, what they do, and how well they do it.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 10:57 AM
| TrackBacks (0) | General Business , Leadership

10.14.11

5 Leadership Lessons: EntreLeadership

5 Leadership Lessons

Dave Ramsey defines EntreLeadership as “the process of leading to cause a venture to grow and prosper.” Entreleaders know how to blend their entrepreneurial passion with servant-like leadership that motivates employees through persuasion instead of intimidation. EntreLeadership is a book about how business works from a practitioner. His advice, on nearly every facet of running a business, is based on solid principles. Here are just a few of his thoughts on leadership:

1  The very things you want from a leader are the very things the people you are leading expect from you. You must intentionally become more of each of these every day to grow yourself and your business. And to the extent you’re not doing that, you’re failing as a leader.

2  You want to know what is holding back your dreams from becoming a reality? Go look in your mirror. The good news is, if you’re the problem, you’re also the solution.

3  How do you begin to foster and live out this spirit of serving your team with strength? Avoid executive perks and ivory towers. Eat lunch with your team in the company lunchroom every day. Get your own coffee sometimes. No reserved parking spots. Look for the little actions you can take that say to your team that while you are in charge, and while you lead from strength, you are all in this together.

4  While persuasional leadership takes longer and takes more restraint at the time, it is much more efficient over the long haul. Positional leadership doesn’t take as long in the exchange, but you have to do it over and over and over and over.

5  Too many people in business have abandoned sight of the fact that their team members are humans, they are people. Too many people in business have become so shallow that they are merely transactional, not relational. The people on your payroll are not units of production, they are people. They have dreams, goals, hurts, and crises. If you trample them or don’t bother to engage them relationally you will forever struggle in your operations.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 05:25 PM
| TrackBacks (0) | Communication , General Business , Human Resources , Leadership , Management

09.26.11

Leading: Sharing Accountability

Uncertainty necessitates the need for finding more wisdom within our organizations. This can only be accomplished by creating a leadership mindset throughout the entire organization. It is shared accountability. Any leader that thinks that they can do it alone is indulging their own ego.

James Champy and Nitin Nohria cautioned us not to assume that no one else on the premises can match our own ambition, competence, and vision. We have to accept the fact that there are many points of wisdom within our organizations and a wise leader will engage them. Too many leaders are not accustomed to accepting input from junior members no matter how valuable it is. This creates a lack of trust and openness. The currency of leadership is relationships and a wise leader would do well to encourage input from as many sources as possible and especially not from the usual suspects.

Phil Nolan, CEO of Eircom Limited, described it this way in A Time for Leadership, “The concept of distributed leadership will keep you in touch with the environment. If you want to prepare people for this environment, you have to get leadership further down the organization. We generally tend to drive managing down the organization, but not leadership.

“As an organization we have to prepare for acts of leadership further down the organization. I think that that is the hardest thing for us to do as people sitting at the top. It feels like an unnatural act.”

Leadership needs to be the expected norm at all levels.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 12:08 PM
| TrackBacks (0) | Leadership , Management

08.08.11

Common Purpose Leadership

Leadership
In Common Purpose, consultant Joel Kurtzman makes the case that excellent leaders build a sense of inclusiveness—a sense of we—within the organization by creating a common purpose. A place where people know what to do and why, and understand what the organization stands for. Based on interviews and first-hand experience, Common Purpose lays out how to achieve and then sustain a culture based on a common purpose. For example:
  • Emphasize One Goal – Gordon Bethune, CEO of Continental Airlines, recognized that his customers valued on-time performance. He set this as the measure of success for the company. In order to underscore this goal, Bethune decided to send every employee a check every time the company was first in on-time arrival. In the different cities, pilots, flight attendants, agents, mechanics, baggage handlers, and everyone else united together to achieve this one goal, while reinforcing the feeling of “one team”.
  • Become Flat, Instead of Hierarchical – In a hierarchical organization information supplied by subordinates is looked at with condescension by individuals at the top. In the case of Enron, Sherron Watkins signaled to Ken Lay, the chairman of the organization, that something was wrong with the company’s partnerships and the way they were kept off the books. Lay ignored the information due to the rationalization that if something was wrong, he, as chairman, would know. Creating different levels of importance in an organization usually works against common purpose.
  • Leaders at All Levels – When a company has a common purpose, all employees have an understanding of what the organization stands for, enabling them to make a decision independently based on that information. Simon Cooper, president and CEO of Ritz-Carlton, calls this “scriptless service”. With such a diverse clientele, employees cannot simply operate by choosing from a limited number of preselected solutions to guest requests. A chambermaid must be empowered to decide on her own volition whether to give a guest extra towels based upon what was used the night before.
  • Lead by Listening – FM Global’s chairman and CEO, Shivan Subramaniam, takes every opportunity to listen to his employees. He eats in the company’s cafeteria and often sits with random groups of FM Global employees. Subramaniam puts himself in the loop of what is going on with the company. It also makes him accessible to his employees, in case they wish to share their ideas.
The easiest way to create a sense of we, says Kurtzman, is unfortunately to create the specter of them. Because it is easy, it is probably the reason you see this dynamic played out in so many organizations of all kinds. While it is a shortcut to common purpose, “it can also be a stepping stone to chaos, doom, and organized opposition.” I would add that within the organization or group, it also leads to arrogance, stagnation and closed minds. In most cases it leads to decline.

Organizations are created to achieve goals that “are beyond the capability of an individual to accomplish alone.” They are a method of “aligning groups of people so they achieve common goals.” This is best accomplished when you encourage people to be leaders at any level within the organization. Simon Cooper, president and CEO of Ritz-Carlton says the best reason to rid an organization of mindless hierarchy is to provide scriptless service: employees deciding on their own how to make guests happy. “They make decisions on their own, on the spot, using their own judgment, and with the sense of confidence that comes from owning their jobs. That’s real leadership.” Taking risks on behalf of the organization. This requires trust at all levels and a different view of real leadership, says Kurtzman.
It is difficult to overstress how important it is for teams of people working together to meet informally from time to time…The point is that you cannot lead a team if you do not know the people you are leading, and the best way to do that is informally.
“The leader is not separate from the group he or she leads. Rather, the leader is the organization’s glue—the force that binds it together, sets its direction, and makes certain that the group functions as one.” Kurtzman notes, “Leadership is not coaching. Coaching focuses on helping people arrive at their own goals. Whereas leadership, especially common purpose leadership, is about helping people arrive at a collective set of goals. It is about coordinating people’s efforts, aims, ambitions, and capabilities.”
Leaders can’t think of themselves as better than their workers, or more favored because they have a higher rank. Becoming CEO is not a coronation, it’s a promotion. And CEOs can’t do everything. The purpose of an organization is to combine the efforts of many people to produce results no one on his or her own could achieve alone. Leaders must understand that. They must live the goals they espouse. They must understand that everyone inside the organization is looking at them — scrutinizing them, really — and also that every action of theirs is being watched and talked about. At FM Global, Shivan Subramaniam, the chairman and CEO, decided against buying a corporate jet despite the prodding of his board. Instead, he decided to abide by the same corporate travel rules that every other executive in the company abides by. He even flies on the redeye if he must. By doing this, he sends a powerful signal throughout the company that while he may be the CEO, he’s also an employee, just like everyone else. People value that. People will do almost anything for a leader like that.
Of course, one size does not fit all. “People are individuals, and those who thrive in one firm might not thrive in another. Chemistry, fit, values, and many other qualities are in the eye of the beholder.”

Kurtzman believes that “organizations will come to resemble constellations of capabilities linked together technologically from centers located around the world….Big companies will comprise smaller pieces, each with unique characteristics, ownership structures, and relationships. Each of these elements, when combined, will create enormous value?” The question is what will keep it all together. Incentives alone won’t do it. “The power of a common purpose will become the factor that differentiates winning organizations from those left behind.”

This means that leaders will have to be “kinder, more caring, and more empathic than leaders of the past.” We have seen this increased focus on respect as many of you write, talk, and practice this on a daily basis.
Common purpose leadership, at its most basic level, is about recognizing people as individuals. Common purpose leadership begins with respect for individuals and their differences, and goes on to celebrate their strengths.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 10:59 AM
| TrackBacks (0) | Human Resources , Leadership , Management , Motivation , Teamwork

07.28.11

Who's the King?

The lion was completely convinced about his dominance of the animal kingdom. One day he wanted to check whether all the other animals knew he was the undisputed king of the jungle. He was so confident that he decided not to talk to the smaller creatures. Instead he went straight to the bear. “Who is the king of the jungle?” asked the lion. The bear replied, “Of course, no one else but you, sir.” The lion gave a great roar of approval.

He continued his journey and met the tiger. “Who is the king of the jungle?” The tiger quickly responded, “All of us know that you are the king.” The lion gave another roar of pleasure.

elephant and the lion
Next on his list was the elephant. He caught up with the elephant at the edge of a river and asked him the same question, “Who is the king of the jungle?” The elephant trumpeted, lifted his trunk, grabbed the lion, threw him in the air and smashed him into a tree. He fished him out of the tree and pounded him into the ground, lifted him up once more and dumped him into the river. Then he jumped on top of the lion, dragged him through the mud, and finally left him hanging in some bushes. The lion, dirty, beaten, bruised, and battered, struggled to get to his feet. He looked the elephant sadly in the eyes and said, “Look, just because you don’t know the answer, there’s no reason for you to be so mean-spirited about it.”

This story illustrates that even in the face of another point of view, we reshape the feedback until it supports what we want it to mean. We often will do anything to maintain the status quo. The problem is that reality is slipping further and further away. “Some leaders are like the lion,” says Manfred Kets de Vries author of Reflections on Groups and Organizations. “Reality testing isn’t their forte. They are not good at making sense out of feedback. Instead, they create their own reality, wanting to see only what they like to see.”

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 04:19 PM
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06.27.11

The Big Vision is Important but People Live in the Details

Most leaders don’t want to be called a tyrant, a control freak, or even a micromanager. To avoid that, it’s easy to jump into the other ditch and be laissez-faire. Leaders have a duty to navigate between these two extremes as the situation dictates.

Typically, we like to present the vision—the values—and leave the details to be sorted out. We like to give the big overarching principle without explaining exactly how it plays out in everyday life. The problem is that everything happens in the details. That’s where people live. That’s where decisions are made, community is built, and your vision and values are realized—or not.

We like to articulate the “promised land” and expect that everyone will catch on. That might work for the most highly visible leaders—those interacting with employees day-in and day-out—because they see you translating those values and goals on a day-to-day basis. But seriously, how many of us are that visible? We’re far too busy!?!

We don’t want to be caught telling people what to do, but we want everyone on the same page. Life doesn’t work like that. People see the same thing and hear the same thing differently. They interpret it differently and thus it plays out in their behavior differently. And that is where the friction starts. That’s where the community breaks down. That’s where the judgment begins.

Organizations, groups and families need more guidance than that. I’m not suggesting that we become control freaks, create even more rules, or become condescending or judgmental, but we need to clarify the vision and values in the details where people live. What do our values look like in everyday life? We need to use examples as they come up to relate everyday behavior to our values. Show where they match-up and where they don’t in a way that leaves room for them to develop good judgment and practical wisdom.

From the beginning—and along the way as needed—we need to spell out, “This is the kind of company we want to be, this is the kind of people we want to be, so that means we don’t do this but we do do that.” Specifically. And we then communicate this over and over again in our rhetoric and actions. People need to know and understand your values if their behavior is to be guided by them. If there is a disconnect between your values and everyone’s clear understanding of them, confusion and misbehavior will define your leadership.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 08:17 AM
| TrackBacks (0) | Leadership , Management , Teamwork , Vision

06.03.11

4 Lessons from the Toyota Crisis

“Crisis response must start by building a strong culture long before the crisis hits,” say Jeffrey Liker and Tim Ogden, authors of Toyota Under Fire.
Turning crisis into opportunity is all about culture. It’s not about PR strategies, or charismatic leadership, or vision, or any specific action by any individual. It’s not about policies or procedures or risk mitigation processes. It’s about the actions that have been programmed into the individuals and teams that make up a company before the crisis starts.
The accident in August 2009 that took the lives of four people in a runaway Lexus brought national attention to Toyota. Fueled by innuendo and speculation by Congress and some media, it escalated into something it was not. Toyota Under Fire deals with not only the massive recall of 2009-2010, but also Toyota’s response to the oil crisis and recession. Toyota’s response has not been typical, but it does follow the Toyota Way. It is a reflection of their culture. That way includes what is probably Toyota’s “greatest contribution to the world as a model of real continuous improvement” at and by all levels in the organization. Liker and Ogden describe the Toyota Way as:
Face challenges with a clear head and positive energy. Hold fast to your core values and your vision for the company. Always start with the customer. Understand the problems that you face by analyzing the facts, including your own failings, and understanding the root causes. Thoroughly consider alternative solutions, then pick a path, develop a detailed plan, and execute with discipline and energy.
“You do not turn a culture off and on again like a light switch.” Culture—like character—is built over decades of living your values in the real world. And then in a crisis, when you really need it, it is there to carry you through. The authors isolated four lessons for dealing with a crisis:

Leadership
Lesson 1: Your Crisis Response Started Yesterday. What a company does isn’t likely to change much when a crisis strikes or for any length of time. “They are driven by culture, and culture simply can’t be changed quickly, even in a crisis…. Therefore, the chief questions to ask yourself about how your company will respond in a crisis are not contingency plans and policies, but about your culture and your people. Have you created a culture that rewards transparency and accepts responsibility for mistakes? Have you created a culture that encourages people to take on challenges and strive for improvement? Have you created a culture that values people and invests in their capabilities? Have you created a culture that prioritizes the long term?”

Lesson 2: A Culture of Responsibility Will Always Beat a Culture of Finger-Pointing. Common sense? Yes, but the question is how far do you go in accepting responsibility? What if the factors were beyond your control? The answer illuminates an important nuance in understanding Toyota’s culture of responsibility and problem solving. “There is no value to the Five Whys [belief that you have to ask why at least five times] if you stop when you find a problem that is outside of your control. There will always be factors outside of your control. When you reach a cause that is outside of your control, the next why is to ask why you didn’t take into account forces outside of your control—either by finding an alternative approach or by building in flexibility to adjust to those forces.”

Lesson 3: Even the Best Culture Develops Weaknesses. The greatest threat to a culture of continuous improvement is success. “To survive the weaknesses that inevitably develop, a corporate culture has to have clear and objective standards, codified in such a way that self-correction is possible. Having a culture that recognizes a loss of direction is absolutely critical to long-term survival.”

Lesson 4: Globalizing Culture Means a Constant Balancing Act. The clarity of Toyota’s culture and values is essential to growing the culture in every employee. And there is a balance to strike—balance between centralized and decentralized, local and global—that is not easy. “There is an inherent demand here that especially the people who are at the margins, at the periphery of the organization, be deeply steeped in the culture, and that they are to be trusted to make decisions because they are at the gemba.” One of the root causes of the crisis they identified was centralized decision making. They will now pursue a regionalization strategy which will require trusting the leaders they have trained to maintain the culture.

Toyota Under Fire is an in-depth look at the value of having a strong culture that can serve you when things go south. The discussions explaining the reasoning behind why Toyota does what it does were very helpful. They demonstrate that the most important decisions are the ones made before the crisis. And then when the crisis hits, return to basics. Go deeper and wider.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 05:21 PM
| TrackBacks (0) | Change , General Business , Leadership , Management , Problem Solving , Teamwork

05.10.11

Can I Lead? Yes. But…

There is a danger in selling leadership to everyone.

Serious practitioners of leadership know that there is a lot of work that goes into being a good leader (dictators of any variety, not so much).

Competence in your chosen context for leadership aside, the life-long inside work of leadership—figuring out what you won’t do before you figure out what you will do—is sometimes gut-wrenching and sometimes the most thrilling feeling you can experience.

Character usually isn’t explicitly stated in the sales pitch. Instead, leadership is quite often seen as a way to be heard, to advance your own agenda and to put yourself out front.

It is no surprise that Alan Webber recently wrote in the Washington Post:
You will be told that you have a responsibility to be leaders. That what the world needs more than ever are leaders. That we suffer from a lack of leadership. That with your education, your values, your ability to apply social media, your global vision, your youthful idealism, you will be the next generation of leaders!

Now. Listen. Very. Carefully.

Pay no attention to any of that. That is what we call hogwash.
Choosing to lead is one of the most rewarding decisions you may ever make. But it’s not about you. Yes, you will bring your unique and much needed gifts to the world, but not for your own sake. Your job is to use your gifts to help others express, make known and fulfill their potential. Influencing others with a purpose, a calling, and with opportunities they never imagined they had.

It’s a mindset of service. It’s a mindset of continual learning. It’s a mindset of growth.

The single biggest truth of leadership is that we build who we are by building up others.

That doesn’t come naturally to us, but it’s your calling, if you would be a leader.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 03:15 PM
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04.07.11

Leadership is about Creating Conversations

Poet and Fortune 500 consultant David Whyte said that “The core act of leadership must be the act of making conversations real.” Conversations—sometimes difficult conversations—are what build relationships. Conversations that provide the opportunity for possibility. Conversations about choice.

Leaders create the opportunity for conversation. By bringing people together for conversation they increase engagement, commitment and accountability. Leaders ask people to share their own genius and assume personal leadership. At that point the ability to listen becomes paramount.

Accountability isn’t only at the top. It lies with all of us. All of us are responsible. Possible futures are not the work of one person. They are made possible by the conversations and resulting accountability of a community of leaders.

Leadership is about creating conversations.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 07:18 PM
| TrackBacks (1) | Communication , Leadership

03.21.11

What's Holding You Back? A Call for Gutsy Leadership

Leadership
Robert Herbold, former COO of Microsoft, says that lack of courage is what destroys companies. In example after example, what is holding companies back is consistent, courageous leadership. In What’s Holding You Back? he writes that we need gutsy leaders that “make sure that their organization has a simple, understandable, clear game plan for the future,” a culture that is “curious, even paranoid about the future, to keep people always looking for new ways to help the company grow and prosper,” they “make sure decision making is crisp and accountability is clear.”
Management that doesn’t confront problems and make the necessary tough decisions to change, typically ends up with a culture focused on pride in the past and the protection of old procedures.
I think we are seeing too much of this core issue and what we end up with is operational complexity and lack of innovation and forward momentum. Herbold says that this is usually due to one or more of the following reasons:

Avoid conflict
Strive for certainty
Avoid a career risk
Lack of self-confidence
Lack of a sense of urgency
Protect their turf

Herbold details ten principles that you should review regularly to help you provide gutsy, courageous leadership. The most important principle and the one underlying the rest is the first principle: Devise a Demanding Game Plan to Confront Reality. This is accomplished by putting three things in place: “a clear vision with impact, aggressive strategies to achieve that vision, and a defined way of measuring success.”

Echoing Max De Pree, Herbold writes, “The core job of a leader in any organization is to quickly and accurately assess the current situation and any vulnerabilities and opportunities the organization may have.” He adds, “The leader must then lay out a demanding game plan…and stand ready to modify that plan at any moment, given new learning.”

The process of creating aggressive strategies to achieve that vision should be “very interactive and fact driven, and it can become an engaging and exciting venture for the organization.” Finally, appropriate measure should be defined to tell everyone whether or not the vision has been achieved.

What’s Holding You Back? is valuable for reminding us of basic principles that are easily overlooked as we get caught up in the daily minutia.

Another part of defining reality that I think is significant enough to mention, is understanding our impact on those around us. It’s not uncommon to find that we hold others back because of remarks we make and as a result we lose the full potential of what they bring to the table. In a section titled, “Creativity and Six Sigma don’t Mix,” Herbold writes:
Innovation is not an orderly process. People who are good at it tend to go through many ideas before coming up with one that works. It’s also a very fragile process. A manager can stifle innovation without even knowing it through his or her unspoken communications. People who are charged with innovation are constantly observing how their management is acting and reacting. Unfortunately, they often interpret their management’s behavior and casual comments as specific instructions or constraints that need to be followed.
As we need to consistently ask, “What’s holding me back?” we also need to ask, “How am I holding others back?”

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 10:50 PM
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02.22.11

Leading As One: Generating Collective Behavior

To be successful in the world we’re entering, we will need a new set of mental models. While these new models should not exclude the possibility of commanding and controlling, they need to encompass a much wider range of possibilities.
—Thomas Malone, The Future of Work
The challenge facing any leader is turning individual action into collective power. In short, getting people to act as one.

Leadership
As One by Mehrdad Baghai and James Quigley, is the result of a two year research project conducted by Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited, to understand this common leadership challenge and to answer the question, “What leads to effective collaborations in a wide range of fields?” Not just working together, but working as one.

As we talk about leadership it is easy to confuse ends and means and seek collaboration for collaborations sake. The authors note that collaboration "is a means to an end, not an end in itself, and that because the purposes might be different you might need different styles" of collaboration for different situations. Thus we find successful leadership comes in many different shapes and sizes.

They believe real leadership is about productivity, people and purpose—or As One Leadership—“leadership that results in a cohesive group of people working together effectively toward a common goal or purpose.” Initially the task is identifying which people need to be involved (the Who) and what purpose they need to satisfy (the What) and then How do we need to collaborate to get the results we seek.

As One

What emerged from the As One Flagship Project was the identification of eight models or archetypes of As One behavior. Arranged around two axes: a vertical axis that describes how power is exercised in an organization from emergent to directive and a horizontal axis that conveys the nature of individual’s tasks and outlines how work is organized from highly scripted and uniform to highly creative.

As OneNot surprisingly, these archetypes reflect both top-down and bottom-up styles. The analysis is very balanced. In the descriptions that follow, you can see that different kinds of organizations or situations with different kinds of objectives call for different kinds of leadership. It is enlightening to identify your type of organization and the related leadership approach. The book presents case studies of each type, an explanation of the key characteristics, and a discussion of what you can do to be better at that type.

The Deloitte Center for Collective Leadership was launched in January to advance the study of the As One Collective Leadership discipline and As One behavior. Through research, data collection, and analysis, this center will help define and increase knowledge in the exciting and dynamic field of collective leadership. If you are wondering what your model is, they have created an online As One Classifier tool to figure out which archetype is closest to your current situation.

THE EIGHT ARCHETYPES

The four main archetypes are:

Landlord & Tenants: The Landlord & Tenants pairing is based on landlords’ top-down driven strategy and power: they control access to highly valuable or scarce resources. Landlords decide how to generate the most value for themselves and dictate the terms of participation for the tenants. Tenants voluntarily decide to join landlords, and it’s usually in their best interests to do so. However, once they do, landlords define the rules of participation. Landlords maintain their power by ensuring the best tenants are rewarded, so that, over time, as the number of tenants grows, the landlords’ power increases.

Community Organizer & Volunteers: The Community Organizer & Volunteers pairing is based on volunteers’ bottom-up, autonomous, independent, decision-making ability and their desire to voice their opinions. Community Organizers ignite volunteers’ interest through compelling storytelling and opportunities for volunteers to join in. They may have little direct power over the volunteers, but they can tap into volunteers’ interests by gaining their trust, promoting a strong brand, and understanding their motivations. Volunteers themselves are drawn together by a rallying cry, or out of a sense of enlightened self-interest; they gain their power through a strength-in-numbers approach.

Conductor & Orchestra: The Conductor & Orchestra pairing is based on highly scripted and clearly defined roles that focus on precision and efficiency in execution as defined by the conductor. The orchestra members, who have similar backgrounds, need to be fully trained to comply with the requirements of the job, and, therefore, must be carefully selected to ensure they fit the strict culture and scripted tasks. Belonging to the orchestra provides members with the best way to make a living while focusing on tasks at which they excel.

Producer & Creative Team: The Producer & Creative Team pairing is typically about producers providing their creative team with the freedom to do their best work and reach their natural potential. This pairing is led by legendary, charismatic producers who bring together a team of highly inventive and skilled independent individuals to achieve the producers’ objective. Producers guide the vision and overall progress, while the creative team develops ideas through frequent meetings and interactions using an open culture of collaboration. Dissent is used to push creative boundaries. To maintain longevity in their industry, producers and creative teams need to continuously produce new and innovative ideas.

The four hybrid archetypes combine the characteristics of the adjacent pairings and occupy the spaces between the axes.

General & Soldiers: The General & Soldiers pairing has a command-and-control-type culture combined with a multi-level hierarchy organized around the general’s clear and compelling mission. Soldiers’ activities focus on clearly defined and scripted tasks. They are motivated by advancing up the hierarchy through well-defined roles at all levels. Soldiers undergo extensive training to understand the army and its culture, and to learn specific skills. They are committed to the mission, the overall institution, and each other, while the general provides strong top-down authoritarian direction to motivate and direct them.

Architect & Builders: The Architect & Builders pairing focuses on the creative collaboration between groups of diverse builders that have been recruited by visionary architects to bring a seemingly impossible dream to life. Their visions are so innovative and ambitious that they can’t be achieved simply by using conventional means, so builders often need to reinvent and rethink ways to achieve them. Builders strive to meet ambitious deadlines and milestones mapped to deliberate workcycles. As each milestone is completed, the builders become one step closer to bringing the architect’s dream to reality. The Architect & Builders hero story is based on the development of the world’s cheapest car, the Tata Nano.

Captain & Sports Team: The Captain & Sports Team pairing operates with minimal hierarchy and acts like a single cohesive and dynamic organism, adapting to new strategies and challenges with great agility as they appear. Members of the sports team have a strong shared identity. They have extensive and networked communication channels, and carry out the same highly scripted, repeatable tasks. There is strong camaraderie and trust among the sports team – the collective good outweighs the needs of the individual – while captains are there, on the field as part of the team, to motivate and encourage.

Senator & Citizens: The Senator & Citizens pairing is based on a strong sense of responsibility to abide by the values or constitution of the community, which have been outlined by the senators. Sovereignty is held by both senators and citizens, and the citizens thrive on the values of democracy, freedom of expression, and autonomy. Since citizens are autonomous, the community structure is flexible. There is no set framework or direction organizing the citizens. Instead, much of their direction is emergent as they gather ideas and collaborate with other citizens. Senators are the guiding intelligence for the citizens and oversee decision making for the community.

There is no one size fits all archetype and each archetype is more nuanced than described. Putting As One into practice consists of three steps: First, a diagnostic to assess the who and to do what and then determine the how or what archetype is being used. Second, determine the type of intervention to strengthen the archetype being used or to create a new approach and third to adopt the approach across the organization and applying different archetypes in different situations even in the same organization.

It is an interesting study that begins to create a broader understanding of what it takes to lead at all levels as opposed to the common polarizing either/or discussions of command and control versus collaborative leadership. It also helps to dispel the myth that top-down leadership is synonymous with command and control.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 12:11 AM
| TrackBacks (0) | Human Resources , Leadership , Leadership Development

02.07.11

Consider: Harnessing the Power of Reflective Thinking in Your Organization

Peter Senge, founder of the Society of Organizational Learning and senior lecturer at the MIT Sloan School of Management, once observed, “Most managers do not reflect carefully on their actions.” Most managers are too busy “running” to reflect.

While reflection seems to have no place in a competitive business environment, it is where meaning is created, behaviors are regulated, values are refined, assumptions are challenged, intuition is accessed, and where we learn about who we are.

Some of the greatest barriers to getting the results we want lie within us. Growth happens when we stop repeating our habitual patterns and behaviors and begin to see things in a new way and in the process, discover the power to create the results we want. That makes Consider: Harnessing the Power of Reflective Thinking in Your Organization, one of the most important books you’ll read this year.

Leadership
Author Daniel Patrick Forrester states, “Stepping away from the problem—and structuring time to think and reflect—just may prove the most powerful differentiator that allows your organization to remain relevant and survive…. The best decisions, insights, ideas, and outcomes result when we take sufficient time to think and reflect….Only by carving out think time and reflection can we actually understand, in an entirely different context, the actions we take.”

He defines think time as “the purposeful elevation of chunks of our work time, forged within densely packed schedules. It forces the consideration of core significant and pending decisions, outside of cursory overviews and immediate response…. Reflection is the deliberate act of stepping back from daily habits and routines (without looming and immediate deadline pressures), either alone or within small and sequestered groups. It’s where meaning is derived through reconsideration of fundamental assumptions, the efficacy of past decisions and the consequences including the downside of future actions. It’s where space is given for the ‘totally unexpected’ to emerge.”

Even if we can agree on the value of think time, we still regard it as a luxury. There’s just no time. But what emerges from Forrester’s research is the fact that we can’t afford not to. It is at the core of what allows a business to thrive. It’s what we don’t know that has a disproportionate impact on us personally and organizationally. We don’t really see the reality we face. Reflection in effect, expands our perspectives and thus reveals to us more options and that gets to the heart of what leadership is all about. The point is to make the unseen seen so we can act on it.

