Leading Blog



Leading Blog Main Page



07.28.14

8 Shifts Young Leaders Need to Make

Leading Forum
It was one of the most embarrassing things I've ever done.

I was standing in a hotel lobby waiting on my buddy to get some coffee before we were headed out for a day at a conference we were working. I was standing against the wall with my computer bag on my back. We were running a little late, so on the spur of the moment I decided I'd go get the rental car and bring it to the lobby's front door. As I stepped away from the wall, I had no idea the pandemonium that would ensue.

Apparently my bag had gotten caught on the fire alarm in the hotel lobby. In an odd case of events, when I stepped away from the wall, the fire alarm went off and people began to scatter. The hotel lobby that was rather full with folks eating breakfast and enjoying their morning coffee suddenly began to empty as people began to look around and evacuate the lobby.

You see, that's what happens when alarms go off, people move. For the next generation, an alarm of sorts is going off. An alarm that, if ignored or simply silenced, will continue to get louder and louder. An alarm that, if left unanswered, could mean serious trouble for the next generation and our world as we know it. Poverty rates have never been higher, unemployment rates are astronomically high, and people are hurting all over our world. Children are being abandoned by parents that have other priorities and people are willing to kill over heresay and gossip.

Our culture is in need of young leaders that are willing to not just silence the alarm with quick fixes, but sustain lasting change in the world we live in. We need young leaders that can rally people around them and begin bringing people together for lasting change.

How can we answer the alarm? By making some shifts in our lives and in our leadership in order to help lead lasting change in our society. Here are 8 shifts that we need to make as young people in order to set ourselves up to lead well now and in the future.

From Entitlement to Honor
The millennial generation is often referred to as "the entitled generation." Many of us have had things handed to us by our parents and the people around us and somehow believe that we deserve it all. We'll have to shift from believing that we deserve our due to seeking to honor those around us if we're going to lead lasting change. The people we seek to influence have to know that we are about them and not ourselves. That's real leadership.

From Unreliable to Consistent
Consistency is our generation's key to change. In order to change our lives, our families, our neighborhood, or our world, we have to consistently seek that change. Anyone can do something once, the real world changers are the ones that consistently excel and consistently push to a vision.

From Dissension to Cooperation
Unity and cooperation are secret ingredients into leading sustainable change. We'll have to work together on the things that really matter if we're going to see children's lives changed, cities built back up, and families restored. We can't seek to compete with those around us and cause dissension. Dissension holds us back, cooperation propels us.

From Conformity to Integrity
Integrity isn't just what you're doing when no one's around, it's doing right when you could do anything. As we gain more and more influence as young people, we'll often be left with a world of decisions to make and options to choose. The leaders we need to change our world choose what's right over what's easy or what's best for them.

From Pride to Humility
Pride puffs us, humility builds up. We need young leaders that build others up. Humility doesn't mean we're silent or shy, it must means that we value others over ourselves and believe the best about them. To lead people, we have to influence them. To influence them, they have to know we believe in and care about them. That comes through humility.

From Passive to Passionate
Passive doesn't answer the alarm. We can't be passive about the problems we as a generation have in front of us, we have to see them and be passionate about changing them. Passionate is the single most important ingredient in leading change. If we're not living and leading from a place of passion, we'll never desire the kind of change our world desperately needs.

From Selfishness to Love
Our world is extremely selfish. From selfies screaming "look at me" to young people saying "don't bother me." If we're going to step up and change our world, we have to look to love others, not avoid them. We have to look to love those around us, not lift ourselves up. People know real love when the see it. Real leaders know how to genuinely feel it and display it.

From Premature to Patient
We live in a microwave society. Everything is quick and fast. Leading people takes time. Leading change takes time. We have to be patient with the people we lead and understand the the process requires patience and sustained passion.

We can make the shifts as a generation. We can answer the alarm and change the world for our kids and their kids. The question is, "Are you willing?"

* * *

Next Up
Jonathan Pearson is the Pastor at Cornerstone Community Church in Orangeburg, SC—an ethnically-reflective church with multiple campuses. He is also the Assistant Director of The Sticks, an organization that inspires small city leaders to think big, co-creator of millennialleader.com and author of Next Up: 8 Shifts Great Young Leaders Make. You can follow him on Twitter at @JonathanPearson.

* * *

Like us on Facebook for additional leadership and personal development ideas.

* * *



Posted by Michael McKinney at 06:58 AM
| TrackBacks (0) | Leadership Development , Leading Forum

05.14.14

Finishing Well

Sportswoman, polar explorer and author of On the Edge, Alison Levine, recently told Forbes about finishing well:
Most of the deaths on Everest occur on the descent—after a climber reaches the top. The reason so many accidents happen on the descent is because people use everything they have—all of their energy reserves—to get to the top, and then they have nothing left in them to get themselves back down the mountain. Every year there are mountaineers who collapse just below the summit; many of them die there. Getting to the top is optional. Getting down is mandatory. You have to know yourself well enough to judge when it is time to turn around and head back down. And you need to make that call when you still have enough energy left to descend. The hard part is that quite often that turn around point is before you reach the summit. The number one goal of any expedition: come back alive. Number two is come back with all of your fingers and toes. Tagging the top of a mountain should never be the goal.
finishing well
The goal isn’t getting to the top. The goal is getting back down—finishing well. Many leaders struggle with finishing well. Ironically, success plants the seeds for derailment. Success encourages complacency and arrogance both of which erode character and obstruct growth. Finishing well requires a lifelong commitment to self-awareness and growth. And that means feedback. Any leader that struggles with openness to feedback is flirting with disaster.

Finishing well is not an event. It is a process. It doesn’t just happen. It is a discipline—a road that the self-aware leader embarks on. Leaders who finish well develop these characteristics as part of their leadership style:

  They have a purpose beyond their own self-interests.
  They are accountable to people who will tell them what they don’t want to hear.
  They maintain the intellectual, emotional and spiritual reserves necessary to get them to the finish line.
  They know the goal is getting to the finish line with their character intact.
  They know they must rely on others and are willing to listen and learn.

* * *

Like us on Facebook for additional leadership and personal development ideas.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 04:58 PM
| TrackBacks (0) | Leadership Development

12.12.13

Could the Leadership Contract Help You Be a Better Leader?

It is no longer surprising to hear of another leader letting us down. They’re disconnected, they behave badly (if not disgracefully), and they are entrenched in wrong thinking. And we have begun to expect not much else. It numbs us generally, but it also lowers the expectations we have of ourselves. We become bystanders.

Leadership Contract
In The Leadership Contract, author Vince Molinaro thinks that this is due to four primary reasons. First, we have relied on the heroic model of leadership—the idea that the leader at the top of the organization has all the answers and can single-handedly lead the way. “It is risky to put your faith in just one individual. And when you focus on only one leader at the top, you actually take your attention away from other leaders in an organization.”

Second, we have glorified charismatic leaders. We turn them into celebrities. They become the face of the organization. We give them too much money and power. Charisma isn’t bad. “All leaders need a certain amount of it, but charisma can have a bad side too.” When leaders think that they can act any way they want without any accountability, we glorify jerks.

Third, we have promoted technical superstars into leadership roles. “The thinking was that if you were strong technically, you would obviously be strong in a management or leadership role.” The problem is that they are entirely different activities and expectations began to move you further away from what made you a strong performer. “To cope, you then relegated the people issues to second place and focused on the more stimulating technical parts of your job. Then you became a leader in title but not in action.”

Finally, Molinaro says that we have a quick-fix view to developing leaders. “We have been too simplistic about what it really takes to develop leaders.” Leadership is hard work. “We need to come to terms with the real, hard work required to be consistently great at the practice of leadership and to drive the sustainable performance of our organizations.”

Molinaro believes the way out is the leadership contract and its four terms:

1. Leadership is a Decision—Make It
Leadership begins with a decision to “consciously commit to being the best leader you can be.” Otherwise you are just going through the motions. Your organization needs you to be at your best. This means of course, that you have to have the humility to accept the fact that you could get better.

2. Leadership is an Obligation—Step Up
Your decision to lead places new demands on you. “If you try to be a leader without considering your obligations to the people around you, you won’t be focused on your organization’s larger goals. You will be thinking about how to advance your own career instead of how to build long-term success. You will make it about you rather than the obligations you have to others.”

3. Leadership is Hard Work—Get Tough
You can’t be a bystander. You have to set the pace. “If you try to be a leader without digging into the hard work, you won’t be prepared for crises. You will be drowning in day-to-day deadlines instead of focusing on where your organization needs to go next. You will find yourself floundering when issues come up on your team because you haven’t taken the time to build a collaborative culture. You will leave serious gaps in your team’s capabilities because you haven’t bothered to tackle the tough issues.”

4. Leadership is Community—Connect
You can’t be disconnected as a leader. You must build strong relationships and commit to building a community of leaders and it all begins with a commitment to connect. “If you try to lead without connecting with other leaders, you will isolate yourself. You will be focusing on your own narrow little world instead of collaborating with peers from across your organization and your community. You will find yourself blindsided by problems you didn’t expect because you didn’t connect with anyone who could have helped you prepare. You will end up overstressed and overwhelmed because you didn’t have anyone supporting you.”

Is it time for you to sign the leadership contract?

* * *

Like us on Facebook for additional leadership and personal development ideas.

* * *



Posted by Michael McKinney at 11:20 PM
| TrackBacks (0) | Leadership Development

11.28.13

Adversaries into Allies

Leadership
Adversaries into Allies is Leadership 101. Every leader that aspires to be a good leader should read Bob Burg’s book on influence. “Unless you are able to influence the way others think and act, your chances for success in any aspect of your life are limited.”

Leadership is intentional influence. Burg calls it Ultimate Influence or “the ability to get the results you want from others while making them feel genuinely good about themselves, about the process, and about you.” He adds, “Consciously shifting your focus away from yourself is about the very best way you can ever influence another.”

This is a guidebook to emotional intelligence and should be read from cover to cover. It’s the little things we forget. But here’s a caution: You can’t fake this stuff … for long. These ideas need to be practiced until they become part of who you are. If they are just tools to get what you want, people will know it and it won’t work for you.

Influence becomes manipulation when it is about you. “Manipulation aims at control, not cooperation. A manipulator will play on your negative emotions in order to elicit your compliance.” As leaders, we need to keep our motives in check.

Burg presents what leadership looks like when it isn’t about you; when the focus is others. While the title states that this book is about turning adversaries into allies, Burg points out that the job of leaders is to “make sure that a potentially difficult person doesn’t become an adversary in the first place.” Our ego often creates these situations.

Ultimate Influence is based on five key principles that occur on an ongoing basis:

1. Control your own emotions. When we have our emotions under control we are able to “act out of thought, out of consciousness, and help create a situation in which everyone involved can come away as winners.”
Your default setting to pressure situations is directly proportional to your ability to problem solve, to live in the solution, and to lead.
2. Understand the clash of belief systems. Learn to get out of your own head and into the head of the person you’re trying to influence.
Not only is it our responsibility to be certain our message is understood by the recipient, it’s just as important to be sure we understand their message, as well.
3. Acknowledge their ego. When dealing with others, remember that “their ego is highly sensitive, and if you want someone to agree with your wishes, you must handle it with extreme caution and care.”
Be a judge, not a lawyer. Whereas a lawyer is paid to win the case for his or her client by any legal and ethical means possible, a judge is not. A judge needs to understand both sides of the issue and be as impartial as possible. Human that we are, being impartial is difficult when the ego wants to win at all costs—even if you’re wrong. But the best way to overcome this unproductive desire is to practice being a judge.
4. Set the proper frame. The frame—the context—determines the direction of every interpersonal transaction. If you set the frame you are in control.
Expecting someone to be helpful doesn’t change them, it changes you. And that is what changes them.

The key point in all this is humility, which often leads to effective communication. When we are truly desirous of the truth and not just in winning an argument, people understand our intent and much quicker to accept our position.

Avoid negative framing. [“I don’t like what you do or how you do it.”] It’s interesting how often I hear someone begin a conversation in a way that’s almost guaranteed to upset the person whom they, for whatever reason, want or need to win over. Instead, ask yourself what you can do at this very moment to set the person at ease and make them as receptive as possible to you and your message.
5. Communicate with tact and empathy. “Tact is the ability to say something in a way that makes the other person feel less threatened or defensive and more open to you and your ideas.” It’s key to becoming an Ultimate Influencer. Empathy—the ability to identify with another’s feelings—and tact go hand-in-hand. “You will naturally display tact when you are truly empathetic to another’s situation. And speaking tactfully will communicate your empathy to that person.”
[Give people an out.] You have honored this person by removing pressure and giving him or her the option to escape through the back door. You are not giving them the out so they will take it. Your goal is to make them feel comfortable enough not to feel the need to take it.

Sometimes the most influential thing we can ever do is listen. Just listen.
Burg ends with character. “Even more important that what you say and what you do is who you are.” Your character is what ultimately determines your long-term influence. Be who you say you are. Say little and do much.
Develop a reputation as a person who, rather than talking a good game, actually plays a good game. One who, instead of talking about being honest, is honest. Instead of talking about thinking of others, thinks of others.
These ideas aren’t rocket science, but they do take work and thought. The problem is we get lazy and resort to command-and-control in a desire to push our own agenda and ideas. Real leadership—ultimate influence—is not easy but it is rewarding.

* * *

Like us on Facebook for additional leadership and personal development ideas.

* * *



Posted by Michael McKinney at 12:25 PM
| TrackBacks (0) | Leadership Development

10.28.13

5 Leadership Lessons: The Heart of Leadership


5 Leadership Lessons

“Leaders are different,” begins Mark Miller’s The Heart of Leadership. “They see the world differently and they cultivate different character traits.” It’s a business fable that explains that “you can have impeccable character—be honest, loyal, dependable, and so on—and still not demonstrate leadership character.” Leadership character sits on top of these traits and are foundational. Leaders who don’t possess these traits and others like them, are disqualified before they start.

Skills are important, but “if you don’t demonstrate leadership character, your skills and your results will be discounted, if not dismissed. The Heart of Leadership is a well told story and is built around five lessons:

1  Think Others First. To think others first is not primarily about what you do—it is about how you think. It’s all about what’s in your heart. How can I Serve this person? What does a win look like for him or her?

2  Expect the Best. Many people in the world see events as they are; leaders are different in that they see things that could be. And the future they see is always a better version of the present. We believe we can make a difference; we think we can make the world, or at least our part of it, better. Leaders are generally more optimistic than non-leaders.

3  Respond With Courage. Practice taking action. As you go through your day, ask yourself what action would be appropriate here? Your missed opportunities are often no big deal in isolation. They are, however, cumulative.

4  Hunger for Wisdom. A hunger for wisdom fueled by a commitment to lifelong learning will equip you for whatever lies ahead. Be open to input, new ideas, contrarian opinions, and views. Establish a network of counselors to call on for their advice and wisdom.

5  Accept Responsibility. Assume responsibility for your actions and the action of those you lead. It is about being accountable for actions and outcomes—yours and others. Leaders accept responsibility, in part, because they are sold out to the vision. It matters more than they do.

The key issue though is discussed at the end of the story. If these qualities don’t become part of who you are, your leadership will never really change. Our leadership reflects who we are inside. You can fake it for a while, but eventually it will come out. “If you do all those activities and your heart doesn’t change, you won’t be the kind of leader you want to be. Leadership is not about what you do nearly as much as it’s about who you are becoming—the heart of leadership is a matter of the heart.”

Quote 
Heart of Leadership
The Heart of Leadership explains in a very practical way—because it is a business fable—the crucial element of sustainable leadership: leadership character. Miller also explains that it can’t be something you put on, but something you must make a part of your thinking and approach to life—that is to say, who you are.

* * *

Like us on Facebook for additional leadership and personal development ideas.

* * *



Posted by Michael McKinney at 12:01 AM
| TrackBacks (0) | Leadership Development

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.

Like us on Facebook for additional leadership and personal development ideas.

* * *



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

08.28.13

7 Metaphors for Leadership Transformation

Leadership Transformed
Peter Fuda introduces in Leadership Transformed, seven interdependent metaphors to explain and accelerate leadership transformation in leaders at any level.

The seven metaphors help you to get a grasp on the concepts and issues involved in leadership development. Leadership development doesn’t happen in parts. These interdependent metaphors emphasize the holistic nature of leadership development. They are:

1. FIRE: The motivational forces that initiate and sustain transformation efforts; including a burning platform and burning ambition, as well as personal and organizational reasons for change. Fire is at the center of the seven metaphors because if the why isn’t there, the other factors are just going through the motion. Fuda emphasizes burning ambition—fire from within—as the only motivation that sustains. You may change out of fear—burning platform—and it may provide the initial spark, but it burns briefly.

2. SNOWBALL: A virtuous snowball of accountability that propels the change effort forward; starting with the leader, and building momentum as others are "swept up" in the journey.

Building momentum is contingent upon getting a critical mass of leaders on the journey—perhaps even replacing those who are not committed to growth. Uncommitted leaders only cause drag on the snowball by not living the agreed standards of behavior.

3. MASTER CHEF: Artful application of the "leadership science" (frameworks, tools and strategies), which enable a leader to advance from amateur cook to "master" chef.

Pioneering French chef Marcel Boulestin once said “cooking is not chemistry, it’s an art. It requires instinct and taste rather than exact measurements”. Similarly, transformation is accelerated when leaders work fluidly within a recipe (change frameworks), and artfully deploy their utensils (tools) and cooking methods (strategies). Leaders should become less rigid and more intuitive over time. This requires that a leader develop critical thinking skills and a deep understanding of where they are going and what leadership is. Otherwise they become tied to formulas and rote practices.

4. COACH: A team of consultant(s), colleagues and supporters that collectively coach a leader toward their aspirations.

It’s not about coaching. It’s about being coached from a variety of sources—consultants, colleagues, and family members. We can learn from anyone. Coaching is most powerful when all groups identify mutually beneficial outcomes from the leader’s transformation, and create a trusting environment for that coaching to take place. Hunter S. Thompson said, “He who is taught only by himself has a fool for a master.”

Fuda Leadership 5. MASK: This metaphor has two aspects: the concealment of perceived imperfections, and the adoption of an identity that is misaligned with a leader’s authentic self, values or aspirations.

The mask is a heavy burden to carry. It creates inner conflict with a leader’s deeply held values and aspirations, and can negatively impact on important relationships. When leaders drop their mask in favor of being their "authentic self," the power this unleashes is atomic in scale; they get more done, build more trust, have far more enriching interactions and feel more fulfilled.

6. MOVIE: Processes for increasing self-awareness and reflection, which allow a leader to "edit" their performance, and direct a "movie" in line with their leadership vision.

Often leaders find themselves acting in a repetitive movie—their own version of Groundhog Day, doing the same thing day after day with the same result. By stepping out of the movie and viewing the footage objectively in the editing suite, leaders can hone their reflective capacity, and eventually, learn how to slow down their movie. From this place of stillness, leaders can begin to direct their own movie and choose a better response—in real time. A good metaphor for understanding purposeful leadership.

7. RUSSIAN DOLLS: A complimentary set of journeys that interact with a leader’s personal journey of transformation.

A leader’s personal journey never exists in isolation; it is surrounded by multiple other journeys occurring concurrently. When the journeys are aligned, something magical can happen. Conversely, whenever one doll tries to pull in a different direction, its proximity to the other dolls ensures that it doesn’t get very far.

* * *

Like us on Facebook for additional leadership and personal development ideas.

* * *



Posted by Michael McKinney at 09:45 PM
| TrackBacks (0) | Leadership Development

08.02.13

Are You Losing Inside the Box?

If you're losing inside the box, don't bother trying to compete outside the box. If you don't have the basics in place or more to the point, if you aren't excelling at the basics, then no one cares about your uniqueness or your wow factor.

Joe Calloway is one of those people that cuts through the clutter and gets to the core issue. His book Be the Best at What Matters Most is full of that—what matters most. He makes a point that is important on a number of levels.

For businesses, the wow factor is nice but what is more important is to "deliver on your promise every time, with every customer, with amazing consistency." He adds, "You want to constantly innovate and improve for one purpose: to win inside the box. By 'inside the box,' I mean those things that matter most to the marketplace. These are the basic expectations of your customers."

Calloway says that we should take another look at the basics of our business and be sure that we are hitting 10 on a scale of 1 to 10 inside the box before we start thinking about how we can surprise our customers. "The battle is won and lost inside the box."

Regarding the random acts of wow that we hear about from time to time, Calloway says that they are wonderful and we should do them. "But that's not where you'll win or lose the game. Don't think that some once-a-year special thing that you do ever takes the place of consistently being the best at what matters most. Put your energy, effort, and focus into doing a really, really great job on the basics and into consistency of performance. That determines how you treat your customers."

This is great material and it also applies in terms of your leadership. Are you losing inside the box?

It's tempting to try to put on the showier aspects of leadership and ignore the hard won aspects of trust, communication and character. We want the choicest assignments and the most visible trappings of leadership. It's nice to be the superhero. But great leadership is won and lost inside the box. Are you generous with information? Are you respectful? Do you listen? Do you communicate? Do you take the time to build others? Do you set a proper example? Can you follow when necessary? Can you set your ego aside? Are you accountable? Do you understand that it's not about you?

It's fun to be spectacular and to be seen. You may be very competent, charismatic, and eloquent, but if you are not getting the basics right, then you're a liability, not an asset. Leader's derail quickly when they make it about them; when the organization exists to serve them and their agenda.

I've seen more than a few leaders derail because they forgot to develop and sustain one or two of the basic practices of good leadership inside the box. They looked good on the outside but it was the day-to-day that they struggled with and never addressed.

The real work of leadership is often the unsung, behind-the-scenes work of serving others that must be done on a daily basis. It may not give us that temporary ego boost, but it is the most rewarding work and has the biggest payoff in the long run.

So, the real question is, are we working to improve the basics on a daily basis? Are we hitting 10 on a scale of 1 to 10 inside the box?

Quote 
Calloway
If you want to know what you should be doing as opposed to what you want to be doing, read Be the Best at What Matters Most. Joe Calloway's insights are down-to-earth and practical. They will get results. His prescriptions are not quick fixes, but habits to build based on sound principles.

* * *

Like us on Facebook for additional leadership and personal development ideas.

* * *



Posted by Michael McKinney at 07:48 AM
| TrackBacks (0) | Leadership Development

06.26.13

Seven Disciplines that Make Leadership Development Stick

Leadership Sustainability
Leaders don't always finish well or finish what they start. Leadership sustainability isn't easy. Given the fact that we all know leaders that haven't finished well, it's surprising how many of us have no plan in place to consciously and specifically improve our leadership abilities. Most of the time we wing it.

Leadership sustainability is about the commitment to change and growth that is consistent with shifting requirements, not just individually but for the organization as a whole. In Leadership Sustainability, authors Dave Ulrich and Norm Smallwood have defined seven leadership practices that instill sustainability. It begins with "recognition that what matters most is the impact of the leader's actions on others—not just the actions themselves or the rationale behind them." Yet that's not something that we often feel we have time to consider. Our leadership is experienced in our actions and not our intentions.

In brief, the seven disciplines to incorporate into your leadership plan to help make your best intentions stick are:

Simplicity. Focus on what matters most. Tells stories with impact. Leadership sustainability requires that we find simplicity in the face of complexity and replace concept clutter with simple resolve. It entails prioritizing on the behaviors that matter most.

Time. Manage your calendar to reflect your priorities. Put desired behaviors into your calendar. Employees see what leaders do more than listen to what they say. Leadership sustainability shows up in who we spend time with, what issues we spend time on, where we spend our time, and how we spend our time. Recognize routines and modify as necessary.

Accountability. Take personal responsibility for doing what you say you will do and hold others accountable as well. "We see too many leadership points of view that are more rhetorical than resolve, more aspiration than action, and more hopeful than real. Leadership wish lists need to be replaced with leadership vows." Be consistent with personal values and brand.

Resources. Leaders dedicate resources in order to support their desired changes with coaching and infrastructure. Use a coach. Get coaching and institutional support to become a better leader. "Leaders acting alone, even with great desire and good intentions, are unlikely to sustain their desired changes."

Tracking. Move from general to specific measures. Measure what's important and not what's easy. Tie to consequences. Unless desired leadership behaviors and changes are operationalized, quantified, and tracked, they are nice to do, but not likely to be done.

Melioration. Leadership sustainability requires that leaders master the principles of learning: to experiment frequently, to reflect always, to become resilient, to face failure, to not be calloused to success, and to improvise continually.

Emotion. Know why you lead. Connect change with personal and organizational values. Recognize your impact on others. Celebrate success. "Some leaders work to hide their feelings and avoid becoming too personal with others. These leaders end up distancing and isolating themselves. Leaders who are emotionally vulnerable and transparent will be more likely to sustain change."

The authors have provided videos, tools and assessments on their web site to help you to achieve leadership sustainability.

Quote 
Leadership Sustainability is about how to make your leadership development efforts stick.

* * *

Like us on Facebook for additional leadership and personal development ideas.

* * *



Posted by Michael McKinney at 11:05 PM
| TrackBacks (0) | Human Resources , Leadership Development

05.07.13

11 Ground Rules that Leaders Ought to Know

Leadership
Phillip Van Hooser has condensed his leadership experience down to 11 ground rules that Leaders Ought to Know.

Van Hooser begins with the fact that leaders are made: Leadership is a choice, reinforced by individual effort. In his earlier days, he was moved by a comment that Deming wrote in Out of the Crisis:
Long-term commitment to new learning and new philosophy is required of any management that seeks transformation. The timid and the fainthearted, and the people that expect quick results, are doomed to disappointment.
His choice to be a leader has proven to be his most important professional decision. And it could be yours too. But as Deming noted it takes deliberate work and is not a quick transformation. It is the choice to make the effort that makes a leader.

The choice can be made by anyone anywhere because leadership is not a title. It is, as he states in ground rule 2, the ability to offer service and the willingness to take action—especially on those things we already know we should be doing, but aren't.

He continues with ground rules on earning respect, integrity, motivation, preventive leadership, courage, leadership pitfalls, and some good commonsense.

Ground Rule 3: Leaders cannot function in a vacuum; Leadership requires willing and able followers.
Ground Rule 4: Leaders don't plan to be disrespected; Leaders practice universal principles than earn respect.
Ground Rule 5: Leaders don't play loose with the truth; Leaders lead from a position of unquestioned honesty.
Ground Rule 6: Leaders don't motivate followers; Leaders search for the wants and needs that motivate followers.
Ground Rule 7: Leaders can't predict followers' behavior; Leaders need to know why people do what they do.
Ground Rule 8: Leaders don't overreact to problems; Leaders prevent problems before they materialize.
Ground Rule 9: Leaders aren't fearless; Leaders face their fears courageously.
Ground Rule 10: Leaders' wounds shouldn't be self-inflicted; Leaders flourish when serious errors of judgment are avoided.
Ground Rule 11: Leaders don't always need to plow new ground; Leaders can watch, listen, and learn from the success of others.

Van Hooser on keeping your distance: You can be a supervisor or manager without getting close to your followers; however, you cannot be a leader unless you get close to your followers.

Van Hooser was given this advice on parenting: "You may not always be able to predict what your child will do, or say, or think. But you're the father; your child must always be able to predict with certainty what you will do, or say, or think. That way, he can adapt and adjust his behavior to yours." He relates it to leadership: A leader's consistency provides a predictive foundation from which followers can begin to think, decide, and act. If a leader does not establish that foundation, he or she—albeit unintentionally—creates confusion, uncertainty, and potentially chaos in the followers' minds.

* * *

Like us on Facebook for additional leadership and personal development ideas.

* * *



Posted by Michael McKinney at 08:21 PM
| TrackBacks (0) | Leadership Development

03.27.13

5 Leadership Lessons: Avoiding the "Mediocre Me" Mindset

5 Leadership Lessons
If you wonder if you should step up and lead, this book is for you. Mediocre Me by Brigadier General John Michel is a challenge to think differently about your role in the world. “Instead of the term leader being synonymous with someone who strives to use their influence to build value into their surroundings,” writes Michel, “it is more likely we associate it with someone doing whatever it takes just to keep the routine going.” Here are five more thoughts from Brigadier General John Michel:

1  Mediocrity is simply a choice we make every day. If we feel like we’re running in place, there is a good chance we are tolerating things we shouldn’t be. The question before us all then is, are we willing to resist settling and risk pursuing excellence as our preferred way of being in the world? If so, then know this. They only way to break out of this rut is to commit to writing a new, more empowering personal leadership story of our own. One which affirms that the only way we can expect to spur transformation in our surroundings is to first do the work to begin a transformation in ourselves.

2  Think differently about your potential in the world.
Act boldly in shaping outcomes in our spheres of influence.
Become the best version of yourself possible by exercising the creativity of thought, diversity of perspective, and depth of conviction to do what we can, when we can, where we can to try and make our part of the world a little better tomorrow than we found it today.

3  Risk taking is the willingness to be different where different can get things moving in a new, more empowering direction. Scientists tell us there are two forms of regret. One, regret of inaction, is based on what we fail to do when action is warranted. The other, regret of action, is the result of what we have chosen to do. When people look across their lives as a whole, it’s the inaction regrets we remember most. More than five times as much, in fact.

4  To embrace responsibility means cultivating and protecting those things you are immediately accountable for in your surroundings. Responsibility makes no accommodation for mediocrity, nor should it. After all, mediocrity detests having to account for its own actions. It prefers to act on its own terms when it’s practical, convenient, or comfortable.

5  Exercising self-control, defined as the ability to look outside oneself in a way that balances a healthy self-denial with a deep seated commitment to live up to a particular standard, is what guards us from making irrational or impulsive choices that contribute to our unwittingly falling prey to adopting a favorable bias toward self. An unchecked ego can quickly get the better of us, distorting our perspective of who we are, what we are capable of, and of the role others play in both our success and failure.

* * *

Like us on Facebook for additional leadership and personal development ideas.

* * *



Posted by Michael McKinney at 11:12 PM
| TrackBacks (0) | Leadership Development

03.18.13

Fred 2.0 – Leadership in Action

You are no doubt familiar with Fred, first introduced to us in The Fred Factor by Mark Sanborn. Fred exemplified an attitude of exceptional service delivered consistently with creativity and passion in a way that values other people.

Leadership
Now Fred 2.0 brings us fresh insights, deeper understanding and wider application of the Fred Principles—and an update on the life of the real Fred Shea.

Fred 2.0 is about a specific way of approaching life and business. It’s an attitude that extends far beyond customer service. It comes from within and says I will do extraordinary things because that’s who I am. It’s not a feeling—it’s who you are. It is not dependent on the performance of anyone else.

Why Would You Live this Way?

Sanborn says it’s because being a Fred enriches others, expands you, puts more life into your living, breaks the bonds of self-absorption, makes you more employable, offers you a better way to live, creates a positive influence, and is more fun.

“Creativity is an essential ingredient in delivering extraordinary results,” writes Sanborn. Being creative is doing something different that adds value. More often than not, it’s the little things we notice that can be done better. This applies not only to the “things” we do, but also to our relationships; how we respond and interact to those around us.

Sanborn shows very specifically how to build better relationships, elevate the experience for those we come into contact with, how to build a team of Freds and how to instill the Fred approach in your kids philosophy of life.

The Fred Philosophy is Good Leadership

The Fred philosophy is ultimately what good leadership is all about. It’s a battle against mediocrity says Sanborn.
The first job of leadership is to help people see their significance. Leaders recognize that those who feel insignificant rarely make significant contributions. An effective leader is able to show people that they are significant in ways they may not realize.
The Fred philosophy means:

• Leading by example
• Starting with what’s right instead of what’s wrong
• Encouraging people to try
• Asking for and sharing good ideas
• Removing barriers and obstacles
• Being a champion of those around you
• Giving people the freedom they need
• Teaching the Fred philosophy consistently
• Recognizing and rewarding
• Make the process enjoyable

“It’s our choice whether we’ll use our time, effort, and talents to turn ordinary work into something extraordinary.” writes Sanborn. It begins as always, with integrity. If you value it, those around you will too.

Fred 2.0 will show you the thinking behind extraordinary leadership and apply it in every area of your life. “When you know what is important to you in your life and work, you should apportion your talents and efforts so you can give the best you have to those things.” Love what you do and love the people you do it with.

Quote 
Fred 2.0 makes a significant contribution to focusing our minds on what leadership is all about. By living it and sharing it you can build a team of Freds in your organization, community and family.

* * *

SPECIAL OFFER: Visit Mark Sanborn's Fred 2.0 web site now to learn more and gain instant access to a Fred 2.0 “EXTRAordinary Results” Resource Kit, free with purchase of Fred 2.0.

* * *

Like us on Facebook for additional leadership and personal development ideas.

* * *



Posted by Michael McKinney at 05:17 PM
| TrackBacks (0) | General Business , Human Resources , Leadership Development , Personal Development

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.)

Quote 
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.

* * *

Like us on Facebook for additional leadership and personal development ideas.

* * *



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

01.10.13

The Secret to Leadership Growth

The number one way leaders grow is by listening.

Listen
Leadership feels like a talking role, but it is predominately a listening role. That can be hard to accept. It feels counterintuitive. A leadership role often makes us feel like we should be talking all the time; like we’re the most important person in the room. We’re not.

Listening takes us outside our own heads. It gives us a chance to see things from a different perspective. It creates options. It creates the space for serendipity.

Listening takes us beyond our egos. Without it we begin to miss very elementary things. When we miss elementary things we crash and burn in a self-made morass of complexity. Listening clarifies.

Listening renews and refreshes. Without it we get stuck and tedious.

When we help others grow, we grow. Leaders guide people and then listen. Listening is the best way to turn someone from a victim (of your talk) to a supporter of your idea. Listening gives others the chance to take ownership.

Listening is the catalyst for making individuals a community.

Listening creates the space for leadership.

* * *

Like us on Facebook for additional leadership and personal development ideas.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 09:53 AM
| TrackBacks (0) | Communication , Creativity & Innovation , Leadership Development

12.12.12

The Leader’s Pocket Guide

Leadership
What I like most about the work of John Baldoni is that it is very practical. His advice is relatable, practical, and gets to the core of the issue. In article after article, book after book, he hits the nail on the head.

The Leader’s Pocket Guide is the next best thing to having John as your own personal coach. He shares the lessons he’s learned coaching others. Without a doubt, it’s a handy reference guide when you’re stuck, but if you use this book like a leadership development program, you can pull out its real value.
“When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.”
—Victor Frankel
Leadership development is not easy. Facing yourself as a leader is the most difficult part. Appropriately, he begins with “How to Know Yourself Better.” Leaders continually need to compare where they are developmentally to where they want to be. It’s critically important to their growth. John suggests that we ask ourselves and others three questions: What more do I need to be doing more or less of? What else should I be doing—what should I be asking others to do? and How do I accept feedback?

Inside you will find 100 more ideas related to leading yourself, leading others and leading an organization. Each leadership essay is clear and to the point. Reflection questions are asked throughout the book that you can take advantage of. As you read each topic, ask if you are where you want to be on that topic. And importantly, ask others for feedback because how you are perceived gives you a more accurate view of your leadership effectiveness than your intentions.

The Leader’s Pocket Guide is a useful book for both new and seasoned leaders.

Of Related Interest:
  Lead With Purpose
  Lead Your Boss
  Lead By Example

* * *

Like us on Facebook for additional leadership and personal development ideas.

* * *



Posted by Michael McKinney at 08:47 PM
| TrackBacks (0) | Leadership Development

12.03.12

The Character Based Leader

Charisma: helpful
Competence: important
Character: Priceless

The greatest threat to any leader comes not from without, but from within. It is who we are, more than anything else, that will derail us. The traits we so value in great leaders is a matter of character. And it is through this character that our leadership is manifested. It creates the space in which we lead.

Good leadership rests upon good character.

Character
It’s not by chance then that Mike Henry Sr., founder of the Lead Change Group, has gathered together twenty leadership experts to write The Character Based Leader about the importance of and the need for character and the challenge of leading from it.

They hope, through the pages of this book, to inspire leaders to look inside themselves so that they might lead beyond themselves in the service of others. They define character-based leadership as leading from who you are rather than from power or position.

These twenty-one dedicated experts—Tara Alemany, Chad Balthrop, Meghan M. Biro, S. Max Brown, Page Cole, Heather Coleman – Voss, Deborah Costello, Monica Diaz, Sonia DiMaulo, Georgia Feiste, Chery Gegelman, Christina Haxton, Mike Henry Sr., Will Lukang, Susan Mazza, Jennifer Miller, Jane Perdue, Lisa Petrilli, Dan Rockwell, Mary Schaefer, and Dan Shapiro—cover topics such as humility, communication, service, passion, discipline, trust, leading from our strengths, the power of character, and how we demonstrate good character every day.

The Character Based Leader is both instructional and inspirational. It’s a good book to read chapter by chapter and reflect on the implications in your own life. The message is on-target and the best place to begin any leadership development program. It’s a call to make the choice to develop yourself so that you can lead with greater influence for the benefit of others.

* * *

Like us on Facebook for additional leadership and personal development ideas.

* * *



Posted by Michael McKinney at 09:33 PM
| TrackBacks (0) | Leadership Development

11.19.12

Does This Doorframe Make My Head Look Big?

Failure
Failure is not an option. And we learn a lot if we take the time to learn from our mistakes. But gain much more when we can learn from the mistakes of others before we find ourselves confronted with the same issues.

The Wisdom of Failure by Laurance Weinzimmer and Jim McConoughey, examines the lessons learned by studying thousands of executives in hundreds of companies. They have discovered three areas where aspiring leaders fail:

Unbalanced Orchestration (leadership failures at the organizational level)
  1. Trying to be all things to all people
  2. Being in business you have no business being in
  3. Entrenched in efficiency: forgetting to put effectiveness first
Drama Management (leadership failures at the team level)
  1. Leaders who rule by bullying
  2. Problems with dysfunctional harmony—when you want consensus too badly, you miss out on valuable debate
  3. Distracted purpose
Personality Issues (leadership failures at the individual level)
  1. Hoarding power and responsibility
  2. The Destructive path of disengagement
  3. Problems of Self-absorbed leaders
The authors report that the final lesson, “Does this doorframe make my head look big?” is the most damning mistake a leader can make. The mistake of self-absorption. It’s not surprising since it is the antithesis of a good leader.

The goal of the self-absorbed leader “isn’t necessarily status, position, or promotion. Rather, their goal is to have things work out the way they think they should work, because, well, they are the greatest.” This is an easy mindset to slip into. And unfortunately, it is almost impossible for a self-absorbed leader to recognize that they are just that. They need outside help, but when confronted, they are sure that the observation is of course, wrong.

Underneath is all, self-absorption is “rooted in low self-esteem and a feeling of insecurity, as well as a profound discomfort with or disregard for what others bring to the table.” It is marked by “talking big, a sense of entitlement, a sense of infallibility, a lack of empathy for others, an intense desire to win at all costs, one-upmanship, a know-it-all attitude, and an inability to listen.”

Michael Bryant, CEO of Centra Health explained it this way: “A good leader is like a coach of a basketball team. It is not important for the leader to score the points. It is important for his team to score the points. It’s not rocket science! So the one key to being an egoless leader is to understand the paradox….Self-absorbed leaders never get the paradox.”

* * *

Like us on Facebook for additional leadership and personal development ideas.

* * *



Posted by Michael McKinney at 10:55 PM
| TrackBacks (0) | Leadership Development , Personal Development

11.12.12

The Eight Pillars of Trust

Leadership
The Trust Edge explains how you and your organization can become trusted. A lack of trust is your biggest expense. It is the currency of business and life.

Author David Horsager, explains that trust is tangible, learnable, and measureable. Trust is a confident belief in someone or something to do what is right, deliver what is promised, and to be the same every time in spite of circumstances.

Horsager identifies twelve barriers to trust: conflict of interest, threat of litigation, lack of loyalty, increasing examples of others untrustworthiness, threat of exposure, lack of control over technology, fear of the unknown, negative experiences, individualism, differences between people, desire for instant gratification, and a focus on the negative.

The eight pillars of trust form the framework for learning to build trust and overcoming the twelve barriers. These all take time and are not quick fixes for any trust issue. Trust is built over time.

Clarity. Clarity starts with honesty. People trust the clear and distrust the vague. Communicate clearly and frequently.

Compassion. Think beyond yourself. There are four keys ways we show we care: listen, show appreciation, be engaged, and serve others.

Character. Have high morals and be consistent in your thoughts, words, and actions. Always ask, “Am I doing the right thing?”

Competency. Humility is the first step in learning. Create a regular plan for staying competent and capable.

Commitment. Great leadership demands sacrifice. The people who stick with you when things are tough are the ones you can really trust.

Connection. Trust is about relationships. In every interaction we increase or decrease trust. Be genuine, be grateful and avoid gossip.

Contribution. You must deliver results to be trusted. Give attention, resources, time, opportunity, and help.

Consistency. Probably the most important pillar of all as it gives meaning to all of the other pillars. You will never get one big chance to be trusted in your life; you will get thousands of small ones. Just one inconsistency can change people’s perspective.

Horsager notes that in this flat world, because we can connect with so many, we have a hard time cultivating depth. Trust at its best is deep, making it difficult to gain the trust edge. In response we need to be even more intentional about developing the pillars of trust on a global level finding common ground and showing ourselves to be trustworthy.

Quote 
Trust begins with individuals. The Trust Edge is a practical guide to intentionally building trust.

* * *

Like us on Facebook for additional leadership and personal development ideas.

* * *



Posted by Michael McKinney at 11:57 PM
| TrackBacks (0) | Leadership Development

08.14.12

Triple Crown Leadership

Leadership
With far too much failed leadership on display, leaders should commit to building a different brand of leadership—Triple Crown Leadership, say authors Bob and Gregg Vanourek. Triple Crown leaders have the goal of building and sustaining organizations that are excellent (high performance), ethical (do the right thing), and enduring (stand the test of time). As with the Triple Crown in thoroughbred horseracing, it is an epic quest that is audacious but not impossible.

Triple Crown leaders integrate five practices that build excellent, ethical, and enduring organizations:

Seek “head and heart.” The first step is putting together a triple crown team. Typically we look for people with the right “head” skills (experience, education, expertise), but they must have the intangible “heart” qualities (character, integrity, courage).

Post “colors.” An organization’s “colors” are its purpose, values, and vision. Leaders must engage all in developing the colors through a collaborative process, thereby increasing ownership and buy-in. People are free to act as long as they do so in accordance with the colors.

Flex between “steel and velvet.” Triple Crown leaders cannot remain stuck in their normal style of leadership. They lead by flexing between the hard and soft edges of leadership, sometimes in command, other times willingly soliciting and following the leadership of others. If your actions are consistent with the colors—purpose, values, and vision—you will not appear inconsistent in your approach.

Unleash “stewards.” Stewardship is everyone’s responsibility. It’s not empowerment handed down from the top but a culture where the freedom to act is expected as long as they act in accordance with the shared values and vision of the organization. It’s automatic. “Triple Crown leadership ebbs and flows dynamically from person to person—up, down, and around—depending on the person’s knowledge, skills, passion, and the nature and urgency of the challenge at hand.” (Look on pages 114 to 123 for lists of specific ideas on how boards, CEOs, managers, and people without authority can become Triple Crown stewards.)

“Align.” Alignment builds trust. Alignment speeds up the process. Alignment should be collaborative, start where you are and cascade, and be flexible. It requires some finesse to get people on the same page while protecting the innovative mavericks and creating the conditions for operating in a state of flow.
There is a big difference between completing an alignment exercise at a one-shot retreat and actually creating an aligned organization, between having a purpose statement and being purpose driven, between having values and upholding them when the pressure is on, between saying you are vying for the triple crown and actually aligning the enterprise to achieve it.
The five triple crown leadership practices are related and mutually reinforcing. Building excellent, ethical, and enduring organizations requires a commitment from many people over many years and the view that leaders exist at all levels.

* * *

Like us on Facebook for additional leadership and personal development ideas.

* * *



Posted by Michael McKinney at 10:31 PM
| TrackBacks (0) | Human Resources , Leadership Development

07.27.12

The Titleless Leader

Leading without a title is about taking personal responsibility. We—the world—is in desperate need of people who will choose to lead whenever and wherever they can. In The Titleless Leader, Nan Russell describes where we are:
Everything isn’t alright in our workplaces. People are frustrated, angry, disillusioned, tired, and afraid. Not to mention skeptical, cynical, and distrustful. And those plaques touting people as the most important asset should be taken down. They’re a hypocritical reminder of last century’s failed promise. Not everywhere, of course, but in far too many organizations.
But we have a choice.
We can continue the de-motivating spiral of self-indulgent, unaligned leaders, or we can decide to create tomorrow’s workplaces through a new kind of leadership. It’s the kind that doesn’t come with a title. It’s not determined by rank, responsibilities, or position. No one needs to appoint you, promote you, or nominate you. You decide.
What Russell is talking about here is a different kind of leadership that starts with what all good leadership begins with: self-discipline. It is taking responsibility for the outcomes in your area. It’s setting an example of behaviors that are aligned with values.

Leadership
For Russell, titleless leadership is based on four cornerstones:

Self-Alignment: Behavioral integrity. People remember what you are.

Possibility Seeds: Encourages and nurtures others. Titleless leaders plant possibility seeds “not because there’s a mentoring- or succession-planning program, but because they’re operating with a better together approach.”

Soul Courage: Step-up and offer your best self. Push outside your comfort zone to do the right thing.

and Winning Philosophies: It’s only when we’re all winning that we truly all win. Focus on group wins and not the politics of individual wins.

The Titleless Leader is a handbook of behaviors and thinking to help you lead from where you are. Certainly, they’re not easy and require some change in perspective, but they will create more meaning and value in your workplace and more importantly, in your life.

* * *

Like us on Facebook for additional leadership and personal development ideas.

* * *



Posted by Michael McKinney at 06:58 PM
| TrackBacks (0) | Human Resources , Leadership Development , Personal Development

07.25.12

If It's Important, Be There

In Contented Cows Still Give Better Milk, authors Bill Catlette and Richard Hadden make the point that organizations with contented employees understand that one of the most fundamental precepts in the whole workplace arena is that “the person who started for them this morning is as close to a ‘model employee’ as they’re ever going to get.” So the best companies do something about it. They are fanatical about training people not only with skills they need, but they also carefully train them in the organization’s traditions, values, and philosophies.

But this is the part (too) many leaders just don’t get:

“People want to know that the training course they’re taking the time to sit through is as important to senior management as it is supposed to be to them.” How do you communicate that? “This often requires senior management to ride along with them—not in their own condensed mini-versions, but alongside everyone else.”

Catlette and Hadden go on to say, “There should be no executive parking spaces when it comes to training. Managers must participate enthusiastically and, more important, be able to demonstrate the skills they expect everyone else to learn.”

The message is clear. If it’s important to you, it will be important to them. It’s quite common to hear, “If this is so important, where are they?” Without the visible support of the leadership, commitment to the training is compromised. Leaders need to visibly communicate: “This is important—so important that I went through it before you did. I’m using it, and now I want and expect you to do the same. That’s why I’m here."

* * *

Like us on Facebook for additional leadership and personal development ideas.

* * *



Posted by Michael McKinney at 11:49 PM
| TrackBacks (0) | Education , General Business , Human Resources , Leadership Development

07.11.12

Having an Informed Faith

Whether developing an organization or (especially) an individual, having an informed faith is essential. We value seeing things as they are—seeing reality. But potential is as much as part of reality as cold hard facts. Being able to see where an organization or an individual could go is vital for any leader.

The authors of Higher Ambition put it this way: it’s the “ability to envision and believe in a company’s potential and to understand, within an environment often characterized by confusion, crisis, and underperformance, the real possibilities of success.”

This is even harder to do when applying this idea to developing people. It’s easier to give up on people than to take the time to help them over their hurdles.

To see what is and to see what could be. The combination is essential for leadership. They add, “On the one hand, these executives see the reality with clarity. This keeps them from being easily deluded or distracted, builds the confidence and trust of those around them that they ‘get it,’ and motivates them to make difficult decisions about which activities to pursue and which to jettison, as well as which people to retain and which to encourage into other endeavors. But they also see the potential with real excitement and enthusiasm.

“As Roger Dickhout, co-founder and CEO of Pineridge Group, put it: ‘It’s believing in the potential of what you want to be, as opposed to describing what you are. That intention attracts opportunities to you.’”

Make potential part of your reality.

* * *

Like us on Facebook for additional leadership and personal development ideas.

* * *



Posted by Michael McKinney at 07:26 AM
| TrackBacks (0) | General Business , Leadership Development

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

Quote 
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?

* * *

Like us on Facebook for additional leadership and personal development ideas.

* * *



Posted by Michael McKinney at 03:19 PM
| TrackBacks (1) | Followership , Government , Leaders , Leadership , Leadership Development

05.21.12

The Twelve Absolutes of Leadership

Twelve Absolutes of Leadership
Gary Burnison considers leadership to be a privilege. Most people like the idea of leadership but few count the cost. He says, “To lead is to be all in, transparent and accessible, calm in the face of upset and even crisis, and always mindful that you are a steward of something bigger than yourself.” That’s not easy. To whom much is given much is required. That’s the part that easily trips us up.

His book, The Twelve Absolutes of Leadership offers insight from his lifetime in leadership, interacting with some of the world's top leaders in the C-suite and boardrooms, as well as heads of state. He offers a framework based on fundamental human truths and the essential elements of leadership. The “Absolutes” are building blocks that must be present regardless of your leadership style or approach. Here are the 12 Absolutes with Burnison’s thoughts on each:
  1. Lead. Anchor yourself in Humility. Leadership is an all-in proposition. Never react; instead ask yourself: is this about me or about we? If it’s the former, forget it and rise above.
  2. Purpose. The why. Purpose must have a long shadow, extending its influence over others.
  3. Strategy. Strategy starts with the results of today. Strategy, rooted in values and purpose, gives encouragement through times of ambiguity and uncertainty. Strategy without purpose and values is a short-term plan that is directed toward shallow goals.
  4. Twelve Absolutes
  5. People. When you.re the leader, it’s never about you, but it starts with you. The leader can’t be the star player, scoring all the points. (Although many try to do just that.) Set high expectations for your team members, and help them to see what they can achieve.
  6. Measure. Don’t rely on what you believe to be true. Measure and monitor so you know if it’s true. Validate your data. Walk around. Talk to people. Listen. Look into their eyes and see for yourself whether the strategy is really working.
  7. Empower. The leader’s job is not to empower people, but rather to help them to empower themselves. It’s the difference between ordering people to do something and inspiring them to see what they can do.
  8. Reward. Employees work harder for leaders who demonstrate respect for their work. Authentic, purposeful praise is a power skill of the successful leader—everywhere.
  9. Anticipate. As a leader, you must always have your focus on the horizon. Your first task is to hone your view of the present that you perceive around you and your organization. Grounded in this reality, you are able to raise your sights toward the horizon and beyond.
  10. Navigate. Anticipation and navigation are complementary skills. It involves making decisions in real time that allow you to adjust, react, and outmaneuver the competition—always on the lookout for the unexpected.
  11. Communicate. Communication is where leadership lives and breathes. That means more listening than talking. It’s not merely telling people what you think and what you know. It is a process in which you seek first to understand what others think.
  12. Listen. Listen, learn, and then lead—in that order.
  13. Learn. Knowledge is what you know. Wisdom is acknowledging what you don’t know. Surround yourself with a handful of people who will be your corrective lens, making sure that you focus and learn. Equally important, your inner circle should be made up of confidants who provide grounding and perspective, seeing you as a person rather than a function.
Burnison reminds us that leadership is about people. “To lead,” he writes, “is to make an emotional connection on a very real and human level in every interaction.”

Related Interest:
  No Fear of Failure

* * *

Like us on Facebook for additional leadership and personal development ideas.

* * *



Posted by Michael McKinney at 05:47 PM
| TrackBacks (0) | Leadership Development

05.16.12

Real Leaders Don’t Boss

Real Leaders Don’t Boss
Ritch Eich says that Real Leaders Don’t Boss. “Real leaders are rare in today’s fast-moving, financially driven world. In their place are fast-track wannabes and imposters, intent on instant gratification in the form of quick (and unsustainable) bottom-line results.”

As Eich observes, there are far too many bosses and not enough leaders. Bosses who are too narrowly focused, see employees as tools, are respecters of position, controls rather than empowers, and sets expectations for others that they wouldn’t wish on themselves.

Eich identifies and then dedicates a chapter to each of eight essentials of effective leadership:
  1. Real leaders don’t boss. They are calm in their style, yet have zero tolerance for bullies, who, in any capacity, undermine performance and morale.
  2. Real leaders have a central compass. They aspire to do what’s right and be a part of something bigger than themselves.
  3. Real leaders communicate with clarity, honesty, and directness, and know how to listen.
  4. Real leaders have a unique make-up. Their passion translates into a strong corporate culture.
  5. Real leaders value and support everyone they lead, out front as well as behind the scenes.
  6. Real leaders know when to get out of the way.
  7. Real leaders are accessible. They are humble and easily approached.
  8. Real leaders know the difference between character and integrity, and why it takes both to succeed.
These eight essentials are about treating people right. They also reflect an extended range of responses to people and situations that “bosses” either don’t possess or exercise.

“Real” leaders inspire others to lead wherever they find themselves in the organization. They help them to find meaning in their own lives.

Leadership isn’t something you are born with, it is something that is thoughtfully developed throughout life. Eich notes, “Most real leaders aren’t born with some innate ability transforming them into magnets that attract others to follow them. They may have expectations placed on them to rise above their present situation or environment; they may even have an inborn strong desire to serve others and accomplish something unique. In most cases, however, leadership skills are developed and honed in the battlefield of life, where leaders discover their drive, passion, and wisdom.” It is these opportunities to rise above our present situation and environment that we should be seeking out and providing for our children—the next generation of leaders.

* * *

Like us on Facebook for additional leadership and personal development ideas.

* * *



Posted by Michael McKinney at 12:14 PM
| TrackBacks (0) | Leadership Development

04.02.12

A Leader’s Most Dangerous Thought

I deserve
“I deserve.”

Leadership is demanding. It takes a personal toll and if we are not careful, we can begin to make it about us. It’s not a difficult position to rationalize.

The problem with “I deserve” is that it changes our perspective. We see our contribution as more important than anyone else’s contribution. It creates a lack of proportion.

It leads to a wrong motivation for leadership: leadership as a means to better get what we want. We see this all the time—the hypocrisy of leadership—seeking positions of power while denying the real nature of leadership. Service. And it is why we have seen far too many leaders derail.

“I deserve” thinking threatens our ability to lead. It diminishes our influence because it takes us out of the community; out of the narrative. We no longer lead for the cause but only as a means to serve ourselves. Side effects include distrust, cynicism, the wrong kind competition and isolated thinking. Good leadership creates connections and avoids points of disconnect.

The opposite of “I deserve” isn’t denying ourselves. We must take care of our needs in the same way we take of the needs of others or we will not be able to properly serve others.

The antidote is remembering that leadership is not a position but a role. It’s a gift and it is temporary. It’s channeling all that we are for the benefit of others.

Leadership is something we live, for others.

* * *

Like us on Facebook for additional leadership and personal development ideas.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 10:00 PM
| TrackBacks (0) | Leadership Development

03.07.12

8 Essential Principles of Effective Leadership

Leadership
Gayle Beebe has written a book on how effective and moral leaders develop and more importantly, how they must continue to develop. Too often leaders think they have made it and stop working on themselves. Eventually they become leaders in title only. He writes in The Shaping of an Effective Leader:
Our understanding of leadership does not come to us all at once. It takes time. In our instant-oriented culture we often want to short-circuit the thinking, reflecting and acting that mark our progressive development as leaders. Understanding how leaders develop and why they matter requires discernment, wisdom and insight.
Leadership development is a process. Seeking instant results and ladder-climbing can leave us little to show for our efforts. Some leaders “penchant for moving on has allowed them to avoid facing the consequences of their decisions” thereby restricting their development. “They have changed responsibility so often that they have failed to undergo the development that comes from facing mistakes.” Then too, some leaders are so busy “fixing problems” with personnel changes that they never really face the core issue—themselves.

Beebe draws heavily on Peter Drucker’s teachings and writings. The implementation of these eight principles will have a profound impact on your leadership:

The Necessity of Character. “The formation of our character creates predictability to our leadership. Predictability, dependability and consistency: these three qualities ensure that our leadership is reliable and motivates people to place their confidence in us.”

The Importance of Competence. “Drucker emphasized the importance of a liberal arts education, which he believed was the best training for learning how to synthesize discrete pieces of information into a meaningful whole….All knowledge must be brought to bear on our challenges.”

The Advantage of Team Chemistry. Generosity builds teams. Greed destroys them. “Eventually it leads to a lack of respect for the needs and ambitions of others because our own needs and ambitions overrun all normal boundaries and expectations….It is made manifest by an excessive need for acclaim, attention or compensation. It also is evident in an inability to share the limelight. Malice and thoughtlessness are twin manifestations of this same inner drive.”

The Interplay of Culture and Context. Cultures shape people. “An appropriate structure (culture) is the one best suited to maximize the performance of our people.” In addition, “culture is also shaped and influenced by the environmental context in which it exists….One of the biggest mistakes a company can make...is when it operates on the basis of what it prefers and how it believes a society should function, rather than how the society actually operates.”

The Strength of Compatibility and Coherence. “We have to know ourselves well enough and understand ourselves deeply enough to enter into the kind of human communities that will sustain us.”

The Guidance of Convictions. “An individual must balance a strong self-understanding and self-esteem with the necessity of confronting all issues both objectively and subjectively….A self-differentiated leader is one who has a head (intellectual capacity) from which he speaks with conviction while having a heart (empathetic capacity) with which he stays connected to people.”

The Significance of Maintaining Our Connections. “Remaining connected to our work associates even when we make hard decisions is only possible if we maintain personal integrity, display competence, create team chemistry, develop a great culture, retain a level of compatibility that motivates, and display a level of conviction and predictability that people trust.”

The Opportunity to Make an Ultimate Contribution. The ultimate contribution is in our quest for meaning. “Work, meaningful as it may be, can lose its appeal….Drucker advocated developing a second interest long before we exhaust our first interest. This parallel career becomes not only our lifeblood for meaningful work and service opportunities in the future, but also a source of great support if we were to experience major setbacks in the present.”

Beebe writes, “These principles do not operate separately from one another. Indeed, they build on each other, and their effect is cumulative.” These eight principles will improve our contribution as leaders if we are mindful of them on a daily basis throughout the rest of our lives. At each level our character is tested and developed. Effective leadership is built on moral authority grounded in character. Leadership is a privilege that we earn every day.

* * *

Like us on Facebook for additional leadership and personal development ideas.

* * *



Posted by Michael McKinney at 10:36 PM
| TrackBacks (0) | Leadership Development , Personal Development

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.
* * *

Like us on Facebook for additional leadership and personal development ideas.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 04:08 PM
| TrackBacks (0) | Leaders , Leadership , Leadership Development , Management

01.16.12

12 Reasons You Will Be a Better Leader this Year

12 Reasons Better Leader
1. Because you are generous with information. You know it enables and values others.

2. Because you eschew the trappings of power. You respect your position too much to let yourself become self-absorbed and disconnected from those you serve.

3. Because you know leadership isn’t about how well you are appreciated, but it’s about endlessly showing your appreciation of others. Leadership isn’t about how you feel, but how you make others feel.

4. Because you are honored to lead, you genuinely respect and care for the people you serve.

5. Because you avoid the trivial and stay focused on your core values and the vision they enable. You will always pay attention to what matters most and you communicate it tirelessly and with clarity.

6. Because you are driven to produce and are accountable for it and expect the same from others.

7. Because you take time to reflect to keep yourself aligned and to continually evaluate your impact.

8. Because you exercise. You know that regular exercise not only makes you feel better physically and it has a profound impact on your cognitive abilities and mental health.

9. Because you are curious, you are committed to being a lifelong learner and building a learning culture within your team and organization. You won’t rely on what worked for you in the past.

10. Because you are humble enough to know that you don’t have all the answers and it doesn’t have to be your way and it is in fact, unhealthy for you to insist on it.

11. Because you are committed to building others greater than yourself. You are validated not by your own knowledge and accomplishments but by those you help succeed. You are passionate about and energized by the people you serve.

12. Because you know that you are setting an example for others to follow. Everything you do matters. You know it’s not about you.

* * *

Like us on Facebook for additional leadership and personal development ideas.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 12:02 AM
| TrackBacks (0) | Leadership Development

12.07.11

True North Groups

True North Groups
You can’t do it alone. We often try to, imagining that we can see and know the things we need to know without the discerning eye of a outside point of view. Bill George and Doug Baker remind us in True North Groups that, “We need people around us to whom we can look for support and advice, who can help us develop as human beings. We need them to help us become better leaders in our work, our communities, and our families.”

It’s easy to get off track. “Most of us know what our True North is, but we are constantly pressured from external sources to deviate from it. Or we are seduced by extrinsic rewards like money, power, and recognition that cause us to detour from our True North.”

A True North Group is comprised of six to eight trusted peers who meet on a regular basis to discuss the important questions of their lives and to support each other during difficult times. At various times, each person in the group will serve as a mentor or coach to others.

True North Groups are not just about having a place to go to help you with your challenges. Done well, a group will encourage you to make the necessary course corrections that will help you to avoid the avoidable problems we all can get ourselves into. Save us from ourselves so to speak. It’s also a place to share successes.

At stake is our own vulnerability. Even if we are afraid of the idea, it’s not difficult to see the value in it. George and Baker have been doing this for decades and share the nuts and bolts of creating your own group. It begins with picking the right people and that may not include your close friends. It’s based on trust and a commitment to personal growth. The authors list the following characteristics of ideal group members:
  • Curiosity about themselves, others and the world
  • Willingness to challenge assumptions about life
  • Comfort with self-reflection
  • Commitment to continuing personal growth
  • Respect for themselves and others
  • Ability to listen without judgment
  • Ability to hold confidences
  • Willingness to be open and share their life stories
  • Not self-absorbed
  • Ability to commit time and energy to the group
  • A sense of humor and a positive outlook on life is always helpful.
Next steps include, Norming (establishing how the group functions), Storming (behaviors that may impede your group), Performing (maintaining and renewing your group) and Reforming (the need to restructure and start again).

The appendix provides topics for discussion to get your group going and thinking in the right direction. You’ll also find Member Contracts, Ground Rules and other valuable resources for your own True North Group.

Quote 
Trying to develop yourself as a leader on your own is risky. True North Groups are a way to grow as a human being and as a leader in an environment of trust, confidentiality, intimacy, affirmation, support and honest feedback.

* * *

Like us on Facebook for additional leadership and personal development ideas.