Forrester interviewed Sarah Sewall who worked with General Petraeus and others to rewrite the military’s counterinsurgency doctrine. Sewall noted, “We are now in a world of increasing specialization, where people get narrower and narrower in their viewpoints in order to become more expert and ‘useful.’ My view is that people become more myopic in how they can think about problems and solutions. We wind up shuttered in our ability to think about possibilities.” This tendency is best counteracted by think time and reflection; being able to back away and incorporate more and varied thinking.

Forrester asks, “What is the last document or strategy you can point to as a ‘product of reflection’ built with all parts of the organization and senior-level involvement? If you can’t cite one, it may indicate a culture that values immediacy and the short term over reflection and scalable problem solving.”

Recognizing the need for reflection and actually doing it are two different things. Reflection is a discipline. General Petraeus told Forrester that “he forces bursts of reflection into his day, where he pauses to read, think, and then moves to the next iteration—recognizing that thoughtful insights are not born through real-time analysis.”

Forrester suggests that we set time aside for a meeting with oneself. “It isn’t hard to book a meeting with yourself, when you are off-limits to everything but your thoughts.” He notes too, “The power of reflection lies not in how much time we allocate to it. The power of reflection lies in how we choose to use that time and what structure we bring to the fleeting disjointed moments we are afforded.”

While some situations required his immediate action, Forrester describes how Lincoln “developed ways to force time to think (if even only for a few minutes) before acting. Even Lincoln had to resist the “instantaneous nature of the telegraph.”

Some organizations he has studied have adopted a no internal e-mail Friday policy and other ways to temporarily disconnect from technology. Although these ideas may not work for you, the point is made so that you might consider the impact these technologies are having on the productivity and well-being of your staff. There is always one more e-mail and it will control you if you let it.

“When overworked people declare that they ‘just don’t have time to think,’ leaders have a choice: They settle for the status quo and declare that it’s the best way the world works today, or they can insist that reflection is a strategic business enabler,” says Forrester. As an organization you can either educate for it, make it an expectation—a cultural norm—or treat it as a “do it on your own time” activity and pay the price. Leaders need to understand and demonstrate by example that reflection—taking time to consider—is not wasted time.

Reflection is the first step in coming to understand how we are connected to our outcomes. Until we see the relationship between the two, we cannot make deep, lasting change and bring thoughtful behaviors to bear on the situations we find ourselves in. Our thinking creates our reality. If we do not reflect on our thinking we stand to miss our connection to the whole.

Consider offers a way to break the pattern of continuous partial attention that seems to be our default position in this technological age. It helps to disrupt the habitual thinking that drowns out the reflective, critical thinking we need to become fully present and effective. Consider isn’t a fad. It is the bedrock of successful leadership and living.

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Upcoming: I asked some leading minds about the discipline of reflection. So, for the rest of the week, I’ll share their thoughts on this important topic. Look for valuable insights from John Kotter, Mark Sanborn, Brian Orchard, Marshall Goldsmith, John Baldoni, Tom Asacker, James Strock, and Jeremy Hunter.

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More in this Series:
  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

Posted by Michael McKinney at 01:57 PM
| TrackBacks (6) | Human Resources , Leadership , Learning , Personal Development , Thinking

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
| TrackBacks (0) | Leaders , Leadership

01.05.11

Insist on Heroes. And be One.

Making a difference requires a different kind of thinking. Making a difference means doing something different. To not be taken for granted means that you have to do things that are not expected—to step out of your comfort zone. Do more. Experience more. Serve more. A leader’s legacy doesn’t come easily. While a leader may be focused on tomorrow, that future will be based on what they do today.

Some years ago, documentary filmmaker Ken Burns offered some advice for those starting out in life. The message applies to anyone who would lead and is worth reflecting on:

Do something that will last and be beautiful. It doesn’t have to be a bridge—or a symphony or book or a business. It could be the look in the eye of a child you raise or in a simple garden you tend. But be on guard: do something that will last and be beautiful.

As you pursue your goals in life, that is your future, pursue your past. Let it be your guide. Insist on having a past and then you will have a future.

Do not descend too deeply into specialism in your work. Educate all your parts. You will be healthier. Replace cynicism with its old-fashioned antidote, skepticism.

Don't confuse success with excellence. The poet Robert Penn Warren once told me that "careerism is death."

Travel. Do not get stuck in one place. Visit Yellowstone or Yosemite or even Appomattox, where our country really came together. Whatever you do, walk over the Brooklyn Bridge.

Listen to jazz music, the only art form Americans have ever invented, and a painless way, Wynton Marsalis reminds us, “of understanding ourselves.”

Give up addictions and habits. Try brushing your teeth tonight with the other hand. Try even remembering what I just asked you.

Insist on heroes. And be one

Posted by Michael McKinney at 09:58 PM
| TrackBacks (0) | Leadership

12.20.10

Bill Cohen’s Eight Universal Laws of Heroic Leadership

Heroic Leadership
Bill Cohen says “Heroic leadership is special. It requires leading a group with absolute integrity while raising individual performance to a personal best and building a team spirit of sacrifice for the common good,” and adds, “heroic leadership requires tough standards.”

Cohen correctly states in Heroic Leadership, that “we cannot lead on automatic.” It takes “considerable thought, intention, and action.” He believes that good leadership must be grounded in the following eight principles of heroic leadership:
  1. Maintain Absolute Integrity   Leadership is a trust. Keep your word; do the harder right instead of the easier wrong; be principled.
  2. Know Your Stuff   “People don’t follow leaders because they are good at office politics; they follow them because they are good at what they do.” Learn from every experience. It’s what you know and how you use it.
  3. Declare Your Expectations   What exactly does “successful” look like? How will you know when you are there? You need to decide on where you’re going and then declare it, and promote it in everything you do. Get feedback and adjust your strategy as needed.
  4. Show Uncommon Commitment   Army Brigadier General Edward Markham explained, “A leader must take a bulldog approach to accomplish the mission.” When a leader does this, others do the same.
  5. Expect Positive Results   Winners expect to win. Visualize success. Vincent Lombardi once said, “We never lose, but sometimes the clock runs out on us.” “You can expect positive results and still not get exactly what you want,” says Cohen, “but, research demonstrates that those who “think positive” achieve more and get better results than those that don’t.”
  6. Take Care of Your People   “Take care of your men and they will take care of you,” says Brigadier General Philip Bolte. Thomas Noel told Cohen, “You are what your people are, no more, and no less.” Cohen adds, “If you are the leader, you’ve got to learn to give the needs of those you lead greater weight than you give your personal needs.”
  7. Put Duty before Self   Sometimes the mission must come first, sometimes the people, but both must always come before self. Harry Walters, former Veterans Administration Administrator, looks at it this way, “To me, duty before self means inclusion with no secrets. Why should there be any secrets, when the leader puts his own interests last? If you don’t put duty before self, you can’t create a team environment.”
  8. Get Out in Front   You have to be “up front” where the action is. General Harry Aderholt said, “There’s no secret about leadership. You’ve got to know your people, live with them, and be seen always out front.”

Posted by Michael McKinney at 01:54 AM
| TrackBacks (0) | Leadership

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
| TrackBacks (0) | Ethics , Government , Leaders , Leadership

09.20.10

Do You Argue With Reality?

Leadership
Chris Thurman wrote in The Lies We Believe, “The number one cause of our unhappiness are the lies we believe in life.” Too often, we operate apart from reality. Given a choice between reality and our version of it, we are inclined to choose the latter. It is a central tendency of human beings. The result is drama not peace.

Instead of getting the results we want,” says Cy Wakeman, “we end up with reasons, stories, and excuses for why things didn’t work out—leading to more drama, disengagement, judgment, and ineffective leadership.

In Reality-Based Leadership, Wakeman presents a much-needed wake-up call. We can ditch the drama by getting in touch with what is. Quit making up stories. Quit arguing with reality. Ditching the stories that are causing us stress. “We all tell ourselves stories and live with the resulting drama.” It sounds like:

“I shouldn’t have to do this—it’s not part of my job description.
“Our department is always having to clean up after others’ mistakes.”
“The boss just doesn’t get it.”
“Management only care about the bottom line.”

“You are arguing with reality whenever you judge your situation in terms of right and wrong instead of fearlessly confronting what is.” You need to respond to the facts, not the story you create about the facts. This is easier said than done. Interwoven in our stories are our egos, insecurities and identities. (At one point Wakeman suggests we ask, “Who am I as a manager or as an employee when I believe this story?”) We like our stories. They make us look better. They place the blame somewhere south of us. If other people are always coming up short in our stories, then it’s all about us. But letting go of our stories is not always easy as we have a lot invested in them.

Too often our criticism is about setting us apart from others and not about helping them. It says a lot more about us than it does those it is directed towards.

Wakeman says, “When you are judging you are not leading.” In her analysis of case study about Steve and a team he dreaded working with, she concludes, “his biggest obstacle is his belief that they are a negative group. What if he just dropped that whole story and simply responded to reality directly? The phone rings? Answer it. The team asks a question? Answer it, or teach them where to find the answer. The team shares what worked in the past? Listen and lead them into the future. The team requests some time with the leader? Engage with them—lead! When Steve began to lead the team rather than judge and criticize, the team began to change for the better.” She adds, “When you focus your energy on what you are able to give And create rather than what you receive, you are truly serving.”

Do you see any applications in what you and involved in? Wakeman insightfully writes: “What is missing from a situation is that which you are not giving.

Operating out of a judging mindset of “I know” or “I am right” effectively shuts down the potential to learn or accomplish anything. Moving on based in reality requires setting the story aside and asking, “If I set the story aside, what would I do to help?”

The minute you start judging is the very minute you quit leading, serving and adding value. When you’re in judgment, you are dealing with your story—not with reality. Wakeman suggest that when you get off-track:
  1. Do a reality check. Get back to the facts of the situation b y editing out anything that you can’t absolutely know to be true. “What is the next right action I can take that would add the most value to the situation?” Direct your energy on that action.
  2. Get clear about motives. Seek to be successful rather than right. Is it about you?
  3. Be the change. Practice those virtues that you have determined to be lacking in others.
  4. See others through a lens of love and respect—not anger and fear. When faced with those whose personalities are different from ours, or whose behaviors have reached a stress-induced inappropriateness, work to see through those behaviors and identify their needs or goals. Ask yourself, “What are they striving for?” Then ask, “How can I help them achieve it?”
  5. Invoke a clearer, higher perspective. When you sense that conflict is getting personal, be prepared to return to a professional perspective by asking your team to clarify the overreaching goal of their work together. “Given our goal, what do you think is the best way to move forward?”
What stories are you telling yourself that causing you to operate in your own world? While it may be cognitively economical, it is costing you far more in every other area.

Related Post:
  The Reality-Based Leader’s Manifesto

Posted by Michael McKinney at 03:54 PM
| TrackBacks (0) | Human Resources , Leadership , Learning , Management , Personal Development

09.17.10

The Reality-Based Leader’s Manifesto

Leadership
“If you believe that leadership is tougher today than it was in the past, you’re not alone,” writes Cy Wakeman, author of Reality-Based Leadership. “We are living and working in dramatic and demanding times, but that is not our biggest problem. The source of our pain is the absence of great leadership that is based in reality. …The future belongs to the leader who is able to change the way people think and perceive their circumstances, the leader who engages hearts and minds.” To that end, she offers the Reality-Based Leader’s Manifesto:
  1. Refuse to argue with reality
  2. Greet change with a simple “Good to know”; defense is an act of war
  3. Depersonalize feedback—whatever the source
  4. Let go of our need for love, approval, and appreciation at work so we can focus on the goals of our organization and not on satisfying our egos
  5. Are very careful about what we think we know for sure
  6. Ask ourselves, “What is the next right thing I can do to add the most value?”
  7. Ask others, “How can I help?” instead of judging and blaming
  8. Work to find the opportunity in every challenge
  9. Work harder at being happy than at being right
  10. Work with the willing
  11. Lead first, manage second
  12. Value action over opinion

Posted by Michael McKinney at 07:07 PM
| TrackBacks (0) | Change , Leadership , Thinking

08.10.10

Ten Truths about Leadership

Leadership
In the last 30 years James Kouzes and Barry Posner, authors of the highly regarded leadership classic The Leadership Challenge, have studied leaders all over the world. They understand leadership.

The question they get time and time again is “What’s new in leadership?” They answer that while the context of leadership as changed dramatically, “the content of leadership has not changed much at all. The fundamental behaviors, actions, and practices of leaders have remained essentially the same since we first began researching and writing about leadership over three decades ago. Much has changed, but there’s a whole lot more that’s stayed the same.” That is probably the fundamental truth of leadership development. With that understanding, we can develop leaders in all contexts and weed out fact from fiction.

Based on thirty years of research—more than one million responses to their leadership assessment—Kouzes and Posner have gathered together in The Truth about Leadership, the ten truths that have stood the test of time and they hold true both globally and cross-generationally. They devote a chapter to each of these ten concepts:

Truth #1   You Make a Difference. Before you lead you have to believe that you can have a positive impact on others. When you believe you can make a difference, you position yourself to hear the call to lead.

Truth #2   Credibility Is the Foundation of Leadership. If people don’t believe in you, they won’t willingly follow you. You must do what you say you are going to do. This means being so clear about your beliefs that you can live them every day.

Truth #3   Values Drive Commitment. You need to know what you believe in because you can only fully commit to the organization or cause when there is a good fit between what you value and the organization values. This is true too, for the people you lead.

Truth #4   Focusing on the Future Sets Leaders Apart. You have to be forward looking; it’s the quality that most differentiates leaders from individual contributors. You need to spend time reflecting on the future. Big dreams that resonate with others inspire and energize.

Truth #5   You Can’t Do It Alone. Leadership is a team sport, and you need to engage others in the cause. You need to enable others to be even better than they already are.

Truth #6   Trust Rules. To enlist others, you need trust. Build mutual trust; you must trust others too.

Truth #7   Challenge Is the Crucible of Greatness. Great achievements don’t happen when you keep things the same. Change invariably involves challenge, and challenge tests you. It introduces you to yourself. It brings you face-to-face with your level of commitment, your grittiness, and your values. It reveals your mindset about change.

Truth #8   You Either Lead by Example or You Don’t Lead at All. You have to go first as a leader. That’s what it takes to get others to follow your lead.

Truth #9   The Best Leaders Are the Best Learners. Learning is the master skill of leadership. Leaders are constant improvement fanatics.

Truth #10   Leadership Is an Affair of the Heart. Leaders love what they’re doing and those they lead. Leaders make others feel great themselves and are gracious in showing their appreciation.

These truths should form the basis of any leadership development program. Even more, they are the motivation behind the right kinds of behaviors that go into the formation of good and sustainable leadership.
There are no shortages of problems and opportunities…. Leadership is not about telling others they ought to solve these problems. It’s about seeing a problem and accepting personal responsibility for doing something about it. And it’s about holding yourself accountable for the actions that you take. The next time you see a problem and say “Why doesn’t someone do something about this?” take a look in the mirror and say instead, “I’ll be the someone to do something about it.”


* * *

Posted by Michael McKinney at 08:09 AM
| TrackBacks (2) | Leadership , Leadership Development

07.16.10

5 Leadership Lessons: Joseph Nye on Leadership

5 Leadership Lessons

Joseph S. Nye is University Distinguished Service Professor at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government. In The Powers to Lead, he relates leadership and power. He expands further on his concept of soft power—co-opting people rather than coercing them—and hard power—influence involving pressure or threats—but he shows how effective leadership in the real world requires a mixture of both.

Hard and soft power are related because they are both aspects of the ability to achieve one’s purpose by affecting the behavior of others. They sometimes reinforce each other and sometimes they interfere with each other. The use of either one or the other depends on context. The ability to know which to use when is what he calls smart power. We need to know our context.

He says, “Soft power is not good per se, and it is not always better than hard power. Nobody likes to feel manipulated, even by soft power. Like any form of power, it can be wielded for good or bad purposes, and these often vary with the eye of the beholder.”

Here are five leadership lessons from The Powers to Lead:

1  Almost anyone can become a leader. Leadership can be learned. It depends on nature and nurture. Leadership can exist at any level, with or without formal authority. Most people are both leader and followers. They “lead from the middle."

2  Smart leaders need both soft and hard power skills: co-optive and command styles. Both transformational and transactional objectives and styles can be useful. One is not automatically better than the other. Leaders depend on and are partly shaped by followers. Some degree of soft power is necessary. Presence/magnetism is inherent in some personalities more than others, but “charisma” is largely bestowed by followers.

3  Appropriate style depends on the context. There are “autocratic situations” and “democratic situations,” normal and crisis conditions, and routine and novel crises. Good diagnosis of the need for change (or not) is essential for contextual intelligence.

4  Leadership for crisis conditions requires advance preparation, emotional maturity, and the ability to distinguish the roles of operational, analytical, and political work. The appropriate mix of styles and skills varies with the stage of the crisis.

5  The information revolution and democratization are causing a long-term secular shift in the context of postmodern organizations—a shift along the continuum from command to co-optive style. Network organizations require a more consultative style. While sometimes stereotyped as a feminine style, both men and women face this change and need to adapt to it. A consultative style is more costly in terms of time, but it provides more information, creates buy-in, and empowers followers.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 06:35 PM
| TrackBacks (0) | Government , Leadership

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
| TrackBacks (0) | Leaders , Leadership

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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05.17.10

Serve to Lead: Make Your Life a Masterpiece of Service

Everyone can be great, because everyone can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and your verb agree to serve…. You only need a heart full of grace, a soul generated by love.
–Martin Luther King. Jr.
Serve to Lead
“Everyone can lead because everyone can serve,” says James Strock. “When service is the basis of leadership, everyone can be a leader.” What’s more, “We’re in a new era, with new rules, new ways to serve—and much greater accountability.”

Serve to Lead puts the focus of leadership where it should be. Too often, people think of leadership as being about the leader. A leader who serves has greater influence. Service—not control—leads to trust and increased influence.

In an excellent chapter on management, Strock helps to place management and leadership in perspective and explains some of the nuances of tough love and accountability. “Management is encompassed within leadership.” As leaders we must develop management skills.
“Ultimately, management is a key to extraordinary service. Individual performance has the limitations of an individual. You may be a virtuoso. Yet, if you are determined to express your individuality in a more expansive way, you must develop management skills and engage others in a larger enterprise.

To achieve ever deeper relationships with greater numbers of customers and other stakeholders, you must master management. Day in and day out, that means you must serve those with whom you work, enabling them to serve ever more effectively.
Filled with examples and quotes, Serve to Lead is well thought out and one of the best books you’ll read on how to think about service and how to get your leadership to be one of service.

Strock urges us to make our life a masterpiece of service. It begins by asking the question—who am I serving—throughout our life, minute by minute, hour by hour, day by day. Importantly, it is not a question that we should apply to only one area of our life. It should be an approach we take in all areas of our life—our time, our money, our relationships and thoughts.

As an ongoing practice, he suggests we continually ask ourselves four questions:

Who am I serving?
How can I best serve?
Am I making my unique contribution?
Am I getting better every day?

Service isn’t easy. It doesn’t always get noticed, but it is what leading is all about. If that is hard to swallow, you need to ask yourself, why do I want to lead?
How many people are trapped in their everyday habits: part numb, part frightened, part indifferent? To have a better life we must keep choosing how we’re living.
–Albert Einstein

Posted by Michael McKinney at 01:42 PM
| TrackBacks (1) | Leadership , Leadership Development , Management , Personal Development

05.05.10

Are You Living Out Your Why?

Reduced to a list of techniques, leadership is uninspiring. Leadership that is uninspiring is stagnant. Eventually it will need to be replaced because all involved are just going through the motions—doing time—atrophying. The leader is superfluous.

Techniques help us to manage the function of leadership, but they are not the essence of leadership. Techniques don’t connect with people, passion does. Passion inspires because it comes from inside of us. Our passion is who we are. It’s authentic because, like leadership, it is something we live. It is our why.

Inspiring leaders keep the why front and center by living it. You can not fake passion for long. Eventually it is undermined by the comments we make, the look on our face, and the way we treat others.
When the eyes say one thing, and the tongue another, a practiced man relies on the language of the first.
–Ralph Waldo Emerson
Watching someone live out a why is compelling. It makes people want to follow, connect and be engaged. It forms the basis of trust and the moral authority that is the spark of the leader/follower relationship.

Leaders go first. John Adair wrote, “Gandhi and Mandela had acquired the right to demand what they had already given.” Their authority came from their example.

A leader inspires best by example. And as John Baldoni once wrote in his book on leading by example, “It all starts with character.” Are you living out your why?

Posted by Michael McKinney at 11:08 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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04.16.10

Does Your Leadership Have “White Space?”

In the visual arts, white space is that area that is left blank or perhaps more accurately, open. It should not be thought of as unused space because it is actually an important part of the design itself. It is an “active” void. It adds to or enhances what the artist is trying to communicate. It clears away the clutter and allows the message to be heard.
white space
Effective use of white space in graphic design

As leaders, we need to be secure enough to create white space in our leadership; to create not emptiness, but an active void. A place where those we lead can jump in and participate. It’s about making room for others to express themselves. Too often, leaders feel the need to be omnipresent; directing everything that happens. This stifles those they lead and stunts their growth.

Wendy Richmond is a visual artist, author, educator and a contributor to Communication Arts. In a recent column she discusses the need for white space in teaching art. She provides a wonderful example of the value of white space as applied in teaching and leadership:
In my teaching, I use the idea of white space as a metaphor. When I develop a syllabus, I also design the activities for which I will not be present. On the first day of class, I tell my students, “By the end of this course, I hope to be the least important person in this room.” I believe that in addition to providing the content, my role is to create an environment that contains an active void. I need to disappear enough for my students to jump in and fill the learning environment with their own excitement and discovery. Again, as in my artwork, it takes confidence to leave that space empty.

I have a friend who teaches memoir writing. In every session, each student reads a short piece of his own writing. In the first two classes, my friend makes notes as she listens, and then delivers a constructive critique. In the next class, she institutes a change. After each reading, instead of delivering her critique first, she waits for the participation of the other students. Inevitably, there is silence; an awkward void where there is no response.

Initially, my friend found it hard to remain quiet. She feels that it is her job to keep the class engaged, to be imparting knowledge. In other words, as she told me, she had to make sure they are getting their money’s worth. It required confidence to not fill the silence with her critique. She had to trust that this emptiness was essential; it allowed the students to develop their own responses. When her students began to talk, there was a new energy that continued not only during the coffee breaks, but between classes as well.
Creating white space in your leadership requires balance. Leadership is an art. White space doesn’t reflect a lack of leadership or structure as it might seem. On the contrary, strong leadership is what makes it possible. A leader has to shape that space in an ongoing way to ensure that they are allowing room for people to develop themselves, contribute and lead. The question is: do you as a leader have the confidence to do that?

Posted by Michael McKinney at 08:08 AM
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02.26.10

Are Leaders Destined to Disappoint?

Historian David Greenberg wrote in the Atlantic, “Americans have fallen, starry-eyed, for leaders who speak of a future unencumbered by history’s weight.” Intellectually we must know that this isn’t possible, yet is it too much to expect real change, fundamental change—a break from the past? It’s unsettling to think that we are only slaves to our past. Are we demanding too much?

Greenberg continues, “Theodore Roosevelt’s New Nationalism, Woodrow Wilson’s New Freedom, FDR’s New Deal, JFK’s New Frontier, even George H. W. Bush’s New World Order—all began with the promise of the new. Of course, after the flush of a campaign, both voters and presidents have invariably discovered that history imposes constraints.” And we are left disappointed.

Of course, this dynamic affects not only political leaders, but leaders everywhere. One always has to deal with what is (past and present) and the real level of desire (the crisis)—for transformational change to occur. Leadership is a creative act. A leader seeking transformational change needs to have three basic elements in place:

clearly defined goals (the how),
strong values with which to measure those goals (the why), and
an environment that is urgent to change (an opportunity).

Expectations create opportunities for leaders. The motivation from which springs the leader’s initiative is most often influenced by certain expectations on the part of the potential followers. Rosalynn Carter once said, “A leader takes people where they want to go. A great leader takes people where they don't necessarily want to go, but ought to be.” This suggests that a leader’s responsibility is to do more than just serve up our wants. As Insead’s dean J. Frank Brown said, “Leaders must learn to listen and question before they act.”

We get the wrong kind of leaders when we place all of the responsibility of our expectations on their shoulders. In that environment we will always find individuals that are all too happy to pander to us and promise what they can never deliver in return for a title—placeholder leaders. Leadership is a shared responsibility.

A great leader must elevate their followers and give them power and responsibility to act or they can never really lead them. Greenberg writes, “Twenty-five years ago, the political scientist Theodore Lowi published a book called The Personal President. It argued that the increasingly large responsibilities placed on the president since Franklin Roosevelt’s time—of regulation, social provision, and economic management, to say nothing of the leadership of the free world—have exploded into impossible expectations. Every postwar chief executive, Lowi noted—and the observation still holds—has begun his presidency with high approval ratings and left office with the public chastened of its early optimism, if not disillusioned altogether.”

He concludes, “It is easy to propose that we lower our expectations for our new presidents—even, or perhaps especially, for presidents who come bearing lofty promises of transformation. But we can’t correct the problem, Lowi’s diagnosis suggested, simply by resolving to demand less from our chief executives or by vowing to learn from the past. The problem is rooted in nothing less than the presidency’s assumption of immense powers, and of a central role in our imagination. Candidates have no better path to victory than by inspiring us with dreams of a new political era, and presidents have no choice but to attempt “too much.” In doing so, however, they can only disappoint us.”

Perhaps we aren’t demanding too much of our leaders, we are instead, demanding too little of ourselves. Can we separate ourselves from our “history” and act creatively for real change? Maybe we need a little less heroic leader and a little more heroic follower?

It requires leadership at all levels.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 04:16 PM
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02.12.10

Getting Naked

Leadership
Patrick Lencioni has penned another solid business fable, Getting Naked and it's about vulnerability. The kind of vulnerability that comes from being completely open and honest with no sense of pretense or cover. He calls it getting naked. The story grows out of his experience in his consulting practice, The Table Group. They found that by being completely transparent and vulnerable with clients, they built levels of trust and loyalty that blew them away.

Getting naked is not easy to do. It goes against the grain. It’s not comfortable. It involves shedding the three fears that sabotage client loyalty:

Fear of Losing the Business - No service provider wants to lose clients or revenue. Interestingly, it is his very notion that prevents many service providers from having the difficult conversations that actually build greater loyalty and trust. Clients want to know that their service providers are more interested in helping them succeed in business than protecting their revenue source. To Overcome: Give Away the Business, Consult Instead of Sell, Tell the Kind Truth, Enter the Danger

Fear of Being Embarrassed - This fear is rooted in pride. No one likes to publicly make mistakes, endure scrutiny or be embarrassed. Naked service providers are willing to ask questions and make suggestions even if those questions and suggestions turn out to be laughably wrong. Clients trust naked service providers because they know that they will not hold back their ideas, hide their mistakes, or edit themselves to save face. To Overcome: Ask Dumb Questions, Make Dumb Suggestions, Celebrate your Mistakes

Fear of Being Inferior - Similar to the previous fear, this one is rooted in ego. Fear of being inferior is not about being intellectually wrong, it is about preserving social standing with the client. Naked service providers are able to overcome the need to feel important in the eyes of their client and basically do whatever a client needs to help the client improve. To Overcome: Honor the Client’s Work, Make Everything about the Client, Do the Dirty Work, Take a Bullet

Getting Naked Model

Why don't all service providers do this? Lencioni says, “On the surface the approach may sound soft or commonplace, but actually putting it into action can be downright scary. Getting naked is not for the faint-of-heart and those who employ this approach need to be prepared for the potential costs. Naked service providers leave themselves exposed to criticism and rejection, and may lose some business. However, once they prepare themselves for those situations, they find that they actually receive less criticism and are much better able to attract and retain clients. What is more, when they do lose a potential client due to their naked approach, they have no regrets because they realize that the relationship wouldn't have been a productive one anyway.

“Not everyone is fit to be a naked service provider. It requires levels of self-esteem, humility and courage that not all consultants are interested in having. However, anyone who is willing to set their ego and fear aside can practice the approach successfully. And they will benefit both in terms of the success of their business as well as experiencing growth in their personal lives.”

Although this book is aimed at service providers it has wider applications and provides a general lesson for all leaders in any situation: We go a lot further if we demonstrate that we are more concerned about helping the people we lead, than we are in protecting ourselves. Stop trying so hard to be impressive. Just see where you can help. Great service makes a great impression.