* * *



Posted by Michael McKinney at 02:27 PM
| TrackBacks (1) | Human Resources , Leadership Development

11.14.11

Do You Have Moral Overconfidence?

In a recent Bloomberg Businessweek article, Harvard Business School Dean, Nitin Nohria stated that because we all suffer from “moral overconfidence,” the most important thing business schools could be teaching is humility. He writes:
Many people view “character” as an immutable trait formed during childhood and adolescence. I believe character development is similar to the development of knowledge or wisdom—it’s a lifelong process. The world isn’t neatly divided into good people and bad people. Most will behave well or poorly, depending on the context….Business leaders need to remember that most of us have too much confidence in our strength of character.
Nohria is exactly correct. Good leadership is humble leadership. Humility is living in truth. The truth about our limitations and an understanding of our proper relationship with others. And do we share with each other a moral overconfidence—a certain naiveté about ourselves that carries with it the seeds of our own destruction.

Humility gives us a better understanding of how we are to treat each other. Without it we operate from only one perspective—our own. This kills influence. As leaders, we are to work with people, not over them. It is far too tempting to think hierarchically and not relationally.

In Leading Without Power, Max De Pree says that “Leaders belong to their followers.” Too many leaders try to create a buffer between themselves and their followers, when instead, they need to be leading from among their followers. A humble leader will close the gap between themselves and others.

Humility manifests itself in understanding the need to learn. Authority disciplined by humility is teachable. It is arrogant to think that once we have the position or a title, we’ve arrived. We never arrive. It is merely an opportunity to learn from another perspective. If you stop learning, you stop leading. It’s something we need to stay on top of because if we don’t, life has a way of bringing us up short in an effort to get us to wake-up and start learning. Leadership has a way of revealing our weaknesses.

* * *

Like us on Facebook for additional leadership and personal development ideas.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 04:07 PM
| TrackBacks (0) | Human Resources , Leadership Development , Personal Development

11.07.11

3 Self-Limiting Mindsets that Will Hold You Back at Work

Leading Forum
This is a guest post by Joel Garfinkle, author of Getting Ahead: Three Steps to Take Your Career to the Next Level. Garfinkle asks, “What makes one person more successful than another?” Getting Ahead is a straightforward guide to help you eliminate your blind spots to improve how you are perceived, increase your visibility and exert your influence. Great material.

The workplace has enough challenges and obstacles without us getting in our own way. But too often, we sabotage ourselves. Whether it’s internal forces that cause us to sell ourselves short or it’s a matter of having been conditioned not to “toot our own horn,” people have a marked tendency to avoid the limelight when in truth they belong in it. What’s more, if you’ve always been the ‘unsung hero,’ management wants to know who you are.

In my executive coaching business, I’ve worked with scores of clients over the years to help them overcome self-limiting mindsets that were holding them back in the workplace. Here are some of the most common issues:
  1. Not making an effort to be visible to management. Some of my clients were frustrated because they felt chronically underappreciated, undervalued and anonymous. “I can’t get ahead because nobody knows who I am or what I do for this company,” is a common refrain. This is a particularly severe problem where managers are “results-oriented” while paying scant attention to developing the processes and people that bring them those results.

    It’s up to you to ensure that you get credit for your accomplishments. Make a conscious effort to keep your boss apprised of the progress you are making and the projects you complete successfully. If you want to be valued and appreciated, you need to make sure management knows what you are doing and how your efforts contribute to the company’s bottom line.

  2. Believing it’s the boss’s job to manage your career. Career management is your job, not his. Don’t leave your career management up to your boss.

    You may need to take charge of your employee evaluation process yourself. To do this, first get an understanding of how the employee evaluation system works. Find out exactly what criteria or metrics your boss is using to evaluate your performance. This will probably require a sit-down session.

    Once you know how you will be evaluated, you need to prepare in advance for the evaluation. Keep careful notes on all your accomplishments for the company. Put dollar figures on them whenever possible. The more numbers, the better. Then take initiative to schedule sit-downs to discuss your progress throughout the year. Don’t rely on your manager to do it.

    Then, at least a month before your annual evaluation is due, schedule another appointment. Hand your boss an itemized list of your accomplishments for the year. Say, “Here’s a list of the things we’ve discussed over the year. I thought this would come in handy for when you write my eval.” Then let it go at that. If your manager is on the ball, though, and writes your eval way ahead of the deadline, you may need to schedule your meeting even earlier. The important thing is to take initiative and stay ahead of the curve.

    Management wants to make their star employees look good. Some of them don’t have the administrative or managerial skill set to allow them to do that, though. They get distracted and don’t know what a good, solid evaluation even looks like. Managers will appreciate that you took the time.

  3. Failure to notice the opportunities around you. Some workers limit themselves by getting so focused on their immediate jobs and departments that they lose sight of the big picture. One solution: Think two levels up. Make sure you know about the key issues and projects not just in your immediate department, but at least two levels up from you. You should also network within the company and find out who the key players are in other departments. Keep your ear to the ground to learn about new initiatives, particularly in revenue-generating endeavors or where you will have an opportunity to create substantial savings for the company.

    If your immediate boss can’t or won’t promote you, you need to have options. By exposing your talents, skills and value to leaders in other departments, you enhance your chances of gaining a promotion. It’s not just who you know; it’s who knows you! Work hard to maximize your exposure for lateral movements and promotions.

Remember, if you don’t take credit for your own success, someone else will. That doesn’t serve your own interests. And if you think about it, it doesn’t serve the long-term interests of the company. You have a professional duty to yourself as well as your company to make sure your accomplishments are recognized and credited to you.

Leadership
Joel A. Garfinkle is recognized as one of the top 50 coaches in the U.S., having worked with many of the world's leading companies. He is the author of seven books, including Getting Ahead: Three Steps to Take Your Career to the Next Level. View his books and FREE articles at his Executive Coaching Services website. You can also subscribe to his Executive Leadership newsletter and receive the FREE e-book, 40 Proven Strategies to Get Promoted Now!”

Posted by Michael McKinney at 10:11 AM
| TrackBacks (0) | Human Resources , Leadership Development , Leading Forum , Personal Development

11.04.11

If You Will Lead ... Well

Leadership
If You Will Lead by Doug Moran, is a good book for reading chapter by chapter and stopping to reflect on each one. Based on Kipling’s poem “If–,” Moran has created the “If” Sixteen Leadership Framework to help us answer four important questions:

1. Who am I, and what do I believe?
2. What do I want?
3. How will I attract and motivate others?
4. How will I earn and retrain the privilege to lead?

Combining historical lessons with examples of his contemporaries, Moran effectively communicates the sixteen attributes: character, authenticity, integrity, self-efficacy, ambition, vision, boldness, resilience, inspiration, courage, selflessness, stamina, composure, patience, enthusiasm, and accountability.

Leadership is a choice and how well you will lead is up to you. “The greatest uncertainties associated with leadership,” writes Moran, “are how we use the skills and abilities we have, how hard we work to acquire and build those we don’t, and how well we create positive change by inspiring and motivating others. We reduce the uncertainty by becoming more aware of what it takes to lead well. We reduce uncertainty further by choosing to invest and commit ourselves to our development.”

Quote 
If You Will Lead is an outstanding personal leadership development program and would make a good core resource for a sixteen week leadership program.

* * *

Like us on Facebook for additional leadership and personal development ideas.

* * *



Posted by Michael McKinney at 03:58 PM
| TrackBacks (0) | Leadership Development

10.28.11

No Fear of Failure

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* * *

Like us on Facebook for additional leadership and personal development ideas.

* * *



Posted by Michael McKinney at 09:49 AM
| TrackBacks (0) | Leaders , Leadership Development

10.26.11

It’s Not About You

Leadership
It’s Not About You by Bob Burg and John David Mann, is the story of a leader’s journey. A journey any good leader has to take.

Ben begins with an agenda. His job is to convince or if necessary, to steamroll a manufacturer of high-quality chairs to accepting a merger. Ben’s company believes it to be a good thing, but the target company is not so sure. Ben’s mindset as he starts out is: “how do I get them to do what I want them to do.”

Somewhere between getting people to understand him and slowing-down long enough to understand them, he found his answer.

Through a series of encounters with a mentor—Aunt Elle—and a lot of reflection Ben comes to understand that it is not about him. His journey causes him to reflect on five lessons:

Lesson #1: Hold the Vision. The hard part isn’t coming up with the vision, it’s holding on to the vision. “As a leader, your job is to hold fast to the big picture, to keep seeing it in your mind’s eye, with crystal clarity, where it is you are going—that place that right at this moment exists only in your mind's eye. And to keep seeing that, even when nobody else does.”

Lesson #2: Build Your People. “People have all sorts of amazing qualities and natural abilities trapped inside them. With the wood, it’s knowing how to apply the heat. With people, it’s applying your belief.” If you give people something great to live up to, they usually will. “How influential you are, comes down to your intention. What are you focused on? Your benefit, or theirs?” The more you yield, the more power you have.

Lesson #3: Do the Work. Be humble and stay grounded. Aunt Elle said, “People who achieve great things that the world will never forget, start out by accomplishing small things the world will never see.”

Lesson #4: Stand for Something. Lead from who you are. People will figure it out anyway. People need to trust your competence, but they need to trust your character more. “Competence is simply the baseline, the thing that puts you in the game. It matters, but honestly, it’s a dime a dozen.” The authors remind us that you can only lead as far as you grow. Aunt Elle says, “What you have to give, you offer least of all through what you say; in greater part through what you do; but in greatest part through who you are.”

Lesson #5: Share the Mantle. It’s not about you. “You are not their dreams, you are only the steward of those dreams. And leaders often get it backwards and start thinking they not only hold the best of others but they are the best….The moment you start thinking it’s all about you, that you’re the deal, is the moment you begin losing your capacity to positively influence others’ lives.”
Whatever great parenting looks like, it is not about the parent.
It’s Not About You is a great presentation of solid life lessons. A book to be read and passed around. Unfortunately, “it’s not about you,” is not the kind of lesson that once learned, is always remembered. If it was, fewer great leaders would finish poorly after so many years of outstanding service. This is an issue that we face over and over again, but hopefully in ever diminishing frequency and intensity as our leadership matures. This book is a great reminder of the power of the right kind of leadership; leadership that comes from an inner strength of understanding, service and outgoing concern for others.

Quote 
Sometimes the hardest thing to grasp about leadership is that it is not about you. It’s easy to make it about us. We want to do something, so naturally we push; when actually we should be pulling by considering the needs of others first. In leadership, as with so much in life, the more we give, the more we have.

* * *

Like us on Facebook for additional leadership and personal development ideas.

* * *



Posted by Michael McKinney at 09:29 PM
| TrackBacks (0) | Followership , Human Resources , Leadership Development , Personal Development

10.10.11

Maxwell's 5 Levels of Leadership

Leadership
Over 30 years ago, John Maxwell began developing the 5 Levels of Leadership. It has been presented before but never to this depth and completeness. The 5 Levels express a way to understand and organize your leadership growth.

Each of the levels build on the previous one and you can only progress to the next level once you have mastered the previous level. As you go higher it is easier to lead because your influence grows as well, as your leadership becomes more service oriented. Maxwell says it takes longer than you think to get to the top level—and many never do. At the same time, you can go down very quickly. But if you have developed the right kinds of relationships with others, they will support you through your missteps and fumbles.

As shown below, the first level is POSITION. At this level, people follow you because they have to. Your influence comes from your position. While that’s not bad—you probably got the position because of your leadership potential—you don’t want to stay here. Leadership is about relationships and leaders will make it their business to develop them.

The second level is PERMISSION. People follow you because they want to. Permission is about building relationships. It focuses on the value of each person and opens up communication. Connecting with others begins with connecting with and growing yourself. Understanding that the first person I must get along with is me, the first person to cause me problems is me, the first person that must change is me, and the first person that can make a difference is me.

Level three – PRODUCTION – recognizes that relationships alone are not enough. A leader is tasked with getting things done. Production level leaders are followed because of what they have done for the organization. They get things done. Their credibility is based on their example. The ability to get results alone doesn’t make you a leader. Leaders are measured by what the entire group accomplishes and not by the individual efforts of the person in charge. Leaders develop their people into a team to get results. To get to the next level you must develop your people.

The fourth level is PEOPLE DEVELOPMENT. Leaders become great because they empower others. They develop more leaders. “Production may win games, but People Development wins championships.” People development assures that growth can be sustained. Self-centered, insecure leaders neglect this stage in their development.

Maxwell estimates that less than 1 percent of all leaders ever reach Level 5 – THE PINNACLE. Leaders at this level understand that the highest goal of leadership is to develop more leaders, not to gain followers or do work. Level 5 leaders develop Level 4 leaders. Developing leaders that can in turn develop leaders is hard work and takes a great deal of skill, focus, and a lifetime commitment. But those leaders that do create Level 5 organizations. They create opportunities that other leaders don’t. Level 5 leaders leverage their own leadership through others. People follow these leaders because of what they are and what they represent. “When you lead an organization, you can’t be focused on just fulfilling the vision or getting work done.”

5 Levels of Leadership

In addition to describing each of the Levels in detail, Maxwell shares upside and downside of each Level, how the 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership relate to each Level, an assessment to gauge your current level of leadership, and most practical, a growth guide to help you understand the mindset needed to move from one level to the next.

Quote 
If you want to make a positive impact on the world, learning to lead better will help you do it. Leadership is influence and it is a process. It is not so much the ability to wield power and authority as much as it is the ability to listen to and influence others. And that has very little to do with your position.

* * *

Like us on Facebook for additional leadership and personal development ideas.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 07:26 AM
| TrackBacks (0) | Leadership Development

09.16.11

Too Many Bosses, Too Few Leaders

Too Many Bosses
Rajeev Peshawaria says ironically, even though leadership hasn’t changed, we have Too Many Bosses, Too Few Leaders. The difference between mere bosses and leaders is that “leaders find the energy to stay on and fight, and energize others around them, while nonleaders give up.”

“Superior leadership requires incredible amounts of emotional energy—the power to stay the course despite the most formidable of obstacles.” This energy comes from discovering your purpose and values.

One of the biggest reasons we have many poor leaders is that too many of them get into leadership for the wrong reasons—personal fame, fortune or glory—or are given positions based on competence alone. Peshawaria cautions that “accepting a leadership position without carefully considering what you really want for yourself and for the people around you is a very dangerous proposition.”

Real leadership is not easy or glamorous, but before you make the decision to lead, you should ask yourself six questions:
  1. What few things are most important to me?
  2. Do I want to (a) lead a simple life rich with everyday small pleasures, (b) achieve great success in an individual endeavor, (c) lead others toward a better future, or (d) do something entirely different with my life?
  3. What results do I want to bring about?
  4. How do I want people to experience me?
  5. What values will guide my behavior?
  6. What situations cause me to feel strong emotions?
Fundamentally, the question is, “in the interest of the greater good, are you willing to put self-interest on the back burner and focus more on others’ success? That is the true essence of leading others.” If so, the next question is “How can you be most effective?”

As a leader you need to focus on what he calls brains, bones, and nerves or setting direction, execution, and organizational culture. The trick of course is staying focused on these issues and not becoming distracted with all of the work you should be delegating.

To lead, says Peshawaria, “leaders must first uncover their own sources of leadership energy—their purpose and values—then enlist a few co-leaders and align their energy toward a common purpose. Finally, the leader and her co-workers must galvanize the energy of the rest of the organization by shaping and managing the brains, bones, and nerves of the enterprise.”

In his view then, leadership development programs should help participants to become more self-aware—who they are and what they want. Peshawaria notes IMD Switzerland professor George Kohlrieser’s thought that “when development focuses too much on presenting the ‘how-to’s,’ the result is not deep enough to change the inner life of a leader.” For the most part, most leaders know enough to lead, what is often lacking is the emotional intelligence to use it appropriately.

In light of the rapidly changing world, Peshawaria raises an important question: Does it still make sense to identify a few, anoint them as high potentials, and invest disproportionately in their development? As leaders, we are not good stewards of people if we don’t give everyone a “similar development diet” and let the “cream rise to the top on its own. Peshawaria asks, “What if the world changes in ways that require a totally different type of potential in five years compared with the benchmarks used to identify today’s high potentials? What about late bloomers—those who may not show early brilliance, but might become very valuable later on? And what about the negative impact on the morale of those not chosen as high potentials? It might be time to rethink the ‘best practice’ of identifying and developing a pool of high potentials.” Amen. Then too, we also might want to rethink what it means to be a leader and stop developing functional leaders and instead develop true leaders that can lead in changing contexts. That’s an entirely different focus.

* * *

Like us on Facebook for additional leadership and personal development ideas.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 08:01 AM
| TrackBacks (0) | Leadership Development

09.07.11

The Anywhere Leader

Leadership
In an environment of uncertainty and disruption, a successful leader must become what Mike Thompson calls an Anywhere Leader.

The anywhere leader is the kind of leader who can land on their feet no matter what the setting or situation presents. Mike Thompson, author of The Anywhere Leader, says that “managers who have advanced their careers through tumultuous times are the ones who find a way to fit in, build trust, and contribute in any setting in which they are placed.”

In order to adapt to and broker positive change in any environment, the Anywhere Leader possesses three key traits:

Driven for Progress: Driven more by progress than politics. This means that they are discerning, daring and determined. Because they are driven for progress, they operate with the right and proper motives and remain determined.
To become a discerning leader, you need to immerse yourself in a constant state of evaluation…. Because these leaders never view their decisions as static, they aren’t consumed by trying to make the perfect call. They can confidently move forward, knowing that they can, and will, make adjustments as they go.
Sensationally Curious: Having an exploratory mindset. They are consummate learners, who continue to grow and improve themselves, their team, and their work. Corollary strengths include being reflective, receptive and perceptive.
Anywhere Leaders have a distinctive ability to go deep with their own personal insights—calling upon their experiences, connecting with them, and forming some pretty strong opinions from them—yet put their egos aside and be open to the opinions of others. These leaders aren’t afraid to shift their thinking. They are in pursuit of the best idea regardless of whether it comes from them or from someone else.
Vastly Resourceful: Able to get the most out of whatever you have to work with. Related strengths include being imaginative, inclusive and inventive. Because they are resourceful they never get stuck in uncertainty, but invent their way through setbacks and out of tough spots.
Leaders who can imagine are leaders who don’t get stuck.
Thompson devotes a chapter to developing each of these traits. Few have all of these traits in ample amounts but awareness creates an opportunity to develop and/or manage these qualities. Not everyone is cut out to be an Anywhere Leader, nor does everyone need to be, says Thompson. “A job for an Anywhere Leader is one that features uncertainty—the unfamiliar, the unknown, and the unpredictable nature of business.”

Thompson suggests that you structure your life so that you are accessible, wired (connected), attuned, and un-nested (MBWA) so that you are transportable or able to lead effectively, anywhere and everywhere you are.

* * *

Like us on Facebook for additional leadership and personal development ideas.

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

08.26.11

Credibility: How Leaders Gain it and Lose It

Leadership
Credibility is the foundation of leadership.

Unfortunately, many people today do not trust their leaders. “Many wonder if there are any leaders left who have the strength of character to sustain their trust,” write Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner in Credibility: How Leaders Gain it and Lose It – Why People Demand It.

While there is no single reason for it, “there is the gnawing sense in many corridors that leaders are not competent to handle the tough challenges; that they are not telling the truth; and that they are motivated more by greed and self-interest than concerns for the customer, the employees, or the country.” The time is ripe to revisit this topic.

Credibility is a wake-up call to get back to the fundamentals; to remember that leadership is about relationships. “The secret to closing the credibility gap lies in a collective willingness to get closer, to become known, and to get to know others—as human beings, not as demographic categories, psychographic profiles, voting statistics, or employee numbers.”

The process of building and sustaining credibility requires six disciplines: discover your self, appreciate constituents, affirm shared values, develop capacity, serve a purpose, and sustain hope. The authors devote a chapter to each of these issues.

Personal responsibility is key to building and restoring credibility. Personal responsibility means understanding not only your actions, but the likely consequences and attending to them. Kouzes and Posner suggest following the “Six A’s of Leadership Accountability”: accept, admit, apologize, act, amend, attend.

Leadership isn’t easy and in a constantly changing world, things like credibility and competency can seem elusive. But if we act on a daily basis, “in ways that increase people’s belief that we are honest, competent, inspiring, and forward-looking, people will be much more likely to want to follow your direction.” When leaders walk the talk, others are more likely to follow.

Some leaders think that credibility once demonstrated and earned, is complete. But it must be renewed daily in everything we do. Unfair or not, it is the life that a good leader has chosen and demonstrates the understanding that the function of leaders is to serve, not be served. Credibility is an important book to help you sustain your influence. They conclude:
Renewing credibility is a continuous human struggle and the ultimate leadership struggle. Strenuous effort is required to build and strengthen the foundations of working relationships. Constituents do not owe leaders allegiance. Leaders earn it. The gift of another’s trust and confidence is well worth the struggle and essential to meeting the challenges of leading people to places they have never been before.
* * *

Like us on Facebook

Posted by Michael McKinney at 04:46 PM
| TrackBacks (0) | Human Resources , Leadership Development

08.19.11

What to Ask the Person in the Mirror

While we might like to think otherwise, here is a fact about successful leaders:
Successful leaders go through significant periods of time in which they feel confused, discouraged, and unsure of themselves and their decisions. They feel as if they should be somewhere else, doing something else.
And unsuccessful leaders go through the same thing. The difference, says Harvard professor Robert Kaplan, is “how they deal with these periods of confusion and uncertainty. The trick lies not in avoiding these difficult periods; it lies in knowing how to step back, diagnose, regroup, and move forward.”

Leadership
This means not having all the right answers, but learning to ask the right questions. The challenge will be asking the right questions and making to the time to reflect on them. Reflecting is the key ingredient here and what many of us are short on. In his timeless book, What to Ask the Person in the Mirror, Kaplan offers seven basic types of inquiry or areas of focus—actually a system of inquiry that ties the leadership function together—that you should be looking at on a regular basis:

Vision and Priorities. In this foundational area we need to be very clear and communicate it in a way that helps others to be able to determine where to focus their own efforts. Have you developed a clear vision and have you identified three to five clear priorities to achieve that vision?

Managing Your Time. Your vision and priorities are reflected in the way you use your time. Track your time for two weeks. How does this compare to your key priorities?

Giving and Getting Feedback. Most leaders do not effectively coach their subordinates, and also fail to get the critical coaching that they themselves need in order to excel. Do you cultivate advisors who are able to confront you with criticisms that you may not want to hear?

Succession Planning and Delegation. When leaders fail to actively plan for succession, they do not delegate sufficiently and may become decision-making bottlenecks. Have you identified potential successors for your job? Why not?

Evaluation and Alignment. It is often extremely difficult as an insider to see where you and the organization have drifted out of alignment. If you had to start again, how would you do it? Would you be doing the same things? Does the design of your organization, your incentive systems, your culture, and even your approach to leading still fit the needs of the organization?

The Leader as Role Model. Many leaders fail to appreciate that their actions speak louder than their words. Self-awareness is critically important. Write down two or three key messages you believe you send with your behavior. Seek advice from key subordinates and advisors who directly observe your behavior, in order to answer this question: is there a “disconnect” between the messages you wish to send and those you are in fact sending?

Reaching Your Potential. Know and learn to manage your strengths, weaknesses, and passions, not only to bring out your best, but also to create this same environment and aspiration among your staff.

It’s not uncommon to find leaders that just stick to what they know best and not address those areas where they feel uncomfortable or insecure. All of these areas need to be reflected on as they each have an impact on the other. Taking the time to reflect is not easy and “doesn’t sound like fun, and may not sound as important as the fifty other things you have to fit into your day—but it works.” And be sure to take the time to reflect on these issues with your team as well.

With many down-to-earth examples, Kaplan will expand the range of questions you should be asking yourself. What to Ask the Person in the Mirror will help you to rethink unsustainable behaviors that are damaging to both you and your organization and help you to mature and grow in your leadership role.

* * *

Like us on Facebook

Posted by Michael McKinney at 03:57 PM
| TrackBacks (0) | Human Resources , Leadership Development , Personal Development

07.13.11

Who’s the Real Leader in Your Office?

Leading Forum
This is a guest post by Jeffrey Cohn and Jay Moran, authors of Why Are We Bad at Picking Good Leaders?

How often have you wondered who the real leader is in your office? Maybe you need to delegate a critical project, and you can’t afford to put your faith in someone who is not up to the job. Or maybe you work under several managers, and you want to make sure that you are building rapport with the one who counts. Or maybe you’d like to do some self-inventory in order to gauge how far you might rise after four or five additional years. All of these are good reasons for wondering how to accurately assess leadership potential.

Unfortunately, most people have been taught to think about this issue in all the wrong ways. As a society, we rely on some rather misguided ideas about leadership success. As a result, when it comes to leadership selection decisions, we commit some pretty big errors.

The first mistake stems from not knowing what qualities to seek in potential leaders. For decades we have been told that a charismatic personality, or Ivy-League training, or certain style, make all the difference. They don’t. None of these factors is a reliable predictor of leadership effectiveness. Other times we focus on qualities that do matter, but we don’t go far enough to seek a healthy balance. For example, we gravitate toward individuals who possess enormous passion and vision, but who lack solid character. Or we promote people with impressive courage, but who lack enough empathy to handle sticky social situations.

The second big mistake we make when trying to judge leadership potential is the use of insufficient assessment techniques. In other words, even when we know what to look for, we don’t know how to look. We rely on backward looking interview questions, or inappropriate personality tests, or letters of reference from those who simply cannot predict how a person will perform in a fundamentally new position. Even the perennial favorite among promotion criteria – prior performance – is not a good indicator of future leadership success. At best, it tells only half the story. A solid manager with ten years of experience in sales, for example, might be poorly suited for a generalist role that will require her to lead an entire division.

In our book Why Are We Bad at Picking Good Leaders? the two of us answer these crucial “what” and “how” questions. Based on more than fifteen years of experience working with premiere executive education programs and some of the best organizations in the world, we explain how to identify the very best leaders. Here are some highlights that will help you make your own determination:

Focus on the Qualities that Count. There are seven essential attributes of leadership success—integrity, empathy, emotional intelligence, vision, judgment, courage and passion. Take away just one, and a person who is called upon to lead will eventually fail. For example, former BP CEO Tony Hayward successfully climbed the corporate ladder for more than 25 years. But when the Deepwater Horizon exploded in 2010, his leadership faced a stiff challenge. In particular, he needed a strong sense of empathy to deal with an outraged public and a diverse set of competing constituents. Unfortunately, he was not up to the task. During an early interview, he claimed that the oil spill was “relatively tiny” compared with the “very big ocean,” and he consistently underestimated the extent of the leak. Obviously the spill wasn’t tiny from the vantage point of the Gulf Coast fishermen who lived nearby. Worse was the comment Hayward posted on Facebook to the effect that more than anyone else, he wanted the crisis to be over because, he said, “I want my life back.” This quip was widely seen as insensitive to the men whose lives had been lost in the explosion. President Obama responded, “He wouldn’t be working for me after any of those statements,” and although his days were probably already numbered, that was the last straw. Hayward lacked the kind of empathy that leaders need to survive.

Use the Right Assessment Techniques. Not too long ago, we met with a Fortune 500 president who was reeling from a poor hiring decision. Just six months after filling a key position, the company had to terminate its new hire and start a search all over again. When we asked the president how he and his team chose the person who was originally selected, he said: “He [the candidate who was hired] had great experience in the industry, a track record of turning around underperforming business, and already had relationships with several of our largest customers.” In addition, the company hired a search firm that conducted extensive background referencing, and all signs were positive. The candidate was results-oriented, friendly, well liked, and driven. While these findings sounded good, further investigation on our part revealed that the president fell into some classic assessment traps. The most serious mistake he made was relying on an evaluation process that was essentially backward looking. The president spent large amounts of time going over the candidate’s résumé and credentials: he asked about prior successes and failures, he asked others how the candidate performed, and so on. But this backward-looking investigation has limited predictive value when trying to determine a candidate’s likely success in a fundamentally new position. In our assessment practice, we overcome this obstacle by using a variety of different techniques, including simulations and case studies, direct observation in group settings, and specially created hypothetical scenarios that test a candidate’s leadership potential. This last technique is critical because it is forward looking. Unlike a typical interview question that asks candidates to discuss what happened in the past, these hypothetical situations present candidates with unfamiliar and challenging leadership situations. No amount of preparation or interview savvy will enable a candidate to fudge her answer or game the interview process.

For more information on how the best companies in the world find first-rate leaders, including how to order Why Are We Bad at Picking Good Leaders? visit PickingBetterLeaders.com or email the authors directly at jcohn@liag-advisors.com and jmoran@liag-advisors.com.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 05:48 PM
| TrackBacks (0) | Human Resources , Leadership Development

06.17.11

42 Rules for Your New Leadership Role

Leadership
Whether you have just been given a new leadership role, are currently in a leadership role, or have consciously decided to begin to lead from where you are, Pam Fox Rollin has created a concise guide for doing it successfully. 42 Rules for Your New Leadership Role gives you a starting point to work from to help prevent costly errors from occurring and will also aid in improving one's overall leadership experience.

In all the busyness that surrounds a new role, it’s easy to forget the essential little things that make all the difference. We easily get caught up in the activity and don’t slow down enough to think about what it is we really need to be doing. New roles bring with it new expectations and that means doing things differently than we have done them before. 42 Rules will help you to gather your thoughts and lead thoughtfully. A quick daily review will help to keep you focused on the agenda that really matters.

The book is divided into seven sections:

Set Yourself up for Success: Take charge of your start. New roles require new starts. “When brains are overloaded, people tend to rely on what they’ve done before, even when that didn’t work very well or is out of place in the new context. Ironically, this tunnel vision and rigidity is especially true of leaders who have experienced success.”

Map the Terrain: Investigate what matters. “If you’re going to deliver for someone, make it your priority to deliver up. That gives you breathing room to deliver for everyone else.” Common mistakes: Seeing smoke and running off to chase fires; Adopting other people’s agendas with insufficient data and thought; Becoming buried under the pent-up piles of tasks.

Show up Wisely: Know yourself. Use your strengths, but avoid diagnosing problems to suit your strengths—dragging the problem into your comfort zone. “If you're good at running numbers, be aware that you may frame problems quantitatively, when lack of strategic insight is at the root of the problem. Seeing problems as they really are—rather than as you are—is especially essential in your first months on the job.”

Start your Wins: You will feel the pressure to start with something dramatic. Pick smart quick wins. “The quick wins you choose will signal to others what matters to you….Bold moves in the second and third quarters of your tenure tend to accelerate your career.”

Create your Management System: Define your own processes. At the same time, “lighten up on talking about ‘your leadership style’ and think more about what you could do that would be truly useful for your team members and colleagues.” Spotlight your team and grow more leaders.

Stay Smart: Keep learning. “If you neglect to stay smart, seek feedback, and build your network, no one is likely to mention the gap. You’ll just become less valuable.”

Set You and Your Team to Thrive: “Many people can drive themselves and their teams to exceed expectations for a quarter or two. The real challenge is to build a team—and a life—that sustains high performance.”

“Extend a hand to the next round of leaders by sharing what you’ve learned.”
What rules have helped you in your leadership role?

* * *

Like us on Facebook



Posted by Michael McKinney at 06:36 PM
| TrackBacks (0) | Human Resources , Leadership Development

05.26.11

5 Leadership Lessons: Redesigning Leadership

5 Leadership Lessons

John Maeda is the president of the Rhode Island School of Design. In Redesigning Leadership, he—with co-author Becky Bermont—pulls the leadership lessons from the ups and downs of his time there. In his transition from MIT to RISD he found that the two words “free pizza” were a powerful motivator to convene large numbers of students. “Making people work together can be fairly challenging, but getting them to eat together is somehow vastly easier. A meal is often a catalyst for a conversation that can lead to a collaboration, and a meal is a natural happening to signify closure when the collaboration has been completed.”

Leadership is never easy and it is made more difficult by what I perceive is a growing sense of entitlement we all feel in our culture. It’s not all good or bad, but it is something to deal with. Redesigning Leadership is a slim book, but it is full of great thoughts like these:

1  Learning something new means finding not just a new way to see the world, but often a new way to change the world. Artists constantly seek to find new and improved means to transform ideas into reality.

2  Artists rely on their intuition much more than those who are analytically trained. Analytical people tend to take a complex problem and reduce it to its component parts in an effort to solve it step by step. Artists, however, attempt to make giant leaps to a solution, seeming to ignore all constraints. By making those leaps, they sometimes miss the solution completely. But they are not afraid to miss the target.

3  Ironically, with all the communication technologies at our disposal today, it’s still difficult to get a message across to the person sitting right next to you in a reliable fashion. The shortest communication path between two people is a straight talk.

4  In forming any team, the most basic challenge: getting folks to take the big step away from just being themselves (the thing we all know best) and joining something larger (the thing we fear may let us down).

5  Whether brought by duty or desire, once people are in the same room, they’ve assumed the basic stance of being a team—which is to be together. Preconceived negative opinions don’t evaporate, but at least negativity can mix with positivity in the room, which by electrical principles results in the neutralizing of the respective +/- charges. I now consider this the most basic concept to leading a team.
* * *

Like us on Facebook



Posted by Michael McKinney at 09:52 AM
| TrackBacks (0) | Communication , Creativity & Innovation , Five Lessons , Leadership Development

05.13.11

7 Essential Attributes for Picking Good Leaders

We complain about our leaders. So we eventually get rid of them and we move on to the next one with the hope that it will be different this time. But it’s not. And we’re back where we started.

Leadership
Jeffrey Cohn and Jay Moran ask Why Are We Bad at Picking Good Leaders? “For starters,” they write, “because selecting the right people can be very, very, hard.” It’s easy to say that if we had better choices, we would pick better leaders. But that means that we are promoting the wrong people through the system. “If the only candidates with experience are simultaneously not qualified to lead, how did they get in the running for leadership positions?” Good question.

To me, it’s obvious we are looking for the wrong things in our leaders and the right things are difficult to judge. Often the things that first attract us to a leader are not the attributes that make a good leader in the long term. “The truth is that most of us like a little bit of rock star in our leaders. We respond to their magnetism, their celebrity.” Charisma and smooth talk just aren’t enough.

From their work in succession planning and executive assessments, they have isolated seven leadership attributes that come up again and again, that provide the key to leadership success. These attributes they caution, must be viewed as a whole, because if you take even one away, you end up with someone entirely different. “If any one of these attributes is missing, a person who is called on to lead will eventually fail.”

These seven are the basic building blocks of a leader and other aspects of leadership flow from them. For example, innovation “requires the imagination to conceive of a new vision, the judgment to ensure this vision is practical and can be implemented, the empathy to anticipate how others will react to the new idea and to garner their support, and the courage to stick with a plan despite inevitable bumps in the road.” (They note that because innovation draws on so many of the seven attributes it is a rare quality among many leaders.) They are:
  1. Integrity. “Integrity is the fundamental leadership attribute….Integrity is the fundamental attribute that keeps everything else secure.” Without integrity, things break down fast. Kroger CEO Dave Dillon remarked, “Integrity allows you to assume important characteristics about how things work.” As a result it fosters trust which leads to higher productivity. (See more on this on Facebook)
  2. Empathy. Defined as a fundamental ability to tune in to others, it “is critical for leadership for many reasons. Combined with integrity, it drives trust. It gives followers a sense that their interests are being looked after, and this creates positive energy. Followers who sense that a leader appreciates them are motivated to carry out their duties in a more committed way.”
  3. Emotional Intelligence. This is self-mastery or the ability to “perceive, control, and improve the connection between what we feel and the way we act.” It’s about self-awareness. Do I know myself? Can I control myself? Do I look for ways to improve?
  4. Vision. A frequently abused term, vision starts with imagination and an inquisitive mind. “Visionary leaders are good storytellers who are capable of weaving together interesting connections.” Vision provides direction.
  5. Judgment. Good judgment is good decision making. “This sounds simple enough, but the origins of how and why people make the decisions they do are actually quite complex.” It’s the ability to zero in on what’s important, see the whole chessboard, and take decisive action.
  6. Courage. There is always conflict. “Leadership means being on the front line of those conflicts. It means facing conflicts, mediating and shaping them, sometimes at the risk of great personal cost or freedom.” How often does a fear of standing out inhibit your ability to do the right thing?
  7. Passion. A leader’s passion or drive is important because it creates positive energy. “They attract followers and act as catalysts for the formation of highly motivated teams.” High energy and enthusiasm are signs of passion but the trick is to determine where that fire comes from and is the leader in it just for themselves. There is a balance to be maintained with the other six attributes.
Each attribute is discussed in detail—with examples of leaders who have it and those who don’t—and they suggest practical ways to access their presence in potential leaders—or yourself for that matter. This exercise should help you better understand which aspects of your own leadership might be holding you back and should be addressed. This book is a valuable tool for evaluating the efficacy of your own leadership development program.

* * *

Like us on Facebook!

* * *



Posted by Michael McKinney at 04:39 PM
| TrackBacks (0) | Leadership Development

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
| TrackBacks (0) | Leadership , Leadership Development

04.22.11

5 Leadership Lessons: What You Need to Know about Developing Teen Leadership

5 Leadership Lessons
Dan Appleman has written a handbook for developing teen leadership. Based on over 20 years of real world experience, you will find ideas, techniques, examples and even sample statements to guide you. Developing Teen Leadership will not only help you develop leadership skills in yourself and others, but you will find ways to help teens help other teens on their leadership journey.

The challenge for most parents, teachers and teen advisors is first understanding what they believe about leadership. If we think leadership is telling people what to do, it is difficult to guide their understanding of what real leadership is. They learn best by example.

Appleman offers over 50 valuable thoughts that impact your effectiveness with teens. Here are just five:

1  Explore options, but leave the decision to them. As a youth advisor, it’s not your job to make things easy on the teens. On the contrary—since people learn from challenges, it is perfectly fine for you to challenge them. One of the best ways to do this is to help them see facets of problems and options that they may not have otherwise considered.

2  Listen. The fact that many teens are unwilling to talk to adults is not all, even mostly, their fault. The truth is that most adults are just terrible at listening (both to each other, and to teens and kids). So if you want to have the slightest hope of being heard, your first step is to learn how to listen effectively.

3  Don’t be the boss. When people think about leadership, they often think of authority. It’s easy to confuse the two. While exercising authority is a leadership skill, real leadership does not consist of telling people what to do. [Being bossy will get people to participate,] but that participation will usually be less than enthusiastic. The members of the group will tend to wait for instructions rather than take the initiative. And the boss will spend all their time running around, stressing out, and telling people what to do. Teaching teen leaders the difference between a leader and a boss will be an ongoing task.

Teen Leadership
4  Limits. It is a well-known cliché that kids need limits and even want limits. And setting limits is part of your role. Where most adults go wrong is not on the limit setting—it’s with what happens up until the limits are reached. There is a strong tendency to try to control the activity regardless of where the limit is, and that control goes against the development of leadership among the teens. The real challenge for you is allowing the teens to have complete control over the group as long as that limit is not reached.

5  Find ways to say yes. Teens and kids hear the word “no” all the time. It’s no wonder many stop asking. The reality is that teens are generally capable of far more than they are ever expected or allowed to do. Part of teaching leadership is to get teens to realize that they are capable of becoming leaders and accomplishing tasks. One of the best things you can do to encourage this is to, as much as possible, eliminate the word “no” from your vocabulary. Except for health and safety and rules issues, the answer should always be some variation of the word yes.
This is not a book about teens. It is a book about how we as adults relate to teens. Because the only tool we have to teach leadership skills (or anything) to teens is the control we have over our own actions. You can spend hours worrying about what the teens are doing or their attitude, but we can only control the things we do and our own attitude.
—Dan Appleman

* * *

Posted by Michael McKinney at 07:10 PM
| TrackBacks (0) | Education , Five Lessons , Leadership Development

04.12.11

From Values to Action

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* * *


* * *

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

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

03.10.11

A Case for Reconsidering the Way We’ve Always Done It

A society that doesn’t train their children to think critically, to be aware of those around them, and to serve, must create more rules and regulations than can be accounted for. There will never be enough rules—there are too many variables—especially when people begin to direct their creativity in dysfunctional ways.

The challenge is to develop sound minds. As Kant determined, a person with a sound mind is one that can think for oneself, is able to place oneself in the place and viewpoint of others, and can think consistently and coherently. But it‘s easier, in the short term, to create rules. And we pay a price.

To be sure, I am not advocating anarchy—we absolutely must have rules—and some rules unquestionably make possible the learning process, but when the rules we have in place reflect our lack of engagement, they become disrespectful and de-motivating. It’s easier to lay down the law or set up a checklist than it is to explain the why; to communicate where we’re headed with this idea. From time to time, it is good to think about the rules we have created (or have had handed down to us), that are impeding progress, relevance, imagination and growth both for ourselves and others. Here are a few thoughts to guide that process:

I am a big advocate of tradition, but when “that’s the way we’ve always done it” or “that’s how I learned to do it” gets in the way of relevance or growth, we need to take a step back and reconsider our stand. What we have done may have served us well in a particular place and time, but may only be an irritation here and now.

Rules can reveal a lack of trust. “I don’t trust you to be as smart—considerate or creative—as I am.” And they never will be if not given the chance.

As leaders, we need to be aware of where we are blanketing people with rules and procedures that do nothing more than to serve us and not the people it is our intention to serve. We need to consider that perhaps we have implemented rules to create a comfort zone for ourselves. A world where people act and think like we do. A world of clones. A world on autopilot that requires less of us.

Often our need for rules and procedures is just masking our fear of the unknown. Our attempt to manage a world that is changing faster than we are learning. No leader can do it on their own and rules are no substitute for not trusting, growing and building relationships with people. Where are we hiding behind rules?

Rules, for the most part, do not leverage other people’s strengths and thinking, they mostly mirror our own. Given the chance, people will surprise us with new, different, and better ways to push our agenda forward.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 11:43 AM
| TrackBacks (0) | Change , Creativity & Innovation , Education , Human Resources , Leadership Development , Thinking

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.

* * *

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

02.18.11

Making the Transition From Bud to Boss

Often, when we are given a formal leadership role a couple of questions come to mind: Will they take me seriously? and How can I develop the influence I need to do this job?

A promotion changes the scope of the kinds of things we have to think about. It changes the degree to which we have to regulate our behaviors, conversation and opinions. In short, it changes our relationship with everyone around us. How will we handle it? What about old friendships? They’re all watching us. It can make us feel a little anxious and insecure.

From Bud to Boss
From Bud to Boss is written for that moment. It is designed to get you pointed in the right direction and engaging in productive behaviors and thinking. Authors Kevin Eikenberry and Guy Harris have organized this book around six key areas of concern:
  • Understanding Your New Role—your ability to work with and through others becomes more important than what you can accomplish on your own
  • Change—helping people choose to change
  • Communication—communicating with others from where they are; Using the DISC (Dominance, Inducement, Steadiness, and Compliance) model to better understand others
  • Coaching—Creating balanced feedback and accountability (especially with former peers); Showing support
  • Collaboration—Learning to work with and through others; Sharing responsibility more quickly and fully; Dealing with conflict
  • Commitment to Success—Attitude and goal setting for yourself and others; Perseverance
What they offer isn’t counterintuitive, they’re just things that we forget to do or find difficult to do and so we don’t. But ignoring them affects our ability to lead. This is an action oriented book and is extensively supported by the Bud to Boss community on the Internet.

To help you get your foundation for leadership in balance, Eikenberry and Harris discuss the impact of your leadership style:
In your leadership style, you probably have a natural “lean” that is a little more toward getting things done or toward people and relationships. One major key to leadership success lies in learning to compensate for the way you lean so that you stay balanced between getting things done and building relationships.
This is a key point. You need to become more self-aware. You will be judged for results, but if you try to get those results without maintaining the respect of those around you, you will ultimately fail as a leader.

So often when we get into a position of authority we begin to think, “How can I get these people to do what I want?” The question seems innocuous enough, but the danger is that it can lead us to focus on controlling others and forget that the task of leadership is to influence others. The authors suggest turning the focus of the question around:
“How do I change my words and behaviors so that I communicate with my team more effectively?” or
“What can I do to create an environment where my team members want to do ______?”

Rephrasing the questions in this way shifts the focus away from controlling others toward controlling your own words and actions so that you can gain greater influence with them. This shift in focus helps you concentrate your energy and efforts where they have the greatest impact.

This kind of thinking places responsibility where it should rightfully be. You. They write, “Control what you can. Influence who you can.”

From Bud to Boss provides direction and tools that will allow you to take the right action and build confidence—the essential forward momentum you need to be successful.

It should go without saying, but it is said, so I’ll mention it. No book, speech or coach will ever be able to cover everything you could need to know. Because the players are all different, it isn’t possible to address everything specifically. So the trick for us, is to get the general principles down and learn to apply them. That’s really what good books, speakers and coaches try to do; give you principles and tools that you can learn to apply properly in the situations you face as they come up. That’s what From Bud to Boss does well. The rest is up to you.

* * *

Posted by Michael McKinney at 08:35 AM
| TrackBacks (0) | Human Resources , Leadership Development

02.16.11

Frances Hesselbein: To Serve is To Live

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

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

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

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

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

  Lesson about Diversity and Inclusion:

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

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

  Lesson about Developing Leaders at all Levels:

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

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

  Lesson about Respect for Others:

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

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

  Lesson in Seeing Yourself Life Size:

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

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

  Lesson on Listening:

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

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

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

* * *

Posted by Michael McKinney at 06:00 PM
| TrackBacks (0) | Leaders , Leadership Development

12.29.10

Leadership: Artistry Unleashed

The executive functions … are feeling, judgment, sense, proportion, balance, [and] appropriateness. It is a matter of art rather than science, and is aesthetic rather than logical.
—Chester Barnard, The Functions of the Executive
Leadership is an art. But what does that really mean?

Leadership can be taught in the way that art can be taught. There are techniques and principles that need to be understood. Seeds that can be planted. But ultimately it has to be practiced and experienced. There is the part that really matters, as Georges Braque observed, that can’t be explained. That is the art; the ever-changing context of leadership and the dance between leaders and followers that molds and shapes both the leader and follower. There is an art to bringing leadership teaching into the nuance of life.

Leadership practiced, is artistry unleashed.

Artistry Unleashed
Hilary Austen does a masterful job of explaining, even if indirectly, the art of leadership in Artistry Unleashed. She takes design thinking beyond the surface concerns of practical design and to the processes behind it. These are important issues for leaders as we face what Austen terms enigmatic problems: those that push us to the edge of what we know. “Our best solutions to such problems lie not just in better analytical tools but in a fundamentally different approach to our work—an approach that follows from cultivating qualitative intelligence in our given profession or medium.” Anymore quantitative approaches alone won’t work. She explains the difference:

Quantitative thinking allows us to be precise and to share understanding; we use it to define fairness and rationality and effectiveness. It’s this utility that has led so many people to equate quantitative thinking with intelligence.”

“A qualitative approach embraces the unexpected, the subtle, the open-ended, the unique, the poetic; it escapes rules, single answers, or single perspectives. These features are by their very nature hard to pin down and can be quite unnerving to people who want precise information and specific answers. The quantitative approach gives us the means to predict and control what we can measure, to record and codify what can be clearly defined, to collect sharable facts, and to identify universal rules and laws.

To be sure, Austen is not advocating one or the other. “Each has its own set of purposes, and developing one does not mean abandoning the other. Achieving artistry means being able to use qualities to help you work, when that’s what the situation demands; it doesn’t mean rejecting quantitative methods.”

We gravitate to quantitative thinking. We like things nailed down. Numbered. Labeled. Defined. It gives us some certainty. It makes us comfortable. We can check it off and move on confident that we’ve done the “right thing.” Unfortunately life is messier than that. Austen cites Ted Sorenson’s observation from his book Decision-Making in the White House: “White House decision-making is not a science but an art. It requires not calculation but judgment….Every decision a president makes involves uncertainty.”

Qualitative thinking is less about imposing an answer and more about shaping an answer from awareness of the present and feedback from the application of knowledge to it, when predetermined steps and measurable goals are absent. The present and the possible are considered at the same time so that ends and means influence each other as they occur. Austen writes, the “interdependent relationship between ends and means is a hallmark of artistic work. As your effort to solve an enigmatic problem proceeds, the ends evolve as means are generated. Likewise, as means unfold, new ends become possible; these may in turn demand new means.”

It means managing the tension between mastery and originality in search of the possible. “The forces that drive mastery are conservative. Mastery brings predictability and control to action. By contrast, originality is driven by often unpredictable responses to immediate experience. Finding originality means leaving behind some of what you know. Artistry is driven forward by the interplay of these two competing forces.”

New York University professor David Ecker’s six phases of qualitative problem solving developed from the work of John Dewey, described in Artistry Unleashed by Austen is helpful:
In the first phase, artists engage what Ecker calls the presented or initial relationship between existing qualities….Some of these relationships may be problematic, others intriguing, and so they attract the artist’s attention. Different practitioners may see different qualities and make sense of what they see differently, depending on the ideals, concepts, and sensibilities they bring to bear on the situation.

In the second phase, working with these initiating qualities and their interrelationships, artists enhance some and destroy others….They begin to imagine possible ends—what Ecker calls ends-in-view. Artists enhance, destroy, shape, and reshape initiating qualities, ultimately turning these qualities into the means they can use to reach the qualitative end-in-view they have imagined.

The third phase that Ecker identifies can be recognized because a pervasive quality eventually takes hold of the work in progress….In the fourth phase, the artist can make subsequent changes based on how they fit, or don’t fit, with this pervasive quality.

In the fifth phase, exploration and experimentation still occur, but they do so as tests of what will and will not sustain the pervasive quality….Finally in the sixth phase of Ecker’s sequence, a total quality is shaped, and the work is judged complete.
A leader’s function is to create the disequilibrium needed to go from the known to the unknown possibilities. Qualitative thinking is important to the leader because without it we can easily impose answers rather than exploring possibilities. We can too, get in our own way by overvaluing the importance of our own experience and thought and thereby limit possible outcomes.

Austen develops a Knowledge System model comprised of the interdependency of Experiential Knowledge, Conceptual Knowledge and Directional Knowledge, that can be used to help anyone develop and apply qualitative thinking. The cursory view I present here of the connection between business and art, she more fully develops in her book. The examples she gives dramatically demonstrate this important connection and essential understanding needed by leaders of every type.

Related Interest:
  5 Leadership Lessons: Artistry Unleashed

Posted by Michael McKinney at 01:21 AM
| TrackBacks (2) | Creativity & Innovation , Leadership Development , Problem Solving , Thinking

12.23.10

Managing Yourself First Checklist

Leadership Nuggets

Make sure that the first person you are managing every day is yourself. Take good care of yourself outside of work so that you can bring your best self to work every day. Arrive a little early to work and stay a little late. Focus on playing the role assigned to you before trying to reach beyond that role. Focus on doing your tasks, responsibilities, and projects very well, very fast, all day long. If you want to carry weight with your boss, that should be your primary focus. Be a problem-solver, not a complainer. Commit to continuous improvement through rigorous self-evaluation.

Think about context and figure out where you fit in every situation. Continually ask yourself, “Where do I fit in this picture? Why am I here? What is at stake for me? What is my appropriate role in relation to the other people in the group? What is my appropriate role in relation to the mission?” Concentrate on playing these roles 110 percent. Contribute your very best thoughts, words, and actions. No matter how lowly or mundane or repetitive or minor your tasks and responsibilities might seem in relation to the overall mission, play your role to the max. Attitude matters—a lot. Effort matters—a lot.

Start mastering the art of human relations. Approach every relationship by focusing on what you have to offer the other person rather than on what you might want or need. Be a model of trust. Remove your ego. Listen carefully. Empathize. Exhibit respect and kindness. Speak up and make yourself understood. Be a motivator. Celebrate the success of others.

Make yourself a great workplace citizen. Under-promise and over-deliver. Don’t bad mouth others, and try not to speak about others unless they are present. Keep your word. Keep your confidences. Be an accurate source of information. Don’t keep other people waiting. Instead of under-dressing, overdress. Practice old-fashioned good manners..

Adapted from It’s Okay to Manage Your Boss by Bruce Tulgan.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 08:13 AM
| TrackBacks (0) | Leadership Development , Personal Development

12.21.10

quickpoint: The Benefits of Hardship in Character Development

Leading Blog quickpoint Adversity and hardship contribute to character development when they cause personal reflection and introspection about a leader’s behavior and influence. Hardship can cause leaders to look inside themselves, asking questions the answers to which can result in huge learnings and behavioral adjustments. Hardship can reveal a leader’s behavioral blind spots, inconsistencies, weaknesses, personal limitations, ad ineffective or bad behaviors.

Hardship and adversity can also be cleansing. They can have a refining effect. Through suffering, the dross of one’s personality can be removed. It can cause a leader to look at personal behavioral challenges related to anger, impatience, fear, selfishness, and so on. Adversity can also produce a clearer focus and concentration on what is important in life and what is not.

There is also a maturing element to hardship. Mature means being seasoned, tested, hardened, weathered, ready, and fully developed. Thus, adversity and hardships can take each of us to a higher level of character development.

(Adapted from: Building Character: Strengthening the Heart of Good Leadership by Gene Klann)

Posted by Michael McKinney at 08:45 AM
| TrackBacks (0) | Leadership Development

12.13.10

Bury My Heart at Conference Room B

Power
In Bury My Heart at Conference Room B, Stan Slap cuts through a lot of the dancing around that occurs in many leadership discussions.

It should go without saying that emotional commitment improves organizational performance. If in doubt, Slap spells it out in the first third of the book. The way to get that emotional commitment, says Slap, is for you to live your own deepest values in your work environment. While any organization should encourage this, most often they don’t. “What companies want most from their managers is what they most stop their managers from giving. What managers want most from their jobs is what they most stop themselves from doing.” So, it’s up to you. The process of managing this tension what Bury My Heart is all about. The underlying problem is this:
Companies can’t get emotional commitment from their managers because the company believes it needs to be the dominant organism in the relationship, which causes managers to have to repress their own values—and so causes them to detach emotionally from their jobs.
Fear drives this tension: Are we going to survive as an organization if we are not in control? Slap says the only sustainable solution is leadership. “Leaders are people who live their deepest personal values without compromise” and because they do, “they’re essentially self-medicated—the pressure’s off the company to provide the deepest motivational fulfillment.” Slap insists that this isn’t licensing chaos but insuring control. Paradoxically, “there is no more reliable way for the company to become the cause than by not always insisting on being the cause.” Allow people to live their values at work.

This isn’t a self-indulgent free-for-all. “Freedom to pursue your values come with responsibility to protect the company’s values.” It becomes an issue of trust between the organization and the individual. “Your job as a manager requires achieving results through others. Leadership is the single best method to do that. As long as your vision doesn’t violate the basic objectives and principles of your organization, those results will be hard for anyone to argue with.”

Your leadership begins by understanding your own values—what is important to you—so you can sell those values to others. Beyond envisioning a “Better Place” of your creation, the people you lead have to see it too. What does life look like for them in this Better Place? Help them to get what they want as they head toward the Better Place. Slap writes:

Every leadership message is an equation that also ends only one way:
= Live better.

If they believe it, they’ll do it. Of course, not everyone you lead will have the same values as you, but if you have communicated them well, “they’ll support yours if yours have positive impact for them.”
Leadership happens to you as soon as you understand your own values and understand how to enroll others in supporting them. Instead of waiting for a leader you can believe in, try this: Become a leader you can believe in.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 11:47 PM
| TrackBacks (0) | General Business , Human Resources , Leadership Development , Motivation

11.08.10

Congratulations, You’ve Reached the Next Level

The Next Level
You’ve moved up to the next level. You’ve been promoted to the executive ranks. “You should be uncomfortable,” says Scott Eblin in The Next Level. “If you’re not, you are probably underestimating what’s ahead of you.” Statistically, many do. As high as 40% of new executives fail within the first eighteen months of being named to their positions.

New positions carry with them greater expectations even if those expectations are not clearly stated. You are left to navigate uncharted territory. The single most important thing to remember is that what got you there may not serve you well in your new position. Going to the next level says Eblin, is “about developing consciousness around what is and isn’t serving you as you take those steps. It’s about retaining what is working, staying open to picking up new skills and mind-sets, and having the courage to let go of the behaviors and beliefs that brought you this far when they no longer serve you on your journey.”

Eblin has developed an Executive Presence model that focuses on nine behaviors in three areas that a successful executive should develop on the one hand and drop on the other:

Pick Up
Let Go Of
Personal PresenceConfidence in your presenceDoubt in how you contribute
Regular renewal of your energy and perspectiveRunning flat out until you crash
Custom-fit communicationsOne-size-fits-all communications
Team PresenceTeam RelianceSelf-reliance
Defining what to doTelling how to do it
Accountability for many resultsResponsibility for a few results
Organizational PresenceLooking left, right, and diagonally as you leadPrimarily looking up and down as you lead
An outside-in view of the entire organizationAn inside-out view of your function
A big-footprint view of your roleA small-footprint view of you role


Eblin covers each of these behaviors in detail with insights, interviews, coaching tips and research. But in an important foundational chapter, he talks about grounded confidence. That is, add value but know what you are talking about. “It is critical for your success that you not dwell on thoughts and self-assessments that cause you to doubt your capacity to contribute.

There is a certain amount of insecurity that comes with any new position, but “insecure people make lousy leaders.” Insecurity causes us to behave in a lot of counterproductive ways: indecisiveness, micromanaging and control, taking undeserved credit and passing blame, lack of teachability.

Eblin says that developing strong relationships with your peers is essential to your success. “Your success in managing relationships will stem from the confidence you have in yourself and your ability to work well with others to make things happen.” This is an area where you need to move quickly.

Your new role brings with it an expectation of your involvement in a wider range of issues. This means projecting confidence in your judgment that “extends beyond functional or technical knowledge.” This means also, more listening and less talking. Being teachable. Getting feedback.

Of course, there is a lot of confidence to be gained by being prepared—being intentional. Eblin’s approach is to begin with the end in mind. You need to consistently ask yourself two questions: “What do I want to accomplish?” “How do I need to show up to accomplish that?”

Practicing new and unfamiliar behaviors can be uncomfortable and seem artificial, but executed repeatedly these behaviors will become ingrained into your character and make them your own. As Aristotle said, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.”

Feedback Tip: Ask your colleagues this question—What’s your best advice for anyone who is working on team reliance versus self-reliance (or whatever your working on)? Experience shows that it’s useful to ask the question in this format instead of asking, for example—What should I do to be better at team reliance? Asking the question in a less personal way makes it easier for your colleagues to be candid in their feedback.

The Next Level is an excellent coaching reference book that makes it an indispensable companion guide to any change in responsibility. Keep it handy and bookmark the Situations Solutions Guide that contains practical solutions to scores of situations that predictably occur in most executive careers.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 07:40 AM
| TrackBacks (0) | Human Resources , Leadership Development , Personal Development

09.24.10

It’s All About You???

Good Boss
In another fine offering from Bob Sutton—Good Boss, Bad Boss—he makes this attention grabbing statement: “To be a great boss you’ve got to think and act as if it is all about you. Your success depends on being fixated on yourself.” What?

Ironically, great leaders know that it’s all about them because it isn’t. Great leaders focus on developing themselves so they can develop others. They know themselves first so they can understand others better. They check their own ego so they can build others. They take responsibility for their own actions before they consider looking at others. They have taken an inventory of their strengths and weaknesses so that they know where they need to check themselves and where they need to partner with others. They understand their own failings so that they are more understanding of others. They are appreciative of the room they have been given to grow and make certain they create this space for others.

It’s about self-awareness. A self-aware leader is in a better position to lead others with authenticity and benevolent concern. Self-aware leaders know how they are coming across to those they lead. Sutton writes, “If you are a boss, your success depends on staying in tune with how others think, feel, and react to you.”

Sutton offers two acid tests for bosses:
  1. Do people want to work for you and would they do so again?
  2. Do people feel like you are in tune with what it feels like to work for you?
It’s all about you because it is all about them.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 05:25 PM
| TrackBacks (0) | Leadership Development , Personal Development

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

08.04.10

Are You a Hundred Percent Leader?

Research done by Leadership IQ indicates that 77% of leaders believe their employees are not giving 100%. Employees don’t seem to argue the point. 72% of employees admit that they in fact aren’t giving 100%.

If you want your employees to give 100%, you need to be the kind of leader that creates Hundred Percenters—a 100% Leader. In Hundred Percenters, Mark Murphy, CEO of Leadership IQ, says that the “two most important differentiating factors in separating exceptional from average leaders are Challenge and Connection.” Challenge is the extent to which a leader pushes his or her people. Connection is the strength of the emotional connection they build with their people. You need to decide how much you want to challenge your people and how tight an emotional bond you want to build with them.
The age-old question plaguing leaders is whether it’s better to be loved or feared. What our research seems to suggest is that while fear doesn’t lead to superior results, it’s also true that if being loved means you don’t push people, that’s not so great either. The balance seems to be that leaders should be loved, but they should be loved for pushing people to give 100%, not for coddling or appeasing them.
The degree to which you challenge and connect with your people will determine the results you get. Based on their research, Murphy has divided leaders into four basic types: Appeaser, Avoider, Intimidator and 100% Leader. With the challenges leaders face, appeasing, avoiding or intimidating can seem like necessary approaches; the path of least resistance. But they don’t produce fully engaged and accountable people. In practice, the four types are described this way:

100 percenters


Working for the Appeaser. You’re given enjoyable assignments, you’re allowed to spend most of your time on work that plays to your strengths, your boss gives you lots of positive feedback, and your boss seems to care most about making sure you’re really happy.

Working for the Intimidator. You’re given seemingly impossible assignments; you don’t feel like you’ve got all the skills you need to complete those assignments; when your boss gives you feedback, it’s usually pretty harsh and critical; and your boss seems to care most about achieving his goals no matter who’s with him at the end.

Working for the Avoider. Your boss doesn’t really force too many assignments on you, you’re not really required to learn new skills, your boss lets you figure out for yourself how you’re doing, and your boss seems to care most about not getting in your way.

Working for the 100% Leader. You’re given really challenging assignments, you’re required to learn new skills even in areas you might not consider to be your natural strengths, your boss gives you lots of constructive and positive feedback, and your boss seems to care most about pushing you to maximize every ounce of your potential.

What kind of leader are you?

Posted by Michael McKinney at 11:34 PM
| TrackBacks (0) | Human Resources , Leadership Development

08.02.10

Bootstrap Leadership: Creating a Blueprint for Your Leadership Development

Leadership
Leadership is difficult but it is not complex. The most difficult part is you and me; getting ourselves to do what we know we need to be doing; interacting with people the way we know we should, but for all kinds of “good” and easily “justifiable” reasons don’t.