Of Related Interest:
  Case in Point :: BusinessWeek: The Power of Saying "We Blew It" by Patrick Lencioni
  Getting Naked Resources

Posted by Michael McKinney at 03:02 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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12.02.09

Managers Can (and Should) Be Leaders

Managing
It has become commonplace to regard managers as inferior to leaders. Leaders are out front getting things done and managers are … what are they doing? This is, in part, due to our proclivity to label people as one or the other.

Henry Mintzberg is the antidote to that kind of unproductive thinking. He writes in a book simply titled Managing: “we should be seeing managers as leaders and leadership as management practiced well.” While I have maintained that there is value in separating the functions of managers and leaders for the better understanding of both, in practice, they shouldn’t be two different people.

Mintzberg believes that managing is a practice that is learned on the job through apprenticeship, mentorship, and direct experience. He has good cause to assert that we should be more concerned about “macroleading;” people that manage by remote control; too far above it all. “We are now overlead and undermanaged, he writes.” By obsessing over the glories of leadership, we lose our grasp on the realities of management. And our leadership is all the worse for it. “The more we obsess about leadership, the less we seem to get.”

Managing is a page-turner (if you’re into this kind of thing). Mintzberg always makes you stop and think. He’s at his best when he’s leveling the playing field. As we’ve stressed on this blog before, leadership isn’t evolving. Leadership (and management) are a fundamental human activity. How they are practiced may change depending on the context, but their essence remains unchanged. Much of what we have to learn and relearn are fundamental principles regarding how people get along and work together.
Managers deal with different issues as time moves forward, but not with different managing. The job does not change. We buy new gasoline all the time and new shirts from time to time; that does not mean that car engines and buttons have been changing. Despite the great fuss we make about change, the fact is that basic aspects of human behavior—and what could be more basic than managing and leading?—remain rather stable.
Mintzberg has distilled management thought into a general model of managing—what do managers do? They operate on three plains of activity, from the conceptual to the concrete: They act through information. They work through people. They manage action directly. And they need to operate on all three planes. “Too much leading can result in a job free of content…and detached from its internal roots.” A blending of all three planes into a dynamic balance is required and is best learned on the job. “No simulation I have ever seen in a classroom … comes remotely close to replicating the job itself,” says Mintzberg.

He playfully addresses the conundrums of managing like: How to keep informed when managing by its own nature removes the manager from the very things being managed? How to delegate when they are better informed than the people to whom they have to delegate? How to maintain a sufficient level of confidence without crossing over into arrogance? How to bring order to the work of others when the work of managing is itself disorderly? And how do you do all these things at once?

Managers are flawed. “If you want to uncover someone’s flaws, marry them or else work for them. Their flaws will quickly become apparent. So will something else: that you can usually live with these flaws. Managers and marriages do succeed. The world, as a consequence, continues to unfold in its inimitably imperfect way.” [He adds in the notes: “Not always. Politicians seem to become particularly adept at hiding flaws during elections until they become fatal in office.”] We are successful to the extent that our weaknesses are not fatal relative to the situation we are in. Commitment is the key; commitment “to the job, the people, and the purpose, to be sure, but also to the organization, and beyond that, in a responsible way, to related communities in society.”

He concludes, “To be a successful manager, let alone—dare I say—a great leader, maybe you don’t have to be wonderful so much as more or less emotionally healthy and clearheaded.”
No institution can possible survive if it needs geniuses or supermen to manage it. It must be organized in such a way as to be able to get along under a leadership composed of average human beings.”
That’s good news!

Posted by Michael McKinney at 01:43 PM
| TrackBacks (1) | Leadership , Management

11.20.09

Lead Your Boss

A can-do person himself, Theodore Roosevelt once advised, “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.

Lead Your Boss
Roosevelt’s admonition is easier said than done. Most of us are not in a position to implement sweeping change by the wave of our hand. And some of us are in a counterproductive culture where sticking your head up is a good way to get it knocked off. But we can learn to do what we can, with what we have, from where we are.

It means that we must learn the art of leading from the middle—from among rather than from in front. And if we are honest, in most contexts, we find ourselves leading from the middle. (CEOs included) We are trying to influence the people around us, above us and below us. So learning to appropriately and effectively lead in this way, will impact our success in most areas of life.

John Baldoni has written a primer on leading from the middle with Lead Your Boss: The Subtle Art of Managing Up. What I appreciate about his writing is that it is down-to-earth, nuts-and-bolts, and easy to connect with. He is aware of the fact that it is not easy and can be fraught with peril. He writes,
Those who lead from the middle are those who think big picture and can do what it takes to get things done so their bosses and their teams succeed….Those who succeed at leading from the middle also are artful and adept managers.

Not so easy to do, but it is possible when you rethink and reframe what you want to accomplish and how you want to do it. That is, you are not acting for yourself, but you are acting for the good of the organization. This requires initiative, persuasion, influence, and persistence and no small amount of passion.
Baldoni says that leading up begins with answering three questions:

1. What does the leader need?
2. What does the team need?
3. What can I do to help the leader and the team succeed?

As he suggests, this is a selfless act that speaks to the heart of leadership. It requires people who can think for themselves and take the initiative to make things happen. Answering the three questions, taking the initiative and making it happen is the trick and is the focus of the rest of the book.

Lead Your Boss walks you through every critical step of leading up. It provides instruction for overcoming those inevitable obstacles and you’ll find tips and strategies for:
  • Thinking like a boss, without stealing the boss’s spotlight, and establishing trust with peers.
  • Turning ideas into action by thinking critically (and strategically), reframing opportunities, and challenging conventions.
  • Let others create the how by giving the team direction, setting clear expectations for behavior and performance, and then stepping back and letting team members get things done.
  • Breaking down the doors, beginning with mastering the principles and means of influence and then balancing the need to look out with the need to lead up.
  • Working the system with attention to managing the details, determining priorities, and using organizational politics to everyone’s advantage.
  • Demonstrating resilience by acknowledging failure, knowing when to give in without giving up, exerting and exuding strength, and excelling at turning setbacks into comebacks.
  • Preparing others to lead by recognizing achievement, investing in talent (and differentiating talent from skill), and making leadership personal.
  • Leading with passion… Yes, character and conviction matter!
Leading up is not a solitary job. “Leading up requires the ability to develop the talents of others; this is important for two reasons,” writes Baldoni. “One, you need to demonstrate that you know how to lead others; and two, putting others into leadership positions gives you the time you need to think and act strategically, that is, to lead your boss and your team more effectively.”

Below is a two and a half minute video that provides a good overview of the book by author John Baldoni:


Posted by Michael McKinney at 03:26 PM
| TrackBacks (2) | Followership , General Business , Leadership , Management

11.19.09

Changing Generational Expectations on Leadership

Earlier this year La Piana Consulting issued a report as a part of their NonprofitNext Initiative, that explores the key trends shaping the future of the social sector. They identify five trends: Demographic Shifts Redefine Participation, Technological Advances Abound, Networks Enable Work to Be Organized in New Ways, Interest in Civic Engagement and Volunteerism Is Rising, and Sector Boundaries Are Blurring.

The report states, “In this changing environment, transformation is not optional. The future will demand a collective rethinking of what it means to be an organization, how individuals define their work and how best to both compete and partner across many permeable boundaries.”

Looking at the first trend, Demographic Shifts Redefine Participation, we see that as younger generations begin to dominate the workforce, they bring with them different values, expectations and the place of technology in achieving results. This of course, changes how they define participation.

La Piana Consulting rightly asserts that, “The challenge is not so much the wholesale changing of the guard that was feared, but the need to figure out how the generations can work together effectively now and in the future…. There are significant distinctions in how younger generations value, approach and leverage engagement, transparency, technology, professional development and work-life balance. These differences will have to be negotiated.”

More foundationally, it changes how we approach leadership, the organizational culture and structure. How will working across generations change the way you do work?

Church consultant Cynthia Ware, wrote on her blog The Digital Sanctuary, that this means more team participation and leadership “sharing.” This almost always gets interpreted as leaderless or a kind of a feel-good, rudderless “hot-tub” leadership that is not heavy on results. Top-down leadership is not necessarily bad leadership, but is often executed poorly. It is most often associated with command and control, which is something else. Authority comes with responsibility, but is most effective when used sparingly.

Ware eloquently clarifies the issue:
“Top down” leadership is not always controlling - yet it is usually perceived as such - which is reflected in the trend. In fact, headship, if functioning correctly, releases rather than restricts, empowers rather than dominates, etc.

I always think of the Exodus model (Ex 18:21-27) and spreading leadership out only means “multiplying” it, not eliminating it. It’s easy for people to jump to the concept of “leaderless” when dealing with the new paradigms since in internet terms were talking about decentralization here, but leaders are more necessary than ever - those who use their leadership to influence to disciple & release others.
For each generation—old and new—this will require learning a new perspective on what it means to share leadership. It’s healthy. If leaders stop learning they stop leading.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 11:35 AM
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11.12.09

The Seven Deadly Sins of Leadership

Drucker on Leadership
Peter Drucker never wrote a book about leadership, but his thoughts about it are sprinkled throughout his 40 books and hundreds of articles. Bill Cohen has extracted these ideas and presented them in Drucker on Leadership.

To Drucker, leadership was a calling and he set very high ethical standards for those that chose to lead. Character traps like losing sight of why you are leading, selfishness and the abuse of power often derails leaders. Drucker hoped, writes Cohen, “that by making these traps explicit he could help leaders avoid falling into them.” Cohen gathered Drucker’s thoughts about these shortcomings together and categorized them as the seven deadly sins of leadership:

The Leadership Sin of Pride. “The sin of pride is usually considered the most serious of the seven deadly sins.” Being proud of one’s accomplishments is one thing. “The problem comes when leaders believe themselves so special that ordinary rules no longer apply. Generalized pride—as opposed to being proud of specific things—is the most serious leadership sin because it can easily lead to the other six.”

The Leadership Sin of Lust. “There is unfortunately a feeling among some leaders that they have ‘arrived’ and are ‘entitled’; sex is seen as some sort of fringe leadership benefit….In any workplace, it creates jealousies, feelings of favoritism, and lack of trust, damaging people and relationships and more….Drucker thought that leaders did not pay enough attention to avoiding this particular deadly sin, and thought that leaders could do a better job of avoiding problems that affected their ability to lead.”

The Leadership Sin of Greed. “The sin of greed is a sin of excess. It frequently starts with power. Leaders have power, and unfortunately having power has a tendency to lead to corruption if the leader isn’t careful. This may start with the acceptance of small favors and grow into accumulating vacations, bribes, or worse.”

The Leadership Sin of Sloth. “For the leader, the sin of sloth is associated with an unwillingness to act. More often, it is an unwillingness to do work the leader considers beneath the dignity of the office.”

The Leadership Sin of Wrath. “This sin has to do with uncontrolled anger. There is a time for anger in leadership when it serves a definite and useful purpose….Drucker taught leaders to analyse their environment and to determine what actions that had already occurred, meant for the future before taking action. Using anger as a single response to all leadership challenges precludes doing this analysis.”

The Leadership Sin of Envy. “With the sin of envy, the leader is envious of what is enjoyed by someone else.” This may cause a leader to “attempt to destroy another’s reputation, or in other ways attempt to feel better by lowering the status of another.”

The Leadership Sin of Gluttony. Of all the deadly sins, gluttony is the one that most frustrated Drucker. We typically associate gluttony with food, but it applies to excessive consumption of any kind. “Drucker did not win many friends among high executives with his injunction about too high salaries….It’s easy to rationalize—and a status issue. However, there was no question in Drucker’s mind but that executive hypercompensation was an accurate example of the sin of gluttony and was to be avoided for good leadership.”

Posted by Michael McKinney at 04:35 PM
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11.11.09

Eisenhower: No Born Leaders

The one quality that can be developed by studious reflection and practice is leadership.
—Letter to his son, John S. D. Eisenhower,
June 19, 1943
In contrast to George S. Patton Jr., who felt himself born to lead men into desperate battle and who believed that all great leaders are leaders by virtue of their destiny, Dwight Eisenhower thought that leadership could be acquired, learned through “studious reflection and practice.” When his son, a West Point Cadet, expressed disappointment at having been promoted to ordinary cadet sergeant rather than given the distinction of promotion to color sergeant, Ike replied that it did “not indicate that you are lacking in the qualities of leadership” and explained that these qualities could be acquired.

Eisenhower Wallpaper
He went on to demystify leadership, telling his son that it was nothing more than the ability to “get people working together, not only because you tell them to do so and enforce your orders but because they instinctively want to do it for you…. You do not need to be a glad-hander nor a salesman, but your men must trust you and instinctively wish you to win your approbation and to avoid things that call upon you for correction.”

Adapted from Eisenhower on Leadership by Alan Axelrod.

Of Related Interest:
  Looking For Leaders
  Dwight D. Eisenhower Wallpaper: "Leadership is the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it."

Posted by Michael McKinney at 07:52 AM
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10.28.09

What is the Real Work of Leading?

Leadership
I would hope by now you have had a chance to read through Fast Company co-founder Alan Webber’s Rules of Thumb. He has compiled 52 practical and wise fundamentals of life well lived and work well done.

For a taste, consider Rule #41: If you want to be a real leader, first get real about leadership. Getting real about leadership involves four things: how leaders are, what leaders do, how leaders act, and what leaders leave behind them.

How Leaders Are. Leaders are both confident and modest, they’re authentic and they are good listeners. He quotes Ron Heifetz, “Too many leaders die with their mouths open.” He adds, “Leaders who need to talk all the time create companies where people simply stop listening.”

What Leaders Do. Leaders are coaches. They attract and grow talent. They lead by example. Maintaining high standards themselves, they challenge people to do their best work. “After a real leader has moved on, the people who worked for him or her always say, ‘I learned more and did more than I ever thought I could.’”

How Leaders Act. Real leaders guide. They don’t dictate. “Real leaders create an agenda, offer criteria, and describe a strategy to take the company ahead.” And they learn from their mistakes.

What Leaders Leave Behind. Leaders leave behind “a passion for the business, a love of the company, and the commitment to leave it healthier and stronger than he or she found it.” They leave a team of great leaders. They articulate sound values and instill them into the culture of the business. And perhaps most importantly, they make more leaders. “The real leader is the one who makes more leaders at all levels of the organization. Leaders practice leadership to cultivate more leaders.”

Posted by Michael McKinney at 08:59 PM
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09.16.09

The Application of Love Leadership

I wanted to share with you an excerpt from John Hope Bryant’s book Love Leadership. The subtitle – The New Way to Lead in a Fear-Based World – says it all. Bryant is the founder of Operation HOPE, a non-profit provider of economic tools and services that has as its long range objective to literally “drive itself out of business.”

Bryant says we have “lost our story line;” too focused on the me instead of the we, we have become indifferent. He describes the opportunity to lead he found, this way:
In inner cities today, you’ll often find a liquor store right next to a check casher, next to a pawn shop, next to a rent-to-own store, next to a payday lender. If misery loves company, then this is a pile-on. There’s simply a super-abundance of predatory businesses, and many people have lost hope. They are poor in spirit: they’re not skeptical—they’re cynical; they have low self-esteem and negative role models; their get-up-and-go has got up and went. So they go to the check-cashing service to forfeit their today, and go to the payday lender to forfeit their tomorrow. And because they don’t believe they’ll have a tomorrow, they go to the liquor store to forget about their yesterday.

In these communities, poor people spend roughly $10 billion each year on what I call ghettoized financial services—high-interest and high-fee check cashing, payday loans, refund anticipation loans, title lending, rent-to-own, and the like. I know of one individual who got a payday loan for $800; by the time he finished pay it off six years later, after rolling this payday loan over countless times, he had paid $15,000 in interest on that $800 loan. These businesses are in many cases short-term-oriented, purely transactional business models that add little value, and even deteriorate the customer base they purport to serve.

These businesses are ultimately led by one thing: fear. People are afraid to lift themselves up, to lead themselves out of their situation, to think for themselves. Bad capitalism preys mercilessly on these fears.

Throughout my journey from the inner city to my work as a social entrepreneur, I have had a front dash row seat for witnessing how fear destroys a community. But I would learn that there is another way to live and to do business. It would take almost 30 years for me to understand that the antidote to fear is love.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 07:34 PM
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09.07.09

What Is Your Platform?

Pat Williams
Pat Williams is the Senior Vice President of the Orlando Magic, the NBA team he co-founded in 1987. In What Are You Living For? he lists four reasons for living our lives: to build character, for what we believe in, raising another generation, and our influence. He writes, “Through our influence, the very best part of us lives on even after we physically die.”

He lists seven practical ways you can invest your life in the lives of others:
  1. Be careful what you say.
  2. Be aware that others are watching your example.
  3. Use your accomplishments and your influence to inspire the next generation.
  4. Take advantage of every “moment of influence.”
  5. When you make a mistake admit it.
  6. Be generous with your time and resources.
  7. Make all of your decisions on the basis of ethics and integrity, not personal advantage.
There are people in your life that need your influence. We all have a platform to “speak-up” from and make a difference in someone’s life.
Dale Murphy (Major League Baseball All-Star and founder of I Won't Cheat Foundation) is a sports celebrity who seeks to leverage his achievements on the playing field into a positive influence on the lives of others, especially young people. People in the sports world who are conscious of their influence often speak of their “platform.” In the literal sense, a platform is an elevated stage from which a person can speak and be heard by the crowd below. A sports celebrity has a platform of fame, which he or she can use to influence fans, young people and society at large.

You may not have the platform of a sports star. But there are people who look up to you, watch your life and listen to your words. Like it or not, my friend, you have a platform and you are responsible for your influence. How are you using your platform?

Posted by Michael McKinney at 09:50 AM
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08.28.09

IBM's Robert Sampson on Values-Based Leadership

Robert Sampson, general manager of Global Public Sector at IBM, delivered a speech to the Industrial College of the Armed Forces, on the power of values to change the world. He says, “Technologies, no matter how game-changing they are, come and go. What really matters in industry and in government is individual character.”

Sampson relates the story of an IBM computer scientist named Arun Hampapur who was driven to enhance the value derived from surveillance systems, to illustrate the value of creating a culture in which people seek to innovate not just for the sake of innovation, but to apply themselves to the kind of innovation that changes society:
Arun Hampapur began studying the video surveillance systems in New York and Chicago. As Arun saw it, these systems had an inherent problem: They could ingest data, but they could not react to real-world incidents in a timely way. You could only respond to a criminal event once it already happened. That wasn’t good enough for Arun.

Arun and his team came up with algorithms that could identify patterns of suspicious behavior and then instigate a real-time alert. In New York City, for example, Arun’s team defined nine patterns of criminal behavior. A guy standing around in the subway on a 90-degree day wearing a trench coat and carrying two duffle bags, for example, constituted one pattern. A white, windowless van circling the block ten times constituted another. And so on.

Who told Arun to develop this digital surveillance system? Nobody. He thought it up on his own.

We haven’t yet calculated the revenue that IBM and its business partners will derive from this solution. But as for the contribution that Arun Hampapur has made to the well-being of millions of people he will never know—here is truly something of value. It’s the value that comes from having values, from believing in the kind of innovation that matters in the lives of individuals and of nations. I’d like to leave you with four leadership principles based on these values:
  • Be grounded in a set of values you believe in. If you are committed to every client’s success, you have to communicate that belief in every interaction with your employees and clients. And reward the people who look past organizational silos or who rethink existing technologies to come up with smart solutions.
  • Keep your leadership and management roles in balance. You have days where you’ve got to tell people what to do. You might have to kick them in the fanny. But you also have days where you’ve got to lift them up. The hardest days are when you do both.
  • Think huge. Wild and crazy ideas matter. What’s holding you back on executing them? Organizational obstacles? You can deal with them. Skills? You can acquire them. Remember that you are in the ICAF because you already have demonstrated your desire to think huge, to act on your need to make the world a better place.
  • Determine your legacy. If an organization thrives only when you run it, you have not made any intrinsic change. Leave something of yourself behind. Share what you know. Become a mentor.
The world is ready for a smarter planet. It is begging for strong, smart, value-driven leadership.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 01:16 AM
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08.24.09

A Leader Builds Community

It’s easy to lead the people who think you can do no wrong. It’s easy too, to get taken in by their flattery. But a leader is responsible for everyone they lead – their core supporters and those at the fringe that may have their doubts. A leader builds community. A leader is inclusive.

In Driving Results Through Social Networks, Cross and Thomas report that “high performers tend to occupy network positions that bridge otherwise disconnected clusters of people.” As a result they can seize the opportunities found in the “white space” between subgroups.

A diversity of voices is essential to a leader. It is not uncommon to find that your most crucial collaborators are not commonly categorized as the high performers and regarded as "in-sync" with you. Instead, we have all seen that these highly valuable people, often found on the fringes, play an important role in making the high performers successful. A leader must be able to motivate these potential partners to join with them as well.

Jagdish Sheth, a chaired professor of marketing at Emory’s Goizueta Business School notes, “One big mistake is when the new leader rewards the people who supported him on the way up, while phasing out the people who did not. Instead, a CEO must realize that he or she is the leader of the company, not a clique, just as the president of the U.S. leads the nation, not just the Democrats or the Republicans.”

Where there is leadership, there is a sense of community.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 08:00 AM
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05.22.09

The 14 Questions Every Board Member Needs to Ask

Owning Up
The question of who’s running the organization is a critical one in this economic environment. Many boards are being asked to do what they were never prepared to do. The challenges and pressures are immense. In a critically important book for directors—Owning Up—world-renowned adviser Ram Charan says the economic downturn is a wake-up call to corporate boards. “Boards need to own up to their own accountability for the performance of the corporation.”

Increasingly, "governance now means leadership, not just over-the-shoulder monitoring and passive approvals. Boards must fiercely guard their companies against the threats of rapid decline and sudden demise, while at the same time helping management seize the opportunities that tumultuous change presents but are hard to see in the daily fray of running the business. The board that does both turns governance into a competitive advantage." And all of this without micromanaging. It’s quite a balancing act. [Charan: “Asking questions of an operating nature is not in itself micromanaging, as long as the questions lead to insights about issues like strategy, performance, major investment decisions, key personnel, the choice of goals, or risk assessment.” Why and how is key.]

Charan offers fourteen questions that “get to the heart of the unique issues that boards are facing now.” I think the questions are as insightful and provide as much food for thought as the answers they might evoke:

Question 1: Is the Composition of the Board Right for the Challenge?
Question 2: How Are We Addressing the Risks that Could Put Our Company over the Cliff?
Question 3: Are We Prepared to Do Our Job Well When a Crisis Erupts?
Question 4: Are We Well Enough Prepared to Name Our Next CEO?
Question 5: How Well Does the Board Own the Strategy?
Question 6: How Can We Get the Information We Need to Govern Well?
Question 7: How Can Our Board Get CEO Compensation Right?
Question 8: Why Do We Need a Lead Director Anyway?
Question 9: Is Our governance committee Best of Breed?
Question 10: How Do We Get the Most Value out of Our Limited Time?
Question 11: How Can Executive Sessions Improve the Ownership Function of the Board?
Question 12: How Can Our Board Self-Evaluation Improve Our Functioning and Our Output?
Question 13: How Do We Stop from Micromanaging?
Question 14: How Well Prepared Are We to Work with Activist Shareholders and Their Proxies?

In good times, not enough consideration has been given to question one. Does the board have enough depth of knowledge or experience to ensure the organization stays on track? “Directors as a group must have the specific skills and perspectives needed to carry out their responsibilities.” And these skills must evolve with the times. “If the composition of the board is not appropriate, it is the failure if the [governance] committee. The board must empower the committee to actively shape the board composition.” Bad directors drive out good directors. It’s time for a check-up. Charan’s questions help boards do just that.

Additionally, while squarely aimed at directors, Charan’s questions serve a wider audience of leader’s as well. The questions speak to any leader of the need to “own up” to the responsibilities found in their own context? Are we up to the challenge in the area we have chosen to lead? Are we dealing with the issues? Are we trying to identify the issues early and get ahead of them? Are we learning so that we are better able to perform? Are we aware of our impact? All of these questions speak to the need for personal accountability. Addressing Charan’s questions is the way forward.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 10:03 AM
| TrackBacks (0) | General Business , Leadership , Management

05.21.09

Three Questions Every Leader Should Ask

Custom-Built Leadership
Robin Ryde explains in Custom-Built Leadership that there are three questions that will bring clarity to your leadership mandate. They will provide “a personal manifesto for how you will lead. They open up and provide entry to a place where your priorities, personal preferences and ambitions can be properly examined.”

How Long Have I Got? This is a question not just about tenure, but the legacy you wish to leave. This will help you to determine your priorities. Your time frame will determine your pace and help you to determine what skills and resources will be of the greatest value to you.

How Grand Is My Plan? This question has to do with your ambition and encompasses three key considerations: your appetite for taking on varying degrees of ambition, your freedom to operate, and your inheritance (it’s rare that we inherit positions of leadership as a clean slate). Timing will certainly affect your level of ambition.

How Broadly Will I Lead? As a leader you will certainly operate within a system. The question is how far will you travel into the domains that affect your issues that stand outside your formal locus of influence.

Ryde pragmatically discusses each of these questions and candidly describes the rewards and pitfalls of the kinds of decisions we make. This book is an important read for anyone taking on a new leadership task or looking to recalibrate the task they are currently in.

Ryde writes, “A long-term leadership strategy requires a very different approach to a short-term campaign. Leadership on a grand scale calls upon a different set of skills to a business-as-usual plan. Leaders who wish to influence a broad range of people and institutions need to develop different qualities to those with a narrower engagement plan.”

Posted by Michael McKinney at 01:56 AM
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05.06.09

Ten Leadership Skills You Need For An Uncertain World

Leaders Make the Future
Uncertainty is a part of life. Uncertainty is a call for leadership. Creating clarity from uncertainty is a leader’s stock in trade. Unquestionably some periods of time are more demanding than others. Times like these call on leaders to take a broader view of who and why they are leading and the impact they are having on the world around them. While this is very demanding for any leader, it is also more meaningful.

In Leaders Make the Future, futurist Bob Johansen reports that volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity will only get worse in the future. “Solvable problems will still abound, but top leaders will deal mostly with dilemmas which have no solutions, yet leaders will have to make decisions anyway.”

Johansen emphasizes ten leadership skills that will help leaders to cope and thrive in the volatile decade ahead. “We need not passively accept the future. Leaders can and must make a better future.” Although it’s “hard to even think about the future if you are overwhelmed by the present … looking to distant possibilities can provide new insight for the present.” The ten skills he lays out move from the instinctual to the complex and build on each other. Here is a summary of Johansen’s work for you to think on:

1. Maker Instinct: The ability to exploit your inner drive to build and grow things, as well as connect with others in the making. Future leaders will need both a can-do and a can-make spirit. The maker instinct is what separates the leaders from the powerless.

2. Clarity: The ability to see through messes and contradictions to a future that others cannot see. Leaders are very clear about what they are making, but very flexible about how it gets made. How can you as a leader, create and communicate with clarity in confusing times – without being simplistic?

3. Dilemma Flipping: The ability to turn dilemmas – which, unlike problems, cannot be solved – into advantages and opportunities. We must be able to nurture the ability to engage with hopelessness, learn how to wade through it to the other side, and flip it in a more positive direction. Think Roger Martin’s concept of the “opposable mind.” How can you remake a situation with no solution?

4. Immersive Learning Ability: The ability to immerse yourself in unfamiliar environments; to learn from them in a first-person way. Immersive learning requires active attention, the ability to listen and filter, and to see patterns while staying centered – even when overwhelmed with stimuli. Leaders can’t absorb everything, so they must filter out extraneous information and learn how to recognize patterns as they are emerging.

5. Bio-Empathy: The ability to see things from nature’s point of view; to understand, respect, and learn from nature’s patterns. It is big-picture thinking that respects all the multiple interrelated parts and nonlinear relationships, as well as cycles of change.

6. Constructive Depolarizing: The ability to calm tense situations where differences dominate and communication has broken down – and bring people from divergent cultures toward constructive engagement. The next decade will be characterized by diversity and polarization. The temptation is to pick sides, but that is rarely a good strategy.

7. Quiet Transparency: The ability to be open and authentic about what matters to you – without advertising yourself. This begins with humility. Leaders who advertise themselves and take credit for their own performances will become targets. Are you self-promoting?

8. Rapid Prototyping: The ability to create quick early versions of innovations, with the expectation that later success will require early failures. Fail early, fail often, and fail cheaply. Accept failures as important ingredients to success and learn from them.

9. Smart Mob Organizing: The ability to create, engage with, and nurture purposeful business or social change networks through intelligent use of electronic and other media. Leaders are what they can organize. Can you organize smart mobs using a range of media?