The hardest person you will ever lead is yourself. Changing your personal behaviors and consequently your leadership style is not easy. It requires reflection, a vision of what should be and a plan, but it is ultimately up to you to make the changes. Bootstrap Leadership by Steve Arneson is an effort to guide you into doing just that.

One of the most important capabilities of a leader is self-awareness. That is where this book rightfully begins by asking, “How are you showing up as a leader?”

Arneson believes you need to begin with a definition of what good leadership means to you. “If you don’t know how to define the very thing you’re trying to do, how can you be successful at it?” Unfortunately, many leaders don’t know how to adequately define their role. He says that once you have created your own definition of leadership, you need to “become an evangelist for leadership” and share it with others.

To start pulling yourself up by your own bootstraps and developing a customized leadership development plan, Arneson has provided a self-assessment of 50 statements that correspond to a chapter dealing with that particular need. After determining the areas you need to work on, he recommends that you tackle one each week.

Bootstrap Leadership provides a very doable plan for improving your leadership. By looking at each of the 50 ideas, you will see areas where you can improve your weaknesses and refine and leverage your strengths. It is also valuable in helping others to develop their leadership potential. Invest these 50 ideas in yourself and others.
Resist the temptation to say: “OK, I applied a few of the techniques this year, I’m good for awhile.” Keep stretching yourself.
The best leadership advice? Become a better listener. “If you do nothing else to develop yourself, work on becoming a better listener.” It’s one of the “most effective ways to improve your leadership brand."

Posted by Michael McKinney at 11:46 PM
| TrackBacks (1) | Leadership Development

06.29.10

Multipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter

Leadership
Much of what constitutes good leadership can be summarized in two words: respect and selflessness.

How we relate to those two words will determine how we lead. Consider two assumptions that lie at the opposite ends of the spectrum:

• Really intelligent people are a rare breed and I am one of the few really smart people. People will never be able to figure things out without me. I need to have all the answers.

• Smart people are everywhere and will figure things out and get even smarter in the process. My job is to ask the right questions.

What you believe has a big impact on the performance, engagement, loyalty and the transparency you find with those you lead and interact with. In Multipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter, authors Liz Wiseman and Greg McKeown refer to those with the mindset represented by the first assumption as Diminshers and those with the mindset represented by the second assumption as Multipliers. It explains why some leaders create intelligence around them, while others diminish it.

The value of Multipliers is that is shows what these assumptions about people look like in practice and how they are reflected in your behavior. How would you approach your job differently if you believed that people are smart and can figure it out? With a Multiplier mindset, people will surprise you. They will give more. You will learn more. What kind of solutions could we generate if you could access the underutilized brainpower in the world? How much more could you accomplish?

It’s not that Diminishers don’t get things done. They do. It’s just that the people around them feel drained, overworked and underutilized. Some leaders seem to drain the “intelligence and capability out of the people around them. Their focus on their own intelligence and their resolve to be the smartest person in the room [has] a diminishing effect on everyone else. For them to look smart, other people had to end up looking dumb.” In short, Diminishers are absorbed in their own intelligence, stifle others, and deplete the organization of crucial intelligence and capability.

Multipliers get more done by leveraging (using more) of the intelligence and capabilities of the people around them. They respect others. “Multipliers are leaders who look beyond their own genius and focus their energy on extracting and extending the genius of others.” These are not “feel good” leaders. “They are tough and exacting managers who see a lot of capacity in others and want to utilize that potential to the fullest.”

The authors have identified five key behaviors or disciplines that distinguish Multipliers from Diminishers. You are not either/or but are somewhere along a continuum. These are all learned behaviors and have everything to do with how you view people. We don’t have to be great in all disciplines to be a Multiplier, but we have to be at least neutral in those disciplines we struggle with.

DIMINISHER
MULTIPLIER
The Empire BuilderHoards resources and underutilizes talentThe Talent MagnetAttracts talented people & uses them at their highest point of contribution
The TyrantCreates a tense environment that suppresses people’s thinking and capabilityThe LiberatorCreates an intense environment that requires people’s best thinking and work
The Know-It-AllGives directives that showcase how much they knowThe ChallengerDefines an opportunity that causes people to stretch
The Decision MakerMakes centralized, abrupt decisions that confuse the organizationThe Debate MakerDrives sound decisions through rigorous debate
The Micro ManagerDrives results through their personal involvementThe InvestorGives other people the ownership for results and invests in their success


They have developed an assessment tool you can use to see where you are. Importantly, the first place to begin is with your assumptions about people. If you don’t have that straight the rest is just manipulation.

As with most behaviors, we do them because we feel we have to. They are self-perpetuating. We jump in where we shouldn’t and come to the rescue. Under our “help” (domination) people hold back thereby reaffirming our belief that they just couldn’t do it without us. And they can’t or rather won’t. Instead they quit while still working for us or move on.

We see this in ourselves, in others and in organizations of all types. Leaders are especially prone to run over people, because after all, they have the vision, the know-how and the desire to get it done. We have to slow down and remember that we are not there just to get the job done, but to develop others to get the job done. They can (and need to be able to) do it without us. It’s our job to show them how.

In many ways, as leaders, we can become accidental Diminishers. The skills that got us into a position of leadership, are not the same skills we need to lead. Leadership requires a shift in our thinking. Wiseman and McKeown write, “Most of the Diminishers had grown up praised for their personal intelligence and had moved up the management ranks on account of personal—and often intellectual—merit. When they become ‘the boss,’ they assumed it was their job to be the smartest and to manage a set of ‘subordinates.’"

Here are some thoughts—out of context—from the book that will get you thinking:

“Marguerite is so capable she could do virtually any aspect of girl’s camp herself.” But what is interesting about Marguerite isn’t that she could—it is that she doesn’t. Instead, she leads like a Multiplier, invoking brilliance and dedication in the other fifty-nine leaders who make this camp a reality.

One leader had a sign on her door: “Ignore me as needed to get your job done.” She told new staff members, “Yes, there will be a few times when I get agitated because I would have done it differently, but I’ll get over it. I’d rather you trust your judgment, keep moving, and get the job done.”

The path of least resistance for most smart, driven leaders is to become a Tyrant. Even Michael said, “it’s not like it isn’t tempting to be tyrannical when you can.”

Policies—established to create order—often unintentionally keep people from thinking. At best, these policies limit intellectual range of motion as they straitjacket the thinking of the followers. At worst these systems shut down thinking entirely.

“It is just easier to hold back and let Kate do the thinking.” [They resign: “Whatever!”]

It is a small victory to create space for others to contribute. But it is a huge victory to maintain that space and resist the temptation to jump back in and consume it yourself.

An unsafe environment yields only the safest ideas.

[Multipliers] ask questions so immense that people can’t answer them based on their current knowledge or where they currently stand. To answer these questions, the organization must learn.

His greatest value was not his intelligence, but how he invested his intelligence in others.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 04:28 PM
| TrackBacks (1) | Human Resources , Leadership Development , Learning , Management , Thinking

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

04.14.10

The Little BIG Things

the little big things
In many ways leadership is about taking an oath of excellence. To a leader, excellence matters. Excellence requires “re-imagining” (to borrow a Peters’ term) your world done excellent. Leaders see things differently and this difference can be taught. Teaching excellence—one behavior at a time—is what The Little Big Things by Tom Peters, is all about.

Some of what you will read in TLBT has been presented on the Tom Peters blog over the years. But for this book, the posts have been edited, revised, organized and conveniently packaged. It’s a compilation of 163 behaviors you can put into practice to achieve excellence in any endeavor. As such, it is not meant to be read straight through. Jump in anywhere it looks interesting. The process here is: read—consider—implement—repeat.

Tom, as we’ve said here before, is good at boiling things down to basics. You’ll find opportunities to pursue excellence in basic insights that produce big results.
Courtesies of a small and trivial character are the ones which strike deepest in the grateful and appreciating heart.
—Henry Clay, American statesman (1777-1852)
Sometimes the little-big-things can seem too “soft” or beneath the demands of business. Tom explains: “Ideas like conscientiously showing appreciation are matchless signs of humanity—and the practice thereof, in my opinion, doubtless makes you a better person, a person behaving decently in a hurried and harried world….Acts of appreciation, to stick with my theme of the moment, are masterful, even peerless, ways of enthusing staff and partner and client alike, and, hence, greasing the way to rapid implementation of damn near anything. That is, ‘Soft is hard’ is wholly pragmatic—and more often than not, effectively implemented, makes the bottom line blossom!”

Excellence has to be challenged into existence. The Little Big Things does just that.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 08:00 AM
| TrackBacks (0) | General Business , Leadership Development , Management , Personal Development

03.10.10

How to Decommoditize Your Leadership

All leaders want to make a difference; be transformational. And some do and some really don’t. We’ve all known leaders that are easily replaced. And (hopefully) we’ve known some that we can’t imagine doing without.

The difference begins with the bond we create by integrating who we are with what we do. Making a difference has a lot to do with how completely we integrate what we are (our character, values and attitudes) with what we do (our competencies).

All leaders have to set direction, give orders, and display competence. But if that’s all they’re doing, they’re replaceable. What sets one leader apart from another, what makes an order compelling rather than coercive, is the kind of spirit that accompanies their actions; a commanding what-can-I-get-from-them approach or a servant what-can-I-give-them value system. But either way, what makes us take notice is their authenticity—their uniqueness. Are they being themselves or worse still, trying to be something they’re not?

It is in the visible world that our “invisible” inner world is manifested. When we integrate our whole person, we create the potential for meaning in our work, trust with those we lead, and in turn, we build our uniqueness as a leader.

In Rework, they write about building uniqueness in a business: “If you’re successful, people will try to copy what you do. It’s just a fact of life. But there’s a great way to protect yourself from copycats: Make you part of your product or service. Inject what’s unique about the way you think into what you sell. Decommoditize your product. Make it something no one else can offer.” The same is true on an individual level. You are your product. When you put more of you into the equation, you make yourself unique—even indispensable. When you add in humility, you create meaning that people can get behind.

[In Seth Godin parlance:
Indispensable + Humility = a Linchpin you can live with]

Posted by Michael McKinney at 05:25 PM
| TrackBacks (1) | Leadership Development

02.21.10

What Organizations Value in Leaders

Weekend Supplement

Bloomberg BusinessWeek.com and Hay Group have released the results of their annual survey which ranks the best companies for leadership and examines how those companies develop leaders.

Last year the quality that the Top 20 companies valued most in their leaders was execution—the ability of leaders to achieve results through others. This year, the most valued quality is strategic thinking. "This year's emphasis on strategic thinking suggests that, like an individual recovering from a personal upheaval, businesses today are taking stock: reviewing their options, rethinking their strategies, considering new opportunities and innovations." It also suggests more long-term thinking.

BWhaysurvey
BWhaysurvey
See the complete PDF summary.

"While the data suggest there is no one best way to grow leaders, the companies that do it best share certain key characteristics. The top 20 companies address leadership development on multiple fronts, from articulating how leadership behavior needs to change to meet the challenges of the future to managing their pools of successors for mission-critical roles. And, despite the chaotic, crisis-strewn atmosphere of the past year, they've continued to make leadership a top priority."


leadership blog

Posted by Michael McKinney at 09:39 AM
| TrackBacks (0) | Leadership Development , Weekend Supplement

01.28.10

What Kind of Leadership Will Work in 2010?

The Work Foundation, a British think-tank, released a reaffirming report on the principles of outstanding leadership. They concluded that outstanding leaders do three things:
  1. They think and act systemically: they see things as a whole rather than compartmentalising. They connect the parts by a guiding sense of purpose.
  2. They see people as the route to performance: they are deeply people and relationship centered rather than just people-oriented. They not only like and care about people, but have come to understand at a deep level that the capability and engagement of people is how they achieve exceptional performance.
  3. They are self-confident without being arrogant: self-awareness is one of their fundamental attributes. They are highly motivated to achieve excellence and are focused on organisational outcomes, vision and purpose. But they understand they cannot create performance themselves. Rather, they are conduits to performance through their influence on others. The key tool they have to do this is not systems and processes, but themselves and the ways they interact with and impact on those around them. This sense of self is not ego-driven. It is to serve a goal, creating a combination of humility and self-confidence. This is why they watch themselves carefully and act consistently to achieve excellence through their interactions and through their embodiment of the leadership role.
While these studies are helpful in defining what leaders need to aspire to, what is not so easy is converting these values into daily practice. In another fine article in the Financial Times by Stefan Stern, he offers the conclusions of a study by Rob Goffee and Gareth Jones. In Leaders Must Live Up to Their Promises, he writes, “Mr Goffee and Mr Jones concluded – after speaking to followers, i.e. lower-ranking employees rather than leaders – that the best leaders brought four things to their organisations: a sense of community, a sense that the work is significant, a sense of excitement (or fun), and authenticity (meaning that the personality and behaviour of the leader is consistent and credible).

“Not too many leaders can place a tick by all four of these requirements. Cynical or disillusioned leaders will just add that list to the pile of other leadership theories, which have urged them to become “servant leaders”, “coaches”, “player managers”, and so on. Meanwhile, the disillusionment and dissatisfaction of those who are led grows. And we do not seem much nearer to establishing a clearer idea of what sort of leadership will work in the cynical and confused world of 2010.”

He adds this closing anecdote:
During the British general election of 1959, the journalist Geoffrey Goodman spent the campaign following the deputy leader of the Labour party, Aneurin Bevan, around the country. He made a record of Bevan’s many memorable speeches. One quotation in particular stands out. Contemplating the world’s increasingly interlinked problems, and the leadership that was on offer to deal with them, Bevan summed up what he saw in these terms: “Smaller and smaller men, strutting across narrower and narrower stages.”

Timidity and smallness in our leaders is nothing new. It has to be exposed and challenged, generation after generation. Even while we secretly hope for powerful new leaders to emerge.
In another highlight from the Work Foundation study, they made this observation about the process of becoming an outstanding leader:
Becoming an outstanding leader is likely to depend a great deal on maturity, self-awareness and self-development within the job. Some of the outstanding leaders featured in the research did not originally have a people-focused approach, but realised the impact they were having on people and therefore adjusted their style accordingly. They arrived at this point through experience, maturity and reflection. They had a very sophisticated understanding of cause and effect and how their actions can dramatically affect outcomes.
I would suggest that “maturity, self-awareness and self-development” will help us to adjust our leadership to the context we now find ourselves working within.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 09:09 AM
| TrackBacks (0) | General Business , Leadership Development

12.14.09

Lift: How to Be a Positive Force in Any Situation

To overcome the force of gravity—that which pulls us down—we have to generate an opposing force greater than gravity. That force is lift. Any opposition to lift is called drag.

In the same way that we use the laws of physical science to lift a plane off the ground, we can use social science to lift “ourselves and others up to greater heights of achievement, integrity, learning, and love,” thereby becoming a positive force in any situation. It’s the pressures of daily living that drag us down. Instead of experiencing lift we fall back into our comfort zones, become reactive, self-centered and fatalistic.

To intentionally experience lift and to be a positive influence for others, we have to make a conscious choice.

Lift
In Lift: Becoming a Positive Force in Any Situation, authors Ryan and Robert Quinn present this fitting metaphor, to explain how we can intentionally experience lift, to rise above the constraints of everyday life and lift the people around us. “All of us have a choice: we can choose to be the kind of people who drag others down or to be the kind of people who lift…. We are relational beings. Who we are at any time depends on who the people around us are, and who they are depends on who we are.” That last sentence can’t be overemphasized. It carries with it a great deal of responsibility, especially for us as leaders.

The authors describe lift as “a psychological state in which a person is purpose-centered, internally directed, other-focused, and externally open.” What exactly are these four characteristics of lift? In a very relatable and revealing example—the parenting of a young son, Mason—the authors show how this plays out in real life. I can’t reproduce the example here, but I think from the inferences you will get the idea the authors are trying to convey. The following is paraphrased from their work:

Purpose-centered is the opposite of being comfort-centered. The desire to stay comfortable is a characteristic of a normal psychological state. My son Mason’s behaviors were comfortable for me. In my desire for comfort, what had not occurred to me was the possibility that perhaps Mason was behaving differently because of the changes that had happened recently in his life. We need to ask, “Are the results I am trying to create about me and what I am comfortable with or are they about what is best for the other person?”

Internally directed is when people experience the dignity and integrity that comes with exercising the self-control necessary to live up to the values that they expect of others. External direction, on the other hand, is a characteristic of a normal psychological state.
If Mason was building with his Legos or playing a game when I asked him to do something, I expected him to put those things aside and do it. Yet, if I was involved in an activity and Mason interrupted me, I would expect him to wait until I was done with my activity before I did what he asked. I expected him to show respect to me, but I was not doing the same for him....When people are externally directed, they let circumstances (such as the need to get Mason to clean up or go to bed) drive their behavior instead of their values (such as respect for others’ time and activities).
Other-focused is to be open to other people’s feelings and needs. We then empathize with them and feel impulses to be compassionate. When we are self-focused, we are concerned only with our own needs, feelings, and wants. We see other people as objects that either help us or impede us in our goals. In my case, Mason was an object that was preventing me from my goal of showing that I was a good father.

Externally open is openness to external cues. When we are open we learn, grow and adapt ourselves to the situation unfolding before us. When we are internally closed, we ignore and deny feedback. We ignore or deny feedback out of fear that the feedback says something about our worth as human beings. So as a result, we tend to get angry. Again with Mason, I was not showing him the respect that I wanted him to show me. As I opened myself to the possibility that I might be wrong, I also opened myself up to what Mason was feeling, and to what his needs might be and became other-focused.

Using scientific research to provide “insight into why lift is important, what the characteristics of lift are, and how our psychological states influence others,” they formulated four questions that capture the nuances required to intentionally move ourselves from a normal state into lift.
  1. What results do I want to create? (When people answer this question they become less comfort-centered and more purpose-centered.)
  2. What would my story be if I were living the values I expect of others? (When people answer this question they become less externally directed and more internally directed.)
  3. How do others feel about this situation? (When people answer this question they become less self-focused and more other-focused.)
  4. What are three (or four or five) strategies I could use to accomplish my purpose for this situation? (When people answer this question they become less internally closed and more externally open.)
This post is getting long, but I would like to share several more thoughts for you to contemplate:
When a new situation disrupts our previous expectations, though, it is more productive to change our expectations than to try to make the world conform to our old expectations.

A purpose-centered state involves more than having a goal. When people are purpose-centered, they envision and pursue extraordinary results that are not constrained by previous expectations or by the expectations they receive from others.

Self-regulation is the process of using one’s conscious mind to inhibit one’s automatic response to the situation and to replace it with a controlled response.

Since he was not focused on himself, he was not worried about people taking advantage of him.
The book is full of great examples and scientific evidence to back their perspective. The scientific evidence is really just icing on the cake. The relational principles at work here are sound, but they require much thought and self-examination. This is a book that needs to be read and re-read. Inertia is our biggest enemy. Inertia will keep us from benefiting from this book and becoming a positive force; the kind of leaders that provide lift in our own lives and those we influence.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 11:10 PM
| TrackBacks (0) | Communication , Leadership Development , Personal Development , Positive Leadership

11.23.09

Do the Leaders within Your Organization Have the Skills They Need To Be Successful In the Future?

CCL Leadership Gap Do the leaders within your organization have the skills they need to be successful in the future? This is the basic question that the Center for Creative Leadership asked 2,200 leaders from 15 organizations, in three countries between 2006 and 2008.

The findings from this research project identified the following seven leadership skills as most critical for success, now and in the future:
  1. Leading people: directing and motivating people.
  2. Strategic planning: translating vision into realistic business strategies, including long-term objectives.
  3. Managing change: using effective strategies to facilitate organizational change.
  4. Inspiring commitment: recognizing and rewarding employees’ achievements.
  5. Resourcefulness: working effectively with top management.
  6. Doing whatever it takes: persevering under adverse conditions.
  7. Being a quick learner: quickly learning new technical or business knowledge.
You can find these skills adequately discussed in more depth by George Ambler and John Spence so I won’t take the time here. Clearly, these are skills that are vital and need to be addressed.

However, what I found interesting in the report was the following comment:
These data show that many leaders’ strengths are not in areas that are most important for success. Organizations report greater bench strength in areas of
  • building and mending relationships,
  • compassion and sensitivity,
  • cultural adaptability,
  • respecting individual differences,
  • composure,
  • and self-awareness.
In organizations where this is the case, sufficient skill-level has been established in these areas and further large-scale efforts to boost these areas are unnecessary.” [Emphasis mine.]
The above listed five skills were categorized as over-investments or competencies that are strengths but not considered important. (Additionally, confronting people, putting people at ease, managing one’s career were considered to be competencies that are not strengths and not considered important.)

This finding struck me as rather odd for two reasons. First, these competencies are areas where we find people continually getting themselves into trouble and secondly, most of the nine competencies listed have a direct and even causal effect on the seven competencies that the participants found to be insufficient to meet future leadership requirements.

Respecting individual differences and lack of self-awareness are two popular weapons of self-destruction. The fact that we think we have these skills sufficiently mastered to render them unimportant suggests that we have blind spots that have not been fully explored.

Consultant Wally Bock rightly observed, “The ‘important’ list includes ‘leading people’ and ‘inspiring commitment.’ Those two are among the competencies that the respondents thought they were not good at. Maybe there wouldn’t be a gap on those competencies if they thought things like ‘building and maintaining relationships’ were important.” Absolutely correct.

If leadership is about anything, it is about relationships. All our hopes, dreams, goals, metrics, sales, market share and aspirations are going to be accomplished through people. The “important” skills are founded on the “unimportant” skills. Learning how the nine “unimportant” competencies impact and drive the seven “important” competencies will help to fill the leadership gap now and for decades to come.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 05:32 AM
| TrackBacks (1) | Leadership Development

07.30.09

Emotional Intelligence: Self-Awareness

Without self-awareness leadership becomes just another exercise in ego gratification. Self-awareness allows for self-discipline and control of the ego. Without it the ego runs amok looking after itself and only incidentally in the service of others if the needs of both happen to align.

Self-awareness is the ability to see when an emotion or a perception is influencing your thinking and behavior and, if necessary, do something about it. Gaining control over the state of your mind will pay big dividends in terms of your leadership effectiveness. It is the blind spot of leadership. Being able to step back and see both the positive and negative aspects about yourself, to see how you affect others, and to see how you are behaving in real-time, is critical to your success as a leader.

Emotional Intelligence 2.0 offers some good strategies to develop your self-awareness as part of an overall EQ skill development program. Self-awareness is a bigger problem than one might think. The book reports that “only 36 percent of the people tested were able to accurately identify their emotions as they happen. This means that two thirds of us are typically controlled by our emotions and are not yet skilled at spotting them and using them to our benefit.”

A proper and healthy self-awareness facilitates an essential other-awareness that is vital to good leadership. You can not manage the behaviors of others without first getting a handle on your own.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 11:33 PM
| TrackBacks (0) | Leadership Development , Personal Development

07.09.09

The Natural Authority that Comes From Being Authentic

A thoughtful framework from which to view leadership was revealed in an interview and presented in Leading for Success by Andrew and Nada Kakabadse and Linda Lee-Davies. Sr. Judith Zoebelein, a Franciscan Sister of the Eucharist, makes a clear statement about the dynamics of authentic leadership. It also underscores the fact that no one can or should be the “leader” all the time. She states:
I do believe that everybody has authority. Living in communities you really come to recognize the gifts and the leadership of each person in different areas. That person may not be the superior and in charge of the house, but if for example, I need someone to come out and help feed goats, I know exactly who I am going to ask, because that Sister has a giftedness with animals. She has the knowledge and intuitive sense about animals that perhaps I don’t have. We call this “authority,” an authority that is authoring life, opening up a new awareness in others. When I work with her, I gain a lot; understand through her something new which is not natively mine to understand.

It means that God gives each of us a certain capacity and giftedness, because of who we are, our genealogy, past experiences, and who our family is. It is up to us then to develop these talents. These become our set of gifts. As we develop those gifts more and more, people come to trust us in these areas. We are an “authority,” a kind of native authority.

So I do believe the older we get the more we trust that in ourselves and the less that you try to pretend we’re something else than we really are. Then our authority has a certain resonance and people see us as a leader because we are really who we are, we have what we have been given and we don’t try to act outside of our own essential gifts.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 11:03 PM
| TrackBacks (0) | Leadership Development

07.03.09

What You Need to be Doing Now

Geoff Colvin, Fortune’s senior editor at large and author of The Upside of the Downturn, offers much to savor and chew on, but his list of five things this recession demands from a leader are essential.

One of those behaviors is Be Decisive. He writes, “Leaders in a crisis must not lose their rare opportunity to act. The difficulty is that just when decisions are most easily accepted, they’re hardest to make. All business decisions are made with incomplete information, and that’s especially true in the heat of a crisis. At the same time the stakes are higher than usual. Every instinct tells you to decide more slowly than usual, yet it’s vital that you decide more quickly.”

  Read more on the LeadeshipNow July Communiqué.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 01:42 PM
| TrackBacks (0) | Leadership Development

03.23.09

MBA Arrogance and the Myth of Leadership

Philip Delves Broughton, author of Ahead of The Curve: Two Years at Harvard Business School, writes in the Financial Times about MBA Arrogance and the Myth of Leadership. Broughton observes:
What business schools can teach is organisational behaviour. They can teach compensation systems and recruitment processes. They can offer classes on cash and non-cash incentives, on training, promotion and the value of a corporate culture. They can offer frameworks for negotiations, strategy decisions and implementing change. But when they bundle this up and call it leadership, they risk leaving their students with the faulty impression that they are now qualified, if not obliged, to go into the world and lead. It breeds the arrogance for which MBAs are mocked.

He continues, “Great leaders tend to be those who can synthesise, simplify and persuade. They provide clarity so that those below them can do their best to achieve a common goal. But leadership should not be the brass ring at the climax of every business career.
It is the merit of Broughton to remind readers of the problems of surrounding leadership education. He is right. Business schools are best at teaching the competencies that business leaders need when performing their tasks. And at this point in time, they are probably rethinking what that means.

Teaching leadership – as in take these classes and read these books and you are a leader – is something else. Broughton correctly asserts that MBA students often walk out into the world thinking that they are uniquely equipped to lead the world. It’s an arrogance that is rarely appreciated in the real world and an approach that does not serve them well in the long-term.

Books and lectures do not make you a leader, but they can give you the tools to become a leader through the practice of leadership. They point you in the right direction. They fast-track your awareness. They are extremely valuable but they do not make you a leader. That label is earned, not taught.

Broughton states, “Not all MBAs can be leaders, nor need they be. Every business needs followers: people who are good at what they do, who are able to implement the plans laid out by leaders.”

Here is where discussions of leadership often derail. Broughton is confusing leadership with position. Position is the brass ring and there are a limited number of those to go around. Most people will to be left out. He’s right. We can’t all have position, but we can all be leaders. Likewise we are all – regardless of our position – followers. The idea that “I’m a leader, not a follower” is a foolish notion and belies the ignorance of what leadership really is by anyone who states it. Leadership is intentional influence. Basic to a proper understanding of leadership is the understanding that leadership is not position and does not make you a leader.
There was a time when management was just management, the science of providing organisational support for innovators and salespeople to win customers and revenue.

Managers tracked resources, physical, financial and human, and tried to improve efficiency. Occasionally they made an acquisition or pushed into new markets, and this was strategy.

But somewhere along the line management morphed into the sexier-sounding “leadership”. Managers were globe-trotting executives – catalysts for change. They had a business press eager to turn them into icons, to photograph them in their penthouses, preening over their empires as if they, rather than their shareholders, owned them.

Business schools were eagerly complicit in this super-sizing of management. They no longer educated mere MBAs. They were churning out “future leaders”.

Business does not need any more leadership courses – particularly not at the MBA level.
No, business schools need leadership courses. They just need better ones. They need courses with a proper emphasis about leadership. I appreciate his phrasing – “this super-sizing of management” – but management and leadership go together. They are often separated so that we can, by pulling them apart, see how they fit together. We need both and we need to be practicing both. One is not better than the other. A good leader manages. A good manager leads.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 10:50 AM
| TrackBacks (0) | Education , Followership , Leadership Development , Management

02.18.09

Goldsmith's Gold: You Are Under the Microscope

Goldsmith's Gold Marshall Goldsmith makes an important point about how much a leader’s behavior matters to the people they are leading. Some parts of your job are exhilarating and some parts are very boring. Sometimes you are up for it and sometimes you are not. But like a Broadway actor, your professionalism demands that you put your personal issues behind you and give it your best. As the leader there is no “off” switch.

In his excellent Succession from Harvard’s Memo to the CEO series, he explains:
Let’s face it: your successor, like you, will spend hour after hour listening to potentially boring PowerPoint presentations—on topics that he has already been briefed on. He needs to realize that those presentations may be the summary of months of effort by employees at all levels in your organization. He needs to understand how much these employees care about their CEO’s reaction. He will need to actively listen—and communicate with caring, interest, and enthusiasm—no matter how tired he may feel on the inside. He needs to realize that everyone will not only be listening to his words—everyone will be watching his face. Signs of boredom or indifference that may be ignored if coming from peers can be demoralizing when coming from CEOs. Signs of recognition and support can validate employees and provide needed recognition and inspiration after a great effort.

Of Related Interest:
  Growth: Moving to the Next Level
  Goldsmith's Gold: "You asked for my opinion and now you're arguing with me?"
  Goldsmith's Gold: Feedforward
  Goldsmith's Gold: Stop Trying to Help People Who Don’t Want to Change

Posted by Michael McKinney at 07:22 AM
| TrackBacks (1) | Leadership Development

01.09.09

The Accountable Leader

Brian Dive tells us in The Accountable Leader that many organizations have difficulty developing leaders and fostering effective leadership because they have never considered the context they must lead in. The organization must be structured, Dive contends, so that all leadership roles from top to bottom have well-defined decision rights. In other words, accountability needs to be structured into the very fiber of the organizational architecture at all levels. Accountability, organizational design and leadership are three inextricably linked factors.
An organization is in flow, or in a state of equilibrium, when the required number of management layers (vertical architecture) matches the effective reach (or span of control) over the relevant resources that the organization needs in order to achieve its purpose.
After briefly explaining the problem and the key concepts used in correcting it, he begins to present practical application of his ideas for creating accountability within an organization.

The Accountable Leader
He addresses questions such as: How many layers of management are necessary? How do leadership requirements change at different levels? How can potential leaders be identified? How can they be developed? How should people be rewarded?

Beyond the useful correctives to organization architecture and accountability, Dive also makes an important distinction between Managerial leadership (operational in nature) and Strategic leadership (changing the organization) for leadership development. Each requires different abilities and approaches in decision-making style and accountability. “Operational accountability is ensuring that existing assets and resources continue to perform better. The resources are given. Problem-solving remains related to actual events, rather than the abstract.” With Strategic accountability “problem-solving moves into the abstract domain. Solutions have to be found that require mental modeling, as they do not yet physically exist.”

On leadership development, Dive writes that “many organizations still confuse values, skills and competencies” and “it is one of the main reasons why so many leadership development programs fail.” Here are several thoughts in this regard:
Although values and skills, especially technical skills, play an important role in who should work in an organization, they are not reliable guides for assessment of potential and who should be promoted.

Values are badges of belonging. They should end the message: “If you do not share our values, you cannot be a member of our family.” But you do not promote people for demonstrating the organizational values. The person at the front line should have as much integrity as the CEO, otherwise neither should be in the organization.

Skills influence performance. They should not be confused with the concept of potential to lead at the next level of accountability. Technical and professional skills increasingly give way to the importance of general skills. The best math teacher in a school is not necessarily the best candidate for the role of school principle.

But performance is about current leadership. Potential is about future leadership. This is a key distinction. The higher the progression into the upper reaches of an organization, the less relevant professional skills and performance become as predictors of future performance.

It is critical that the behaviors are linked to accountabilities. This is because different levels call for different qualities of decisions. It is important to identify the appropriate behaviors that align these. These aligned behaviors are called competencies in this context. They indicate who has potential to move to a higher level and perform successfully. This is the basis of true leadership development.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 09:01 AM
| TrackBacks (0) | Leadership Development , Management , Teamwork

12.17.08

Preparing to Lead: Things You Should Be Thinking About Now

The Secrets of CEOs
The Secrets of CEOs is a valuable tool for reference, inspiration and guidance. Authors Steve Tappin and Andrew Cave have assembled 150 interviews with chief executives and woven them into a lucid and absorbing guidebook on some of today’s big issues. Some of the chief executives they interviewed provided their perspective on what you need to keep in mind as you prepare to lead:

Adopt the Mindset of a CEO
Approach this from two levels: from the bottom up and from the top down. “From the bottom up, assume the mindset of a CEO in your core work activities: deliver first, but take a broader view on how to help the wider business be more successful. From the top down, learn to assess the business from the point of view of the CEO.”

Develop Winning Habits, but Know How to Lose
Most CEOs believe that their experience with serious failure or very difficult situations, were some of their most valuable experiences. Lord Browne put it, “Everything adds up to you: a book read, a business, traveling to somewhere that you fail. Experiences build character and you grow your intelligence, skill and judgment.” When CEO of Aurigo Management, Archie Norman hires people, he wants to know, “What has been that moment that you have stared into the cavern? What did you have to do where you had to confront really difficult people, people you just didn’t get along with or you didn’t like?”

Be a Student of Personal Development
Try to pick up a coach and a mentor pretty early on. Hone your strengths and work on your weakness where you can.

Have a Life
CEO Mitch Garber says, “It’s important to have not just strategic and business leadership experiences but a broad enough experience of life. For me life experience has included my marriage, bringing up my kids, setting up a shop at 14, being a lawyer, being a professional skier, and my interests in food and travel. It is diverse experiences which allow me to talk to and relate to employees at all levels.”

Learn to Celebrate Your Success
Take the time to celebrate successes; it will energize you to tackle the next goal.

Show Total Commitment but Ruthlessly Change Role if You’re Not Being Stretched
“A number of CEOs said that it was vital to absorb everything you can from every role before moving on; do not only excel in your job, but observe how the business you’re in works and what’s going on around you….Move on without regret only when you’ve sucked the experience dry.”

Be True to Yourself
Ben Verwaayen, former CEO of BT observes, “Authenticity is only possible with confidence because the temptation to be conformist is enormous.” The authors add, “In short, be yourself. When push comes to shove, you have to make all you big decisions with your heart; you can’t lead if you’re acting.”

Posted by Michael McKinney at 12:59 PM
| TrackBacks (0) | Leadership Development

12.10.08

Exploring the Five Key Roles Used by Effective Leaders

Making Sense of Leadership
In Making Sense of Leadership, authors Esther Cameron and Mike Green asked if leadership is making something happen that would not have otherwise happened, what is it that leaders must pay attention to? They came up with five naturally occurring areas of concern:

• Discomfort: What’s not working? Where is the organization hurting?
• Buy-In: How is it possible to harness the human resources and talent around the organization, and inspire, motivate and engage people?
• Connectivity: How do we ensure that the organization knows enough about itself and its purpose and competencies and is well connected enough to be able to self-organize and change in a healthy responsive way when it needs to?
• Projects: What needs to be done to manage key projects and ensure that all the necessary resources are acquired and that the project is delivered right and on time?
• Design: What are the structural and process designs for the future?

These areas of focus were then paired with five shifting roles used by leaders to deal with each of these areas of concern. Leaders must draw their cues from the environment in which they lead. These roles are:

• Edgy Catalyser: Focuses on discomfort, asks difficult questions, spots dysfunction and resistance, creates tension for change.
• Visionary Motivator: Focuses on buy-in, articulates compelling picture of the future, motivates and inspires people.
• Measured Connector: focuses on connectivity, reinforces what’s important and establishes a few simple rules, connects people and agendas.
• Tenacious Implementer: focuses on projects, doggedly pursues the plan, holds people to account, leads by driving a project through to completion.
• Thoughtful Architect: focuses on design, is principle architect and designer of the strategies, crafts seemingly disparate ideas into a way forward, scans the environment, sees what’s happening in the environment and creates an organizing framework.

The authors discuss each of the five roles in detail and show in what context they can be used. They offer a valuable self-assessment and demonstrate ways to expand your role repertoire. Knowing which role or roles you tend to gravitate to is important in a number of ways. Understanding your own tendencies helps you to know which areas you can build on and what you can expect to achieve. It also helps you to know which roles you could develop to make yourself more flexible, but more importantly, it helps you to know the kinds of leaders you should surround yourself with to accomplish your organizational goals.
Leaders don’t all have to be highly dominate people; they don’t all have to be interpersonal wizards. It’s not essential for all leaders to be electrifying speakers and leading-edge thinkers. Neither is it essential for every single leader to be superbly organized…but it does help to be at least some of these things. And leaders have to learn to develop the right mix of role to match their personality, the organizational situation and the people around them.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 11:36 PM
| TrackBacks (0) | Leadership Development

12.04.08

What is the Secret of Great Performers?

Malcolm Gladwell tells us in Outliers that when it comes to success, context is everything. Only by asking where a person comes from can we understand who succeeds and who doesn’t. Geoff Colvin would agree but there’s more. In Talent is Overrated, Colvin rightly asserts that “great performance is in our hands far more than most of us ever suspected.”
Talent is Overrated


When many people never become outstandingly good at what they do, no matter how many years they spend doing it, why do some people become excellent at what they do? Colvin convincingly argues that in general, it’s not innate gifts or intelligence, but what researchers call deliberate practice that creates world-class performers. A study by Anders Ericsson and his associates concluded that “the differences between expert performers and normal adults reflect a life-long period of deliberate effort to improve performance in a specific domain.”

Deliberate practice is not your normal practice. It contains several important elements: it’s designed specifically to improve performance (usually with a teacher or coach), it can be repeated ad nauseam, feedback on results are continuously available, it’s highly demanding mentally (focus and concentration), and it isn’t much fun. Add passion and the good news is that great performance is not reserved for a preordained few. It is available to everyone.

Colvin’s homework makes a great case for the idea that leaders are developed. What is alarming is Colvin observation that “At most companies—as well as most educational institutions and many nonprofit organizations—the fundamentals of great performance are mainly unrecognized or ignored.” He writes that organizations that apply the principles of great performance follow several major rules:
  1. Understand that each person in the organization is not just doing a job, but is also being stretched and grown. The best organizations assign people to jobs to push them just beyond their current capabilities and build the skills that are most important. Organizations tend to assign people based on what they’re already good at, not what they need to work on.
  2. Find ways to develop leaders within their jobs. One technique: short-term work assignments. Managers don’t leave their jobs, but they take on an additional assignment outside their field of expertise.
  3. Encourage their leaders to be active in their communities. Community leadership roles are opportunities for employees to practice skills that will be valuable at work.
  4. Understand the critical roles of teachers and of feedback. At most organizations, nobody is in the role of teacher or coach. Employees aren’t told which skills will be most helpful to them and certainly aren’t told how to best develop them.
  5. Identify promising performers early. A telling indicator is how interns get others to work with them when they have absolutely no authority.
  6. Understand that people development works best through inspiration not authority.
  7. Invest significant time, money, and energy in developing people. You don’t develop people on the cheap, and you don’t just bolt a development program onto existing HR procedures.
  8. Make leadership development part of the culture. Developing leaders isn’t a program, it’s a way of living.
Talent is Overrated is the most readable and pragmatic book on the topic. The examples and relevant research cited are compelling and his application of great performance principles to self-development, business development and innovation are thought provoking.

Related Interest:
  Outliers: Understanding the Context of Success

Posted by Michael McKinney at 02:29 AM
| TrackBacks (1) | Education , Leadership Development , Learning , Personal Development

11.21.08

8 Dangers Every Leader Must Face and Overcome

K2
Above 26,000 feet life takes on a whole new meaning. It’s known as the death zone. At this height, the air holds only 30 % as much oxygen as at sea level. The air is so thin it is not life-sustaining. Within hours, judgment can become impaired. People get confused. Issues, that at sea level, we feel we can choose not to deal with, become deadly. At this height, the importance of character becomes black and white. Leadership mistakes are fatal.

Don Schmincke writes, "here, climbers resemble corporate professionals. They live passionately while confronting impossible odds. Some are deeply humble while others are psychotic narcissists. They come with all levels of competence; from naive wannabes to elite athletes. And when put to the test, climbers react like professionals: sometimes heroically, other times self-destructively."

Don Schmincke chose this environment to answer the question, when it comes to job, career, or personal success, why do some professionals excel while others flounder even with the same methods? To study those who lead teams in the riskiest and most extremely challenging situations encountered in death zone environments, he tuned to mountaineering expedition leader and founder of Earth Treks, Chris Warner.

In High Altitude Leadership, Don Schmincke and Chris Warner offer lessons from the death zone that any leader can use to achieve something much higher than they currently feel possible. Where people can die or business can fail, high altitude leadership—people who produce peak performance in the face of extreme challenges—is needed.
High Altitude Leadership
Leadership is a sweet delusion: so fragile, so easily sabotaged. Whether on a mountain or at work, leading others can quickly become difficult and dangerous. You want badly to influence positive change in your organization. You accept the title of leadership and purposefully trek upward, propelled by hope. In this exciting journey, you seek to be a great leader leading a great company to great altitudes.

Then you slip off the cliff into reality. Instead of things going your way, leadership becomes a burden as the world fails to cooperate with your dreams. In an instant, the threat of failure awakens you from the delusion. Luckily most of us don’t tumble to our deaths if we stumble. But how you respond in the face of real dangers defines you as a leader.
Schmincke and Warner have identified eight dangers that can sabotage anyone at some point in their journey and put at risk careers, projects, or even companies. Overcoming these dangers requires implementing specific survival tips that are outlined below:

DangerSurvival Tip
Fear of DeathEmbrace death. A metaphor to accept and not resist, avoid, or ignore the inevitable death of a situation. Instead of freezing, free yourself to take action. Some call it “die before battle”.
SelfishnessDevelop a compelling saga, a passion greater than the ego’s agenda. Focus on the greater good than your personal agenda.
Tool Seduction Improve your behavior versus getting seduced by new performance theories or models. Run your tools, don’t let them run you. Getting off on new ideas, but not on implementation, distracts professional focus.
ArroganceHumility. Offensive displays of superiority, self-importance, or treating others as inferiors never engenders success. Achieve success by not stepping over weak climbers, or leaving them for dead.
Lone HeroismPartnership. Instead of feeling you’re the only one who can do it right, avoid missed opportunities and demoralized colleagues by engaging and leveraging everyone’s strengths.
CowardiceBravery. Cowardly professionals don’t challenge the status quo, hold others accountable, and expose weaknesses in the organization. Don’t be a coward. Take bold action
ComfortPerseverance. No professional accomplishes a goal worth the pursuit without surviving the stretch—and often painful stretch. How uncomfortable are you willing to be to achieve your goals?
GravityLuck: Did you think any plan would survive its impact with realty? When gravity propels you, you’re invincible. When it pulls you down, you fall hard. Gravity is that uncertain push or pull regardless of what you do. Execution involves too much risk; and this causes expert opinions to fluctuate with the winds of uncertainty. Accept that luck happens, and prepare to seize it when it happens to you!

Here at sea level, these dangers don’t seem to pose a very big threat. But it’s deceptive. We figure we can get by. At sea level the margin for error is greater and the consequences often take longer to be realized. In the end, they will destroy you just the same.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 12:45 PM
| TrackBacks (0) | Leadership Development

11.04.08

Lead By Example

Leading by example is one of those things we know and remember to do on our way to do something else. The problem is that it requires a lot more inner work than we are willing to put in, but it leverages our leadership more than any other thing we can do.
Lead By Example


Unfortunately, it is the norm that leaders don’t know themselves well enough to set an example. Tolstoy once remarked, “Everyone dreams of changing humanity but no one dreams of changing himself.” Yet that’s what it takes to lead by example.

John Baldoni has written an excellent and practical book that addresses areas that leaders need to look at in order to be the kind of person that people will want to follow. Lead by Example contains 50 short chapters (See the Table of Contents here.) that pinpoint an area of concern and how to tackle it. It “demonstrates how leaders leverage their best attributes to overcome their shortcomings in order to build trust and drive results.”

Baldoni breaks up the 50 chapters into four sections that he describes this way:

Set the Right Example
Before you can lead others, you must lead yourself. You need to know what you are made of. Character and conviction matter….Your example is your character in action. Ask yourself:
  • How often do I take the time to reflect on my own performance and how it affects my team?
  • What am I doing to make myself a better leader?
Act the Part
You need to know who you are leading and the culture in which you intend to lead. Most often, there will be no roadmaps, but there will be plenty of roadblocks. It’s the leader’s job to identify them and put the team in place to remove them….[L]eaders need to set direction, but then step back and let people discover for themselves how to get things done. Ask yourself:
  • What am I doing to be sure that people understand their mission?
  • How well am I winning over the “fence sitters,” those waiting for things to happen?
  • How well am I overcoming obstacles that stand in the way?
  • What should I be doing to spread the confidence?
Handle the Tough Stuff
Life comes at you in different directions. Sometimes it will come so hard it will knock you down. There is no shame in falling; what matters is getting up to fight again. When your people see you doing that, they will be encouraged to follow your example. Sometimes you have to collaborate with people who have no interest in you or your ideas. You have to learn to lead when you have no authority to do so. You must prove that you know your stuff. You must use your wits and your influence to succeed. By doing so, you create opportunities for people to listen to what you have to say and give yourself a chance to prove your case. Ask yourself:
  • How well am I encouraging alternative points of view?
  • What do I do when a member of our team suffers a setback?
  • How well do I seek solutions rather than seeking to pin blame?
Put the Team First
No leader lives in a vacuum. It is incumbent that you show people what you think of them, honestly and positively. This means you coach your people for success. Ask yourself:
  • How well are we dealing with tension in our team? Is it positive or negative?
  • What can I do to make certain we have the right people in the right jobs to do the job right?
  • What can I do to demonstrate my appreciation for my team?

The way this book is organized makes it a great reference tool that you can refer to when you are faced with leadership—people—issues. It’s also a good book to put in the hands of those who are seeking to lead in your organization. The thinking and behaviors addressed in this book will pay dividends.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 10:23 AM
| TrackBacks (1) | Leadership Development , Personal Development

09.15.08

Developing Diamonds in the Rough

Unleashing the Power of Rubber Bands
Nancy Ortberg is an alumnus of Willow Creek Community Church and is a founding partner of TeamWorx2, a business and leadership consulting firm to businesses, schools, nonprofits, and churches. She has made a important observation concerning leadership development in her book, Unleashing the Power of Rubber Bands. Often in our search for new leaders we go looking for the finished product. She refers to Andy Stanley's comment that leaders always think that they can do a better job than you are doing. So that's a good place to start (unless we are taking ourselves too seriously). A leader's responsibility is to develop these diamonds in the rough. Ortberg writes:
We need to keep our eyes open for leadership qualities: energy, dissatisfaction, new ideas, mistakes, and perhaps even a bit of cynicism. These are the raw materials in the making of a leader, not the finished product. Leadership development doe not necessarily start with strong leadership qualities like discipleship, maturity and wisdom. Those are the end products. We need to be looking for the drive without the experience, the vision before the patience, the energy minus the discipline. These are the building blocks, the clues that ell us there is a leader here, but so much still needs to be done.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 10:06 AM
| TrackBacks (0) | Leadership Development

09.05.08

Bill Hybels on Growing as a Leader

I have little patience with leaders who get themselves into leadership binds and then confess that they haven’t read a leadership book in years. If you’re a serious-minded leader, you will read. You will read all you can. You will read when you feel like it, and you will read when you don’t. You will do whatever you have to do to increase your leadership input, because you know as well as I do that it will make you better.

I’m often asked how, in addition to reading, to get better as a leader. And if I’m in a playful mood, I’ll sometimes say with a smile, “Just lead something!”

The best way for leaders to get better is to lead something besides their “main thing.”

When you use different muscles, you force your body to flex and develop in new ways. Leaders must invite the same type of cross training into their leadership development regimen.

The more varied the environments in which you exercise your leadership gift, the stronger that gift will become. Lead something besides your main thing. You will become a far more effective leader.

Adapted from Axiom: Powerful Leadership Proverbs by Bill Hybels.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 12:00 AM
| TrackBacks (1) | Leadership Development

07.28.08

What Is Your Plan For Personal Growth?

You won’t grow to your potential without a plan. You’ll get older, but not better. Experience guarantees nothing. Growth is intentional. If you are not growing you’re just putting in time. Waiting.

Crucibles of Leadership by Robert Thomas, is an important book that asks, “What is your personal learning strategy?” A PLS is “a highly individual plan for leveraging hard-won insights about learning from adversity and using practice to improve performance.”
Crucibles of Leadership


We all have crucibles, but it’s what we do with them that is important. Thomas writes that crucibles “are like trials or tests that corner individuals and force them to answer questions about who they are and what is really important to them.” Crucibles become valuable when we intentionally mine them for lessons that make us more effective, aware and integrated. Warren Bennis points out in the foreword that the self-awareness we should gain is “the kind of deeper understanding of self that then turns outward rather than inward and results in better understanding of others and the organizations that matter to us.”

Thomas says that we have to change our approach to learning. We shouldn’t wait for just the right moment to arrive, but learn in the moment—in real time—to, as he writes, “learn while doing.”

Preparation is essential to learning. In order to take advantage of our crucibles, we must develop a Personal Learning Strategy (PLS). Thomas introduces a framework for crafting a PLS complete with exercises to help you properly move through each step. It begins with a little introspection—understanding why you want to lead, what motivates you to do so and understanding how you learn. Then you need to access your capability in three core areas: adaptive capacity, engaging others through shared meaning, and integrity. From here you can see areas where you need to improve and strengthen in order to reach your leadership goals. Now you can assign behaviors to each of these areas that you can consciously practice at work and at home. He suggests that you “scan your landscape at work and at home, and identify those instances and roles out of your comfort zone that will allow you to stretch into new behaviors, perspectives, and leadership capabilities.”

Organizations too, can tap into the power of a PLS by adopting an experience-based approach to their leadership development program. Organizations need to recognize the importance of crucible experiences and provide the resources people need to extract insight from them in addition to the regular technical and skills training people should be receiving. Most often those resources involve creating a process that links the two learning opportunities together.

One important note on a trap that people and organizations sometimes fall into in their zeal to develop character and leadership, Thomas writes, “We create enough pressures to perform that we don’t need to invent new ones just so that we can accelerate leader development. The trick is to harness the crucibles that life sets in motion so the opportunity for learning is not squandered.” Life gives us enough opportunities to learn, but often, we just need help getting the lesson we should be getting from it.
Accomplished leaders say that experience is their best teacher. They learned their most meaningful and important leadership lessons—lessons that they’ve integrated into their own leadership style—through crucibles. These were critical events and experiences, times of testing and trial, failure more often than grand success, that grabbed them by the lapels and demanded to know “What do you stand for?” and “What are you going to do?” A situation arose that did not respect age, gender, generation, nationality, talent, or charisma; all it asked was that the person step up and be someone or do something they’d never been or done before.
Having a Personal Learning Strategy is a way of thinking about and looking at life that allows you to proactively grow from what life throws at you, rather than being knocked out by it. You need a Personal Learning Strategy.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 02:06 PM
| TrackBacks (0) | Books , Leadership Development , Personal Development

07.16.08

The Four Rules of Influence

The Art of Influence
Chris Widner’s new book, The Art of Influence, gives the proper emphasis regarding the topic of influence. He says in this entertaining short story, that influence is a gift followers give you because you have become the kind of person they want to follow and be influenced by. He provides four rules of influence:
  1. Living a Life of Undivided Integrity. Notwithstanding that integrity is in fact being undivided, he writes that while leaders do make mistakes, followers “do expect their leaders to admit and correct their mistakes, mend the cracks in their integrity, if you will. Left unchecked, eventually a lack of integrity erodes the trust that is needed between a leader and a follower.”


  2. Always Demonstrate a Positive Attitude. People respond to optimism. Bad things happen. And when they do, you need to ask not “Why did this happen to me?” but “What’s next?” or “What good can come from this?” “You are choosing to believe that something good can come from negative circumstances and that the future will be better than the present.”


  3. Consider Other People’s Interests as More Important Than Your Own. “Even more important than being interesting, is being interested.”


  4. Don’t Settle For Anything Less Than Excellence. Widner encourages us to grow our influence by improving ourselves around seven areas of excellence: physical appearance, emotional health, intellectual growth, spiritual depth, relationships, financial success, and charitable giving. Excellence is in the details.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 12:07 AM
| TrackBacks (1) | Leadership Development

06.27.08

The Offsite: A Fable to Internalize

The Offsite
The Offsite is a business fable based on the principles and practices set forth in the classic leadership book, The Leadership Challenge. And it works. Using memorable characters, author Robert Thompson, has created a story that is a great introduction not only to James Kouzes’ and Barry Posner’s work, but to the practice of leadership itself.

With our birds-eye view of the offsite and its main participants, we can see the mental struggles and the ah-ha experiences of the personalities as they begin to view leadership as a way of thinking and a choice that each individual must make. They begin by facing their reality and then learn to see a new way to get from where they are to where they want to be. They begin to see real leadership as helping people to discover what matters to them and helping them to connect to it. “Leadership is about people. Leadership is how you get management done. Leaders stretch others, not stress others.”

Through the offsite seminar leader Charlie, Thompson presents the Five Practices of Exemplary Leaders this way:

Your credibility matters so … Model the Way. How? Clarify values by finding your voice and affirming shared ideals. Set the example by aligning actions with shared values.

Your voice matters so … Inspire a Shared Vision. How? Envision the future by imagining exciting and ennobling possibilities. Enlist others in a common vision by appealing to shared aspirations.

Your action matters so … Challenge the Process. How? Search for opportunities by seizing the initiative and by looking outward for innovative ways to improve. Experiment and take risks by constantly generating small wins and learning from experience.

Your gift matters so … Enable Others to Act. How? Foster collaboration by building trust and facilitating relationships. Strengthen others by increasing self-determination and developing competence.

Your gratitude matters so … Encourage the Heart. How? Recognize contributions by showing appreciation for individual excellence. Celebrate the values and victories by creating a spirit of community.

This is the kind of book you need to give to everyone on your team and to those your team interacts with. If you’ve read The Leadership Challenge (the new 4th edition will be out in paperback in August), then it’s a good reminder, if you haven’t, then it’s a great introduction.

Either way, you’ll find Thompson’s story a quick read, but packed full of thoughts and concepts you’ll want to reflect on and internalize. Leadership is a way of life that takes a conscious choice to build-in to everything you do, from wherever you sit. This is a great place to begin.

The Offsite

Posted by Michael McKinney at 02:35 PM
| TrackBacks (1) | Books , Leadership Development

05.05.08

Learning Leadership the Hard Way

Leadership the Hard Way
Innovator and leader, Dov Frohman asserts that leadership must be learned the hard way—by doing it. In Leadership the Hard Way, Frohman likens the situation confronting today’s leaders to a pilot flying through a thunderstorm.
“It is precisely these forces of increased turbulence that have fueled the growing preoccupation with leadership. In such an environment, leadership isn’t a luxury. It’s a matter of survival! Yet the very forces that make leadership more critical also make teaching it virtually impossible. What it takes to lead an organization through that turbulence isn’t simple or straightforward. There is just too much uncertainty. And it takes personal courage. You don’t really know what you will do at the moment of truth. No matter how much training you have (or how many leadership books you have read), nothing quite prepares you for that moment when you enter the eye of the storm!”
He believes this means embracing turbulence and crisis, not avoiding it. It means “flying through the thunderstorm.” While there are basic principles to leadership, Frohman says “there are no simple recipes. Until you have lived it, you don’t really know how to do it.”

If you are going to learn to lead, you must develop a “particular frame of mind, a distinctive way of perceiving and acting. You must free yourself from habitual ways of looking at things, cultivate an independent and questioning perspective, and be ready to embrace alternative and counterintuitive points of view.”

Frohman offers four resources that aspiring leaders can use to learn how to lead:

1. Stay True to Your Passion. No leader can be effective who does not identify 100 percent with the organization’s mission. Because this identification between leader and organization is so important, it’s critical for you as an aspiring leader to identify your passion – what really drives you – and to stay true to that passion through the course of your career. If you do, you will find that this passion is a powerful resource for guiding you through the challenges of leadership the hard way.

2. Get An Invisible Mentor. No aspiring leader has to wait to be assigned a mentor. Choose and invisible mentor, someone whose behavior you study from afar. Choose someone whose leadership style you relate to and admire. Study that person closely.

3. Become a Reflective Practitioner. A term coined by organizational theorist Donald Schön in his 1983 book, a reflective practitioner is one who systematically reflects on one’s own experiences. It’s the kind of learning that happens in the moment. Build systematic reflection into your everyday activity.

4. Learn From Your People. A close relationship with your people can give you a tremendous resource for bootstrapping your leadership capabilities. There are a variety of ways to develop that close bond – be present in the organization, don’t be afraid to expose one’s own mistakes to the organization, welcome dissent, and use your own behavior strategically. Aspiring leaders should get in the habit of thinking of their actions as a form of communication.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 04:01 PM
| TrackBacks (1) | Leadership Development

03.17.08

In Leadership, Context Is Everything

Ultimate Leadership
In leadership, context is everything. As we have said before, leadership hasn’t changed—the context we operate in has changed. Russell Palmer’s book Ultimate Leadership is on target. He believes that “the principles of leadership can be effective in a wide variety of situations, but often they need to be applied in a very different manner depending on the circumstances and the constituent groups involved.”

This of course, makes perfect sense, but what makes no sense is how often it isn’t applied. We tend to plow along the way we have always done things without regard to our current situation. Palmer writes, “Success or failure can often depend on modifying leadership styles to suit a different context.”

While there is no single style of leadership that works in every situation, there are basic principles of leadership that apply universally. Palmer explains some of those principles such as integrity, execution, good judgment, innovation, communication and people skills among others.

The core of the book provides practical, well-heeled advice on applying basic leadership principles in a variety of contexts. He discusses execution and the pros and cons of specific contexts such as top down, crisis leadership, partnership of peers, academic, entrepreneurial organizations, non-profits, government, and the military.

He includes a great deal of his personal experience and interviews with thoughtful people in each of these areas. When leading “partners and peers who have relatively narrow specializations,” Palmer points out, “leaders need a broad view. In other words, they must be generalists who know a good deal about many things. One of the problems in today’s society is that we develop more and more people with narrowly specialized knowledge…. The best subject from an educational standpoint for a leader is the study of history. Reading biographies is also particularly helpful…. The best education, for instance, for a businessperson is a strong liberal arts undergraduate program and then a graduate business program.”

In the end, he concludes, it’s all about people.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 12:12 PM
| TrackBacks (0) | Books , Leadership Development

03.14.08

Good Followers Make the Best Leaders

Followership Kellerman
In case you didn’t know it by now, let me just say, followership is the crucible of leadership. There is no better way to learn leadership than by being under someone else—leading from the second chair. As ironic as that may sound, it’s true. Learning to lead under someone else provides you with the opportunity (the necessity) to learn to lead without coercion. You learn to let your leadership speak for itself—authentically.

Yet we still, as Barbara Kellerman states in her important new book, Followership, overestimate the importance of leadership and underestimate the importance of followership. She argues that, “thinking leadership without thinking followership is not merely misleading, it is mistaken.” Why? The context of leadership has changed.
First, leaders have been demystified, in part by modern media, which demands grist for its mill 24/7; and in part by the modern culture, in which figures of authority are no longer exalted or even so much respected. Second, because the line between the leader and the led has been blurred, the led have been emboldened.
She points out that much of this is cyclical. I would agree. It’s hard for human beings to find balance. Consequently, we continually find ourselves reacting to someone else’s excessive behavior.

While we have spent a great deal of time distinguishing between types of leaders, we have not done the same with followers. Kellerman spends a good portion of the book explaining followers. She describes four types: Bystanders, Participants, Activists, and Diehards. She writes: “Followers are us. This does not, of course, mean that all of us follow all of the time—sometimes we lead. But all of us follow some of the time. It’s the human condition.”

She advocates that followers not try to become something else, but more importantly that they change their response to their rank, their response to their superiors and to the situation at hand. She emphasizes:
  • Followers constitute a group that, although amorphous, nevertheless has members with interests in common.
  • While followers by definition lack authority, at least in relation to their superiors, they do not by definition lack power and influence.
  • Followers can be agents of change.
  • Followers ought to support good leadership and thwart bad leadership.
  • Followers who do something are nearly always preferred to followers who do nothing.
  • Followers can create change by circumventing their leaders and joining with other followers instead.
What we need now is a Followership Part 2, where it is explained to followers just how one should follow. We do a disservice to followers – as we have with leaders – by requiring no character development and self-discipline. When we learn to develop better followers, we will get better leaders.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 10:06 AM
| TrackBacks (1) | Books , Followership , Leadership Development

02.11.08

Insultants Wanted

Breakthrough Company
We need people who will tell us like it is in the right way. Often we don’t like to hear what they have to say but we should never discourage them. Frequently, leaders are the last to know. Keith McFarland author of The Breakthrough Company, calls these straight-shooters insultants (inside consultants). He describes them as those people “willing to ask the tough questions that cause a company to think critically about its fundamental assumptions. The value of insultants is that they will go to great lengths to get their companies to reevaluate a position or adapt to a changing environment.”

If you think that you welcome these people, think again. A survey showed that while 90 percent of CEOs believed that their companies regularly implemented ideas that the CEO initially didn’t like, only 60 percent of their direct reports agreed.

McFarland reports that people tend to differ to authority and rank because they feel that they must know better. “But often authority figures are wrong, and if an organization doesn’t have a strong insultant culture, errors are likely to be propagated throughout the company.”