10. Commons Creating: The ability to seed, nurture, and grow shared assets that can benefit other players – and sometimes allow competition at a higher level. Can you create commons within which both cooperation and competition may occur?

Posted by Michael McKinney at 09:30 AM
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04.20.09

How to Hit the Ground Running

Hit the Ground Running
Stakes are high. Whether you are just starting out, trying something new or just starting each day with the understanding that you need to be putting your best foot forward, you need to know how to get up to speed, make the right decisions, and produce the right results fast. You need to hit the ground running.

If you could sit and learn from some of America’s best CEOs, you could discover the right steps to take to insure your success while avoiding many of the pitfalls that come from learning from one’s own experience. In Hit the Ground Running, Jason Jennings has made that possible. He has selected ten CEOs that created more economic value for their companies than all of the other CEOs of America’s top one thousand companies during the study period. They made the decisions that allowed them to achieve great results on issues we can all relate to by adhering to, sometimes counter-intuitive principles. From interviews and observation, Jennings has compiled these principles into ten lessons from each of these CEOs that if applied, will help you to hit the ground running.

Rule 1: Don’t Deceive Yourself—You Will Reap What You Sow   Let the Golden Rule guide every decision. Richard Smucker says, “In matters of style, swim with the current but in matters of principle, stand like a rock.”

Rule 2: Gain Belief   Leaders gain belief by being authentic and humble, getting rid of regal trappings, proving their worthiness, asking others for belief, and surrounding themselves with others who are also trusted. "I need everyone to respect and support one another and work with each other. Everything else is B.S." says Fred Eppinger of the Hanover Group.

Rule 3: Ask for Help   Howard Lance CEO of Harris Corporation “has a keen sense of humor and doesn’t have a problem generating a laugh even at his own expense.” He says, “Sometimes you have to take the veneer and let people see you for who you really are and share a chuckle or two.” To “hit the ground running" requires that you admit that you don’t have all the answers and engaged the assistance of others when assuming new duties.

Rule 4: Find, Keep, and Grow the Right People   Ronald Sargent’s strategy at Staples is to promote from within, move people around, identify rising stars, make everyone an owner, communicate with your workers and make diversity your priority. Promoting from within “creates a career culture that encourages people to stay longer and stretch their skills.”

Rule 5: See Through the Fog   Pat Hassey, CEO of Allegheny Technologies told Jennings, “It’s the job of the CEO to see through the fog and to be a destination expert. People want to know where the company is headed, what their future holds, the opportunities that exist for them, and what their role is going to be. And they don’t want to wait forever to find those things out.” (See page 97 for Hassey’s well thought out Team Rules that all team members have to agree to part of a Hassey-led team.)

Rule 6: Drive a Stake in the Ground   Jennings writes, "Driving stakes into the ground allows a leader to provide a clear vision about what the company is, where it’s headed, and how it’s going to get there so it can hit the ground running. But it isn’t for the faint of heart. Once you’ve driven a stake in the ground you have to talk about it and promote it relentlessly.” Mike McCallister, CEO of Humana says, “The problem with most businesses is that instead of driving a stake in the ground, they stick a toe in the water and when it gets hard or boring they start thinking about it too much, begin questioning their decision and pull their toe out, changing things, and starting all over again.”

Rule 7: Simplify Everything   "Oversimplify everything! Sit down and ask, `If I could start with a blank sheet of paper today and create the best answer, what would I do?'" says Jeff Lorberbaum, CEO of Mohawk Industries.

Rule 8: Be Accountable   “Setting a personal example of accountability is where many leaders fall short,” writes Jennings. “Instead of starting by being accountable themselves, they use the threat of accountability as a tool to drive others.”

Rule 9: Cultivate a Fierce Sense of Urgency   Keith Rattie, CEO of Questar says, “You must have a sense of urgency—if one doesn’t exist, the CEO’s job is to create one. The mind-set needs to be ‘We’re not as good as we know we have to be.’” Rattie adds that it will be time for him to leave when he loses the “sense of urgency and the belief that we have to be better tomorrow than we are today… it’ll be time to get somebody else in the chair who will bring a new pair of eyes and fresh thinking to the job.”

Rule 10: Be a Fish Out of Water   The CEOs interviewed don’t fit the typical picture of what a CEO should be. They have been described as “humble, authentic, accessible, highly ethical, compassionate listeners and truly, believable committed to doing the right thing for all stakeholders.”

Jennings skillfully weaves the thoughts from these business leaders into coherent and practical lessons. You will find all kinds of great advice in this book, much of it delivered in an almost off-the-cuff manner that belies its value. But it makes this insightful and crisply written book great reading.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 11:09 PM
| TrackBacks (0) | General Business , Leadership , Management

More Useful Quotes from Hit the Ground Running by Jason Jennings

These quotes are from Hit the Ground Running: A Manual for New Leaders by Jason Jennings

Ronald Sargent CEO of Staples warns, “I think a leader has to do something big, new, and different within the first one hundred days and make sure that it’s properly communicated to everyone. If people don’t know what’s going on they’ll assume nothing is going on.”

“The three most important observations I made early on in my career,” says Pat Hassey of ATI, “were that most people are loyal and want to do a good job and be successful, that offering a sincere thank you goes a long way, and that a soft response is always better than a harsh one.” Hassey also remarked, “I promised I’d never let myself get into a position where I’d stop growing. Everybody has a question, an idea, and an opinion, and if you take the time to listen, you’ll end up with a better business. There’s no such thing as a dumb question or idea.”

Mike McCallister, CEO of Humana: "We try to treat all of our people like they are adults, which sounds like straightforward common sense, but it's amazing how many businesses don't."

Goodrich CEO Marshall Larson: “The one thing I did know is that if all leaders in the company thought like me and acted like me, we’d end up with groupthink and make on hell of a big mistake someday and march off the side of the cliff like lemmings.”

Goodrich CEO Marshall Larson: "Any CEO who thinks he can pull all the strings that make things happen is kidding himself.”

Posted by Michael McKinney at 11:08 PM
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03.09.09

Strategic Presence: The Power that Fuels Leadership

Tony Jeary, author of Strategic Acceleration: Succeed at the Speed of Life, is a coach to some of the world's top CEOs. In his book he brings together practical ideas to help you get out of your own way. A critical aspect of getting things done through others is presence – your presence. To influence others you need to know how they perceive you and adjust your communication with them accordingly. Here, Tony discusses what he calls strategic presence:
Strategic Acceleration


The goal of leadership is to produce superior results on purpose and that makes leadership a results contest. The challenge of leadership is to persuade and motivate those they lead to produce the results they want. When people voluntarily and enthusiastically do what their leaders ask them to do and the desired results are achieved, leaders are considered to be effective and successful! The question is how do leaders really get others to voluntarily and enthusiastically produce the desired results? There are many parts to this puzzle, but there is none greater than a condition I describe as Strategic Presence.

Here is a great story that illustrates Strategic Presence and also illuminates its effect. A student from a foreign country was enrolled in the middle of a school year. During the first day of class, the other kids in the class were doing what kids do. There was a lot of giggling and staring and posturing for the new arrival. The new student was dressed in a way that did not meet the expectations of a few of the other children and eventually one of them (the class clown) began to make jokes about the new student's appearance.

As the scene was progressing toward chaos, the teacher was about to intervene when a girl stood up and told everyone to stop picking on their new classmate. The girl reminded them that it was scary to be new in a school and they needed to be kind to the student and make them feel welcome She reminded them they should treat this new person as they would want to be treated if they were in a new country and a new school. After class, the teacher called the girl aside and said, "That was a very brave thing you did. Why did you do that?" The girl replied, "Because that is what my Mom and Dad would expect me to do!"

This story powerfully illustrates the essence and the effect of what I call Strategic Presence. The girl had merely done what she knew her parents would want her to do. Her parents had succeeded in creating a positive presence in her mind, which gave her the willingness and courage to do what she did. Most importantly, the presence of her parents was so authentic that they did not have to be physically present to inspire their daughter's good behavior.

Leaders create impressions that exist in the mind of every person they lead. It is a presence that defines the perceptions people have of their leaders and what they believe about them. It is this overall persona that I am referring to when I use the term Strategic Presence and there are two types: Positive and Negative. Leaders are constantly creating and presenting images of influence that produce both.

The most important fact about Strategic Presence is that it produces two possible reactions in others. It either produces voluntary cooperation or it produces various forms of resistance. If leaders generate positive Strategic Presence, people will be more likely to support what they want, most of the time. However, if perceptions of leadership are negative people will substitute resistance for cooperation. The possibilities of how people will respond to Strategic Presence are limited to cooperation or resistance. There is not much middle ground between them. As someone once said, "you are either for us against us!" It is easy to see why creating an authentic, positive strategic presence is critical for the execution of a vision.

Creating positive Strategic Presence is not a strategy of manipulation. The positive strategic presence leaders project must be authentic. Failing the test of authenticity means the very image leadership hopes to establish will be perceived as deceptive and disingenuous, or worse. People are very perceptive and they will see through efforts to project a phony persona for the purposes of manipulating their behavior. So, why shouldn't a leader's strategic presence just be allowed to be what it is?" That is a great question and the answer is simple. Many leaders are misunderstood and create perceptions that really don't match their intent. So, understanding how Strategic Presence is created will minimize the possibility of being misunderstood.

So, how is strategic presence is created? What are the things about leadership that speaks the loudest about it? What creates the perceptions that combine to produce Strategic Presence? There are two components that contribute to strategic presence: values and behavior.

Our values are established by what we believe to be right, wrong, true, false, acceptable, unacceptable, appropriate and inappropriate. Let's face it, we have all developed deep, strong opinions about many things as we live our lives. Our opinions spring forth from your values and your values influence what we actually do.

Our values and beliefs impact 5 categories of that drive our behavior, and it is our behavior that creates Strategic Presence. The five categories that drive behavior are:
  1. Work ethic
  2. Integrity
  3. Judgment
  4. Courage
  5. Willingness to help others
So, if you want to be a great leader, you need to have great values and your values must be demonstrated in the action you take. This is the essence of Strategic Presence and it is truly the power that fuels leadership.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 05:54 PM
| TrackBacks (0) | Communication , Leadership , Motivation , Personal Development

01.26.09

Attributes of a Boeing Leader

When Ginger Barnes spoke to employees at a leadership development program at the Boeing Leadership Center, she said, “Leadership is all about leaders teaching leaders and about relationships. We can execute the daylights out of anything, so ‘finds a way’ and ‘delivers results’ have always been strong traits. Where we need to improve is in the areas of ‘charts the course,’ ‘sets high expectations’ and ‘inspires others.’” That probably true just about anywhere you go. To strengthen the culture of leadership and accountability within the company, Boeing defined its expectations for leaders as:

A Boeing Leader:Boeing
  • Charts the course
  • Sets high expectations
  • Inspires others
  • Finds a way
  • Lives the Boeing values
  • Delivers results

Posted by Michael McKinney at 01:30 PM
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01.16.09

Jean-Marie Dru On Leadership

Leadership Nuggets

I do not believe much in natural leadership. The majority of chief executives I know were not necessarily destined for that path. They have been molded by the events they have lived through and the people they have met.

The concept of leadership thus evolves into a much narrower question: How can you make sure you will be in the right place at the right time?

To people wishing to enter the advertising business, I always explain that the first quality they will need is tenacity. Mere talent is not much use in the face of the countless obstacles that will get in the way of the best performance. Success is born of determination rather than just ambition. Ambition relates to strategy, whereas determination is linked to execution.

Adapted from How Disruption Brought Order by Jean-Marie Dru

Posted by Michael McKinney at 09:08 AM
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12.22.08

The Age of the Empty Suit

In Peggy Noonan’s weekend column in the Wall Street Journal, she delivers another fine essay, Who We (Still) Are: A little perspective for the pessimistic “age of the empty suit.” She writes:
the empty suit
A sober observation came from a Manhattan woman who spoke, on the night Mr. Madoff was arrested, and as word spread through a Christmas party, of the general air of collapse in America right now, of the sense that our institutions are not and no longer can be trusted. She said, softly, ‘It's the age of the empty suit.’ Those who were supposed to be watching things, making the whole edifice run, keeping it up and operating, just somehow weren't there.

That's the big thing at the heart of the great collapse, a strong sense of absence. Who was in charge? Who was in authority? The biggest swindle in all financial history if the figure of $50 billion is to be believed, and nobody knew about it, supposedly, but the swindler himself. The government didn't notice, just as it didn't notice the prevalence of bad debts that would bring down America's great investment banks.

All this has hastened and added to the real decline in faith—the collapse in faith—the past few years in our institutions. Not only in Wall Street but in our entire economy, and in government.

An old friend in a position of some authority in Washington told me the other day, from out of nowhere, that a hard part of his job is that there's no one to talk to. I didn't understand at first. He's surrounded by people, his whole life is one long interaction. He explained that he doesn't have really thoughtful people to talk to in government, wise men, people taking the long view and going forth each day with a sense of deep time, and a sense of responsibility for the future. There's no one to go to for advice.
For several decades we have been systematically dismantling guideposts. This leads us to empty suits. When truth becomes whatever we want it to be, when all truth becomes opinion, when all opinions are equal, then the truth is nothing; it is a empty shell. Living on such a wide avenue is a road going nowhere.

Far too many people and organizations have been accomplices to the crisis we face. In accepting unwarranted short-term gains, we have distorted our role in this world. “Going forth each day with a sense of deep time” requires a truth outside ourselves and building on our inheritance with a mind to those to come after us. We are all soberly reminded of this now. Often it takes a crisis of jaw-dropping proportions for us to face these often inconvenient truths.

While we're at it, perhaps we also need to address the questions we're asking. Questions in search of magic pills will come up empty. It’s time to face up to the hard work of filling the empty suit with substance.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 12:24 AM
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10.27.08

Weeding Out the Leaders We Need

In Time magazine this week, Michael Kinsley writes that we don’t just need a good man in the White House this time, we need a great man. He thinks both candidates have the seeds of greatness, but “unfortunately”—and this is what caught my eye—“our current political system seems designed to weed out precisely the qualities that are most needed at the moment.
Churchill WWII


He suggests that at a time like this we need astringency, not empathy. Feeling our pain won’t get it done. We need leaders willing to tell people what they don’t want to hear. “It's not comforting people about their current situation and reassuring them it will get better. It's telling them that the situation is likely to get worse and that only their efforts can determine how soon it will start getting better. Astringent leadership is Churchill calling on Britons to ‘brace ourselves to our duties.’” But he’s right. Who wants to put that in the White House?

We vote for people that tell us that they will fix everything and not bother us. We vote for people that don’t make us take responsibility—who can place the blame somewhere else—who will level the playing field at someone else’s expense—smooth talk over straight talk. History teaches us that this always comes at a cost. It’s problematic for both leaders and followers. Both get their roles wrong and both pay a price. Kinsley writes:
We have lucked out several times in our history when implausible characters showed unexpected greatness when it was needed: a country lawyer from Illinois, a spoiled patrician in a wheelchair, to name two obvious examples. Even more miraculous (though troublesome for democracy), both Lincoln and F.D.R. were elected by promising more or less the opposite of what they did in office. Lincoln said he'd preserve the institution of slavery. F.D.R. said he'd balance the federal budget.
Can we expect this fortuitous turn of events again?

Posted by Michael McKinney at 10:56 AM
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08.06.08

Can You Lead With Kindness?

Leading With Kindness
Bill Baker and Michael O’Malley have done a service with their book, Leading With Kindness. As awkward as that title might seem at first blush, the authors aren’t suggesting that kind leaders have a soft personality, or are sissies, or are well liked at all times. (“You can be hard-nosed and kind.”) Leading with kindness is not a hot-tub leadership where the participants pass the torch singing Kumbaya. In fact they write, “They muddle through life much like the rest of us, mostly unnoticed except by those around them who are keenly aware that they are in the presence of someone special.”

(That last sentence reminds me that great leaders are not great because they are super-human. Instead, they are ordinary but growth-oriented people with character that have chosen to make a commitment to a bold course of action that is in the best interest of those they serve despite the odds.)

The authors add:
The fact is, kindness isn’t always nice. It pushes others to do better; it asks them to try out things that they are uncertain they can accomplish; it requires them to engage in activities that they are not sure they will like. Another fact is this: Folks don’t always take kindly to kindness. Leaders, even great ones, cannot save everybody.
Armed with that knowledge, you can safely leave the dust-jacket on when you read the book and confidently move on absorbing the many great insights the book has to offer. The book is research-based, practical and realistic. They suggest that:
  • Kind leaders are framers. They reinforce expectations for employees by establishing clear boundaries, standards of conduct, challenging goals, and organizational values.
  • Kind leaders are interpreters. They tell the truth about how each worker and the entire company is doing. They help individuals adapt to change and make sense of their efforts.
  • Kind leaders are enablers. They stimulate calculated “stretch” and risk-taking, without sheltering people from their own mistakes. They fight cynicism and facilitate growth.
Baker and O’Malley ascribe six attributes and behaviors to leading with kindness:
  • Compassion … Staying in touch with workers’ everyday challenges and problems.
  • Integrity … Reliably acting on established values and keeping promises and confidences.
  • Gratitude … Appreciating others for their essential help in keeping a business going.
  • Authenticity … Being honest about being oneself and not playing for the crowd.
  • Humility … Tempering optimism with realism and accepting responsibility for failures.
  • Humor … Tapping the power of laughter to diminish anxieties and bolster group cohesion.
In the end, it gets down to character, maturity and a genuine respect for other people. Kindness is a way of viewing the world and it can only come from within.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 01:58 PM
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05.29.08

Change the Way You See Yourself

Change the Way You See Yourself
The authors that brought you Change the Way You See Everything have taken the principles of asset-based thinking and applied them more specifically to you – the individual – in Change the Way You See Yourself. Like its predecessor, this book too is a feast for the eyes. I enjoy the graphics, but the message they convey is vital to your personal development.

Asset-based thinking is a way of looking at yourself that emphasizes what is working in your life and the strengths you possess. It is a way of freeing yourself from negative and unproductive thinking. It allows you to focus on what you can do and not what you can’t do (as often seems to be our default mode of thinking). They write that with asset-based thinking, “you use surprise, serendipity, and even setbacks to make the journey more interesting and more worthwhile. You are more confident in who you are, where you are going, and how to get there.”

In the section on power they invite us to look at it in a new way. Authors Kathryn Cramer and Hank Wasiak write:
When it comes to power, most people think of accumulating material wealth, status, authority, knowledge, and expertise. These are potent external sources of power. AS such, they provide you with control over a vast array of resources – from money, to land, to market share, to intellectual property. While building large reservoirs of external power may be useful, it is not enough for getting results. There is another source of power equally important and often more vital to your leadership and success.

Instead of relying primarily on external power sources to fuel your progress, look deeply inside for what can move you forward. You have a huge reservoir of internally generated power just waiting to be tapped. Internal sources of power derive from who you are – not what you have. Your internal power is defined by your Signature Presence – your unique combination of passions, capabilities, qualities, values, and beliefs. Signature Presence power gives you what it takes to get results when externally derived power is not enough.
CWYSYpower
Leadership sage Warren Bennis once said, “A point of view is worth 50 IQ points.” He knew That when you live by the power of your convictions you stand taller, sit straighter, and speak more confidently. You raise the level of your game. Others know you as a “force of nature” – someone who will not be deterred and who doesn’t give up.

People crave clarity … your voice rings clear when you stand for something.
People want wisdom … your mind creates meaning when you stand for something.
People gravitate toward hope … your ideas and promises hold sway when you stand for something.

Related Reading:
  Asset-Based Thinking

Posted by Michael McKinney at 10:40 AM
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04.21.08

Maxwell’s Lessons Learned From a Lifetime of Leading

Leadership Gold
In his latest book, Leadership Gold, John Maxwell looks back on 60 years and distills what he has learned about leadership to date. And he stresses that he is still learning. It contains 26 important lessons about leadership and human relationships that are well worth reviewing. It’s a mentoring-style book. He says that leadership can be learned by anyone but it’s not easy. Leadership is demanding and complex. He writes:

Leadership is the willingness to put oneself at risk.
Leadership is the passion to make a difference with others.
Leadership is being dissatisfied with the current reality.
Leadership is taking responsibility while others are making excuses.
Leadership is seeing the possibilities in a situation while others are seeing the limitations.
Leadership is the readiness to stand out in a crowd.
Leadership is an open mind and an open heart.
Leadership is the ability to submerge your ego for the sake of what is best.
Leadership is evoking in others the capacity to dream.
Leadership is inspiring others with a vision of what they can contribute.
Leadership is the power of one harnessing the power of many.
Leadership is your heart speaking to the hearts of others.
Leadership is the integration of heart, head, and soul.
Leadership is the capacity to care, and in caring, to liberate the ideas, energy, and capacities of others.
Leadership is the dream made reality.
Leadership is above all, courageous.

The list makes a good yardstick.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 10:35 AM
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03.12.08

Understanding People Must Include Their Identities

The Leaders We Need
Michael Maccoby states in a must read book, The Leaders We Need, that to lead in the global enterprise you'll need to know even more about people. It has always been so, but in past, one was able to get away with not getting to know those you were leading. The place to begin is to find out where they are at. He writes:
By satisfying the demands of identity groups, leaders don’t necessarily gain willing followers. But if these identities are not respected, leaders will be less willingly followed, possibly resisted.

Identities can be powerful motivators because they provide meaning for our lives….When an identity gives us a feeling of security and pride, any attack on identity is a blow to self-esteem, even a threat to survival….Understanding people must include their identities.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 08:32 AM
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03.10.08

The Great Leadership Lessons Don’t Change

David McCullough
This month’s Harvard Business Review has a great interview with historian David McCullough. He makes the point that the great leadership lessons don’t change. This is easily forgotten because we are bombared with the misconception that leadership is changing while being sold the fads that go along with it. The situations we find ourselves in often change, but the principles of leadership and dealing with people don’t. He makes the following point:
The American historian Samuel Eliot Morison liked to say that history teaches us how to behave—that is, what to do and what not to do in a variety of situations. History is the human story. Jefferson made that point in the very first line of the Declaration of Independence: “When in the course of human events…” The accent should be on “human.”

History also shows how the demands of leadership change from one era to another, from one culture to another. The leaders of the past experienced their present differently from the way we experience ours. And remember, they had no more idea how things were going to turn out than we do in our time. Nothing was ever on a track, nothing preordained. The more you study the year 1776 and the course of the American Revolutionary War, the more you have to conclude that it’s a miracle things turned out as they did. Had the wind in New York City been coming from a different direction on August 29, 1776, Americans would probably be sipping tea and singing “God Save the Queen.”

Leadership, then, partly has to do with luck. And luck, chance, the hand of God—call it what you will—is a real force in human affairs; it’s part of life. Washington might have been killed; he might have gotten sick; he might have been captured; he might have given up. Besides being fortunate, he knew how to take advantage of a lucky moment, because he was blessed with very good judgment. Luck provided the opportunity, but Washington’s night escape across the East River—made possible by the direction of the wind—after an overwhelming defeat in the Battle of Brooklyn would never have succeeded had it not been for his leadership and the abilities of Colonel John Glover. Glover was a Massachusetts merchant and fisherman who, with his Marblehead Mariners, knew how to do the job.
He also says that we need to be developing leaders at all levels:
We need leaders and not just political leaders. We need leaders in every field, in every institution, in all kinds of situations. We need to be educating our young people to be leaders. And unfortunately, that’s fallen out of fashion.
The interview contains a lot of good material and is available for free on the Harvard Business web site.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 08:51 AM
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03.04.08

Five Tips From Atsutoshi Nishida on Overcoming a Crisis

Atsutoshi Nishida
The Wall Street Journal interviewed Toshiba Chief Executive Atsutoshi Nishida who recently pulled the plug on the company's HD DVD business. From that interview came the following wisdom regarding crisis leadership in particular but good ideas to keep in mind regarding the daily crises we often face in the minutia of our day.
  1. Keep in mind that business without risk is business without growth.
  2. Work with the facts. Listen to the market, not your ego.
  3. Act quickly and decisively. Delay makes things worse, not better.
  4. Be a proactive leader and clearly communicate your decisions.
  5. Be resilient and continue to innovate. Success is not forever, nor is failure.
That fifth step is important to keep in mind as it helps you keep things moving forward rather than getting bogged down in your current situation. Things change. Most things are cyclical. He explained the balance between practicality and enthusiasm in decision making.
I don't operate just on logic. I'm practical, but I also have enthusiasm, which is the side of me that's not practical. If you have that in addition to a strong will to achieve your goals, then you can overcome any adversity. For example, I used logic to rationally make the decision to quit HD DVD, but my enthusiasm allows me to move forward.

If you don't take risks, you make no progress. Situations change constantly, so if we can't change with them, then there's no future for us.
Enthusiasm too, helps us to reframe our problems in a way that is constructive. This is not a naive optimism, but an informed optimism that reflects the reality of the situation.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 01:10 PM
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02.29.08

Aristotle on Virtuous Leadership

James O’Toole surveys the works of Aristotle in Creating the Good Life, and creates a practical framework that can be used to evaluate leadership in our own time. This excerpt is from a section regarding community leadership:

Aristotle says a leader also needs practical wisdom. Practical wisdom has “nothing to do with calculating magnitudes,” nothing to do with science, theory, disciplinary knowledge, or knowledge of facts in any way. It is concerned “neither with eternal and unchangeable truth nor with anything and everything that comes into being (and passes away again). Instead, it deals with matters where doubt and deliberation are possible.” In particular, practical wisdom is not concerned with the way things are but with “how things can be other than they are.” In other words, it is about how conditions in society and organizations could be made better. And “it implies the use of one’s faculty of opinion in judging matters” relating to what is right and wrong for a group, or society as a whole.

Pericles
In Aristotle’s eyes, such practical wisdom is the prerequisite of “moral excellence,” the sine qua non of leadership: “That is why we say Pericles and men like him have practical wisdom. They have the capacity to see what is good for themselves and for humankind.”

Aristotle concludes that virtuous leaders in the Periclean mold are rare, but their scarcity is not due to a shortage of leadership capacity in the human race. Instead, he believes the virtue manifested by those rare leaders is an acquired trait; he believes leaders are made, not born. Indeed they are self-made.

At all times, the conscious goal of a just leader is to help followers achieve what is good for them, which, on occasion, may be something different from what they think they want. Hence, in addition to effectiveness, leadership has a moral dimension: the capacity to discern and provide justice.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 08:52 AM
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02.06.08

Do You Want to Change the World?

James Kouzes and Barry Posner are the authors of the classic The Leadership Challenge. In A Leader’s Legacy, they make an important point about leadership and passion:
A Leader’s Legacy


"When people talk about leadership, they often use the word passion. And when we think about passion we tend to think of emotions like enthusiasm, zeal, energy, exuberance, and intensity. Well, all those attributions might be true, but when you look up the word passion in any dictionary that includes origins you’ll see that it comes from the Latin word for suffering. Passion is suffering! A passionate person is someone who suffers and a compassionate person is someone who suffers with, and shares the suffering of, others—and wants to take action to alleviate this condition. Nearly every act of leadership requires suffering—and often for the leader a choice between one’s personal success and safety and the greater welfare of others. We’re asking you to understand that nothing great comes without costs.

"If you want to be a leader, you must be willing to pay a price. By sacrificing, you demonstrate that you’re not in it for yourself. This sends the message, loud and clear, that you have the best interests of others at heart.

"The most significant contributions leaders make not to today’s bottom line but to the long-term development of individuals and institutions that adapt, prosper, and grow. People should never take the job of leadership if they’re unwilling to see beyond their own needs. If they do, they will ultimately fail."

Posted by Michael McKinney at 01:27 PM
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02.04.08

Charles Handy: Are Leaders Born or Made?

Charles Handy
Charles Handy, in another thought-provoking distillation of his thoughts, Myself and Other More Important Matters, ponders the idea of getting to the bottom of who we really are and the difficulty of seeing ourselves as others see us. Throughout our lives we all play many parts and in a sense, become different people. Can we become something different from what we see ourselves as being to this point? Can we become a leader? Handy weighs in on this:
One of the debates in psychology is whether we have a core identity that is sitting there in our inner self, waiting to be revealed, or whether our identity only evolves over time. One of the perennial questions that bug organizations is a derivation of that debate – are leaders born or made? The truth, as in most things, is probably a bit of both. The battery of personality tests that purport to show whether we are introvert or extravert, whether we like structured situations or a bit of chaos, are based on the idea that our real identities are formed by early adulthood and that a good life is about finding situations that fir our characteristics. There is some intuitive truth on this….We can’t escape our genes.

On the other hand, we do develop as we learn from experience and it does feel as though we are doing more than revealing our inherited selves. We are perpetually filling out our identities which get firmer and more consistent as we age and begin to discover the spheres of life that fit us best.

Herminia Ibarra of INSEAD … argues that a successful life does not mean knowing what you want to do before you act, but the other way around. Only by acting, experimenting, questioning and acting again do you find out who and what you are. That is certainly my experience. Our identity is party inherited, partly shaped by early experiences, but it is not fully formed until we have explored more of the possibilities.
Leadership is a possibility we can all explore. It is something we can develop if we choose to. What combination of strengths and weaknesses we have to manage will of course vary from person to person, as we are all different; we are born with different genes. And this is as it should be. Leadership development is a highly personal experience that requires self-knowledge and a willingness to confront those areas where need to improve that will make us effective with people. The traits that will make you a better leader are the same traits that will give you the capacity for success in all areas of your life. Above all, our leadership is reflected in our character.

At the same time, leadership training offers the opportunity to examine our thinking in an environment where mentors are available to help us to interpret what we find and guide us to the appropriate changes we need to make in our lives. But no training will, of and by itself, make one a leader. That’s an inside job.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 08:22 AM
| TrackBacks (0) | Leadership , Leadership Development

01.23.08

Looking for Tomorrow’s Leaders

Linda Hill Harvard
Harvard Business Review published an great interview this month by Paul Hemp, with Harvard Business School professor Linda Hill. As has been stated before, we need to be looking for leadership from people that don’t traditionally fit the stereotypes we generally apply to leaders. Rightly so, she acknowledges that leadership is not always about commanding but enabling others to do what they are good at. Here are some of the key ideas from that interview:

Are we looking for leaders in all the wrong places? No, but we definitely need to broaden our search. Most companies understand that in a global economy much of their future growth will be in emerging markets. As we look at leadership potential in emerging economies, we risk assuming that leadership models developed in the United States or Western Europe will work elsewhere. Leadership is about making emotional connections to motivate and inspire people, and our effectiveness at doing this has strong cultural overtones. We know from research that people’s expectations of how leaders should behave vary across countries. But we need more research on what is universal about leadership and what is culturally specific.

Stylistic invisibles: These are people who just don’t fit our conventional image of a leader. Because they don’t exhibit the take-charge, direction-setting behavior we often think of as inherent in leadership, they are overlooked when an organization selects the people it believes have leadership potential.

Leading from Behind: It’s also becoming clear that today’s complex environment often demands a team approach to problem solving. This requires a leader who, among other things, is comfortable sharing power and generous in doing so, is able to see extraordinary potential in ordinary people, and can make decisions with a balance of idealism and pragmatism.

This image of the shepherd behind his flock is an acknowledgment that leadership is a collective activity in which different people at different times—depending on their strengths, or “nimbleness”—come forward to move the group in the direction it needs to go. The metaphor also hints at the agility of a group that doesn’t have to wait for and then respond to a command from the front. That kind of agility is more likely to be developed by a group when a leader conceives of her role as creating the opportunity for collective leadership, as opposed to merely setting direction.

But keep in mind that leading from behind doesn’t imply that everyone in the organization has equal talent or the right to lead at a given time. Talent—or nimbleness, if you will—is actually a function of context, which means that different individuals will come to the fore in different situations.

The more you want to get the best out of a group by letting people use their own judgment and take risks, the more you want to lead from behind.

There’s one area in particular that calls for leading from behind, and that’s innovation. By definition, you don’t know exactly where you want to go. And innovation is almost always a collective process, the harnessing of the creative talents of a diverse group.

Developing Leaders: Let me emphasize something here: I’m not saying that if you simply go out and find the right people, your leadership problems will be solved. It’s not just about selection; it’s about development. Leaders of the future must be nurtured by their leaders, who need to make space and provide opportunities for their team members to grow and lead.

The complete interview is available on the HBR web site and is worth the visit.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 09:04 AM
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01.16.08

The Other Side of Leadership

It may seem counter intuitive, but great followers make great leaders.

In Reinventing Leadership, Warren Bennis wrote, "Good leaders should also be good followers. If you're coming up within an organization, you must be a good follower or you're not going to get very far. Leaders and followers share certain characteristics such as listening, collaborating, and working out competitive issues with peers."

Launching a Leadership Revolution
Echoing this thought, authors Chris Brady and Orrin Woodward, stress the importance of becoming a Performer in leadership development—the need to create a record of performance. That is to say, you need to become a great follower, a great contributor. In their excellent book, Launching a Leadership Revolution, they wrote:
The quickest, most assured way of gaining that track record of performance is to absolutely master the patterns of success already established in an organization. It should be the goal of every leader striving to become a Performer that the entire organization notices his abilities with the proven patterns. This will give him a platform and the experience to help others accomplish similar results. That is the route to influence. As the Marquis of Halifax wrote in 1693, “When a Gentleman hath learnt how to obey, he will grow very much fitter to command.”

Posted by Michael McKinney at 11:44 AM
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12.03.07

Keys to Spotting a Flawed CEO

ego
The Wall Street Journal ran a story on the keys to spotting a flawed CEO. Of the twelve warning signs given by Clemson University professor of management Terry Leap, all boil down to problems of the self – ego. Leaders that disqualify themselves for leadership are those who try to make leadership about them. They lead for the self. In attitude and spirit, the act of leadership is about outgoing concern for others.

These warning signs reflect a lack of humility. Unfortunately, humility is a characteristic that is widely misunderstood. Consider the comment from Cathie Black, President of Hearst Magazines, quoted on the PINK magazine website. She said, "Humility and modesty are valuable personal qualities, but they won't do much to advance your position in the workplace." If you think humility is synonymous with timidity, weakness, or reticence, then perhaps her comment holds some merit. But that is not humility. Humility is about a proper self respect—neither thinking too highly or too little of ourselves—it is about a healthy respect of other people and teachability; all of which will help you advance in any situation.

Michael Watkins wrote in his excellent "guide for new leaders," The First 90 Days, "When a new leader derails, failure to learn is almost always a factor." Other than just not having the know-how to systematically diagnose an organization, he says some leaders have “learning disabilities.” Failure to make an attempt to understand the organization, a compulsive need to take action and preconceived ideas of what is “right,” all stem from a mismanaged ego.

Here are the warning signs presented by Dr. Leap:
  • An overt zeal for prestige, power and wealth. A manager's tendency to put his or her own success ahead of the company's.
  • A reputation for shameless self-promotion. Trumpeting their successes while quickly distancing themselves from setback.
  • A proclivity for developing grandiose strategies with little thought toward their implementation.
  • A fondness for rules and numbers that overshadows or ignores a broader vision.
  • A reputation for implementing major strategic changes unilaterally or for forcing programs down the throats of reluctant managers.
  • An impulsive, flippant decision-making style.
  • A penchant for inconsiderate acts.
  • A love of monologues coupled with poor listening skills.
  • A tendency to display contempt for the ideas of others.
  • A history of emphasizing activity, like hours worked or meetings attended, over accomplishment.
  • A career marked by numerous misunderstandings. There are two sides to every story, but frequent interpersonal problems shouldn't be overlooked.
  • A superb ability to compartmentalize and/or rationalize. Some executives have learned to separate, in their own minds, their bad behavior from their better qualities, so that their misdeeds don't diminish their opinions of themselves.
See also on this blog:
Taking it Personally
Four Warning Signs That Our Ego is Getting the Best of Us

Posted by Michael McKinney at 12:01 AM
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10.26.07

Is CEO the Job Right For You? Look Before You Leap

CEO Job
With CEO’s falling sooner and harder than ever before, the CEO job is not for the faint of heart.

The leap to CEO from any other position is a big one. Ram Charan writes, “The job of a CEO is more intellectually, socially, politically, and psychologically demanding than ever. And it is much more challenging than other jobs leading up to it.”

The Wall Street Journal reported this week in A Different Animal Seeks the No. 1 Post; Often, It’s Not No. 2, that “the gap between No. 1 and No. 2 in a company is often bigger than many realize. CEOs not only perform different tasks from their second-in-commands—who typically focus on running operations—but they have to act differently too. That means the two roles often demand very different personality traits, say people who have been there.”

WSJ author, Phred Dvorak, continues, “The very talents that make a great chief operating officer—like finicky attention to detail—can get in the way when you are in the top seat. CEOs are supposed to strategize, not micromanage.”

Murray Martin, Pitney Bowes CEO, told Dvorak, “He can understand how executives with more retiring personalities wouldn’t like the transition. One of the biggest differences between the two jobs [COO/CEO] is how much time is spent on external affairs.”

We have seen people taking positions in organizations across the board—business, politics, religion—who like the idea—the trappings—but can't handle the pressure and responsibility. They complain, “Why don't they just leave me alone?” But that’s part of the job. Perks only come with responsibility. The CEO job is certainly one where you need to count the cost as there is a dramatic shift in expectations, but any leadership position should be weighed before you accept it.

Is CEO the job right for you?

Posted by Michael McKinney at 09:07 AM
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10.12.07

Leading When Things Aren’t Going Your Way

In Bo’s Lasting Lessons, authors Bo Schembechler and John Bacon relate a story from Bo’s early days coaching. He learned a lesson about leading when the heat is on from his boss from his boss and mentor Ara Paraseghian that he carried with him the rest of his life. Here's that excerpt:

The following season, 1956, I left Doyt [Perry]Ara Paraseghian and Bowling Green—with his blessings—to become an assistant for Ara Parseghian at Northwestern University.

Ara was not a big ego guy, he was great with players, he was a wonderful motivator, and he understood the game so well he could come up with things no one else had thought of. He was probably the most imaginative coach I’d ever seen, always adapting his plays to his players instead of the other way around like most coaches do. Heck, we used to call his practice field “The Laboratory,” because that’s where he’d try every trick in the book on Mondays, testing this and experimenting with that, just to see what might work that Saturday.

Before Ara arrived, Northwestern hadn’t had a winning season in five years, but in his first year Northwestern went 4-4-1, and everyone was encouraged. But in Ara’s second season, 1957, everything went to hell. We lost nine games—every single game we played! For a coach, that’s just about the most difficult situation you have to face.

We could keep our opponents down to one or two touchdowns, but we couldn’t score for our lives. And I was working with the offense!

Losing creates all kinds of other problems too—poor morale, nagging injuries, lackluster effort. The players were spending more time in the PR office than in the weight room. It was just a mess. I never experienced anything like that in all my years of coaching—and thank God for that.

I learned an awful lot from Ara in my first year at Northwestern, but I learned a heckuva lot more from him that second season, when he lost ‘em all. And what I learned was how a real leader leads when things aren’t going his way.

Ara treated the staff as though we were winning every game. He never gave the slightest inclination that we were the problem. He not once blamed any assistant or any player fro any loss we suffered that year. NOT ONCE.

“Stick with it, guys, and we’ll get through this,” he’d tell us. “We’re going to be okay.” We all kept busting our butts for Ara, working past midnight, doing everything we could to get that guy a victory.

I’m not saying there wasn’t some bitching among the players. When you’re losing every game, every player thinks he deserves more playing time. But I promise you this: There was a whole lot less bitching on that team than I’ve heard on teams that won half their games—and there was absolutely no, but no, bickering among the coaches.

And that wasn’t even the most impressive thing Ara did that year.

Stu Holcomb was Northwestern’s athletic director, and his son Chip was a backup quarterback on the varsity. In the middle of this losing streak, Stu kept cranking up the pressure for Ara to start his son. At one of our staff meetings, Ara laid the situation on the table. Then he asked us point-blank: “What do you think?” The thing is, there wasn’t anybody on the staff pounding on the table to make a quarterback change just because we were losing. We knew there had to be a ton of pressure on Ara to put Stu’s son in, but our quarterback wasn’t the problem. And that’s exactly what we told him when he asked us. He just nodded.

Another coach—maybe most coaches—would have caved in to their boss just to save their hides. But Ara held firm. He didn’t change quarterbacks, or even consider doing it. And every one of us who walked out of the coaches room that day felt the same way I did: Ara Parseghian is a stand-up guy. He’s a leader. I want to work for this guy!

And that’s why that losing season didn’t break Ara’s back: Because he’s a confident guy, and he knew he could coach. His staff remained dedicated to him and his program the entire season.

You’d think my two years at Northwestern would have been a horrible experience, but it wasn’t. It was a great experience, because Ara had put together a stellar staff—they’re all still good friends of mine, especially Alex Agase—but mostly, it was because Ara was there.

The result? Put this down: Ara Parseghian lost every game that year, but the next year his team went 5-4—Northwestern’s first winning season in eight years.

When Ara took the Notre Dame job five years later, in 1963, he left Evanston as one of only three coaches in the last century of Northwestern football to post a winning record. And of course, from there he won two national titles and Coach of the Year at Notre Dame. Don’t tell me he didn’t deserve it.

But that 0-9 year? He didn’t get any rewards for that, but let me tell you: THAT was the most impressive year of his coaching career.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 11:02 AM
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10.10.07

Shogun Yoritomo-Tashi on Leading by Example

Ancient Shogun Yoritomo-Tashi believed that the art of influencing others was the key to success. The Japanese statesman and philosopher believed that the spirit of the individual continuously exerts influence, even as the flower also exerts influence by spreading its fragrances in the air. But just as the blossom can not tell whither its fragrance spreads, so none of us can say how far our influence may reach. From his writings we have his take on the dynamics of influence by example:
The reciprocal influence which individuals exercise on one another is the cause of many evils difficult to conjure.… The influence of example is considerable. One of the greatest obstacles to the doing of good actions is the timidity based on the fear of responsibility, which haunts mediocre minds.

It is toward these that he who would wield the power of domination should turn his attention. It is sufficient to impose on these timorous souls the resolution to perform the task that they themselves desire to see accomplished, and to set for them, the example of his achievement. In this way, their vacillating will strengthen itself by the moral support which they will be certain to feel, and their anxiety about the opinion of others will be soothed by the example of those whom they recognize as their superiors, and whose superiority they are glad to acknowledge.

It is these, then, whose minds are strengthened by renewed practices of wise reflection, who should watch carefully over their own acts, so that their example may be, for the persons over whom they have an influence, a source of improvement and constant elevation.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 08:51 AM
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10.08.07

5 Leadership Lessons: Bo's Lasting Lessons

5 Leadership Lessons
Bo Schembechler's book, Bo’s Lasting Lessons, written with John Bacon is an engaging, hands-on, first-person account of the winningest head coach in Michigan football history and fifth on the all-time list, only behind coaching legends Paul 'Bear' Bryant, Amos Alonzo Stagg, Glen 'Pop' Warner, and Woody Hayes. The lessons found here are easily applied anywhere.

1  If you have to make a decision they’re not going to like, it’s better to tell them why you’re doing what you’re doing. They still won’t like it but they’ll always appreciate being told instead of being left in the dark. And if you don’t tell them why, they’ll feel abandoned, and start coming up with all kinds of crazy conspiracy theories.

2  You start cutting corners for this guy or that situation, and before you know it, you’re spending all your time playing judge and jury, deliberating over every little incident, when you should be leading your team. It’s painful sometimes, but you create a lot fewer headaches for everyone, including the players, when you simply stick to your guns.

3  If you don’t have leadership inside the ranks, you’re not going to be successful, because you will spend too much time policing that small things yourself, and create an “us against them” environment.

4  If you’re a leader, your ultimate responsibility is the training of your people, because every job requires training. If it’s a job worth paying someone, it’s a job worth training. And it’s your job to make sure they’re trained well. Make your training as close to the real thing as possible. Sounds easy, but from what I’ve seen, not many companies do. You get what you emphasize. Plain and simple.

Bo's Lasting Lessons
5  If you do not like people, you will not take the time to get to know them, and if you don’t get to know them, you will have no idea what scares them, what inspires them, what motivates them. If you don’t listen to what your people have to say, you will not know when they have a problem with you—and you will not know when you have a problem with them, either. You cannot lead if you cannot listen. Even if you’re doing everything else right, if one of your people comes to you with a good idea—or a personal problem—and it just goes in one ear and out the other, YOU WILL FAIL. You can have a tremendous impact as a leader just by taking a little time. Your people have to know that their value to you and your organization is not determined just by what they do, but by who they are. I can’t make it any clearer than that.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 06:01 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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09.26.07

Lord Sharman on Helping People Grow

Leading By Example
Leading By Example is a concise little book of interviews with top leaders from various fields. Each interview in this new Harvard Business School series is followed by a list of takeaways. Here is an excerpt by Lord Sharman, chairman of the Aegis Group, on investing in people by understanding their strengths and nurturing them like a gardener with prized plants.
I’m very fond of gardening myself, and I’m fond of gardening examples. To some degree, developing people in an organization is impossible. You can’t develop them; they develop themselves, and so your job is like that of a head gardener. You figure out what the various microclimates are around the place, and then you figure out the qualities of the plants that you need to go into those microclimates. Similarly, you select the people based on their strengths and place them in those jobs. I’ve seen notes of appraisal interviews, which say that two-thirds of the interview is spent talking about what the guy’s not good at. Now, that’s great—I can’t imagine anybody coming out of an interview like that feeling anything other than very depressed.

What you want to do is spend time talking about what the person is good at and how he’s going to develop that. Sure, see whether you can do something about the weaknesses, but to my way of thinking, appraisal interviews should be two-thirds about what the person is good at and how those great assets can be used within the organization. If you look at good coaches in the sports field—and I’ve always been fascinated about how good coaches work—they don’t actually coach technique very often. The really good coaches are the ones that coach the mind and the attitude.

You’ll always have people that find it much easier to be critical than to be encouraging. The tome at the top has to be right. If you start criticizing your colleagues about what they’re bad at all the time rather than encouraging them, that’s sure as hell going to get down through the organization very quickly.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 09:15 PM
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09.24.07

Lessons from the Prophet Jonah

Two days ago, on Yom Kippur — a day about braking wickedness — at synagouges around the world, a book about breaking wickedness — the book of Jonah — is read. In the Jerusalem Post, the dean of the Schechter Rabbinical Seminary, Einat Ramon draws a perspective on leadership and responsibility from the book of Jonah that I had not read before. He writes:
Jonah
We are currently in a crisis of leadership, having lost faith in our leaders. In the Minha service on Yom Kippur, we read the Book of Jonah. Jewish tradition seeks to conclude Yom Kippur with the universal story of the prophet whose response to the call to prophecy, to leadership, is: "And Jonah arose to flee to Tarshish from before God" (1:3). Why did Jonah flee? And from what?

The midrash in Pirkei d'Rabbi Eliezer (ninth century) stresses that Jonah was an extraordinarily successful prophet (10). Every time he brought the word of God to his audience - Jews and non-Jews alike - they were persuaded by his words of reproof and repented. Why then did he seek to hide? Did he, as is commonly interpreted, truly desire that the people of Nineveh be punished rather than repent?

According to the midrash, Jonah's flight derived from his sensitivity to public opinion. Jonah understood that which modern statistics have shown us, that the chances of a leader being popular once he acts like a leader are about 8 percent. In other words, leadership almost always is met by disdain and ingratitude, and alienation from the people.

The Book of Jonah, like the Book of Deuteronomy, which deals with the leadership struggles of Moses, reflects the leader's pain. In general, the Jewish sources set a high threshold for responsible leadership for the nation of Israel and for humanity to encourage us to assume positions of leadership despite the inevitable price exacted by these jobs.

Many people desire leaders who will stir their souls and flatter them and enwrap them within their inflated egos. They transform the popular leader into a divine shadow that is plainly or mysteriously distant. Though pleasurable for the leaders, this is false prophecy. It does not lead society anywhere safe, good, useful or moral.
Trivia: Jonah was told to go to Nineveh. Nineveh today lies across the Tigris River from the modern Iraqi town of Mosul.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 08:42 AM
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08.24.07

Louis Nizer: A Leader Wears Many Hats

Louis Nizer
One autobiography I never tire of is Louis Nizer’s Reflections Without Mirrors. I keep coming back to it. Originally published in 1978, it is timeless. I’ve always appreciated his wit and style of writing. The British born American attorney died at age 92 in November 1994. His observations about life, the legal profession and his part in it ring true in many other walks of life as well. Here are a few comments from this legendary attorney: louisnizer.jpg - 5669 Bytes
It took as much energy to unify our comrades as to prepare our own brief. A lawyer, particularly when he deals with eminent co-counsel, whose talents and achievements warrant strong egos, must be a consummate diplomat.

What else must he be? He must be an archeologist who exhumes evidence; a psychologist who strengthens his client and weakens his enemy; a paragon of patience to withstand the unreasonableness of troubled clients; a man of endurance to withstand the strain of the most arduous profession; an optimist in the darkest hours and a pessimist in the brightest, so that momentum doesn’t slacken; a historian of the law so that he can better predict its future; an idealist in the service of justice and a practical man who may forgo litigation in his client’s interest; a precisionist who must draft documents which defy ambiguity; a negotiator who makes deals not breaks them; an administrator who can recommend corporate efficiency and achieve it in his own office; a pleader whose eloquence is harnesses by sincerity; a scholar who is not confused by his own learning; a lover of the law so that sacrifice for it becomes a selfish act; a visionary who uses legal tools to sculpt a better society; and a realist who knows that it is impossible to attain any of these except to a small degree but who never stops trying.
Those words cause me to take a step back. Any leader would be strengthened by applying these concepts in their own arena.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 09:18 AM
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08.06.07

Quiet Sacrifice

Tami Longaberger
Tami Longaberger, chair and CEO of The Longaberger Companies and was appointed the Chair of the National Women’s Business Council in 2005. She spoke to the attendees at the 2007 Global Summit of Women in Berlin about leading. She made the following comment about a word directly related to leadership that doesn't come up much when people are asked, "Why do you want to lead?"
Leaders also understand the meaning of quiet sacrifice. This is something I have had to do several times in my career and will, I am sure, have to do again.

What do I mean by “quiet” sacrifice? I mean a leader puts her employees and customers, as well as the community, ahead of her own private interests and takes the hard step of giving up something dear so others can benefit and prosper.

Kay Graham surely did this at The Washington Post when she sold her company to Newsweek magazine. She did so in order for her people to have a better opportunity to do what they did so well. She did not personally benefit at all. In fact, she suffered greatly, giving up an institution to which she was so dedicated for so many years. But The Washington Post, and the people who worked there, after they overcame the initial shock, did very well.

Time and again, Margaret Thatcher put her countrymen and women ahead of her own interests and withstood vicious personal criticism to ensure that the British people might live a better life. Her difficult battle with the coal miners union is one example all of us may recall.

Quiet sacrifice is not easy. You have to look into the mirror and ask yourself what is best for my people, my organization, and my community. Am I prepared to act and suffer any personal consequences? And then you need to step into the deep end of the pool without a lifesaver in sight. In my own case, this has never been easy. And it is not going to get any easier as I do so in the future. But it is necessary.
Well put. Nothing great comes without costs.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 06:51 AM
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07.30.07

In A World Of Accelerating Change, It Takes Bold Leadership

jeb bush
Speaking July 18th, at the annual Scotiabank Lecture Series in Jamaica, former governor of Florida, Jeb Bush, said that in a world of accelerating changes, a combination of bold public leadership, a commitment to entrepreneurial capitalism and a focus on education is the key to avoid the risk of severe economic stagnation.

What does he mean by bold leadership? In terms of a government's leadership style, Bush noted that it is critical for an administration to rethink what they are doing.
“A lot of times, the way we do things is because we have been doing it that way before, not because it is rational, not because it improves the human condition or creates the chance for people to pursue their dreams, but because we have been doing it that way. So in a world where change is happening a lot, whether the government is changing or not, it is important for leadership to have a healthy disrespect for the status quo. You won't change everything but the things that don't work need to be changed and without leadership, this won't happen."
This thought is echoed in Jim Tompkins’ new book, Bold Leadership for Organizational Acceleration. In it he addresses three important aspects of bold leadership—the inspirational leadership that drives an organization, outsourcing those areas outside your core competencies, and the importance of a Plan B. Tompkins states. "Leaders must not only be bold if they want to thrive today, but they must also develop bold companies—encouraging boldness in all aspects of the organization."

Bold Leadership
To do this, “Leaders must therefore teach others how to be leaders. Their strategies must be flexible and innovative. They must challenge the established view of a leader as someone who leads and demonstrate that leadership means inspiring others to lead. They must have the courage and spirit to move from wherever they are to further their abilities to lead others into getting extraordinary things done. In other words, these leaders must practice Inspirational Leadership."

To make this happen Tompkins suggests that leaders look at the big picture to locate and deal with those “parts of the picture that are just filling up canvas and not adding value to the subject.” Tompkins adds something that I think underscores the importance of this point. “Actually, it is not enough just to look at the big picture. If your picture is in a frame, you need to look at the frame too. Is it possible that the frame is the important part and the picture inside it needs to be changed or removed? ... Or is the frame that holds the picture rotting or overpowering the picture so that it is totally lost?”

Perhaps it’s time to look at what we are doing and ask if we need to be doing it differently or if we need to be dong it at all.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 04:00 AM
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07.18.07

The Importance of Competence

Competence alone can’t make a leader, but it can undo one. While inaction is a prime problem facing many organizations (and individuals for that matter), there’s the very real possibility that one is doing the wrong thing. An incompetent leader has almost unlimited opportunities to be ineffective. Knowing what to do—professional competence—is vital.

Being competent doesn’t mean that a leader knows how to do everything, but rather that they know what to do and how to get it done. Even the most brilliant leader who tries to go it on their own is setting themselves up for failure. A good leader will know where their strengths and weaknesses lie and thus know what kind of expertise they will need to surround themselves with.

While many “leaders” are often selected for their competence alone, competence is something different from character or leadership competence, and should not be confused. We have placed too much emphasis on professional competence and not enough on character. And it has gotten us into trouble. Traditional business schools have excelled at teaching professional competence, but have mostly failed to impress on individuals the need to develop a moral compass to use those skills appropriately.

In Extremis Leadership
Yet, competence is a critical part of the whole leadership picture. Socrates believed that the “one who clearly knows best what ought to be done will most easily gain the obedience of the others.” Competence engenders confidence in a leader. Competence, trust and loyalty are “inextricably intertwined” says In Extremis Leadership author Thomas Kolditz. “Leader competence is usually at the root of loyalty and trust problems.” He writes:
Most leaders have gotten to their station in life through their own competence, but that becomes lost on followers unless the leader’s competence is occasionally revealed by action.

Some leaders try to build trust and loyalty through social events such as golf or team-building activities, but loyalty and trust problems can’t be fixed with a trip to a rock-climbing school.

Leaders need to take the time and effort to show followers what they’re good at and why followers should be confident in the leader’s ability. Use care, however, never to upstage or embarrass someone else as you demonstrate competence. In the end, leadership is about the success of your people, not about you.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 09:52 AM
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06.22.07

Corrupt Leadership: Tyranny of the Self

Power corrupts. Well . . . it can and too often does. The exercise of power — causing some to submit to the will of others — is necessary in any functioning state, organization or relationship. This power may shift, but it always exists. Power is not evil, but one should be cautious about the form it takes. Power controlled by the ego is something to be fearful of. Power tempered by humility and character is a gift.

Bertrand de Jouvenel wrote colorfully about power in his 1949 book, On Power: Its Nature and the History of its Growth, “The leader of any group of men . . . feels thereby an almost physical enlargement of himself . . . Command is a mountain top. The air breathed there is different, and the perspectives seen there are different, from those of the valley of obedience.” With this kind of power should come understanding, without it, it is a slippery slope to self-delusion and tyranny.

Power with out humility and compassion is ignoble
In your opinion, which of these is the most critical cause of state failure?
Corruption:43%
Lack of Basic Education:15.3%
Group Hatred:13.2%
Poverty:9.1%
Lack of Social Equality:7.2%
External Actors:5.5%
Natural Disasters:3.8%
Environmental Damage:1.5%
Malnutrition and Disease:1.5%
Source: FundForPeace.org
Results as of June 22, 2007
at best, but more often than not, it quickly degrades to tyranny, exploitation and destruction.

As part of their Fail States Index project, FundForPeace.org has been running a poll asking readers what they feel is the most critical cause of state failure. It’s not always easy to determine the source of failure. There is a tendency to allow oneself to fall into the abyss of dense complexity and deep subjectivity. Fortunately, there is no space for that here.

The current results of the poll show corruption to be the overwhelming reason for failure. I would agree. Lack of education too, certainly limits one’s thinking and responses to life’s issues including corruption in government. LaBrent Chrite, professor at the University of Michigan Business School wrote, “Leadership and governance provide the predominant factor behind the dissonance or variance in progress seen across developing countries.”