If you feel you are an insultant, don't think you begin by charging in like a bull in a china shop. There is a right way and a wrong way to do things. You are trying to make the leader successful, not trying to show how smart you are or place the spotlight on yourself. Good insultants must learn to excel at relationships based on genuine care for others. McFarland offers these tips that one would do well to heed:
  • Be Empathetic. Yours isn’t the only point of view. Understand where others are coming from.
  • Don’t Attack. Finger pointing is not acceptable. “The most powerful tool in the insultant’s arsenal is the question—and knowing how to ask the right question at the right time.”
  • Don’t Triangulate. “Most people find talking behind someone’s back to be insulting—so effective insultants avoid it at all costs.”
  • Don’t Kid Yourself—Your Real Motivation Will Be Obvious. “If you mean to embarrass, demean, or criticize another person, while you might succeed in that goal, you will have unnecessarily sacrificed any opportunity you had to contribute change.”
  • Be a Grown-Up. “An insultant’s job is to make sure an issue gets a thorough vetting, not to convince everyone to see the world his or her way.”
  • Be Assertive and Persistent. “Not everyone will be receptive to the hard truth, so an insultant must be both assertive and persistent, returning to the issue as often as he or she thinks is necessary to get the point across.
As a leader, you gain nothing by not knowing what people are thinking. People with ideas and challenges to your way of doing things are not necessarily being insubordinate. They are practicing leadership. Leaders can encourage a candid environment be celebrating productive failure, involving people enough in the issues that they can make intelligent contributions, focusing on both employees and customers that have left the company, and using humor to encourage frankness and trust.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 01:47 PM
| TrackBacks (1) | Change , Leadership Development , Management , Problem Solving

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

12.27.07

Qualities of Leadership Found in Wordsworth

William Wordsworth
English poet, William Wordsworth (1770-1850) wrote in the 1815 edition of his works, what has become a famous preface simply entitled, Preface to Poems. He begins by listing the six “powers requisite for the production of poetry.” Interestingly enough, they make a good list of qualities relating to the practice of leadership.

First is Observation and Description. That is “the ability to observe with accuracy things as they are in themselves, and with fidelity to describe them.” Also, to see reality “unmodified by any passion or feeling existing in the mind of the describer.”

Secondly is Sensibility. The more refined our senses are, “the wider will be the range” of our perceptions” and “the more will he be incited to observe objects, both as they exist in themselves and as re-acted upon by his own mind.”

Third is Reflection. This quality, makes the leader “acquainted with the value of actions, images, thoughts, and feelings; and assists the sensibility in perceiving their connection with each other.”

Fourth is Imagination and Fancy. This is the ability “to modify, to create, and to associate.”

Fifth is Invention. A quality by which a plan is made “composed out of materials supplied by observation” and are “most fitted to do justice” to the vision.

And finally, is Judgment. That is “to decide how and where, and in what degree, each of these faculties ought to be exerted; so that the less shall not be sacrificed to the greater; nor the greater, slighting the less, arrogate, to its own injury, more than its due.”

Posted by Michael McKinney at 10:34 AM
| TrackBacks (0) | Leadership Development

11.07.07

Your Leadership Brand

According to Dave Ulrich and Norm Smallwood, leaders must live the image they want to portray to their customers (followers) and investors. That is their leadership brand. They write in Leadership Brand, “Leadership brand occurs when leaders’ knowledge, skills, and values focus employee behavior on the factors that target the issues that customers care about. Leadership brand is an extension of an organization’s brand identity because it shows up in the behaviors and results of leaders throughout the firm in a manner that bridges employee and customer commitment.” In others words, leaders must walk the talk.

Leadership Brand
But it goes beyond that. It is a philosophy that should permeate the whole organization in order to build leaders for future roles in that organization in alignment with that organizations leadership brand. It is something that is done at all levels by all leaders. Leaders who produce leaders “build a leadership brand by cultivating competence, sharing decision making and authority, imparting information, and distributing rewards.”

Organizationally, the process begins by asking not “What do I want to be known for?” but, “What do we want our customers to know us for?” Once determined, living that brand becomes a serious matter; one that should be taken with careful consideration. Leadership comes with a price. Leadership requires a great deal from leaders as their behavior is carefully watched and observed by others. The needs of the customers/followers come first. Accountability is not an option. This applies to any organization. Just ask Tom Haggard or Bob Nardelli. The higher up you go the more intense it becomes. The authors quote Gary Hamel who put it this way:
Authenticity is a huge multiplier of individual impact. And, at it core, authenticity is not about being true to oneself (whatever that means), it is about being true to the interests of those whose lives you want to improve and change. Mercenaries, careerists, and egomaniacs are me-centered. Great leaders are you-centered. (Nicely put Gary!)
What about a personal leadership brand? They take a chapter to outline this question. It begins with the question, “What do I want to be known for?” But it doesn’t stop there. Ever results oriented (Results-Based Leadership, 1999), the authors say that that question needs to be linked to a desired result so that your brand will endure. A brand statement should read something like this: “I want to be known for __________, __________, and __________, so that I can deliver __________ and __________ at work and __________ and __________ outside work.”

You then need to ask yourself if your leadership brand aligns with the organization’s leadership brand. If not, something needs to give.

Understanding the identity and needs of those you're leading is the driving idea behind the leadership brand. They conclude:
First, focus on the outside in instead of the inside out. Outside in means that customer (and investor) expectations should frame, focus, and influence leader behaviors. When leader know and do things that add value to customers, they are more likely to be doing the right thing. Second, focus not only on the personal attributes of a noble or successful leader but on leadership, or the cadre of leaders within you company. Based on these two principles, a leadership brand bridges the firm’s identity in the mind of those outside (customers and investors) with the behavior of its employees.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 09:56 AM
| TrackBacks (0) | Leadership Development

11.05.07

The Art of Winning Others Over

If there is any secret of success, it lies in the ability to get the other person’s point of view and see things from that person’s angle as well as your own.
—Henry Ford
The Art of WooIn The Art of Woo or "Winning Others Over," authors Richard Shell and Mario Moussa, make the case that wooing is one of the most important skills in a manager's repertoire. Research would seem to support this claim as people with strong social skills have been shown to command higher fees and salaries than equally talented but less socially adept colleagues. And they are no doubt more pleasant to be around.

Winning others over is an art. It is the ability to sell “your ideas to people within the context of ongoing, important relationships.” They maintain, “If you want to be a player in your organization, a successful partner with your customers or suppliers, a leader in your community, or even a good parent, you need to woo people to your point of view by putting your ideas across in convincing, relationship-friendly ways.”

To that end, they remind us that the idea in persuasion is not to defeat the other person but to win them over. The place to begin is in understanding your own persuasion style. They have identified five types—The Driver, The Promoter, The commander, The Chess Player and The Advocate—and have included a Persuasion Style Assessment to get you started. Whatever your preferred style tends to be, the idea is to strike a balance between what the authors identify as the "self-oriented" perspective-where focus is on the persuader's credibility and point of view-and the "other-oriented" perspective, which focuses on the audience's needs, perceptions and feelings.

They have created a systematic strategy or Woo Process, to aid you in skillfully getting your point across. In brief they are:
The Art od Woo


Step 1: Survey Your Situation, that is
• Forge and polish your idea,
• Map the decision process you face by understanding the social networks within the organization,
• Assess your persuasion styles, and
• Confirm your own level of passion for the proposal.

Step 2: Confront the Five Barriers, including
• Negative relationships,
• Poor credibility,
• Communication mismatches,
• Contrary belief systems, and
• Conflicting Interests.
Then transform these five barriers into assets.

Step 3: Make Your Pitch by
• Presenting solid evidence and arguments and
• Using devices to give your idea a personal touch.

Step 4: Secure Your Commitments by dealing with politics at both
• The individual level and
• Within the organization.

They note that authority plays a background role in most interactions and while it can be useful in some situations, it should not be relied upon especially where there are multiple stakeholders. They say, “The formal roles people occupy are the starting positions for a complex dance of organizational influence.” They also note that actually, the higher up you go in an organization, the less authority comes into play and the more important relationship and persuasion skills become.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 09:03 AM
| TrackBacks (0) | Communication , Leadership Development , Management , Motivation

10.24.07

Making Leadership Development Part of Organizational Strategy

Michael Maccoby states in his book The Leaders We Need, that “In any business, good leadership may be the most essential competitive advantage a company can have.” Linking leadership and strategy then, would seem to be an organizational imperative.

Leadership Advantage
According to a recent study outlined in The Leadership Advantage by Robert Fulmer and Jared Bleak, leadership is the essential element in the success of any strategic change effort. “Indeed, no strategy is good enough to succeed without strong leadership.” They found that successful organizations built a strong link between business strategy and leadership-development strategy.

The link between business strategy and leadership-development strategy is not haphazard, but specific and deliberate and omnipresent. The link is part of the philosophy of the organization that “permeates all organizational levels and is applicable to all employees.” In this way, an organization can keep the leadership-development strategy relevant to each business unit and to the overall business strategy in general. For example:
PepsiCo’s leadership-development strategy is grounded in the belief that strong leaders are needed to be successful in the marketplace. Pepsico This belief is fundamental to PepsiCo’s two-pronged HR approach, which includes a career-growth model and a talent-management model for leadership development. This two pronged approach aligns with corporate strategic initiatives, which in turn link with the organization’s sustainable competitive advantage.
Using senior executive to teach emerging leaders is an effective two-way street where both benefit.
One of the surprising findings of this project was the degree to which senior executives practice the concept of leading by teaching. At PepsiCo, Paul Russell, vice president of executive learning & development, speaks of “the magic of leaders developing leaders.” According to Russell, the missing adult-learning principle is that “people learn best when they get to learn from someone they really want to learn from.” Russell notes that “at PepsiCo, the ‘teachers’ our executives want to learn from are our own senior leaders. They are world class, widely respected, and have proven that they can do it here!”

At PepsiCo, senior executives are asked to share their personal perspectives, as well as build participant confidence and skills while demonstrating support for their growth. Of equal importance, senior leaders elicit greater teamwork from participants and get to know key young leaders while developing more loyalty, motivation, and productivity among employees and creating greater alignment around vision and key strategic initiatives. PepsiCo leaders are encouraged to think of learning as an important arrow in their quiver for helping to drive change. At PepsiCo, learning becomes something to live, not just another thing to endorse.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 08:26 AM
| TrackBacks (0) | Books , Leadership Development

10.19.07

The Impending Leadership Vacuum

IBM Global Human Capital Study 2008
IBM just released the Global Human Capital Study 2008. The study is the result of interviews conducted with 400 human resources executives from 40 countries. It suggests that companies are putting growth strategies at risk if they cannot identify and develop the next generation of leaders.

The study reports that the most vulnerable companies are those in the industrial sector and those operating in the Asia Pacific region. Yet the impending leadership crisis is a worldwide issue. Driving the problem is the retirement of baby boomers and rapid growth in Asia. Baby boomers will drain companies of valuable knowledge when they retire, while multinational firms need to find people to lead their businesses in booming markets such as India and China.

The crisis doesn’t end there. “Not only are companies concerned with their current leadership capacity,” the study says, “they are confronted by their inability to develop future leadership talent. Over 75 percent of companies indicate building leadership talent is a significant challenge.” Fifty-two percent of the human resources executives interviewed said their organizations may be unable to rapidly develop skills to meet current or future business needs. The report concludes:
Creating an adaptable workforce requires more than a series of HR programs….It requires the ability to identify experts and foster an environment where knowledge and experience travel beyond traditional organizational boundaries. It calls for a talent model that can help companies recruit, develop and retain valued segments of the employee population….The human resources organization, by itself, cannot be expected to shoulder this entire effort. True, the HR function needs to take a lead role in providing strategic guidance on workforce issues and designing human capital programs that can enhance workforce effectiveness. However, the entire executive suite needs to play a role in improving workforce performance. This may involve providing functional expertise, taking joint responsibility for executing human capital programs or simply setting a positive example for employees within their organizations. Without this unified commitment, all bets are off….The key to building that kind of workforce lies with the leadership of the organization, facilitated in large part by HR.
Leaders At All Levels
The ideas in Ram Charan’s upcoming book, Leaders At All Levels, while focused more at developing CEOs specifically, addresses this looming issue and leadership development in general. He has developed a new approach to leadership development that moves it from just an HR function to “an everyday activity that is fully integrated into the fabric of the business and in which line leaders play a central role.” He calls it the Apprenticeship Model. It is essentially learning by doing.

In this timely and valuable book, he states that we focus on the wrong people for the wrong reasons and thus we fail to recognize and develop emerging leaders. He constructed a guide to correctly identify leadership talent early-on, called the CEO Nucleus.
CEO Nucleus
The leaders with the highest potential will have what I call “the CEO nucleus,” the intuitive ability to comprehend the total picture of a business and how it makes money in the language of a street vendor. Another essential is the ability to work with and motivate people, and a third is the intellectual capacity to see ambiguous, complex, nonquantifiable situations from a broader view and through several different lenses.
We’ll take a closer look at what Charan has to say on this important issue as we approach the book’s December 21 release date.

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

09.14.07

Taking It Personally

“Foolish is the person that takes offense when none was intended. More foolish is the person that takes offense when it was intended.”
egonomics
The above statement rings true, because either way we lose. In egonomics, David Marcum and Steven Smith describe the difficulties that arise when we get our identity confused with the topic being debated—when we take things personally. When we get into a vigorous debate, it’s quite common to find that we respond to a perceived attack with behavior that indicates our ego is in trouble.

When we respond to a statement or question by comparing ourselves, seeking acceptance, showcasing or getting defensive, it often means that we think our identity is under attack. In other words, we forget about the debate of ideas and respond as though who we are is being threatened and we take it personally. It’s not unusual that we have a tough time separating our ideas from our identity? Trial attorney Gerry Spence explains, “We all have a personal image that he must protect. For example, I do not want to be seen by others, and particularly my myself, as weak, as ill advised, as less than worthy, as stupid, as someone who cannot be respected. I will do whatever is necessary to preserve my personal image of myself. The more fragile my self image, the harder I will struggle to preserve it.”

Marcum and Smith explain it this way: “If we can’t distinguish who we are from what we do, what we have, or who we do it with, we won’t see past our titles or tenure in a discussion. If we say to ourselves or others, ‘I’m the Vice President,’ ‘I’m the CEO,’ ‘I’m the Director of Public Relations,’ or even ‘I’m the creative one’ or ‘I’m the advocate for diversity here,’ then we’re parading our identity, and take it personally.”

In egonomics, Marcum and Smith examine an exchange between Fred Rogers and Senator John Pastore at a Congressional hearing to effectively explain this point. It clearly showcases the benefits of maintaining a separation between identity and ideas and keeping your ego in check with humility. They explain, “In the intensity of debate, humility is like a two-way surge protector; it keeps us from making it personal or taking it personally.”

Of course, the trick is to avoid this negative response cycle in the first place. The authors borrowed an idea from Carl Rogers to give form to an essential attitude to take when faced with a vigorous debate (or when dealing with people in general). The idea is to treat people with unconditional positive regard. That is to say that “everyone is worthy of respect and capable of contribution, even when they don’t particularly act that way or even feel that way about themselves.” We want to assure others that we aren’t trying to change who they are, but we are interested in presenting another viewpoint.

If you find yourself in a situation where things have gotten beyond productive, then the author’s suggest using one of the following opening statements before we begin asking questions:

“You might be right…”
“Even though that’s hard to hear, I’m glad you’re saying something…”
“Okay. Let’s talk that one through.”
“Say a little more about that.”

It doesn’t signal agreement, it expresses a mind open to understanding. Debate needs to follow understanding or people often begin to defend themselves and not their ideas.
Finally, in the spirit of vigorous debate and deepened understanding, humility prompts us to ask, “Who cares if I’m right at this instant if we get it right eventually?” If we’re devoted to progress, it doesn’t matter who has the answer, but that the answers are found.
In the balance of the book, Marcum and Smith show that shifting conversations from statements and judgments to exploration requires not just humility, but the relentless application of two more principles—curiosity and veracity. They maintain a good blog that is worth checking out also.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 12:33 AM
| TrackBacks (0) | Communication , Leadership Development , Personal Development

09.10.07

Four Warning Signs That Our Ego is Getting the Best Of Us

egonomics
A managed ego is an important trait of the effective person. Authors David Marcum and Steven Smith state in their compelling book egonomics: What Makes Ego Our Greatest Asset (or Most Expensive Liability), that “surprising as it may sound, many people don’t have enough ego, and that leads to insecurity and apathy that paralyze cultures and leaders.” This is an important addition to our thinking about ego and worth examining in more depth. It does sound odd as no doubt, most of us have been told that ego is a bad thing. But an unbalanced ego—either overconfident or lacking in confidence—can trap people in bad thinking resulting in poor or damaging interactions with others.

egonomics offers four warning signs that our ego is getting the best of us:
  1. Being Comparative “When we’re comparative, we tend to either pit our strengths against another’s weaknesses, which may lead us to an exaggerated sense of confidence, or we compare our weaknesses to their strengths, which can cause negative self pressure.
  2. Being Defensive “When we can’t ‘lose,’ we defend our positions as if we’re defending who we are, and the debate shifts from a we-centered battle of ideas to a me-centered war of wills.”
  3. Showcasing Brilliance “The more we want or expect people to recognize, appreciate or be dazzled by how smart we are, the less they listen, even if we do have better ideas.”
  4. Seeking Acceptance “When we equate acceptance or rejection of our ideas with acceptance or rejection of who we are, we ‘play it safe.’ We tend to swim with the current and find a slightly different way of saying what’s already been said as long as acceptance is the outcome. That nor only makes us a bland follower, but an uninspiring leader.”
I believe that these four warning signs crop up in our lives and in the lives of those around us, due more to a lack of a proper ego than an oversized ego. More often than not, a person that appears egotistical is covering for insecurities than they are expressing a genuine belief in their superiority.

Humility isn’t the opposite of ego, but it plays a vital role in keeping it in balance. Marcum and Smith created the following diagram to help us to understand the equilibrium concept of humility.
humility equilibrium
The diagram graphically illustrates the two poles of ego and the grounding effect that humility plays to pull us back into a proper perspective. The authors define humility as the “intelligent self respect which keeps us from thinking too highly or too little of ourselves. It reminds us how far we have come while at the same time helping us see how far short we are of what we can be.”
Ego doesn’t suddenly pull us to the extremes and twist us overnight into egomaniacs, or lead us to believe we’re above the law. But once we’re in the habit of being off-center, we do slowly start to believe we’re above other things: reproach, being wrong, being questioned, the need to prove we’re right, having a bad idea, following the lead of others, and so on. Being consistently off-center leads us gradually toward the extremes.
When we lose control of ego, we lose “trust, respect, relationships, influence, talent, careers, clients, and market share. Each of us has occasionally, perhaps unknowingly, let ego weaken our talents despite our qualifications, expertise, charisma, track record, or remarkable ability.”

This is an important book that will be helpful to anyone trying to get a handle on their ego and understand it manifestations in themselves and others. egonomics is a book that every leader should read and one that we will return to again on this blog.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 12:32 AM
| TrackBacks (0) | Books , Leadership Development , Personal Development

09.07.07

Be Not a Scholar Confused By Your Own Learning

As one studies leadership, I am reminded of Louis Nizer’s words to be “a scholar who is not confused by his own learning.” It’s easy to get caught up in some of the theory, jargon and formulas and find the whole thing inaccessible but to the best minds. Don’t get me wrong, I believe that the books, training, and mentoring are essential to opening our minds to think in new ways. But ultimately, leadership development begins with self-knowledge and the development of a disciplined mind and character. It is specific to our varied own backgrounds and situations. There are hundreds of great tools to help you get there, but he only one that can begin the journey, is you.

The late great diplomat, Abba Eban once wrote, “An ‘expert’ is a man who understands everything—but nothing else. He sometimes becomes immune to the intangible but powerful human impulses that lie beneath the surface of his discipline.” Yet, it is in the “intangible but powerful human impulses that lie beneath the surface” where you will find leadership. Fortunately, that is accessible to everyone who makes the effort.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 11:07 AM
| TrackBacks (0) | Leadership Development , Personal Development

09.05.07

Empower Yourself

In a very practical book, Achieve Leadership Genius, authors Drea Zigarmi, Susan Fowler and Dick Lyles ask, “What if employees didn’t wait to be empowered—but empowered themselves?
Achieve Leadership Genius


Good question; one that places the responsibility for “empowerment” where it belongs. The individual. If you’re waiting for your boss to give up control and decision-making authority to turn you into a free-thinking, free-wheeling employee, empowered to determine your own work rules, you’ll wait a long time. Empowerment is a good idea, but as the authors point out, it depends on self-leadership—“people who possess the ability, energy, and determination to accept responsibility for success in their work-related role.”
Employee engagement suffers because organizations depend on managers to engage employees, rather than developing self leaders who recognize their responsibility and have the skill to take initiative for success in their role.

It just makes sense that every organization should develop self-leaders—yet this is usually the most underfunded and undervalued aspect of leadership training.
The road to empowerment begins with visualizing your ideal role. That vision is something you can begin to build your identity around. How do you see yourself? How do you want others to see you? Your identity will guide you thoughts, decisions and actions. Keep in mind, your vision should be aligned with the goals and purposes of your boss and organization or you will get no support. The authors remind us to, “Consider your role as a piece of the puzzle—one of many in an organization. It is important fro you top understand the big picture and your place within it. Your efforts to envision will not only help you understand the meaning of your work, but it will also remind your boss of the vital contributions being made by you and your role.”
Wise sages extol the virtue in the moment. But what happens when the challenge of the moment diminishes the energy available for moving forward? Your work-related vision acts like an emotional manager to pull you through the tough times and into a time of possibility. It provides a transition from the potentially threatening current reality to the next step of action. It empowers you to overcome the inevitable obstacles, pain strife, exhaustion, and any number of inevitable de-motivators that could jeopardize success in your work-related role.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 10:20 AM
| TrackBacks (0) | Leadership Development

08.27.07

5 Leadership Lessons: Measure of a Leader

5 Leadership Lessons

Aubrey and James Daniels wrote a comprehensive and thoughtful book on leadership entitled, Measure of a Leader. It is a book that deserves far more attention. The premise is a new model of leadership that focuses on the behavior of followers. By becoming a better observer of human behavior we can become better leaders. They say that “most leadership writers limit their premises to the success of the leader at his or her particular venture.” There’s more to it than that. How you accomplish something is as important (if not more important) than what you accomplish. Here are a few lessons from their book:

3  In any undertaking that requires leadership, loyalty to the individual may be how the venture starts, but it is not how that venture thrives. If the leader cannot transfer personal loyalty to his vision, he has failed one of the critical tests of effective leadership.

3  When change exposes individuals to failure and punishment, they resist. When change increases the person’s access to reinforcement, they seek it out. Since one of the leader’s key functions is to lead change, he must view resistance as a signal that something is wrong with the process being used to achieve desired change rather than simply passing off the resistance to change as a normal characteristic of human behavior. Contrary to common opinion, it is not normal!

3  Learning to lead is a function of deliberate practice. You refine your techniques and skills by observing the followers’ responses. While you may pick up some pointers from the stories of others, you cannot simply imitate what they do. This intentional search for the impact of your actions will set you apart from those who try to replicate the actions of other leaders.
Measure of a Leader


3  Managers need to learn the following rule: you don’t lead by results; you lead to results; and only behavior will get you there. It is important to differentiate between behavior and non-behavior. Of course, attitudes are not behaviors; competencies are not behaviors; values are not behaviors; employee involvement and commitment are not behaviors. Asking someone to smile more often may be infinitely more helpful than telling him to change his attitude.

3  Learning leadership is fundamentally a self-management task. But this task is made immensely more difficult if you think of it in terms of changing your personality, such as becoming more charismatic. Since leadership is defined in terms of the behavior of the followers, the task is to ask, “What do I want my followers to do?” and then “What must I do to produce that behavior?”

Posted by Michael McKinney at 10:48 AM
| TrackBacks (0) | Books , Five Lessons , Leadership Development

07.27.07

Remarkable Leadership: The Kevin Eikenberry Interview Part 3

This is the final post of our interview with Kevin Eikenberry author of the book Remarkable Leadership. Kevin Eikenberry maintains a blog on his web site and on the Remarkable Leadership web site.
Kevin Eikenberry


LeadingBlog: One thing that gets bantered around a lot today is the idea of the leaderless organization. Do you think that there is such a thing?

Kevin Eikenberry: I suppose it depends on how you define it. Could you have an organization where no one has the job title that says “leader?” Perhaps. But I don't think it’s possible for there not to be a leader. Where the leadership comes from could change on a project, on a day, on a portion of the project, on a situation, perhaps. So, if you're thinking about a leaderless organization from that perspective – that is it’s really about shared leadership – I think that’s very possible. But to say that there’s an organization where there is no leadership to me says that there’s an organization that’s going literally nowhere. Because leadership is required to say, “how do we get from where we are to where we want to go.” And in that perspective it’s much more about a role than it is about a person. So I don't think that the role of leader can go away. Although I think it can be shared greatly and successfully. That’s my take. What’s your take on that?

LB: I would agree with you completely. I don't think there is such a thing as a leaderless organization in that there is nobody at any given point at the helm. It may be shared, but that there’s nobody in that role, no.

KE: Remarkable Leadership isn't even out yet as we're talking now, but I'm already working on what the next book is going to be and that is Remarkable Followership. It’s that role we play as followers. If all of us are leaders then all of us are also followers. And what does it look like as a job title or whatever? How do we still be a highly productive, engaged part of the team?

LB: I think that’s really important. That’s one area that I don't think people understand — even people in leadership training — because they get the idea that I'm a leader and so I'm not a follower. Either, or. But throughout the day, sometimes a I'm a leader and sometimes I'm a follower. It changes depending on the situation. A good leader knows when to follow.

KE: Yes. Let’s just take the microcosm of a meeting. Within a meeting a remarkable leader, a good leader, is going to be a leader and a follower over and over and over throughout that meeting – or maybe neither and be a facilitator (neutral). So, it’s really about role and understanding that all of us have to lead and follow. If everyone is leading and no one is following then there’s really no leader either. There’s the need for both roles and I think in reality for us to be truly highly functioning professionals, we need to master both of those roles.

LB: Absolutely. Finally, what do you think is the biggest factor that prevents someone from becoming a remarkable leader?

KE: Oh, to me that’s easy. The biggest factor that prevents it is belief. People don't think it’s possible: “I'm not a leader.” “Someone else is good at that, that’s not me.” “That’s not the thing that I'm good at.” “I don't see myself as that.” “My Dad wasn't a leader so I can't be a leader.” It’s not about potential, it’s not about possibility – yes, there are opportunities, there are development situations where some people have had great mentors and great opportunities and that sort of thing, but in the end, even if you have been given the opportunity
Remarkable Leadership
to work with a great leader or have a great mentor or have had an amazingly fortunate opportunity, I believe, if you don't believe it’s possible for you to become that, it’s not going to happen. You're not going to see the opportunity. You're not going to take it. So to me the number one factor is belief.

Note: You will find a great interview (podcast) with Kevin Eikenberry that has an entrepreneurial focus on Sam Crowley's EverydayIsSaturday.com. Check it out.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 12:23 AM
| TrackBacks (0) | Interviews , Leadership Development

07.25.07

Remarkable Leadership: The Kevin Eikenberry Interview Part 2

Our interview with Kevin Eikenberry author of the book Remarkable Leadership continues. The final part will be posted on Friday.
Remarkable Leadership


LeadingBlog: In your book, Remarkable Leadership, you divide teams into two types — basketball teams and track and field teams. Could you explain that?

Kevin Eikenberry: You obviously read the book.

LB: I did.

KE: I love that. To me what we've got is everyone thinking that everyone should be like a basketball team or a hockey team or a soccer team, which is a highly interdependent team. If you've got a basketball team, you've got five players who at any given time might have to play a different role; they all have to have some very similar skills to do various things within the team. And when any one of those five players, like in the case of basketball, is not being successful, it has a significant impact on the rest of the team. That in Western culture is what we think of a team in the workplace. An interdependent team. But in many cases, the kinds of teams at work aren't that way. They're more like a track and field team. So if you and I are on a track and field team together and you're a hurdler and I'm a pole-vaulter, how well you hurdle today does not impact how well I pole-vault or vice versa. But both of us want the other to do well and when we both do well the team wins. And we advance to the next meet, right? But as independent participants in this team, my work product doesn't require your input at the kind of level it does if you're passing the ball to me to take a shot or if I'm passing the ball to you after I make a rebound. So it’s a very different sort of an interaction. And I think the challenge that we get into in many cases Michael, is that we think as leaders and as team members that every team ought to be like that basketball team. And it gets us into all kinds of trouble because we try to interact in ways that we don't even need to, to get the work done.

LB: So what we're trying to do really, is force track and field participants or teams into basketball teams?

KE: I think that happens far too often. I've been on teams like that and I have been in situations like that and I have seen it many times. I've tried to help individual teams and organizations think about it. Most organizations have both kinds of teams and the problem is that leaders try to treat both the same because they've never thought about the differences.

LB: You wrote in your book that “remarkable leaders don't delegate, they share responsibility.” What do you mean by that?

KE: Well, you know I asked a lot of people about the “delegate” word. The interesting thing that I got was, there’s not a lot of positive feelings around the word delegate. I think that maybe it’s a bit of a play on words but I think that when leaders are thinking about delegating at least in my experience—anytime I think about any book I've read about being a more effective leader or manager and it talks about delegation, it’s talking about handing things off so you can do something else—and when you think about delegating from the perspective of handing things off to others so I can do something else, you're not doing it in support of the other person. You're just doing it in a somewhat selfish way to give me time to do something different , however valuable that might be.

I think that the difference is in the focus. The focus of thinking is about sharing responsibility—it's not “I'm sharing this with you, yet I'm going to be free to do something else” but “I'm sharing this with you to help you grow, to help you to get to the point where you can do my job, or that we collectively can be more productive or whatever that looks like.” But really I think its as much about what’s the underlying reason for the activity. Remarkable leaders think about it from the perspective of how’s that going to impact positively the other person and the organization. I know that if I'm thinking about it that way Michael, I'm going to do a better job of handing-off that task—whatever we're going to use to call it. If my intent is about helping the other person be more successful, building their skills, increasing their accountability, whatever that looks like, if my intent is to help them, then I'm going to be much more successful at doing it whatever I call it. So the difference is not so much about the semantics, but the intent. I'm using different words to try to help describe that intent. I may have just done a better job of describing it here than I did in the book. I don't know.

LB: That caught my eye in the book, because everything you read says delegate.

KE: Everybody that I talked to—and that’s one of the chapters that as I was writing that I spent a lot of time calling people, calling colleagues, calling friends, (and the next book I'd be calling you—you're one of those people that I'd ask) everyone had this whole thing about delegating—both as being delegated to and delegating—not a positive thing. I'm thinking, you know, wait a minute, these are opportunities for learning and development and growth, why is it that they don't feel that way. And I tried to back into this whole idea of intent and I think that’s where the difference is.

LB: Well, that makes good sense. I was wonder about delegating those tasks where we know we are weak … if you're doing it in the sense of a shared responsibility then that would make sense wouldn't it?

KE: That’s exactly right. And I think remarkable leaders do recognize their strengths verses the strengths of the other people on their team. And hopefully we are self aware enough to know what it is that we want to be sharing based on what our strengths are.

And we're aware enough of the strengths of our team members to be sharing things with them that matches their styles or strengths better. I think as remarkable leaders we recognize that we're better off when we put the right work in the hands of the people that have the strengths to handle it. It doesn't necessarily mean the experience or knowledge as much as the strengths. I think that remarkable leaders figure that out well enough and try to share the work in a way that makes the most sense.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 07:24 AM
| TrackBacks (0) | Books , Interviews , Leadership Development

07.23.07

Remarkable Leadership: The Kevin Eikenberry Interview Part 1

Remarkable Leadership
This week—Monday, Wednesday and Friday—we will feature an interview with Kevin Eikenberry author of the book Remarkable Leadership. Kevin is the Chief Potential Officer of The Kevin Eikenberry Group, a learning consulting company that provides a wide range of services, including training delivery and design, facilitation, performance coaching, organizational consulting, and speaking services. Kevin believes that remarkable leaders are developed. Remarkable Leadership identifies the 13 competencies of remarkable leadership and offers a proven method for applying those competencies at any level leadership. The book is thought provoking and easily applied. In this interview, Kevin will share his thoughts on leadership development, lifelong learning, teamwork, delegating, followership and the biggest factor that could prevent you from becoming a remarkable leader.