Corruption is ultimately the result of a total breakdown in leadership. It's wrong thinking and a wrong perspective on the part of the leader. In a corrupt culture, leaders have set the pace by looking after themselves instead of looking after their responsibilities. They have fallen to the tyranny of their own mind — belief in only one’s self.

James Hillman wrote in Kinds of Power, “This kind of power, which makes us both effective and blind, goes deeper than merely being set on our ways. It is the tyrannical rule of style, the style of our thinking and working and connecting, the style of our words and gestures, and as it all fits together into the integrated personality, consciousness becomes tyrannical. We drink to escape from this tyrant; divorce, fall in love, quit jobs, move residences, go bankrupt, shoot rapids, hang-glide, fight our children—anything to escape the cruel and unusual punishment inflicted by the absolutism of successful rule. Everything has been subordinated to the one tyrannical pattern. All otherness is gone. One has become totally oneself and now suffers from totalitarian rule.”

Are we tyrannized by our own mind?

Posted by Michael McKinney at 10:33 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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06.13.07

Andy Stanley on Communication and Leadership

Andy Stanley
Andy Stanley is always interesting. He told Christianity Today the following in a discussion about church leadership:

"Here's an incredibly important principle. You cannot communicate complicated information to large groups of people. As you increase the number of people, you have to decrease the complexity of the information. Congregational rule, when you're trying to make a complicated decision, works against the principle. So consequently, the guy with the microphone and the clearest message always wins. The most persuasive person in the room is going to win. Whether right or wrong."

He was asked about criticisms that some churches seem so corporate in their leadership structure with the pastor as CEO. He says there is a sound principle behind the structure: “‘Follow me.’ Follow we never works. Ever. It's ‘follow me.’ God gives a man or a woman the gift of leadership. And any organization that has a point leader with accountability and freedom to use their gift will do well. Unfortunately in the church world, we're afraid of that. Has it been abused? Of course. But to abandon the model is silly.” I would add that we can find many that are afraid of that concept outside the church as well. It's often why we see leadership theory taking strange twists and turns in the literature today. Learning to operate without abusing the influence or power that goes with leadership at any level, requires a proper perspective as to why you are leading in the first place.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 03:10 AM
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06.08.07

Key to Presidential Courage

Michael Beschloss
Historian Michael Beschloss, gave an engaging and entertaining talk to the Los Angeles World Affairs Council a couple of nights ago about his book, Presidential Courage.

We expect our Presidents to be willing to make a sacrifice if necessary; to place the interests of the country ahead of their own interests. George Washington set the bar for other Presidents to follow. John Adams, our second President was faced with an issue—potential war with France— that required the courage to place his own aspirations second to what was right for the country. He had to go against his party by rejecting the idea of a war with France. It cost him a great deal of personal anguish and loss of the Presidency to Thomas Jefferson. Beschloss wrote of Adams, “He had long argued that a leader ‘must run the risk’ of incurring ‘people’s displeasure sometimes, or he will never do them any good in the long run.’”

Beschloss said that in effect, Adams said, “I wanted more than anything to get a second term so that I had a chance in history to be the equal of General Washington. Now that’s gone. But, I can go back to Massachusetts and I can feel that my sacrifice was for something important. And I still have my wife Abigail (to whom he was so close) and my children and my farm and my books and my old veteran friends from the revolution.” Adams lived on for 26 more years; long enough to see his son John Quincy elected to be the sixth President. Bescholoss found his attitude a significant key to courage. Adams had a life beyond the Presidency.
“We’ve got to look at candidates for President this year and next, and if you want someone who is capable of presidential courage, I would say one thing to look for is: Is this someone who is desperate to be President and hang-on almost at all costs or is this someone who if there is a moment requiring presidential courage—where they have to give it all up—has something else in his or her life—a family or other interests or even better yet, convictions (they can feel that they gave it up for doing the right thing)?

As we choose candidates these days, in a system that I find completely atrocious, it forces all of us to evaluate these people’s character. And one thing I would really ask is that we would look at them in terms of the stories in this book and say “Is this someone who is like these courageous Presidents?” Because, in the next five years we may very well need that.
The question was raised concerning the difference between courage and betrayal. We speak of courage on the one hand, but what is going on when a President betrays people by doing something that people do not like or different from what they said they would do. Beschloss responded, “In these stories you will see where Presidents do tell American’s that it’s a good thing to do things that they may not first approve of, but it is not something that is wildly different from something they said in the campaign. They’re moving public opinion just somewhat beyond where it’s willing to go at the moment.” For example:
Of the nine presidents I write about, only one had to pay the price of losing reelection and that was John Adams. Everyone else was a good enough politician or a good enough educator that they were able to continue. For instance, FDR, in trying to get a third term could say to Americans, “Well, you may be disturbed by my building up our defense, but think of it this way. Maybe it’s the best way to scare off Hitler if we’re really strong with 50,000 airplanes and so on.” Or in Abraham Lincoln’s case, he stuck to the Emancipation [Proclamation]. But rather than just say, “Well, I’m going to be a courageous guy, and I’ll just go down in flames,” he was such a good educator that he said to Americans, “You may not like the idea of fighting the Civil War also to free the slaves, but since I’ve declared the Emancipation, 200,000 African-Americans have come across enemy lines from the South and they’re all working hard in our Union War effort. If I now dispense with the Emancipation, they’d sit on their hands and we’d lose the war.”

That’s what a great President does.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 02:34 AM
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06.04.07

Up the Organization

Up the Organization
Jossey-Bass has released a commemorative edition of Robert Townsend’s (1920-1998) leadership classic, Up the Organization: How to Stop the Corporation from Stifling People and Strangling Profits. Originally published in 1970, this candid and provocative book deserves to be re-read every year. Here's a sample of Townsend's straightforward and practical advice:

On People: Why spend all that money and time on the selection of people when the people you’ve got are breaking down from under-use. Get to know your people. What they do well, what they enjoy doing, what their weaknesses and strengths are, and what they want and need to get from their job. And then try to create an organization around your people, not jam your people into those organization-chart rectangles.

On Delegation: Many people give lip service, but few delegate authority in important matters. And that means all they delegate is dog-work. A real leader does as much dog-work for his people as he can: he can do it, or see a way to do without it, ten times as fast. And he delegates as many important matters as he can because that creates a climate in which people grow.

On Leadership: True leadership must be for the benefit of the followers, not the enrichment of the leaders. In combat, officers eat last. Most people in big companies today are administered, not led. They are treated as personnel, not people.

On Rewards: Rewarding outstanding performance is important. Much more neglected is the equally important need to make sure that the underachievers don’t get rewarded. This is more painful, so it doesn’t get done very often.

AVIS On Compromise:Compromise is usually bad. It should be a last resort. If two departments or divisions have a problem they can’t solve and it comes up to you, listen to both sides and then, unlike Solomon, pick one or the other. This places solid accountability on the winner to make it work.

Robert Townsend served as the president and chairman of Avis Rent-a-Car from 1962 to 1965 during its celebrated turnaround. You may remember the infamous the "We Try Harder" advertisign campaign that helped to tranform it into a world-class organization.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 08:33 AM
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05.31.07

The Leader as Coach

Consultant David Noer makes an insightful comment in Learning Journeys about coaching others:
The great teachers of my life gave me a precious gift. It was not a tool, process, or technology; it was something deeper and more profound. They helped me understand that what really matters when helping people or organizations through change and transition is not technique but authenticity, vulnerability, and empathy. They taught me that connecting with others at the warm, messy, and unscientific level of the human spirit is a prerequisite for any methodology or process. I learned that technique without a grounding in empathy and vulnerability is sterile and artificial. I learned, as Larry Porter, one of my many great teachers, once said, “In the final analysis, the only tool worth a damn is our own warm body.”
Learning Journeys
Heart is a distinction of great leaders. We need to have deep convictions about helping others to succeed. The connecting with others grounded in empathy and vulnerability that Noer writes about is not something we can work up. It comes as the result of our own struggles and growth. It is through our own struggles that we come better prepared to help others. Sometimes we look down on people who are struggling. That’s not only ignorant, it’s arrogant. Remember they’re growing. It’s an amazing process. (If we knew better, we might even be struggling with the same thing they are.)

We can’t see ourselves as the great teacher imbued with special knowledge and wisdom. We can’t make it about our need to be helpful as often happens. We are a facilitator of their growth. If we’ve been growing, we can often help them to see their situation differently. A well place comment or thought can help them to make new connections in their worldview. I think being there is half the battle. It’s difficult at times to truly focus on another person’s aspirations and needs, but you can’t lead without it.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 10:31 AM
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05.29.07

The New Golden Rule

Do we need a new Golden Rule? It’s not uncommon to find in modern literature, the call for a new golden rule. Is the Golden Rule adequate in today’s world?

The Golden Rule says, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Some would say that this just isn’t enough: in our global village, we need to consider cultural differences and the desires of others. This thinking suggests that we humans have never found ourselves in a multicultural setting before now.

The new Golden Rule goes something like this: Do unto others as they would have you do unto them. The need for a change really reflects a narrow view or understanding of the original intent of the Golden Rule. Golden Rule In fairness, calls for a new rule points to the very real need to explain the intent of the original. That it should and would need to be explained properly to each succeeding generation is a fact of life.

It should be noted that the term “Golden Rule” does not come from the Bible. However, the Bible does say that whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them. The rule has been stated in many ways for millennia. Almost 4000 years ago, written on papyrus, we have from the Egyptian story, The Tale of the Eloquent Peasant, "Do for one who may do for you, that you may cause him thus to do." Similarly, the Roman statesman and philosopher Seneca instructed leaders to "Treat your inferiors as you would be treated by your superiors." (Epistulae morales ad Lucilium 47:11) Clearly, human nature hasn’t changed much.

Rules are tools designed to get our thinking and behavior to a place that we might not naturally go to on our own. As a rule, the Golden Rule is no different. It is an attempt to guide us to the thinking behind the rule so that it is manifested in our behavior.

The Golden Rule is an introduction to a lesson on responsibility, awareness, ethics and outgoing concern for others. The principle the rule is trying to get at is one of selfless service to others. We naturally look at things from our own vantage point. So it’s not surprising that we look at the rule selfishly as well—from our own viewpoint.

The rule has within it the implicit instruction to treat others thoughtfully—in the same manner of outgoing concern—as you would like them to treat you. Certainly none of us would want others to treat us in a way that shows disregard for our personal needs and feelings. The principle of the Golden Rule is selflessness. It is not meant to imply that you should do for others exactly what you want them to do for you. It’s not about you.

This rule is about how to treat others. It’s not a manipulative behavior to get others to do something for you. It’s an approach to how you should be treating others regardless of how they treat you. It’s not a training behavior to get others to do a specific act for you. “I did this for you, so now you should do this for me.” We are to treat others—in the same manner—as we would like to be treated by anyone we come into contact with.

The Golden Rule is a lesson that can hardly be introduced to children soon enough. It’s a prescript that should be followed throughout life. This is a tall order, but something every leader should strive to develop. It is the essence of service and servant leadership. Properly understood, the Golden Rule encompasses cultural and personal differences.

Certainly, the intent of modern literature on this issue is to jog our thinking from a self orientation to an other orientation in our dealings with others. As is, the Golden Rule, if practiced, would go a long way to improving our relationships.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 09:05 AM
| TrackBacks (0) | Ethics , Leadership , Personal Development

05.17.07

Artists as Leaders of Society

Robert Cutietta
USC Thornton School of Music dean, Dr. Robert Cutietta, gave an entertaining and interesting commencement speech to The Colburn Conservatory of Music—the premier west coast performing arts school—that focused on artists as leaders of society.

Cutietta began by asking the graduates how they would have an impact on today’s world with degree in music performance. He stated, “Whether people know it or not, our society looks to its artists for a type of leadership that is not found elsewhere. When artists speak people listen. I think subconsciously, society believes that artists possess a certain type of wisdom, a certain outlook on the world, a certain trustworthiness that is seldom found elsewhere."

By way of example, he mentioned the world-class cellist Mstislav Rostropovich who died last month. Rostropovich was a defender of human rights in the former Soviet Union. Cutietta noted, “He used his music and his fame to be an inspiration to many artists and writers to think and act independently. His call was heard and respected by artists and non-artists alike because people inherently feel that artists, by their very nature, have something important to say.
Rostropovich


“When the Berlin Wall fell (November 1989) Rostropovich used his music to highlight the importance of this event. He held an impromptu solo concert at the base of the wall. But he didn’t play flamboyant, celebratory fanfares, he performed Bach. What a great choice. What other music could capture the depth of emotions, the implications and complexities that the collapse of the wall really meant? No words could have captured that moment in time with the expressive subtleties as that solo performance.

“Likewise, could we even imagine the civil rights movement without the songs that moved us to tears and action, the Viet Nam war without many of the protest songs, or Bernstein’s Mass, or Yo-Yo Ma using his influence to highlight the impact Asia has had on Western art music.

“For some reason too many musicians are silent. I fear that something has changed and artists don’t see themselves as leaders of society.

“If artists abandon this role, the leadership paradigm loses its balance of power. For our future to remain bright, we need artists to be leaders to help envision the positive future that can be, by helping point out the present that shouldn’t be.”

Has this degree prepared you for the real world? Cutietta asked. “I hope not. If that is all it has done, then you and your teachers have wasted your time. The more important question is whether your degree prepares you to change the real world; to make it a better place for all of us to live in.”

Cutietta believes that their degree has prepared them to make an impact on the world because he told them, "you understand perfection. You understand hard work. You understand self-discipline. You understand working intimately with others towards a goal. And without a doubt, the most important thing you understand is the importance, the power, and meaningfulness of pure beauty.

“All of you share a very real and a very unique responsibility to lead, to be a leader and to make a difference; To use your phenomenal talent and training not just for self-serving gains, not just to become famous, but to truly make a difference.”



zipper hall
NOTE: The Colburn School has a great concert hall – Zipper Hall – but it also works as a good meeting venue for less than 400 people at a reasonable price. So, if you’re in downtown Los Angeles and need a place to meet you might check it out. It’s situated across from Disney Concert Hall and the LA Music Center.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 08:54 AM
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05.16.07

Solid Connections in a Liquid World

Dr. Ralph Shrader, Chairman and CEO of Booz Allen Hamilton, recently stated that “we have to get beyond our human tendency to want a fixed certain state. It simply doesn’t exist.” To be effective in this kind of environment we need solid leadership and solid linkages with other people. While the typical response would be to demand more, he contends that less is more. “Less is more solid.”
Shrader


“When it comes to leadership, I believe less instant is more thoughtful.” Leaders need to communicate a clear vision and clear set of priorities. This mean that everyone needs to not only understand where we are going and why we are going there, but what trade–offs should be made to achieve the most important priorities. When push comes to shove our followers “need to know what comes first—whether it is expediency, economy, or an overarching principle.”

Solid leadership in a liquid world also requires a common understanding and consistent measures of success. You can choose metrics that can position you in the best light, “but in reality, it only hurts [your] ability to build the institution because it can mask true performance.”

Additionally, solid leadership in a liquid world requires “informed—but timely and unambiguous—decision making.…Leadership attention is perhaps the scarcest resource in today’s highly networked world….Therefore we as leaders need to focus our attention on the most important matters. My strategy on focusing attention is to be minds on, but hands off. By minds on, hands off, I mean that leaders are responsible for everything important—but we don’t have to actually do everything important.”

This requires that we slow down to think. “Thoughtfulness and clarity cannot be compromised.”

Finally, Shrader brought out another important element in his speech for making solid connections in a liquid world—personal linkages. “Less virtual is always more personal and more powerful.”
We need to use technology for what it does best—store, retrieve, compute, and mine data—and use people for what we do best—imaging, design, dream, and relate. At the end of the day, one of us, not an information system must make all the big decision. We’re the ones who need to be minds on.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 09:59 AM
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05.14.07

Alias Smith and Jones on Leadership

Hannibal Heyes to Kid Curry: “Listen , when the leader of the gang tells him to do something , don’t he have to do it?”

Curry: “Yeah, that’s my understandin’.”
Alias Smith and Jones


Kyle (gang member): “But, what makes you such a great leader Hayes is that you never tell no man to do no thing you wouldn’t do yourself.”

Heyes to Curry: “You wanna be leader?”

Curry: “After you!”

Posted by Michael McKinney at 09:19 AM
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05.09.07

Lucky in Leadership

Lucky in Leadership
Just when you thought you walked on water, Steven Bornstein, CEO of NFL Media, writes in the foreword of The Taboos of Leadership:

"Aside from effective management of politics, there’s a certain amount of luck involved in being a successful leader. I don’t think anybody talks about that, but the truth is, any leader could be pumping gas instead of running a company. Sometimes your best plans go to hell, and you still manage to be the last one standing. We can call that skill or street smarts or panache, but to me we should cut to the chase and acknowledge that it’s pure luck."

Posted by Michael McKinney at 08:59 AM
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05.07.07

What It Takes to Lead

Tony Smith believes that much of the leadership literature today dances around what it really takes to lead because there are some areas that are politically incorrect or just too difficult to talk about. As a result we have created a “sanitized, air-brushed, or glorified picture of leadership that masks or disguises reality” and we never really get at what leaders do and why they do it.
The Taboos of Leadership


Through his frame of reference, that of executive coach and advocate, he adds great value to our understanding of the realities of leadership even if at times, his conclusions derail when trying to understand leadership at any other level that that of the CEO. In his new book, The Taboos of Leadership his observation that “leaders who are successful never quite fit the theories we apply to them and are always messier and more complex than we would predict” is quite true. It is an aspect that is missing from or far too understated in most leadership literature. Perhaps that explains why international leadership expert Manfred Kets De Vries, wants to put the leader on the couch.

Smith writes:
There is nothing tidy or clean about leadership. It’s messy, but so is the rest of life.

What makes an effective leader is a contradictory collage of motivations and drivers, rewards and costs. We can’t teach leadership, not in the sense that we’ve been trying thus far. We can’t look at all the theories of leadership and say: Do this, this, and this, and you will become or create a good leader. But we can understand leadership much better than we do now. If we take a look below the surface, into the blood, guts, and pulsing arteries of leadership, we are bound to understand leadership as a process much, much better.
He asks ten taboo-braking questions: What does it take to lead? Does charisma matter? Is being political a bad thing? Do women make better leaders? What about the trappings of power? Should the leader play favorites? Do leader’s really want to groom a successor? Should a leader’s work be their life? Should leaders put aside their own motivations and interests and serve only the motivations and interests of their people? Do leaders cultivate loneliness deliberately?

He left out a direct discussion of followers and authority. These are two areas that are misunderstood as often as they are poorly executed. The proliferation of “leaderless organization” literature will attest to that fact. Instead of sugar-coating or dismissing these topics, we should seek a better understanding of these vital and necessary issues.

Smith suggests: “Perhaps we should know, or at least recognize, the risk-reward ratio of leadership a little better before we judge our leaders, or decide to become one ourselves.” That point can’t be emphasized enough.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 12:28 AM
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04.30.07

A Pyrrhic Victory

Pyrrhus - Battle of Asculum
In 279 BC, 40,000 Romans battled for two days against 40,000 Greeks and their 20 war elephants in the hills of southeastern Italy near Asculum. The Greeks were under the command of King Pyrrhus. According to the great Carthaginian general Hannibal, he was the greatest general the world had seen since Alexander the Great.

The first day of battle accomplished little. The two sides fought an indecisive battle. Over the next day, the Romans were forced back, but Pyrrhus was unable to capture their camp. Finally, at the end of the day, seeing the futility of continuing, the armies separated. The Romans had lost 6,000 men and the Greeks 3,500 including many officers. It was a costly victory for Pyrrhus. At dawn the next morning, in response to congratulations for his victory over the Romans, the historian Plutarch relates that Pyrrhus confessed “one more such victory would utterly undo him.” The battle had been won at too high a cost. Although they never defeated Pyrrhus on the field, the Romans were able to win a war of attrition. Henceforth, no soldier would cheer a Pyrrhic victory.

We, too, have battles to fight from time to time. Some battles though, can be won at too high a cost. As Pyrrhus admitted, some battles can literally undo us. If we are not careful we can let situations and our ego get the best of us. We can undermine our purpose of serving and lifting up those we lead. Winning an argument can destroy our influence and cost us a relationship.

In Pearls of Wisdom, Joyce Brothers wrote, “There is a rule in sailing where the more maneuverable ship should give way to the less maneuverable craft. I think this is sometimes a good rule to follow in human relationships as well.” Relationships are what leadership is all about. As the leader we are the more maneuverable ship. Being immovable or stubborn, just because we are right, doesn’t move us closer to our goal. It is up to us to step back, bend, or give way and let the other person pass. Later we might try a different tack if it is really that important to make the point. Hitting a difficult person head on is rarely the appropriate action.

When we come up against conflict, we must ask ourselves if winning this one is really that important. How will winning affect my ability to work with this person? What is motivating me to win? We don’t need to fight every battle. We should choose battles that in the final analysis will strengthen our relationships and improve our effectiveness.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 09:53 AM
| TrackBacks (0) | Leadership , Management

04.08.07

Lee Iacocca’s 9 C's of Leadership

Where Have All the Leaders Gone?
Lee Iacocca’s polemic, Where Have All the Leaders Gone?, will be released on April 17th. In the meantime you can read chapter one Had Enough? in our Reading Room. Included in chapter one he presents his 9 C's of Leadership you will find briefly illuminated below:

1. A leader has to show CURIOSITY. He has to listen to people outside of the "Yes, sir" crowd in his inner circle. He has to read voraciously, because the world is a big, complicated place. If a leader never steps outside his comfort zone to hear different ideas, he grows stale. If he doesn't put his beliefs to the test, how does he know he's right? The inability to listen is a form of arrogance. It means either you think you already know it all, or you just don't care.

2. A leader has to be CREATIVE, go out on a limb, be willing to try something different. You know, think outside the box. Leadership is all about managing change -- whether you're leading a company or leading a country. Things change, and you get creative. You adapt.

3. A leader has to COMMUNICATE. I'm not talking about running off at the mouth or spouting sound bites. I'm talking about facing reality and telling the truth.

4. A leader has to be a person of CHARACTER. That means knowing the difference between right and wrong and having the guts to do the right thing. Abraham Lincoln once said, "If you want to test a man's character, give him power."

5. A leader must have COURAGE. I'm talking about balls. (That even goes for female leaders.) Swagger isn't courage. Tough talk isn't courage. Courage is a commitment to sit down at the negotiating table and talk.

6. To be a leader you've got to have CONVICTION -- a fire in your belly. You've got to have passion. You've got to really want to get something done.

7. A leader should have CHARISMA. I'm not talking about being flashy. Charisma is the quality that makes people want to follow you. It's the ability to inspire. People follow a leader because they trust him. That's my definition of charisma.

8. A leader has to be COMPETENT. That seems obvious, doesn't it? You've got to know what you're doing. More important than that, you've got to surround yourself with people who know what they're doing.

9. You can't be a leader if you don't have COMMON SENSE.

THE BIGGEST C IS CRISIS. Leaders are made, not born. Leadership is forged in times of crisis.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 01:46 PM
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04.04.07

Tyranny of the Urgent

tyranny of the urgent
It is easy to succumb to the tyranny of the urgent. There is always something competing for our attention. Worse still we might find we have to deal with what Michael Watkins calls pyromaniacs—those people like to create fires for you to put out. The only way out is to get some perspective. In White Hat Leadership, author Ty Warren writes about the importance of making time to disengage:
Part of preparing to lead is recognizing when to step away to recharge. Most of us have experienced the benefits of taking time away from the office (or family) for a few days, then returning with new energy and a better perspective.

Stepping away allows us to work through issues and problems without the stress induced by a sense of urgency. It is usually in these moments of relaxation that we generate objective solutions. We must go away to return with clarity.

Those who feel task saturated are the very people who need to step away most.

Leaders must have time to think or they will likely forfeit their ability to lead. Task saturation causes us to react rather than respond. Reaction is a mechanical, almost involuntary reflex to events. It comes from the primal areas of the brain and does not involve real thought. Response is initiated from the cognitive regions of the brain. Reaction is normal for the task-saturated person; response comes from the leader who makes certain to allocate time for cognitive consideration.
The urgent will always be with us. How we handle it will determine how effective we are. Michael Watkins offers five strategies to help you deal with the urgent on his blog.

Once we begin to let the urgent take over the important we loose perspective and get sucked into a cycle that perpetuates the problem and drains us. Without direction, we mistakenly find ourselves trying to compensate by going twice as fast. We must take time out to think. The perspective you gain will help you to handle everything you do better.

Are you part of the problem? Do you create fires for others to put out? Take the “Are you a pyromaniac?” quiz.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 04:51 PM
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03.30.07

President and CEO = Head of Support

I appreciated Umpqua president and CEO Ray Davis' comment in his book, Leading for Growth concerning the true function of a leader:
If you’re a president or CEO or senior vice president, no doubt you worked hard to earn that position. And yes, your title gives you a certain amount of authority. But it doesn’t tell you what is really important—it doesn’t tell you what your job really is.

My title is president and CEO, and that’s the title I use when I’m out in public representing the company or when I’m on the phone talking about our quarterly results with Wall Street analysts. But when I’m talking to our people, I tell them to scratch out “President and CEO” on my business card and write in “Head of Support,” which is my real title in their eyes.
Leading for Growth
In practical terms:
Because things are moving so quickly, I can’t assume that the tools and support that worked yesterday will be sufficient today. I’m out there all the time, asking, “What is it you need?” It’s a constant. It’s the only way we can keep up with our own growth.
Davis says that support goes beyond just training and tools. The standard fare usually doesn’t get at what people need in a specific way in order to meet your goals. So you always need to be asking people directly what they need. This may mean you need to give different things to different people. The idea that you shouldn’t make individual exceptions “I think is dead wrong…. When people are exceptional, you must make exceptions for them.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 01:31 AM
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03.23.07

The Well-Differentiated Leader

USS Cole
Recently U.S. Navy Cdr. Kirk S. Lippold spoke about leadership at Highland School in Virginia. You may remember that he was the commander of the USS Cole when it was attacked in Yemen in October of 2000. Lippold said, "When you talk about leadership, for a lot of people, it boils down to one word, and that is integrity. If you have the integrity to do what's right regardless of the circumstances and the situation, you are a leader in your own right, because so many people today fail or waiver on that one key trait.

"As commander, you provide the crew with the command philosophy, then you give them goals and guidelines to get there. By that philosophy, you start with the foundation of integrity, but it is also good work ethic, taking care of your fellow sailors, making sure that you look out for each other, not just for the time you are there on the ship, but when you are on liberty.”

What he is referring to is similar to an idea Edwin Friedman presents in A Failure of Nerve. It’s what Friedman has termed the well-differentiated leader. It is similar to what is most commonly termed authentic leadership, but I like the way it is articulated here. The well-differentiated leader is not “an autocrat who tells others what to do or orders them around, although any leader who defines himself or herself clearly may be perceived that way by those who are not taking responsibility for their own emotional being and destiny.”
A Failure of Nerve
By the well-differentiated leader “I mean someone who has clarity about his or her own life goals, and, therefore, someone who is less likely to become lost in the anxious emotional processes swirling about. I mean someone who can separate while still remaining connected, and therefore can maintain a modifying, non-anxious, and sometimes challenging presence. I mean someone who can manage his or her own reactivity to the automatic reactivity of others, and therefore be able to take stands at the risk of displeasing. It is not as though some leaders can do this and some cannot. No one does this easily, and most leaders, I have learned, can improve their capacity.

Two key concepts here are self-knowledge and self-control. What Friedman spurns is a highly anxious risk-avoided, someone who is more concerned with good feelings than with progress, someone whose life revolves around the axis of consensus. He calls this a failure of nerve. Friedman writes, “It is the integrity of the leader that promotes the integrity or prevents the dis-integr-ation of the system he or she is leading.” It was Lippold’s understanding that “you have the integrity to do what's right regardless of the circumstances and the situation” that enabled he and his men to get through the attack. It points again to the fact that leadership is really a character process and not an intellectual one.

Previously: Friedman - If You Are a Leader, Expect Sabotage

Posted by Michael McKinney at 10:02 AM
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03.16.07

Employees Who Quit, But Stay On

Engagement Is Not Enough
Are disengaged employees eroding your customer satisfaction, employee retention, productivity and profitability? Research has shown that the average employee engagement figures for the United States are: 30% Engaged, 54% NOT Engaged and 16% Actively Disengaged. Keith Ayers in his book, Engagement Is Not Enough, says that it is a leadership issue and the problem is critical. “Like a cancer, they spread their discontent and do their best to turn the engaged employees against you as well. Even if they don’t succeed, they will undermine the good work your engaged employees are doing by failing to complete their part of projects on time or lowering the overall quality of the job.”

According to the Gallup Organization, the problem usually begins in the first six months when an average of over 60% of employees switch off. This is basically due to the perceived realization that their expectations are not going to be met. They feel powerless to fix the situation and give up, but stick around at your expense. Ayers, warns us to avoid four primary obsessions that often result in managers unintentionally increasing the spread of the cancer of disengagement:

An obsession with financial results. “To drive myopically toward profit or achieving budget alone, ignoring the needs of employees, customers, and the culture and the values of the organization, is very costly to results.” How much more could you “achieve with passionate employees who go to extreme lengths every day to give their best performance?”

An obsession with control. “Control-based leaders assume that people cannot be trusted and send that message to their team. These autocrats are a liability to the organization, squashing natural enthusiasm, creativity, and ambition and driving away the most talented employees.”

An obsession with avoiding responsibility. “The number one cause of lack of engagement, poor employee performance, and staff turnover is the relationship the employee has with his or her immediate supervisor. If your team is not performing the way you want them to, first look at whether the leadership they are getting from you is what they need to be able to perform at their best.”

An obsession with logic. “Managers obsessed with logic and left-brained thinking are dismissive of feelings—they say that emotions don’t belong in the workplace. They do not believe engagement has anything to do with organizational performance or that people can be passionate about their work. Managers need to understand that emotional intelligence and right-brain thinking are critical skills to become successful leaders in the new global economy.”

Ayers offers a discussion of the leadership skills you will need to develop to create passionate employees. He correctly notes, “By now you may be thinking, ‘Don’t the employees have a responsibility to be engaged and perform at their best?’ And you’re right, they do. They should be engaged. But the reality is, in an average organization, 70 percent of them are not! Being right about what they should do won’t make them more engaged. Being effective as a leader will.”

According to The Conference Board, they reported that in looking at a cross section of studies, that all studies, all locations and all ages agreed that the direct relationship with one's manager is the strongest of all drivers. Not surprisingly then, they also reported that larger companies are more challenged to engage employees than are smaller companies.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 12:24 AM
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03.14.07

If You Are a Leader, Expect Sabotage

A Failure of Nerve
Sabotage “is part and parcel of the systemic process of leadership” writes Edwin Friedman in A Failure of Nerve. “Sabotage is not merely something to be avoided or wished away; instead, it comes with the territory of leading, whether the territory is a family or an organization. And a leader’s capacity to recognize sabotage for what it is—that is, a systemic phenomenon connected to the shifting balances in the emotional processes of a relationship system and not to the institution’s specific issues, makeup, or goals—is the key to the kingdom.”

The “shifting balances in the emotional processes of a relationship system” just referred to, have a lot to do with people’s insecurities, people trying to measure up and just trying to merely hold on to what they have or where they are. It is a reaction that some people get to strong and clearly defined leadership. Knowing that this is part of the leadership process and not an unexpected turn of events is helpful in maintaining a leader’s authenticity.

An effective leader should expect to be attacked as a result of their leadership. Some people will react negatively to what a leader stands for and then begin a campaign of sabotage in order to draw attention away from themselves or the mission. Friedman says “this is the moment when a leader is most likely to have a failure of nerve and experience a strong temptation to seek a quick fix.” This is the moment of truth. “A leader can never assume success because he or she has brought about a change. It is only after having first brought about a change and then subsequently endured the subsequent sabotage that the leader can feel truly successful.”

Posted by Michael McKinney at 12:42 AM
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02.09.07

The Study of Leadership

In a 1969 keynote address in Tokyo, Peter Drucker made the following observation about an aspect of leadership—management:
There are management tools and techniques. There are management concepts and principles. There is a common language of management. And there may be even a universal "discipline" of management. Certainly there is a worldwide generic function which we call management and which serves the same purpose in any and all developed societies. But management is also a culture and a system of values and beliefs. It is also the means through which a given society makes productive its own values and beliefs. Indeed, management may well be considered the bridge between a “civilization” that is rapidly becoming worldwide, and a “culture” which express divergent traditions, values, beliefs, and heritages.

Management must, indeed, become the instrument through which cultural diversity can be made to serve the common purposes of mankind. At the same time, management increasingly is not being practiced within the confines of one national culture, law, or sovereignty but "multinationally." Indeed, management increasingly is becoming an institution—so far, the only one—of a genuine world economy.

Of course, along the same lines, leadership encompasses far more than the business or political environment we typically confine it to. From being the act of a few, it has become a personal responsibility. The issues we face today require a multidimensional understanding of leadership that is broader than most academic studies would give it. In fact the study of leadership is not the study of leadership at all, for leadership is the development of an individual’s whole being which is dynamic and ongoing.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 07:41 AM
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02.02.07

Not All Leaders Are the Same

The Greatness Guide
In The Greatness Guide, Robin Sharma clarifies the mantra that leadership is everybody’s business. While everyone is a leader, not everyone does the same thing. Obviously not everyone should be running the company. He explains:
Know your role. Everyone needs to behave like a leader—no matter what they do. Everyone needs to demonstrate leadership traits—regardless of their position. That means everyone needs to take responsibility for getting results that they generate. Everyone needs to do their part to shape culture. Everyone needs to be positive and inspirational. Everyone needs to keep customers happy and protect the brand. Everyone is a leader. But not everyone is the same.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 12:10 AM
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01.29.07

Goldsmith's Gold: Stop Trying to Help People Who Don’t Want to Change

You can help some of the people some of the time, but you can’t help all the people all the time. Not everyone wants help. Not everyone wants to change. Some people can’t or won’t be lead. It’s a fact of life. Marshall explains, “This may sound harsh, but some people are unsalvageable. You’re only banging your head against a wall if you think you can fix them.” Some flaws can’t be coached away by any boss, especially if the following conditions exist: Goldsmith's Gold

Stop trying to change people who don’t think they have a problem.

Stop trying to change people who are pursuing the wrong strategy for the organization. If they’re going the wrong direction, all you do is help them get there faster.

Stop trying to change people who should not be in their job. Move them on.

Stop trying to help people who think everyone else is the problem. People like this will never give up on their near-religious belief that any failure is someone else’s fault.

More importantly, we need to be sure we are not deluding ourselves into being one of these people. Always be looking to change, grow and improve. Ask. Others are sure to point the way.

This is from What Got You Here Won't Get You There by Marshall Goldsmith.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 07:59 AM
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12.29.06

Why Are Leaders in Such Short Supply?

Rob Goffee and Gareth Jones, authors of Why Should Anyone Be Led By You? wrote: Given the hunger for leadership, why are leaders in such short supply? We think there are two fundamental reasons.

First, organizations desire leaders but structure themselves in ways that kill leadership. Too many organizations—in the private, public and not-for-profit sectors—are machines that destroy leadership. They encourage either conformists or role players with an impoverished sense of who they are and what they stand for. Neither makes for effective leaders.

Second, our understanding of leadership is blinkered. The main body of leadership literature focuses on the characteristics of leaders. The underlying assumption is that leadership is something we do to other people. But we believe leadership should be seen as something we do with other people. Leadership should always be viewed as a relationship between the leader and the led.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 12:43 AM
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12.18.06

5 Things Leadership is Not

Greg Morris, asks us in his book, In Pursuit of Leadership, to consider five things leadership is not:
  1. Leadership is not a position. Leadership comes from personal influence, not a job title.
  2. Leadership is not building a personality cult. Leadership is not surrounding yourself with “yes men.”
  3. Leadership is not being indispensable. While it may give you strokes to feel needed, it is not leadership. Some leaders build followers, while true leaders build other leaders.
  4. Leadership is not about blaming others. Leadership is first and foremost about being honest and responsible for the decisions you make or fail to make.
  5. Leadership is not privilege. Authentic leaders will not use their position for their own advantage or comfort and should not ask others to do what they are unwilling to do themselves.
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He adds, “The reality of true leadership is that your rights actually DECREASE as you rise in the organization, while your responsibilities INCREASE. This suggests that leadership involves not power or prestige but servanthood.”

In Pursuit of Leadership is an interesting analysis of the life of Moses—a man nearly all of us are familiar with—in terms of his leadership and the path he took to get there. He points out that the accomplishments that Moses is known for “materialized in the final third of his life…. The first eighty years of Moses’ life molded him into a man that God could trust and use. There is no shortcut to spiritual preparation and leadership training. Only through the crucible of life can patience, discipline, character and maturity be developed.”

Posted by Michael McKinney at 08:21 AM
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12.13.06

Who Will Succeed or Fail in the Corner Office?

Carol Hymowitz asked in Monday’s Wall Street Journal, “which CEOs have the skills to survive the New Year’s challenges?” In her article she writes:
The true test of enduring leadership success is how well business leaders handle setbacks and failures. They can advance by outperforming others, but they can't always be in control.

"Given the collision of pressures and challenges in business today, you'll never be on top all the time," says Jeffrey Sonnenfeld, senior associate dean of the Yale School of Management. The real test, he adds, is who survives a challenge to a chief's business model or reputation.

Executives have a better chance of survival if they address problems directly, admit their mistakes and build alliances to make changes. They must seek advice from others but also feel secure enough to make decisive plans.

A leader’s communication flexibility and consistency is important in this regard. Leaders are not only expected to influence their direct reports, Gene Klan writes in his new book, Building Character, but “are also expected to influence their superiors, board members, peer, customers, clients, suppliers, the news media, community officials, political leaders, government regulators, negotiators, environmental authorities, special interest groups, Wall Street Analysts, and any number of other stakeholders…. [E]ach group requires different tactics to be influenced and led both effectively and positively. Leaders need flexibility and many different skills to communicate credibly and interact with all these parties for maximum results.”
0787981516


Consistency is a matter of character. “For leaders,” Klan continues, “consistency means always reflecting the same basic principles in practice. It means that one’s behaviors conform and agree with one’s past words and actions regardless of pressure, criticism, and advice to do otherwise. It means maintaining the habitual positive behaviors that are key to winning trust and respect and achieving effectiveness overall. It means being seen and known as a pillar of dependability and reliability, not changing or wavering based on opinion polls, internal disapprovals, or external condemnations."

"Consistency also implies that a leader’s behaviors and character are not compartmentalized between work and personal life. You are who you are, and that doesn’t change when you arrive at the office or at your own front door. Your character is such that you find consistent standards for behavior in any context. Responsibilities, stresses, and personalities may vary, but your character does not. All the politically correct arguments to the contrary do not change that reality. Behaviors reflect a leader’s character regardless of the context. In every context, your character will be noticed and judged.” It is these leaders that have to best chance of surviving the challenges that lie ahead in the coming year.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 08:52 AM
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12.11.06

Leadership Challenges

Alex Andarakis
The Dubai based ITP Business Magazine published an article this last weekend by Alex Andarakis, CEO of Middle East drinks giant Aujan, relating some of the challenges of leadership we face today. Returning from a recent forum at the London Business School, he came away with the following lessons and issues:

  Strong and successful companies understand that leadership is not the exclusive domain of the chief executive or board of directors. Rather, leadership is a key requirement across all levels within an organisation.

  The role of leaders is to constantly, and with large amounts of passion, communicate and raise the profile of ‘meaning', articulating it in a manner that is easily understood and wholly relevant.

  Leaders inspire the imagination of a community of followers and believers. Leaders provide their teams and the individuals within them with the strength and motivation to create and maintain momentum throughout the journey of achieving the company’s vision, strategy and targets.

  We are increasingly impatient to achieve success: See how the traditional career of 47 hours a week, 47 weeks a year, for 47 years has been replaced by young professionals who put in 60 hours a week, 50 weeks a year, for 17 years.

  We are increasingly disconnected from any sense of community: Look at the breakdown of families and the disappearance of social clubs and associations.

  We are increasingly distrustful of authority: From Enron to WorldCom to Parmalat to Tyco, corporate scandal has slowly eroded trust.

  Leaders must drive significance, community, authenticity and trust. They must capture the hearts and minds of their staff – who invest a significant amount of their life in an organization, often at a great cost to their personal and family ties.

  Take this challenge: The next time you're sitting in a business class lounge, study the faces of the many gifted individuals around you, wearied from an endless tour of duty for their employers. They are more than just people being paid to do a job; they are individuals with families, friends, hopes and fears; all trying to understand how and what they do will make a difference to others in their community.

  Valuing the emotional dimension – and forging an emotional connection – is the key difference between good leaders and great leaders.

  Understanding oneself is of paramount importance. If self-knowledge is absent, how can you imagine that you will ever understand your organisation, community or even customers?

Issues such as the authority deficit and the decay of meaningful community will become even more obvious in the coming years as we struggle to deal with them. As we begin to discover the emerging problems related to these issues, we might find that we to reexamine our own attitudes concerning them before anything meaningful can be done to correct the situation.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 12:29 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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11.29.06

Humility Is a Core Quality Found In Great Leaders

Great Leadership
We, of course, keep coming back to humility. It is, as Anthony Bell writes in Great Leadership, a core quality of a great leader.

Humility is often misunderstood. As Bell writes: It’s not about self-deprecating insecurity; it’s much more about honest recognition of both strengths and weaknesses, reinforced by an attractive lack of preoccupation with either one. It’s the antithesis of self-absorption—the recognition that ‘it’s not about me.’ It’s not as someone put it, thinking less of yourself; rather, it’s thinking less about yourself.

A selflessness is inherent in this kind of humility. It reflects a willingness to put the interests of the organization and of its people ahead of the leader’s own interests.

Humility is rare in leaders, but when it’s there, it’s powerful. It’s powerful because it’s disarming.

Humility rests firmly on the foundation of self-awareness. Humility generates two qualities: a thirst for personal growth and a healthy dose of self-discipline. [A thirst for personal growth because] it requires a certain measure of humility to recognize what you don’t know and an equal measure to want to keep on learning. [It also breeds a healthy dose of self-discipline because] humility recognizes that greatness requires work, and work requires self-discipline.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 12:02 AM
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11.28.06

Charismatic Leadership and Social Change

pakistan
In Pakistan’s The News – International, former principal of Gordon College of Rawalpindi, Prof Khwaja Masud wrote a piece on charismatic leadership and social change. Here are some of his observations:

The problem of leadership appears most urgently at defining moments of history. A sharp crisis in social, economic and political affairs, when something must be done and done quickly, naturally intensifies interest in the role of a leader in history making.

The society-shattering deed is possible only when the society is ripe for it. In the biblical phrase, things happen in the fullness of time. Delivery may be forced, but the child must be ready to enter the world. The leader acts only as a midwife who brings forth what is already mothered by the spirit of the age, or as the Germans say ‘zeitgeist’. We cannot sit back and wait for the event to happen. This is where commitment comes in. These who stand and wait are either cowards or traitors to the cause.
Khwaja Masud


Apart from the qualities enumerated by Iqbal— lofty vision, mellifluous discourse and a passionate heart—the leader must possess charisma. [W]hen a social order nears bankruptcy, there is actually felt a desire among the people for a charismatic leader who may symbolize their deeply felt needs and aspirations. The charismatic leader is born in a climate of uncertainty and unpredictability. He moves in to bridge the gap between the discredited past and uncertain future. When the two ages overlap, one dying and the other refusing to be born, the historic need for charismatic leader arises, who has his hand on the pulse of time, and, who, above all, is closely attached to the common people. He is fired by the passion, inspired by the vision and totally committed to extricate the distraught people from the agony of uncertainty so as to lead them to safe haven.

Tolstoy has correctly pinpointed the source of power of a charismatic leader. He says: “The power of a great leader lies neither in the physical nor moral qualities of him who possesses it. Power is the collective will of the people transferred by expressed or tacit consent to their chosen leader.”

The objective conditions may be ripe for the radical transformation of a society, but without a leader who can command the respect and love of the masses, the historic opportunity may be lost.

As former US president Woodrow Wilson once said: “When I look back on the process of history, I see this writing over every page that the nations are renewed from the bottom, not from the top, that the genius who springs from the ranks of the unknown men is the genius who renews the youth and energy of the people. The utility, the vitality and the fruitage of life does not come from the top to the bottom, it comes like the natural growth of a great tree from the soil, up through the trunk into the branches to the foliage and the fruit. The great struggling unknown masses that are the base of everything are the dynamic force that is lifting the levels of history. A nation is as great and only as great as her rank and file.”

It is the dialectical relation between the charismatic leader and the struggling masses that makes history.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 12:01 AM
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11.20.06

Management & Leadership

Ken Lewis
Kenneth D. Lewis, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer at Bank of America made this distinction between management and leadership to the graduates at Chapel Hill, North Carolina earlier this year:
The distinction between management and leadership is, in my view, crucial. Leadership is about how you use the influence and trust that people grant you to define necessary change and chart the future direction of the organization. Management is about how you earn that influence and trust in the first place.

Management is how we demonstrate our competence, business acumen and organizational ability. Management is how we show that we will be fair, inclusive and trustworthy in the way we use power. Most important, the way we manage establishes the standards of ethical conduct to which we hold ourselves and our teammates.

In day-to-day operations, people will do what a manager tells them to do because he controls their paycheck. But that doesn’t mean they’ll go above and beyond to accomplish a shared goal. Without trust and loyalty, they won’t put in the long hours. They won’t take career risk. They won’t follow where the manager wants to lead.

Ultimately, people grant a manager the opportunity to lead because they have found that person to be effective and trustworthy. Over time, by managing effectively, the manager begins to earn what we sometimes call “followership.” And that’s when you begin to have the opportunity to lead. Leadership is not granted by virtue of a title. It’s granted by the people who have agreed to follow you. And it can be taken away by those same people very quickly if their trust is violated.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 08:41 AM
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11.03.06

Peter Drucker on What a President Needs to be Effective

In the August 1960 Harper’s Magazine, Peter Drucker wrote, “What a President needs is an active mind—a mind interested in other people and their ideas; able to find the kernel of sense in a farrago of abstract theorizing; quick to see where imagination turns into riot, but also where logic turns into absurdity. Such a mind needs constant nourishment and stimulation through the ideas of others.” He is suggesting that a president needs people with ideas; people that can fire the imagination with hope that new things can be done.

Drucker felt that the contemporary leader that made the most use of such people was General Douglas MacArthur as Supreme Commander in occupied Japan.
Macarthur and Hirohito
MacArthur wrote in his 1964 book Reminiscences, "I carefully abstained from any interferences by edict with the cultural traditions or the personal Japanese way of life. In frequent public statements I advised the Japanese people to seek a healthy blend between the best of theirs and the best of ours, and I was careful to tell them that no people or country was sufficient unto itself in these matters. I encouraged delegations of Japanese from every walk of life to travel in the West, and where it was possible, I paved the way for such visits. I have always felt that one of the things that made the occupation a success was my insistence that we wanted to learn from the Japanese as well as teach them. It had a great deal to do with restoring a sense of dignity and purpose in their people, and as they regained self-respect and pride, they approached an exchange of ideas with avidity and goodwill. This mutual respect became the foundation of the basic esteem our two peoples came to have for one another—and enabled the occupation to write a unique and warmly human chapter of world history.”

Posted by Michael McKinney at 08:21 AM
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10.30.06

Being Relevant

Determining what matters is the one of the first tasks of a leader. Peter Drucker wrote, “The right answer to the irrelevant question misdirects. But the wrong answer to a relevant issue still puts the spotlight where it belongs.” One can be right but irrelevant. What matters, what is relevant is dictated objectively by the situation one find themselves in. Determining what is right on complex issues can be daunting and take time, but it is vital that the issue we are working on is relevant. A leader’s job is not necessarily to solve the problems at hand, but to get us thinking about the right problems at the right time.
Cassandra
This means creating understanding from the analysis of both sides—or more often, all sides—of an issue. Without the relevant issue we are just spinning our wheels.

A leader might also make use of what Andy Grove calls helpful Cassandras. You may remember from Greek Mythology, Cassandra's great beauty caused Apollo to grant her the gift of prophecy. Helpful Cassandras are those people that can help a leader see other points of view, people that are willing to be blunt, so that a leader doesn’t win an argument they ought to lose.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 12:20 AM
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10.27.06

Five Qualities of Great Leaders

081440894X
In The Nature of Leadership, Joseph White writes,"To be a great leader, you have to be successful at achieving change—important, consequential change in the results for which you are responsible. Making change successfully is a leader's greatest challenge." To this end a great leader utilizes the following qualities to produce results and make change.
  • INNOVATION: Great leaders are original thinkers, and often contrarians. They are usually guided by a few big, revolutionary ideas. For Abraham Lincoln, it was eliminating slavery. For Ronald Reagan, it was crushing Communism. For Warren Buffett, it was finding a way to make the frowned-upon practice of putting all your nest eggs into a single basket pay off for investors.

  • RISK TAKING: Great leaders are informed risk takers with a track record (but never a perfect record) of success. They act decisively, not recklessly, to maximize lucky breaks. Herb Kelleher took full advantage of the deregulation of the airline industry in 1978 by launching Southwest Airlines.

  • SPOTTING TALENT: Great leaders have an insatiable appetite for outstanding talent. They know they need people different from themselves, and stronger and smarter, to achieve their aspirations. Steve Jobs, a very smart entrepreneur, recognized that he needed strong, professional leadership for his promising start-up. He set his sights on John Sculley, an outstanding executive slated to become CEO of PepsiCo, as the ideal CEO for Apple Computers. Then, he worked to sell Sculley on joining him in running Apple.

  • HELICOPTER VIEW: Great leaders have an extraordinary sense of perspective. They routinely put an immediate challenge into a larger context of the past, the future, and current events, while keeping the organization’s mission and practical consequences firmly in mind. With the creation of GE Healthcare and his “eco-imagination” strategy, Jeff Immelt, General Electric’s new CEO, has reflected Jack Welch’s quality-improvement philosophy while encouraging innovation, anticipating future trends, and responding to environmental realities.

  • THE SPARKLE FACTOR: Great leaders have presence. Every great leader, regardless of his or her personality, has a special, compelling something. There’s no formula for “sparkle.” But you know it when you see it. Barak Obama, the junior U.S. Senator from Illinois, is intelligent, well spoken, warm, energetic, and thoughtful. He has the sparkle factor in abundance, which will give him an edge if he tries to become America’s first African-American president.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 04:30 AM
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10.26.06

Assertiveness: The Meekest and Mightiest Make the Worst Leaders

Balance. Easy to understand, tough to practice.

The overuse of strength creates a weakness. Every strength has a point where it becomes a liability. Maturity and self-control help to rein in the excesses of our personality.

Not surprisingly, recent research by Stanford professor Frank Flynn has found that the greatest identifiable trait that can hold someone back from becoming a great leader is being too assertive—or not assertive enough. In other words, assertiveness that is out of balance.

In the Stanford Graduate School of Business News, Marguerite Rigoglioso reports:
Analyzing three years’ worth of written and survey data on students, as well as students’ assessments of their own former bosses, Flynn and Ames found that excessive or inadequate assertiveness was the No. 1 issue listed in the weakness column when it came to evaluating individuals’ leadership potential. “It was mentioned twice as frequently as any other issue. It appeared as a clear factor in weakness comments more than lack of intelligence, conscientiousness, and charisma combined,” Flynn says. Specifically, what the researchers found was essentially an “inverted U” between the ratings of a person’s assertiveness and his or her leadership ability: Up to a certain point it was positively associated, but then it went back down.

Assertiveness Chart

“The analogy we use is that assertiveness is like salt in a sauce: Too much spoils the dish, but too little is equally distracting,” Flynn says. Interestingly, at the “just right” point, assertiveness disappears as a leadership quality, either positive or negative. “While getting assertiveness wrong in one direction or the other dominates perceptions of weakness, getting it right is not a major theme in perceptions of strengths,” Flynn says. “In other words, nobody ever compliments the chef on a perfectly salted dish.”

What Flynn and Ames discovered was that when people were determined to be extremely assertive, the social costs of their behavior—others’ hurt feelings and damaged relationships—were seen to override the positive aspects of their ability to get the job done. Conversely, when they were deemed too passive, their inability to move projects along and achieve goals was what stuck in people’s minds, not their ability to preserve social harmony. “People pay more attention to what’s bad about assertive or non-assertive behavior than what’s good about it,” Flynn explains.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 12:32 AM
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09.20.06

Exemplary Leadership

Michael Dingake wrote this piece on leading by example in Mmegi, Botswana's daily independent newspaper. Here is an excerpt:
botswana
Any leader who like my clownish primary school teacher who used to say, "Do as I say, not as I do," cannot be a true leader. Leaders must be role models. Any leader who speaks like my teacher forfeits the role model status and is disqualified for leadership ambitions. Leaders who do not inspire emulation can at best be regarded as incompetents, perhaps clowns on the political stage. Exemplariness is a non-negotiable leadership quality.

[C]an we assume that all leaders at whatever hierarchical rung of leadership, share equal responsibility and are ipso facto expected to display equal exemplary behaviour? The American President, Truman said the buck stops at his door! He meant that the higher the responsibility of office, the higher the level of commitment to other exemplary leadership qualities like independent-mindedness, integrity, courage, impartiality and so forth.

Exemplariness is one of the most important leadership qualities one can think of. In the political arena, the governing party is not on the same social status rung as the parties in opposition for numerous reasons. The governing party is endowed with power, authority influence and resources. Public expectation, trust, hope and demand, is that the party entrusted with such responsibility has to demonstrate exemplary trustworthiness and not abuse the powers, authority and the resources under its control.
Exemplary leadership or leadership deserving of imitation is what Aristotle would call virtue in action. It's authentic. Not just talking the talk, but putting it into action. Our lives must correspond to the truth which we proclaim. Often times this means transcending our own egos. Leadership isn't something you turn off and on. It's a reality you express.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 12:33 AM
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09.18.06

You Don't Need A Title to Be A Leader

Recently I was talking to a Postal employee about her job. She said that she really saw herself as only a follower. She couldn’t be a leader.
dirchair She just did her job. After we talked a bit she began to see that by the “little” things she did everyday, she made profound contributions not only to the Post Office but to the people she worked with. I gave her a copy of this book. It will help her to see even more clearly, the important contributions she makes—her leadership role.

The fact is, no matter whether we have a title or not, we are at one time or another both leaders and followers. This gem of a book will help you and those you come into contact with, not only understand how they lead in various ways, but how they can step up and make more of a contribution—expand their influence.

Mark Sanborn, author of the Fred Factor, has assembled a collection of excellent examples pulled from everyday life to illustrate the important impact we can and do make on those around us.

Here is a short excerpt:
[A] title is not a job description. There are some things that a title can suggest, like having responsibility for others and getting results. It can’t, however, specifically define what a person does.
You Don't Need A Title to Be A Leader
Titles are broad brushstrokes.

It’s impossible for a title or an organizational chart to reflect all the many people who act as leaders or exert leadership throughout the organization. That’s why I call such people “nontitled leaders.” They may or may not have direct responsibility to lead others, yet every day they influence and lead those around them.

Get this book into the hands of those in your organization. Seeing their role in the greater context will give them meaning and quicken their step.

You can read an excerpt from the introduction here.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 09:07 AM
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09.11.06

September 11, 2006

NewsWire
    September 11th is a tragedy that struck all of us. It caused us to look deeper inside ourselves to see what we had and what we lacked. As any crisis reveals, leadership is something that is built over time and not something you dream up on a moments notice. A lot of character was revealed and developed that day.
* * *

Posted by Michael McKinney at 10:35 AM
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09.04.06

Great Expectations

Samuel Johnson lamented that, “Tongues, like governments, have a natural tendency to degeneration.”

Michael Curtin, Vice Chairman, COO and Associate Publisher of The Columbus Dispatch, spoke recently on the degradation of language:
Of course, we know that all living languages change. They must to survive. Language never is what it was in the good old days. The real question is what constitutes change and what is decay.

There is abundant evidence that the American people are growing more worried about language decay—an increase in casual profanity, rudeness and incivility in our expression.

The Associated Press reported recently that three-fourths of Americans say they encounter profanity in public either occasionally or frequently, and a majority agreed they encounter it noticeably more often than 20 years ago.

Words that once were shocking to hear in public now are heard commonly on television and radio, in music and movies, at work and on the street.

Are we on an irreversible downward slope?
Interestingly enough over on the Christianity Today Blog they have been debating for months as to whether a young poet should have been allowed to use the F-word throughout the public recitation of her poem at church. Oddly, the debate is all over the place. I know the poet’s pastor thought that he was being caring, loving and accepting, but in the end he failed her. He was disrespectful to the young girl by allowing her to recite the poem with all of its profanity intact.

To be sure, a leader needs to be accepting of those they lead. They need to try to relate to and understand those they lead. But more importantly, they need to be respectful and they need to expect the best of their people—or they will seldom get it.

If in trying to be accepting, we lower the bar and drop the standards, we all lose. Perhaps in the short-term this seems to work but in the end it backfires—we lose ground and respect. Unfortunately, we see this kind of misguided thinking happening in homes, schools, companies and yes, even churches.

In short, the pastor sent the message that she was not capable of coming up to a standard that is acceptable to society at large. Apparently her pastor didn’t feel she was talented enough to express herself in a proper manner. It is insulting.

If a leader is to make a difference they must act courageously. Upholding standards is not always easy but it is necessary. Emerson wrote, “Trust men and they will be true to you; treat them greatly and they will show themselves great.” We need to have enough respect for the people we lead to expect the best from them. What we expect is all too often, exactly what we get.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 10:23 AM
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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
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08.14.06

The Recognition Deficit

g w carver
George Washington Carver wrote, "How far you go in life depends on your being tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with the striving, and tolerant of the weak and the strong. Because someday in life you will have been all of these."

Understanding and encouragement will take people further than almost anything else you can do for them. Followers want recognition for their contribution. It is one of those things that have incredible leverage. The small investment on your part is greatly exceeded by the impact it has on someone’s life. Not only in that person’s life but the lives of those they come into contact with. It has a rippling effect.

Considering its value, it’s amazing how little it is done. Frankly, if it were considered more of a priority in the leader’s agenda it would happen more. Yet without it, any leader’s effectiveness is diminished. It has to become an integral part of what we do. In Why Should Anyone Be Led by You? the authors comment:
There are some particularly aggressive corporate cultures where the imperative is to “just do it.” Recognition is for wimps. All our experience is that effective leaders find ways to break through those barriers.

During his long tenure as CEO and chairman of GE, Jack Welch was well known for his handwritten notes. [D]espite his colossal workload, Welch made the time to jot down a few well-chosen words of recognition. He knew how important it was. The great thing about a handwritten note, of course, is that it is both highly personalized and lasting.
Do you make people feel that their contribution is important? That they personally matter to the goals of the organization? It is what will make your efforts more effective.

Everyone is in need of encouragement. Actress Celeste Holm summed up the issue well, “We live by encouragement and we die without it; slowly, sadly, angrily.”

Posted by Michael McKinney at 10:26 AM
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07.27.06

Extreme Leadership

In his must-read book Real Leadership, Harvard professor Dean Williams remarks, “The exercise of leadership is not a trivial matter…. Passion is an important element in the realm of real leadership. If you are not passionate about making things better in your local school, enterprise, or community, then you should probably not seek to be the primary actor in the process of leadership and consider moving to the side.”

Leadership is a big and challenging responsibility. It is a commitment to be responsible for the well-being of those you are leading. Much of what passes to day as leadership is role playing. Too often this is because those who get the titles are good at playing the role. But they're not leading.

Steve Farber speaks to this well on his web site:

Here's the problem: many people who call themselves leaders are only posing. They're wearing the label or accepting the title without putting their skin in the game. So I'm asking you—assuming that you really do aspire to lead—to approach the act of leadership as you'd approach an extreme sport: learn to love the fear and exhilaration that naturally comes with the territory. And that takes a personal commitment and a significant, personal choice. As my friend and colleague, Terry Pearce, said in an article in the San Francisco Examiner:
"There are many people who think they want to be matadors, only to find themselves in the ring with two thousand pounds of bull bearing down on them, and then discover that what they really wanted was to wear tight pants and hear the crowd roar."
If, however, you do make the choice to leap into the ring, it's because of your love of the challenge, the adventure, and that love is what makes the fear of the "sport" worthwhile. Not only do you accept the fear as part of the experience, the fear—in large part—creates and defines the experience. Extreme would not be extreme without fear. And fear would not be worth it without the love of the game.
The Radical Edge


The same is true of Extreme Leadership: it is the dynamic interplay of fear and love-two of the most powerful forces in the human experience. And in my estimation, those who actively and intentionally use the experience of fear and love everyday in their attempts to change things for the better—in whatever arena—are Extreme Leaders.

Farber is the author of The Radical Leap and more recently The Radical Edge. His web site has a wealth of information on leadership that’s worth taking a look at.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 08:32 AM
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07.17.06

Stepping Up to the Plate

Eric Wedge Cleveland Indians
Cleveland Indians manager Eric Wedge, gave a nod to the importance of chemistry and leadership in the making of a great ball club. The teams disappointing first half he attributes in part to a lack of leadership in the clubhouse.

Anthony Castrovince at MLB.com reports: "What's happened is we've gotten to the point [as an organization] where the younger players are the ones who have to step up [and assume leadership responsibilities]," Wedge said. "I don't think anybody's really taken hold of that. Last year we had guys like [Kevin] Millwood and [Scott] Elarton, veteran guys who were more vocal."

Wedge reflects, "It's tough for young people to get in front of their peers and put themselves out there like that.” Disturbingly he adds, “In the game in general, there's not too many leadership personalities out there. That's the generation we're in." His observations are a reflection of a more general concern we find in society at large. Why don’t more people feel the need to step up to the plate?

Posted by Michael McKinney at 04:48 AM
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07.13.06

Jack Welch On Leadership

Jack Welch
Jack Welch revealed some lessons on leadership in a keynote address to the executives at the FranklinCovey Symposium in Dallas. Here is a recap as presented by Training Magazine:

"Great leadership development is the heart and soul of every company. Now more than ever, companies shouldn’t be afraid to take risks by promoting tomorrow’s leaders into these roles today. It’s wonderful to have an organization that is dynamic and changing and getting fresh blood into management positions. Fresh eyes sometimes see fresh opportunities. Will they be ready? Maybe they won’t all be trained perfectly, but they will be able to grow into their job if you give them the right support systems. When I left GE, my successor was 46 years old, and his direct reports averaged 38 years old. That’s great stuff.

One thing that is key to remember is that leadership is inclusive, not exclusive. When you have a problem, I think you need engage as many people as you possibly can into solving the problem.

The idea that there’s just one right view is absolutely crazy. When you’ve got a crisis, you’ve got to reach to every level of your organization and find every place where knowledge may live. It’s part of what I called a “role-model atmosphere” at GE.

Leadership is not about dictating, it’s about empowering employees so that they recognize their ability to take action. And highlight it when they do. When somebody had a great idea at GE, we’d fly that person in to showcase the idea. You should always be showcasing your people’s great ideas. That’s part of a role model atmosphere and it works. People need to feel that their contributions are important. Always give them voice and dignity. That’s what leaders do. And that’s how leaders build leaders. But implementing that and making that real is a lot harder that just saying it."

Posted by Michael McKinney at 10:42 PM
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07.10.06

Jack Welch: "What Worked for Me"

Fortune Magazine
The cover story of the July 24, 2006 issue of Fortune takes issue with Jack Welch’s “rules” for winning. There is nothing really significant here. Obviously, it is designed to sell magazines but it is worth taking note of. Neither column below represents “rules.” They are more properly approaches or applications of rules. The listing is contrived to make the “rules” look mutually exclusive. Although for the most part, in practice, they are not. Yet, in the wrong hands they can be administered that way. It would be more appropriate for Jack Welch and others to make a listing of “What Worked for Me” or “How I Applied the Basic Principles of Business in My Situation” or even, “What Didn’t Work for Me.” It might not garner as much readership—no easy 1-2-3 answers here—but the approach might prove to be more useful and the ideas more easily applied in the appropriate situation.

 New Rulesvs.Old Rules
1 Agile is best; being big can bite you. Big dogs own the street.
2Find a niche, create something new.Be No. 1 or No. 2 in your market.
3The customer is king.Shareholders rule.
4Look out, not in.Be lean and mean.
5Hire passionate people.Rank your players; go with the A's.
6Hire a courageous CEO.Hire a charismatic CEO.
7Admire my soul.Admire my might.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 09:32 PM
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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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06.29.06

Are You an Extreme Leader?

The adventure race Primal Quest has attracted the attention of Daniel Wilson, a researcher with Project Zero, a program in Harvard's education school that studies how people learn, think and create. “Since 2002, Primal Quest has sent videographers along with the racers at various points on the trail. Wilson has watched hundreds of hours of footage, analyzing how teams behave in high-stress situations,” reports Hannah Clark in Forbes.
team leadership
It's clear from the footage why some teams succeed and others struggle. Wilson only studied teams that completed the race, but even among finishers the differences are stark. On the top squads, every team member participates in decision-making, and everyone takes a leadership role at some point in the race. On the lower-performing teams, by contrast, one person often dominates discussions. "It's very, very clear in the interaction patterns how these top teams are so successful," Wilson says.

Many adventure racers assume that Adamson's charismatic leadership is the key to Nike's success. In fact, when Wilson shows his students a video clip of Nike, they struggle to identify the team's leader. Teammates Danielle Ballengee, Mike Kloser and Tobin all share the role. A charismatic leader can actually hurt an adventure racing team, Adamson says, by convincing his teammates to do something they don't want to do.

In high-pressure situations, however, multiple people often need to assume leadership roles. If there's only one leader, he or she is bound to get tired, says [Rich] Brazeau, Primal Quest's CEO, who also participates in adventure races.
Below are several of the 10 leadership skills of an endurance racer that Ms. Clark lists in her article:

Sharing Leadership: One person can't bear the entire burden of leading a team. That person is bound to get tired, or stressed, and other team members need to pick up the slack. On the best endurance racing teams, everyone leads at some point during the race.

Shifting Roles: During endurance races, it's important multiple team members have navigation skills. On one poor-performing team, the captain never let go of the map. On the best teams, however, multiple members had strong navigation skills, and they all consulted about the best routes to take. "If the group only has one role as a navigator, that team is going to struggle," says Harvard researcher Daniel Wilson.

Seeking Information: Ask questions. The top teams are aware of what they know and equally cognizant of what they don't. Asking questions doesn't expose a weakness; it helps your team gather as much information as possible and explore different ideas and proposals.

Closing The Loop: Every time someone says something, someone else should respond. This is called "closing the loop," and while it's ubiquitous on top teams, it's rare on the poor performers. It keeps the discussion on one track, avoiding the confusion that plagued Team Kool n' Fit. It also reduces stress. "They're facing so many factors like fatigue," Wilson says. "The cognitive load is very high. If you acknowledge someone's message is received, it's one less thing they have to worry about."

Setting Goals: In high-stress situations, team members should discuss their goals and the plan for achieving them. "As a team, if you don't have the same goals, you're just headed for disaster," says Brazeau. While teams must make some plans ahead of time, they must be able to evaluate and adjust as circumstances change.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 09:40 AM
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06.26.06

Leadership and Intelligence

Traditional measures of intelligence don’t always predict leadership success. Elizabeth Station recently highlighted in Notre Dame Business recent research by Amy E. Colbert, Timothy Judge, and Remus Ilies, published in the June 2004 Journal of Applied Psychology. The findings were based on 151 independent studies that probed the intelligence-leadership connection and showed that “the relationship between intelligence and leadership is considerably lower than previously thought.” They found only a moderate link between the two.

Perceptual measures of intelligence showed stronger correlations with leadership than did traditional paper-and-pencil measures of intelligence. In other words, appearing smart may have a greater impact on perceptions of leadership ability than being smart. Not really surprising. They also reported that "the leader's stress level and the leader's directiveness moderated the intelligence-leadership relationship."

Station asks: "So if brains aren’t paramount, what qualities do matter most? Leaders are usually extroverted, conscientious, open and emotionally stable, according to previous research. Intelligence is important when combined with attributes like motivation, persistence and dominance."

Posted by Michael McKinney at 12:02 PM
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06.08.06

The Skilling Trap

Mark Gimein wrote a great analysis of the Enron scandal in Business Week. In The Skilling Trap, he hits the nail on the head.
He responds to Jeffrey Skilling’s comments to reporters on the steps of the courthouse after being convicted of fraud and conspiracy: "Obviously I'm disappointed. But that's the way the system works." Gimein comments:
But there's more to it. "That's the way the system works." It's a strange thing for a man to say who has been convicted of 19 separate criminal charges. Reduced to words on a page, you can imagine the tone to be bitter or accusing. But it's not. Nor is it gallows humor, a tip of the hat to the prosecutors who won their case, but something more poignant.

It is a supremely characteristic statement, and it evokes the essence of what went wrong at Enron. Skilling had a startling confidence in what he thought of as "the system," a strange and even endearing belief in the mechanisms -- the letter and only the letter -- of the law.
It’s easy to blame the system, but the system isn’t something outside ourselves, some vast unseen force putting pressure on us to do things we don’t want to do. We are the system. It works that way because we work that way. It won’t change until we do. Adding more laws can’t protect us from ourselves. What is lacking here is character and the integrity to maintain right principles even at a personal loss. Gimein continues and address the spirit of the law:
But what made Enron possible was not a lack of rules. It was an unwillingness to think about regulation and responsibility in any but the most legalistic terms.

[T]here's little question that the source of all the crimes of which he was convicted was the basic dishonesty of trying to keep the company's stock afloat so he could make more money.

No question, the parade of executives in handcuffs will have some deterrent effect. But the evidence that any of this will make executives more accountable and more honest rather than just more careful is thin. Contemporary business culture accepts outsized compensation as a given and takes for granted the notion that chief executives have no special responsibilities more pressing than ensuring a fabulously wealthy retirement. In such a culture it's certain that when the market next crests and crashes, hundreds of corporate executives will at least toy with ways to make the numbers look good until they can get their own money out. After Enron, those who go that route will be more cautious in interpreting the law. Can that prevent the next wave of scandals? No, because no reading of securities law is so careful that it avoids the Skilling trap: When you try to keep to the letter of the law while undermining the spirit, you are likely to violate the letter in the end.
The Skilling Trap is that trap you fall into when you don’t see beyond the letter of the law. Sadly most laws are in place because we substitute what’s legal for what’s ethical. They are not the same. It’s a tug of war we have all experienced. Ethical addresses what should I do. Legal is about what do I have to do. If legal is the only consideration then caution is the watchword. Ethics is about principles and responsibilities.

As Mark Gimein observes, the issue is failure to deal with the spirit of the law. If your actions are right but your attitude is wrong, it will eventually catch up with you. When leaders are looking out for themselves—when leaders are in it for what they can get not for what they can give—we have Enrons. Leadership is about service and looking out for those you are responsible for. Some readers will yawn at this, but character is a real issue with real consequences.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 10:06 AM
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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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05.25.06

Leadership is Philosophy

In a lighthearted and engaging way, Matthew Stewart makes a case for the need to make management education a function of the philosophy department.
atlantic
In The Atlantic article, The Management Myth, he begins by generally dividing all management theory into two camps—Frederick Taylor’s rationalists and Elton Mayo’s humanists. “The Taylorite rationalist says: Be Efficient! The Mayo-ist humanist replies: Hey, these are people we’re talking about. And the debate goes on. Ultimately, it’s just another installment in the ongoing saga of reason and passion, of the individual and the group.”
The tragedy for those who value their reading time, is that Rousseau and Shakespeare said it all much, much better. In the 5,200 years since the Sumerians first etched their pictograms on clay tablets, come to think of it, human beings have produced an astonishing wealth of creative expression on the topics of reason, passion, and living with other people. In books, poems, plays, music, works of art, and plain old graffiti, they have explored what it means to struggle against adversity, to apply their extraordinary faculty of reason to the world, and to confront the naked truth about what motivates their fellow human animals. These works are every bit as relevant to the dilemmas faced by managers in their quest to make the world a more productive place as any of the management literature.
All leadership issues are human. Leadership is not a science. It is an art. This idea of the NEW leadership is nonsense. Contexts change and will continue to change but leadership principles are constant. Leadership is about people and relationships. People have had to deal with the same issues since time began. Leadership deals with philosophical issues in ever changing contexts. While certain generalities can be made (reduced to percentages if you must) most leadership issues must be viewed more individually than generally, more philosophically than scientifically. Having laws that govern something doesn't make it a science.
Beyond building skills, business training must be about values . . . But, as anyone who has studied Aristotle will know, “values” aren’t something you bump into from time to time during the course of a business career. All of business is about values, all of the time. Notwithstanding the ostentatious use of stopwatches, Taylor’s pig iron case was not a description of some aspect of physical reality—how many tons can a worker lift? It was a prescription—how many tons should a worker lift? The real issue at stake in Mayo’s telephone factory was not factual—how can we best establish a sense of teamwork? It was moral—how much of a worker’s sense of identity and well-being does a business have a right to harness for its purposes?

Posted by Michael McKinney at 12:52 AM
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05.22.06

Looking for Leaders

Where to find good leaders has always been an issue. In our search we unfortunately find it easiest to gravitate to the role players
Eisenhower and Montgomery
those people who appear to have the qualities we are looking for but really just are good at playing the “game.” They have been around long enough and possess enough ambition to get themselves noticed. These people help to produce the cynicism found in many organizations because they are not effective leaders but effective self-promoters. Once given a title they struggle to keep up because they just don’t have the substance required for the job. General Dwight Eisenhower writes about these people with fake reputations, as he calls them, to his friend General Prichard. This is excerpted from Alan Axelrod’s new book, Eisenhower on Leadership:
This is a long tough road we have to travel. The men that can do things are going to be sought out just as surely as the sun rises in the morning.
—Letter to Vernon E. Prichard
August 27, 1942
In a letter to friend and fellow commander Vernon E. Prichard, Ike took up the theme of leadership he had discussed in his letter to Scrappy Hartle just two days earlier. “Fake reputations,” he wrote, “habits of glib and clever speech, and glittering surface performance are going to be discovered and kicked overboard.” Those who remain are people capable of “solid, sound leadership,” possessed of “inexhaustible nervous energy to spur on the efforts of lesser men, and iron-clad determination to face discouragement, risk and increasing work without flinching.” Those who remain are the people who also possess “ a darned strong tinge of imagination—I am continuously astounded by the utter lack of imaginative thinking among so many of our people that have reputations for being really good officers.” Finally those who escape being kicked overboard are those who are most dedicated and “able to forget . . . personal fortunes. I’ve relived two seniors here because they got to worrying about ‘injustice, ‘ ‘unfairness,’ prestige.’”

Need will find leaders, but Ike counseled his friend Prichard to get a jump on need by starting to look right now. “While you are doing your stuff from day to day, constantly look and search among your subordinates for the ones that have those priceless qualities in greater or lesser degree. . . . [Y]ou will find greater and greater need for people upon whom you can depend to take the load off your shoulders.”

Posted by Michael McKinney at 09:51 AM
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05.19.06

Leadership Begins at Home

The Nanaimo News Bulletin reports that Leonard Krog—member of the British Columbia Legislative Assembly—in a speech to the Nanaimo Chamber of Commerce stated, “Community leadership starts at home. The best leadership examples are found in the home by parents who are involved in their communities. People can do small things, like build a community park in their neighborhood, or big things like run for public office or join community groups. Be a leader in your family. That’s how you build a strong and healthy community.”

Parents are the earliest and most influential influences on a child. Their examples profoundly affect the kind of leaders they become. Leadership training takes time (think quantity not just "quality") and guidance in every facet of a child’s life from early on. Additionally, leadership needs to be modeled by the parents. It helps if you view all of this in the long-term. The big picture view assists in smoothing out the immature peaks and valleys and helps keep your goals on track. Here are some (not comprehensive) ideas to think on:

Take time to know your child. Working with a child’s personality, a parent needs to learn to develop that child’s individual traits and abilities and sometimes temper strengths that left unchecked would become a liability. For example, an assertive, outgoing personality is a great trait in a leader, but without self-control it can be seen as overly aggressive and controlling.
Talking to Kids


Take the time to point out where they can learn from the example of others. Use examples and outcomes of decisions of both right and wrong approaches to situations. Teach them cause and effect. Choices have consequences.

Take the time to understand what problems and issues your child is dealing with and then guide them to the right decisions by applying the right principles. By instilling principles rather than pat answers to problems, you will give them tools to work with that they can apply over and over again in their life.

Take the time to praise them when they make the right choices and gently show them the choice they missed when they go astray. Give them age appropriate responsibilities and let them stand or fall on their choices. (Note: Self-esteem comes from knowing you did do or are doing the right thing and should be praised. It’s not generated from unsupported, manipulative comments designed to make kids—or anyone else for that matter—feel good.)

Take the time to involve them in family activities and work. This will help them learn teamwork (sharing and considering others) and a good work ethic.

Why do all this? Pat Williams (senior vice president of the Orlando Magic) in his book, Coaching Your Kids to be Leaders, quotes Jackson University football coach Steve Gilbert,
I tell young people, "It feels good to be a leader!" Success and failure are part of the adventure of life. Young people need to see that good leaders are important in their community—and there are great rewards for being a good leader. Those rewards include a sense of satisfaction and a feeling that what you are doing is meaningful and significant. You don’t always win when you lead, but that’s okay. Young people should be rewarded and encouraged for stepping up and leading, no matter whether they succeed or fail.
Krog added some additional thoughts that apply in any leadership training. “What is negatively affecting leadership across the country is the use of polls to gauge public opinion. Good leadership takes a longer term view of issues that may or may not be popular. Polls force governments to make popular, short-term decisions to stay in power. And sometimes leadership involves championing ideas that are not so popular.”

Posted by Michael McKinney at 12:08 AM
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05.17.06

Attitude of Wisdom

American essayist Norman Cousins wrote, “Wisdom consists of the anticipation of consequences.” Wisdom is about the thinking through of thoughts, behaviors and actions and seeing their relationships. It is seeing how things are connected. It is easy to get so caught up in what we are doing that we operate as though we are in a vacuum. Yale University professor Robert Sternberg explained that one reason smart people are sometimes inexplicably stupid is that they think they have overcome the problem of consequences.
Plato Aristotle


Understanding how everything is connected is a daunting task, but it shouldn’t cause us to stop dead in our tracks full of indecision. We still have to function. Professors Pfeffer and Sutton suggest in their book Hard Facts, that we must travel through life with an attitude of wisdom. That attitude is described as the ability to act with knowledge while doubting what you know. They point out that this attitude or approach is the single most important quality that a leader, advisor, or team can have for practicing evidence-based management.

This attitude enables people to act on what they already know while at the same time doubting what they know. It means they can do things now, as well as keep learning along the way. It implies a certain degree of humility to make it work. You really have to be able to get out of your own way. Professor Karl Weick said, “Argue like you’re right, but listen as if you’re wrong.” From Hard Facts:
Practicing evidence-based management means adopting beliefs and designing settings that enable people to keep acting with knowledge while doubting what they know, and to openly acknowledge the imperfections in even their best ideas along the way.
A lot of experience often holds people back from adapting this attitude. An old example holds true here: A person may say, “I have 20 years of experience.” But it’s not 20 years of experience. It’s 1 year repeated 20 times. That is to say, we live our lives in such a way that we aren’t really learning. We’re repeating. While wisdom requires that we arrange what we observe and know, and create meaning from it, is also requires that we consider what we need to unlearn as well.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 12:27 AM
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05.15.06

Humility

Rayburn and Truman
Just over 60 years ago in April 1945, Harry Truman was thrust into the presidency by the death of FDR. On his first day in the White House, Sam Rayburn (1882-1961) then Speaker of the House, came over to deliver some sage advice. "I have come down here to talk to you about you," Rayburn began.
"You have got many great hazards, and one of them is in this White House. I have been watching this thing a long time. I have seen people in the White House try to build a fence around the White House and keep the very people away from the President that he should see. That is one of your hazards. The special interests and the sycophants will stand in the rain a week to see you and will treat you like a king. They'll come sliding in and tell you you're the greatest man alive—but you know and I know you ain't."
This is the entanglement that any leader can get into without half trying. Only an externally directed leader can remain close to their followers and on track with their true function. In line with Rayburn, Socrates’ companion Antisthenes advised, “It is better to fall among crows than flatterers; for those devour only the dead — these the living.”

Posted by Michael McKinney at 12:37 AM
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05.10.06

The Managerial Moment of Truth

We often equate the telling of the truth with the statement made by Jack Nicholson's character in the film A Few Good Men: “You can’t handle the truth!” It’s true. People don't often want to hear the truth. The problem is that as a general rule, the truth is not communicated in a way that is productive and helpful, kind and supportive. It usually comes across as an attack.

In The Managerial Moment of Truth, authors Bruce Bodaken and Robert Fritz claim that “truth is one of the most important competitive advantages there is in building a business.” It’s vital for creating an organization of learning individuals. Knowing what’s going on in reality gives organizations a better chance of success. “Without perceiving reality, it is next to impossible to succeed because invariably decisions are made in a vacuum.”

The phrase managerial moment of truth refers to that moment when the leader has the choice to ignore or call attention to something that has occurred. They observe, “Too often, managers think they have only one of two unpleasant choices: to have a contentious confrontation or to avoid addressing the situation. Whichever path they choose, real or lasting change rarely happens.”

They caution that telling the truth isn’t the same as “spouting our opinions or sharing our feelings. Groups that really tell each other the truth are the ones that ask each other questions, seriously seek to understand opinions that are different than their own.”

The authors developed a practical procedure that has been used successfully at Blue Shield of California where Bodaken is Chairman, President and CEO. It's a way of telling the truth and getting to the bottom of an issue without hurting people. The technique has four steps:

1. Acknowledge the Truth — Entails the awareness that there is a difference between what you expected and what was delivered and the decision to do something about it.
2. Analyze How it Got to be that Way
3. Create an Action Plan
4. Establish a Feedback System

The idea is to deal with these moments while they are small issues and before there is a need for a full-blown confrontation. Truth telling is a powerful agent of change. This system gives people the best chance to learn in a positive and safe environment. In the end facing reality is a lot easier than all the fancy footwork required in avoiding it.
Great leaders are also great mentors. Greatness is hard to achieve without a substantial amount of learning built into the fabric of the organization. Mentorship is the most direct path to learning because it is done within the context of real work set against the realities of the world.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 12:19 AM
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04.18.06

Remains of the Day: Leadership in a Crisis

One-hundred years ago today San Francisco was struck with what is estimated today to be a 7.7 to 7.9 earthquake. The first shock hit at 5:18 A.M. Perhaps more devastating than the quake were the fires that broke out almost immediately. With the main water lines broken, firefighters were virtually helpless. By April 21 when the last fires died out, the earthquake and the events that followed destroyed 2,831 acres of the city, more than 490 blocks. It consumed 30 schools, 80 churches, and 250,000 homes. It killed at least 3,000 people.
1906 earthquake
(No one knows how many people actually died; the intense heat—up to 2000°F—incinerated bodies. Almost all of the records in City Hall had been destroyed the first day.)

Catastrophes or a major crisis of any kind are a breeding ground for bad decisions due to the swiftness with which they must be made. Time becomes the enemy and buying time to think becomes a luxury. Just hours after the earthquake, and acting on what turned out to be more rumor than fact, San Francisco’s mayor Eugene Schmitz posted a proclamation declaring that local police and troops were to "shoot to kill" any looters. A decision that is unconscionable and certainly illegal. Needless to say, widespread looting never materialized.

Then as now, catastrophes also bring out the gainsayers. While constructive criticism and reflection is mandatory to bring about improvements in handling such disasters, the obsessive babblings of the uniformed only distract from and impede this process. The problem of self-restraint is always with us as it is part of the human condition. Civility and maturity don't seem to be as highly valued today as are unfettered access to media and the right to speak one's opinion even if that opinion is lacking in thought and wisdom.

Unlike 100 years ago, today we can be inundated with bits of information totally removed from its context before the leaders involved can even make sense of it and move constructively in a direction that benefits the greatest good. Leaders will make mistakes. A leader collecting their thoughts and not dashing out the door is prudent and not a sign of weakness. That's a job of a leader: to keep their head when all about them others are losing theirs.

Leaders who take advantage of a crisis for their own gain need to be dealt with to be sure, but not for the personal gain of those individuals given the solemn task of reviewing that leaders behavior in the aftermath.

1906 earthquake

Posted by Michael McKinney at 12:16 AM
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04.03.06

Servant Leadership

In Peter Temes' remarkable new book, The Power of Purpose, he gets to a fundamental point of servant leadership right from the get-go. He writes:

[I]magine the man or woman who looks at the world and understands, this is when I should push, here is the opportunity to reshape the world in some small way, and knows too when to say, here is when I must step back, here is when my desire has to yield to patience. The real power lies in being able to see both visions.

He’s writing about the balance between ambition on one hand and humility and patience on the other. Being able to read a situation is fundamental to this balance and it comes from having both self-knowledge and a quality best described as mindfulness. This is the essence of servant leadership; an outward focus. More on this book later.

(By the way, a often quoted book on mindfulness is that by Harvard professor Ellen J. Langer.)

* * *

Of Related Interest:

  Three Levels of Thinking: Moving Toward Maturity


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Posted by Michael McKinney at 09:30 AM
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