LeadingBlog: How do you define a Remarkable Leader?

Kevin Eikenberry: I think all people who are leaders have the ability to become remarkable leaders. I think that’s the most important thing and the underlying concept of my book. But to me you define a remarkable leader as someone who is continually working to become a more effective leader, number one. And secondly, they recognize that remarkable leadership is not about the technical skills of forecasting, budgeting and technical knowledge of the work, but really about how we engender trust, build relationships, develop others, communicate more effectively—all of those other skills that we really think of when we think of great leaders that we've worked with in the past. That’s a remarkable leader.

LB: What is wrong with how most organizations do leadership development today?

KE: The main thing that is wrong with what most organizations are doing, is that they think of leadership development as being about events. We always say, “training is an event, learning is a process.” And it’s the same thing for leadership development. Organizations are looking for the magic pill, they've identified people as high performance or their next leader or “they've been a supervisor for three years so we'd better give them some training.” So leadership development looks like this event, this workshop, this seminar, this whatever, and when they've done that they've checked that box and that’s their leadership development process. I think the smartest organizations are looking at it differently. They're looking at leadership development much more holistically. They're thinking about a wider variety of activities, and experiences and processes. Anything from different sorts of assignments, different sorts of projects to application projects, to the chance to be coached or coach others, mentoring programs and a whole host of other things, put together specifically to work best for that organization. So in short, what’s wrong is that people are thinking about leadership development like they do most training and that is as events as opposed to thinking about a process in terms of what really makes learning work.

LB: So more of a long term thing?

KE: A long term thing, but an integrated thing. Integrated with the work. You could have training that is long term right? You could have a class this week and next month and four months from now and 21 years from now and all that sort of thing, but the real challenge is, I think, integrating it back into the work so that people can go back and really apply what they're learning.

LB: You place a lot of emphasis on learning? Would you say that the ability or the desire to learn is the most fundamental skill of the remarkable leader?

KE: That’s like the big softball for me. One of the early chapters in the book talks about that very thing. I do believe that the number one skill of a leader—the underlying core skill of a leader—is their ability to learn. Because, if we want all of these kinds of things in our employees or those we lead—we want flexibility and collaboration, and we want them to continually grow and we want them to develop and we want those things for them—then number one, we had better be doing those things ourselves. And secondly, if we want to continue to build our skills—as I said a remarkable leader is someone who does continue to build their skills—that means by definition, that we have to be ongoing, or as I say in the book, continual learners. To me it is the fundamental underlying skill. And Michael, when I work with groups, I'll ask them when they think of the best leaders they've ever experienced, make me a list of their characteristics, and people will come up with a long list of great attributes, but they won't come up with the word learning. But without learning most of those other things aren't going to happen.

LB: So you don't think leaders are born?

KE: I don't. I don't think leaders are born. I think that all of us have a unique bundle of gifts and talents that are a part of our DNA and although there are some people that may have some innate skills that help them become some parts of the leadership process more easily—just like there are some people that innate skills that make them better mathematicians or musicians right? But I think just like those things that challenge us as a leader, is to play on our greatest strengths—to utilize our greatest strengths—to become more effective leaders. Because in the end being a highly effective leader is about being a highly effective human. There are many different ways to lead and the challenge is finding the voice that we best lead with and build on those strengths first.

LB: Good. How would you improve your learning ability? Or make the time for it? Sometimes we get so busy that we put “learning” off because we don't have time for it.

KE: Absolutely. That’s why, when I started to write the book the learning competency was that remarkable leaders are continuous learners. And I don't think that that’s really true. We're not continuous learners. We're doing all sorts of things and although as human beings we are learning beings, we are not necessarily continuously, consciously learning. The kind of learning we are talking about here is conscious right? And so, I think it’s much more about being continual. On an ongoing basis as opposed to continuous—in every moment being a learner. I think that’s too high a bar to set for ourselves.

I think the challenge for us all is that first of all we have to figure out how to make the time for it and the way to do that is to find opportunities. I think if I could encourage people to do just one thing that would make them a more effective continual learner—and it doesn't necessarily take a lot of time, it takes change of a couple of habits—that is that we would just take time to reflect more on our day; thinking about what worked and what didn't, what we want to repeat and what we don't want to repeat, and what we learned that we want to do differently the next time. If we would take 20 minutes everyday to do that we would improve so rapidly I think it would be quite amazing. And the way we do that is to first of all, make a conscious effort to do it. You say, “Well I don't have 20 minutes.” but yeah you do. Because you drive home from work and you listen to the radio or you take your walk and you listen to your I-pod or watch television in the evening, I think there are lots of times we can steal 15-20-30 minutes a day to do these kinds of things. It’s not like reading … having a book in hand or any of those other things. It’s just closing our mind down enough from other things to give ourselves a chance to reflect. And in the end, a learning process has to include a reflection process or we can't learn from our own experiences. I think that that is too often left out. And we're in such a rush to move from one thing to the next—from doing one tele-seminar, to another interview, to do another phone call, right?—that we don't take the time to just stop take a mental deep breath and really think about what worked and what didn't. So if I'm going to do a better job in my next interview, I'd better stop and spend a little time thinking Michael, about what went well on this one or not. And I think that is the key for us to become continual learners. If I could say one thing, it would be take the time, make the time to reflect and ask those reflective questions.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 03:23 AM
| TrackBacks (0) | Books , Interviews , Leadership Development

05.25.07

Developing a Respectful Mind

Five Minds for the Future
Howard Gardner writes in Five Minds for the Future, "Adolescents have potentials for leadership, or for enterprise, that can be marshaled for diverse ends; it is up to their elders—parents, educators, community leaders, slightly older and more mature peers—to influence how these potentials are mobilized." This is a significant thought worthy of repeated reflection. It describes the process of character development throughout our lives. We might consider what functions we occupy and the influence we are having on others.

In any event, Gardner believes that the mobilization of these potentials should progress in five directions that can be manifested in five minds. They are: the disciplined mind (a mind trained on a specific scholarly discipline, craft or profession), the synthesizing mind (a mind that can create value from information), the creating mind (a mind that can break new ground), the ethical mind (a mind that contemplates meaning in work and life and then acts on it) and the respectful mind (a mind that welcomes differences between group and individuals).

Looking specifically at the respectful mind, he writes that “rather than ignoring differences, being inflamed by them, or seeking to annihilate them through love or hate, [he] would call on human beings to accept the differences, learn to live with them, and value those who belong to other cohorts.”

The respectful mind, like the other four qualities of mind, Gardner believes is a kind of thinking or attitude we will need to have to thrive during the eras to come. He says “eras to come” because while we have always needed this quality of mind, it has been a kind of option. Meaning I assume, that the repercussions of not having it were better contained in times past. However, today we are so interconnected that our very survival depends on it. In a global sense he is right.

While all of these minds interact with each other, the respectful mind, I believe, would seem to be the cornerstone. five minds for the future Without it we limit our input—distance ourselves from reality—and virtually assure that we are not effective with others. Consequently, the respectful mind is the first mind we should seek to develop in children and demand from ourselves.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 12:22 AM
| TrackBacks (0) | Books , Leadership Development , Personal Development

05.02.07

Ignition Points

How do you lead in a situation where you are not in control? Vince Thompson asks in his book Ignited, “Can the principles [CEOs] use to run their companies really work for managers in The Middle like us—managers without the ability to reshape businesses, redirect strategies, or even (in many cases) to hire, fire, and reward employees as we see fit? The answer is a qualified no.”

Working from where you are with a foundation of authenticity and self-discipline, you can help to make the necessary changes in your organization and create more purpose in your leadership role. Thompson defines seven ignition points—functions or tools you can develop and use to create unique value to your organization.
Ignited


The first of these is the power of the Process Master. “One of the most powerful ways for a manager in The Middle to add value is by knowing the processes his company engages in … and knowing them cold.” In addition to specific steps in the process, “It also means knowing the individuals who handle the processes, along with their quirks, strengths, shortcomings, needs, and vulnerabilities.” A big picture thinker.

Second, is the power of the Linkmaker. “Great managing is largely about Linkmaking—knowing the people around you, understanding what makes them tick, And connecting their knowledge and skills in ways that will make powerful things happen for the organization.”

Third, is the power of the Translator. The translator helps people in the organization to see each others viewpoints and values to help unite them behind shared organizational goals. It’s the ability to translate organizational goals “into actionable ideas that our diverse workforces can ll relate to, buy into, and support.”

Fourth, is the power of the Scout. The Scout understands the landscape—the environment, the customers and vendors—the organization is functioning in and communicates that throughout the organization. The Scout tracks people’s changing attitudes, interests and ideas and works to develop its full potential for the benefit of the organization.

Fifth, is the power of the Pilot. In the role of Pilot, you need to be “looking for threatening shoals and promising open sea lanes, and working to steer your company away from the former and toward the later.”

Sixth, is the power of the Bard. “The Bard is an ignited manager with the ability to record and pass on organizational history … and the evocation of relevant facts and comparisons from past events when current decisions are being weighed.” Why is this so important? Because you can “help others understand where they fit into that story.” That’s vital.

Finally, he describes the power of the Healer. “Rather than treating people like cogs in a machine, smart managers empathize with the struggles and aspirations of their team members. They realize that each one is an individual with strengths, weaknesses, and emotions that must be understood fully.” The ignited manager “knows that motivating people is, in part, about nurturing their hearts and minds.
Ignited
The ignited manager “knows that motivating people is, in part, about nurturing their hearts and minds.

Thompson begins with a short quiz to help you identify your mindset in relation to the ideas he presents in this book. He finishes with steps you can take for “getting your idea sold and ensuring that you achieve the success and recognition you’re earned.”

Posted by Michael McKinney at 12:51 AM
| TrackBacks (0) | Books , Leadership Development

04.25.07

The Acid Test of Leadership

EmperorsClothes
A title or a position can be akin to the Emperor's Clothes. We can become blinded by our titles; blinded to our impact and effectiveness in our role. We can become unable to see what others around us can see. They can create a hazard to our ability to see ourselves and our motives clearly. A title can open doors, but our staying power will come from our ability to influence others. The real strength of a leader is the ability to elicit the strength of a group. Our accomplishments are restricted by our ability to lead—influence—others. Leadership is intentional influence. But how are we doing this—by force of power?

If leadership is about influence then the acid test of leadership must be the following question:

If you were stripped of your title – the politics of leadership, the power to punish and reward people – would they still follow you? Would you still get results from them?

It's good to ask yourself this question periodically and adjust your approach accordingly.

acid test

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

04.13.07

The Courage to Initiate

Initiative Relying on a single person to lead the charge reflects a dysfunctional concept of leadership. It sets up expectations that can’t be met. No one person can do everything. No wise leader would. Leadership is a group activity. There is an implied interdependency.

Everyone has the capacity for leadership. Often what most people lack is the courage—the courage to initiate. Initiative means moving outside your comfort zone. It means seeking out opportunities and being willing to act.

Nearly everyone can see a need or see where changes need to be made. What is uncommon though, are people who are willing to take the initiative; to do something about it. Leadership is not always seen in the brightest or the most talented, but it is always found in the courageous.

You may not be able to be the CEO but you should think as the CEO. The CEO mindset involves taking the time to think about the forces that are shaping the future of both you and your organization. Managing yourself in this way is important not only to the organization but also to your own personal development.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 08:35 AM
| TrackBacks (0) | Leadership Development , Personal Development

03.19.07

Looking for Leaders

Recently someone was lamenting to me the lack of new leaders in their organization. I replied that perhaps they weren’t really looking for leaders. Maybe they were looking for leaders in all the wrong places. We commonly look for what looks like leadership. We look for people who stand out (self-promoters). We look for clones (people who are just like us). We look for the smartest person in the room (technically competent). We look for people who did a good job for us (promote as a reward). Sometimes we get lucky—often we don’t.

Ram Charan begins his fine contribution, Know-How, with, “What gets in the way of finding people who can perform is the appearance of leadership. All too often I see people being chosen for leadership jobs on the basis of superficial personal traits and characteristics.” He lists some of the trappings that are often mistaken for leadership:
The seduction of raw intelligence: “He’s extremely bright, incisive, and very analytical. I just feel in my gut he can do the job.”
A commanding presence and great communication skills: “That presentation was awesome. How she ever boiled down all that data onto the PowerPoints is beyond me. She certainly had the committee in the palm of her hand. Mark my words, she’s going to the top.”
The power of a bold vision: “What a picture he painted of where we are going, moving foreword.”
The notion of a born leader: “The people in the unit love her. Such a morale builder and motivator!”
As Charan points out, these attributes are just a small piece of the leadership pie. We need to look deeper.
True North


While there may be a shortage of leaders, “there is no shortage of people with the capacity for leadership” as Bill George points out in True North.  “The problem is that we have a wrongheaded notion of what constitutes a leader, driven by an obsession with leaders at the top. That misguided standard often results in the wrong people attaining critical leadership roles. … We frequently choose leaders for their charisma instead of their character, their style rather than substance, and their image instead of integrity.”

He adds, “There are leaders throughout organizations, just waiting for opportunities to lead. In too many organizations, however, people do not feel empowered to lead, nor are they rewarded for doing so.”

There is obviously a problem in the way that we approach leadership development. We are taking the path of least resistance. To put the right people in the right jobs and encourage their leadership potential, we must get to know them to see those things that really count. Our preconceived ideas of what a leader is, is just the thing that is getting in our way of finding great leaders. Our beliefs can set us up for selecting leaders that are dysfunctional.

Lists of leadership traits and characteristics can help to educate us, but leadership radiates from who we are. Leadership traits and characteristics are just part of the mix that defines who we really are—our character and attitudes. What else could we be doing to find true leaders?

Posted by Michael McKinney at 10:01 AM
| TrackBacks (0) | Books , Leadership Development

02.23.07

Hardiness: Keep On Breathing Without Letting Go

bulldog
Winston Churchill observed, “The nose of the bulldog has been slanted backwards so that he can breathe without letting go.”

In today’s environment, leaders are pulled in all directions. It seems there are more responsibilities and pressures than ever before. Things can easily get out of hand and when they do it’s hard to keep on breathing without letting go.

Of course, hardships and stress always accompany accomplishment. It’s important to remember that a strong commitment will carry you forward when nothing else will. Successful people have exceptionally high levels of tenacity and persistence and a general hardiness.

Kouzes and Posner find hardiness an important ingredient for leadership success:
First, people can’t lead if they aren’t psychologically hardy. No one will follow someone who avoids stressful events and won’t take decisive action. Second, even if their leaders are personally very hardy, they can’t enlist and retain others if they don’t create an atmosphere that promotes psychological hardiness. People won’t remain long with a cause that distresses them. They need to share their leader’s sense of commitment, control, and challenge.
Increasing your hardiness has a lot to do with your context setting agility. As Bill Joiner and Stephen Josephs explain,
Context setting agility includes scanning your environment, anticipating important changes, deciding what initiatives to take, scoping each initiative, and determining your desired outcomes. Your level of agility in carrying out these tasks depends on how fully you’ve developed two capacities: situational awareness and sense of purpose. Your agility level can also dip temporarily when you’re under high stress. At the same time, increasing your agility level can increase your capacity for dealing with stress.
After Steve Jobs separation from Apple in 1985, he recalled, “You‘ve probably had someone punch you in the stomach. It knocks he wind out of you and you can’t breathe, If you relax, you can start breathing again. That’s how I felt. The thing I had to do was to try to relax. It was hard. But I went for a lot of long walks in the woods and didn’t really talk to a lot of people.” (Steve Jobs: The Journey Is the Reward by Jeffrey Young)

Hardiness. Winston Churchill certainly had it.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 06:35 AM
| TrackBacks (0) | Leadership Development

02.14.07

Simplicity: Focused and On Track

0470048182
Simple Solutions is directed toward getting things done. It’s about being able to “boil things down to their essence” and thereby bring complex issues down to a simple problem statement. To do this you must learn what is important to all stakeholders. Simplified problems are ones that can be acted one through effective, focused communication. Authors, Tom Schmitt and Arnold Perl provide some practical steps to build this skill. They define a continuum of leadership as: clarity of thought leads to simplicity, which leads to focus and powerful communication—the essence of leadership. Here are a few of the ideas found in this book:

Focus on the Amazing Goal, Not the Incremental. The deadly enemy of innovation is incrementalism. By just trying to make problems better a little bit at a time you can lose sight of the possibility of making a quantum leap. A useful question to help you look for amazing goals is, “What would have to be true in order to/for…?” The answer to the question helps you to think differently and make breakthroughs.

Be Directionally Correct. “The fact is there will never be enough time or information to help you arrive at the perfect answer. The right answer can be one that is directionally correct. In other words, the solution may not be perfect, but it’s in the ballpark. This paves the way for more action but at least you’re already working with the customer and aren’t stuck back at the starting gate, still refining the model in the search for the non-existent perfect solution”

Determination versus Distractions. Determination is the willingness and ability to overcome obstacles and to avoid distractions. “Determination requires continued focus and commitment to a project. It requires the business savvy to separate the core of an issue from ancillary matters and then to continue plugging away at the core.” It is important to note though, “determination is an art. It requires walking a fine line between passionate focus and blind stubbornness. Use your judgment to determine if the goal needs to be simplified, changed, or even abandoned altogether. Don’t confuse sheer stubbornness with determination.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 12:26 AM
| TrackBacks (0) | Books , Leadership Development , Management

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

01.19.07

Six Sigma Leadership

6 sigma leadership Six Sigma expert Peter Pande writes in his book, The Six Sigma Leader, “Studies have repeatedly shown that the high failure rate of many promising leaders is largely due to an over-reliance on a limited set of capabilities. Many times leaders are promoted because of a strong record of achievement, only to derail later because of their inability to adapt. For example, an individual may be good at demanding high performance from his or her followers, or have strong technical ability. However, those strengths are not sufficient when, for example, big-picture thinking or relationship building are also essential to success. To prepare yourself and others for growing challenges, you need the clarity of thought and flexibility to understand your own weaknesses and develop new talents.”

Posted by Michael McKinney at 12:42 AM
| TrackBacks (0) | Books , Leadership Development

01.17.07

Poor Leadership Is Costing UK Business £6+ Billion* per Year

A new study released this week reveals that UK business is suffering from the poor leadership skills of Britain’s bosses. The survey shows that business leaders fail across the board at setting clear objectives, motivating staff and weeding out poor performers.
ros taylor


The study commissioned by Ros Taylor Ltd, a leading firm of Chartered Psychologists, asked over 1500 people from different sized organisations throughout the UK about leadership in the work place. They found:
  • 77 percent of respondents said their boss was not interested in them
  • 90 percent said their boss does nothing about poor performers and 79 percent claim their boss does not set clear objectives,
  • 89 percent said their boss lacks innovation and was unreceptive to new ideas
“That’s only 15% of people we asked who thought their boss was any good and 8% who thought they were inspirational” said Ros Taylor, Managing Director of RTL and author of The Complete Mind Makeover. “I wish I could say I was shocked – but the truth is it’s slightly better than I expected. The fact is that while businesses are quite rightly paying attention to their cost base – squeezing every last ounce of value out of the food chain – they are not so cleverly overlooking a very real business and financial asset. Leadership. Let’s forget the old clichés about “soft skills” – bad leadership costs shareholders and stakeholders real money. While companies are spending millions on automation and the new IT architectures they could be spending thousands and saving millions by sharpening up their leadership assets.

Taylor went on: “Think about it. Many line managers, heads of department and directors are on a minimum £100K+ pa. These people represent something of the order of a £200K+ investment for the company. As a psychologist I am intrigued that companies who bend over backwards to “think smart” ignore this area. It’s the “one thing” they could do that would deliver tangible results - and yet the vast majority just don’t do it. They probably think that, in the old cliché “leaders are born, not made” and yet in our business we disprove that on an almost daily basis. They can’t leave the innovation and blue sky thinking that comes from truly inspirational leadership to chance – or for that matter to a quirk of genetics – it’s odd to think that multi national companies who factor the canteen subsidy into the cost of a sausage roll don’t have a “leadership development plan.

*Estimated cost of stress related sickness absence to the UK: http://www.hse.gov.uk/stress/efficiency.pdf

Posted by Michael McKinney at 08:37 AM
| TrackBacks (0) | Leadership Development

01.08.07

How to Spot the Future Leaders of Your Business

Ram Charan lists in his book, Know How, eleven criteria for spotting future leaders in your organization. He suggests that you repeatedly practice making judgments of other people and reflect on why you might have missed in some cases. Did the individual have the potential you saw in them? How good are your judgments compared to others judgments on the same individual?
  1. They consistently deliver ambitious results.
  2. They continuously demonstrate growth, adaptability, and learning better and faster than their excellently performing peers.
  3. They seize the opportunity for challenging, bigger assignments, thereby expanding capability and capacity and improving judgment.
  4. They have the ability to think through the business and take leaps of imagination to grow the business.
  5. They are driven to take things to the next level.
  6. Their powers of observation are very acute, forming judgments of people by focusing on their decisions, behaviors, and actions, rather than relying on initial reactions and gut instincts; they can mentally detect and construct the “DNA” of a person.
  7. They come to the point succinctly, are clear thinkers, and have the courage to state a point-of-view even though listeners may react adversely.
  8. They ask incisive questions that open minds and incite the imagination.
  9. They perceptively judge their own direct reports, have the courage to give them honest feedback so the direct reports grow; they dig into cause and effect if a direct report is failing.
  10. They know the non-negotiable criteria of the job of heir direct reports and match the job with the person; of there is a mismatch they deal with it promptly.
  11. They are able to spot talent and see the “God’s gift” of other individuals.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 08:39 AM
| TrackBacks (0) | Leadership Development

12.22.06

What Drives Our Leadership Impact

“Where others see hierarchies, the new leaders see connections” writes Emmanuel Gobillot in his book, The Connected Leader. What differentiates a connected leader is the way in which they impact and influence those around them and this is largely determined by the way in which they view good leadership. More than even our individual skill-set, how we see the role of leadership greatly determines the impact we have on others and the success we will have as leaders.

Our impact is the result of a number of factors. Using the iceberg metaphor, above the waterline for all to see, are skills and knowledge. Gobillot writes, “Skills and knowledge are important because they give the leader the ability to take part in the game. On their own, they do not differentiate between average and superior performance…. But it is below the waterline that the real differentiators lie. …Below the waterline, the drivers of impact can be found. Performance will differ depending on how people see their role. If doctors believe that their primary role is solving problems, their behavior is likely to be different from that of surgeons who see their roles as healers.” We need to examine our beliefs if we are to change our impact and effectiveness with those around us.
chart

Often we see the "smartest person in the room" or "the leader of all leaders" mind-set to thinking about leadership. With this mentality we won't have the necessary ability to work well with other leaders and developing community. As Jean Lipman-Blumen wrote in Connective Leadership, "leaders cannot just issue orders; instead, they have to join forces, persuade, and negotiate to resolve conflicts." Your ability to do this is largely determined by the "below the waterline" type factors.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 12:14 AM
| TrackBacks (0) | Leadership Development

12.20.06

The Go Point

Men make their own history, but they do not make it as they please; they do not make it under self-selected circumstances, but under circumstances existing already, given and transmitted from the past.
—Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Napoleon

go point Yet, within those constraints, argues Michael Useem, we have the opportunity to make our own destiny. We all make decisions all the time. Some decisions are in consequential, but often we are called upon to make consequential decisions—those that affect other people. Some people are very good at consistently reaching good decisions in a timely way. Yet, it is surprising how many people are just not great at knowing when to pull the trigger, and how to pull it when they do. The Go Point seeks to address that concern. By taking us into the moment when decisions were made, both good and bad, Useem digs out the principles that emerge from these experiences. From these examples, he constructs templates of fifty principles and tools we can bear in mind when faced with similar types of decisions. He advises us to identify the five or ten lessons that are most salient for the decisions that we most frequently face and then concentrate on just those.

The underlying point in this book is that decision making is a learned skill. You've got to make decisions and then look back on them and mine what lessons you can in order to improve your next decision.

Whether it's a long term decision or a split second decision, there is a point when you have to force yourself to make it. That moment is the go point. He writes, “The go point is not always a matter of getting to yes….Rather, the go point is that instant when the choice gets made, whether no or yes, and the commitment moves from consideration to action. How you jump at that moment can make a vast difference, not only for yourself but also for all around you."

Below is a template for looking at some of the most commonly encountered problems in reaching a decision.

ProblemToolIllustration
Unfamiliar responsibilitiesAppraise the pastLui Chuanzhi built a leading global computer maker by recurrently reviewing the past week’s major decisions
Inexperienced gutEducate your instinctsFlight simulators help NASA astronauts train their intuition so they can decide instinctively
Analysis paralysisThe 70 percent solutionThe Marine Corps trains officers to make decisions when they are 70 percent confident of the outcome
Rush to JudgmentPreserve optionalityU.S. treasury secretary Robert Rubin and Scottish Power CEO Ian Russell both delayed major decisions as long as possible to reduce complexity and uncertainty
Anxiety overloadLook at the clockWhen other dials are whirling on their instrument panels, Navy pilots control themselves by studying the steady hands of the clock
Wiley adversaryClone your opponentNew England Patriots coach Bill Belichick assigned a backup quarterback to mimic the Colt’s Peyton Manning
Repeated failureRestrategize and restaffThe Royal Geographic Society’s Himalayan Committee changed plans and replaced leadership for its triumphant 1953 assault on Mt. Everest

Posted by Michael McKinney at 08:49 AM
| TrackBacks (0) | Leadership Development , Problem Solving

12.04.06

Leadership Agility

What is leadership agility? Like agile organizations—organizations that anticipate and respond to rapidly changing conditions by leveraging highly effective internal and external relationships—leadership agility is the ability to take wise and effective action amid complex, rapidly changing conditions.
0787979139


Leadership Agility is an interesting, thorough, and well-written book and one of the best on the topic. Authors Bill Joiner and Stephen Josephs encouragingly tell us that their research “reveals a significant set of findings about the relationship between personal development and leadership effectiveness: As adults grow toward realizing their potential, they develop a constellation of mental and emotional capacities that happen to be the very capacities needed for agile leadership.”

Building on the pioneering work of Piaget and Erickson in mapping the stages of human development from infants to adulthood—the pre-conventional stages—the authors identify three more stages they call the conventional stages: Conformer, Expert and Achiever. And finally there are the post-conventional stages they call: Catalyst, Co-Creator and Synergist.
agileleadership5chart.gif - 32235 Bytes Some people, of course, may never move through all of the stages. Of the 600 managers they studied, most never move beyond the Achiever stage. They write, "Most top executives and administrators, state and national politicians, influential scientists, and other highly successful professionals have stabilized their development at [the Achiever] stage." Only about 10 percent of today’s managers operate at the post-conventional stages of adult development. What does it mean to be at one of the post-conventional stages?
Research has shown that people at these post-conventional stages are more deeply purposeful, more visionary in their thinking, and more resilient in responding to change and uncertainty. They’re more welcoming of diverse perspectives and have a greater capacity for resolving differences with other people. They’re also more self-aware, more attuned to their experience, more interested in feedback from others, and better at working through inner conflicts.
These stages are sequential and are not personality dependent. In other words, any one can be at any stage but you can move to another stage until you have mastered the one you are at. The question is, “How can we begin to move through these stages of development?” Simply put, you get there by practice—by putting the capacities and traits to work and learning to apply them in various situations.

Each stage represents the maturation to a certain point of four competencies and their respective mental and emotional capacities. They state that highly agile leaders orchestrate the four competencies so that they work in concert. They have developed the Leadership Agility Compass to graphically represent these competencies. All eight of the capacities contribute directly to your effectiveness as a leader.
agileleadershipchart

The outer circle on this graphic represents the tasks carried out using the four leadership agility competencies. The middle circle represents the four pairs of capacities that support these competencies.

The four mutually reinforcing competencies are:

Context-setting agility improves your ability to scan your environment, frame the initiatives you need to take, and clarify the outcomes you need to achieve. It entails stepping back and determining the best initiatives to take, given the changes taking place in your larger environment.

Stakeholder agility increases your ability to engage with key stakeholders in ways that build support for your initiative. It requires you to step back from your own views and objectives to consider the needs and perspectives of those who have a stake in your initiatives.

Creative agility enables you to transform the problems you encounter into the results you need. It involves stepping back from your habitual assumptions and developing optimal solutions to the often novel and complex issues you face.

Self-leadership agility is the ability to use your initiatives as opportunities to develop into the kind of leader you want to be. It entails stepping back; becoming more aware of your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors; and experimenting with new and more effective approaches.

After laying this groundwork in far more detail, Leadership Agility provides real life stories to demonstrate what leadership looks like at that level and then clarifies what it takes to move to the next level. You will also learn how to become more effective in your current level of agility.

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

11.10.06

7 Ways Leaders Handicap Themselves

In a new book that captures the essence of leadership—Great Leadership—author Anthony Bell writes, "For all the importance of great leadership, it doesn’t happen by itself. Without a framework, leaders often handicap themselves in a number of significant ways." He outlines these issues:

1Leaders tend to operate from intuition and experience. While both can serve a leader well, neither is infallible: intuition cannot compensate for the blind spots every person has, and experience is a tutor with a limited perspective.
2Leaders tend to become leaders because they are technically competent. Being good at something singles them out for promotion. But what makes people effective at one level can make them ineffective at another.
3Leaders tend to operate with the skills that were most useful two levels below their current level. In part because of the way they were chosen for the leadership track, they tend to maintain the mind-set of the level where they last felt real mastery.
4Few leaders are taught to lead. Because most leaders learn intuitively from experience, that experience is seldom analyzed with any depth, consistency, or systematic feedback. A few leaders have the good fortune of being taught informally by a particularly effective boss or mentor, but such teachers are rare. Even fewer leaders are taught formally; academic institutions focus on the organization of work more than on the application of leadership. MBA programs don’t teach leadership, or, at best, they teach only a narrow portion of it. Many corporations offer inhouse programs, but few combine strong teaching with the kind of in-depth coaching that guarantees its application.
5Leaders tend to stop learning in midlife. By the time people hit their forties, many rely on their previous knowledge and have only a shallow commitment to ongoing self-education and self development.
6Few leaders lead from a clear sense of purpose. Even fewer lead from a clear sense of noble purpose.
7Few leaders know how to pass on what they know. Not having been taught, they have little idea how to help others develop their leadership skills.

Bell writes, "To overcome these obstacles, leaders need some guidelines; they need a framework for understanding and exercising great leadership. Leaders stand or fall not so much by their talent or lack of it as by their understanding or misunderstanding of what great leadership is." In his book he discusses a well presented framework that consists of three dimensions of leadership—organizational, operational, and people leadership. He demonstrates how these three dimensions, when properly integrated and applied, will greatly enhance the quality of your leadership.

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

11.06.06

Five Hardships Leaders Face and the Lessons They Teach

Hardship
Lessons Learned
Career Setbacks
  • Self-awareness
  • Organizational Politics
  • What One Really Wants to Do
Personal Trauma
  • Sensitivity to Others
  • Coping With Events Beyond One's Control
  • Perseverance
  • Recognition of limits
Business Mistakes and Failures
  • Handling Relationships
  • Humility
  • How to Handle Mistakes
Problem Employees
  • How to Stand Firm
  • Confrontational Skills
Downsizing
  • Coping Skills
  • Recognition of What's Important
  • Organizational Politics

Adapted from The Center for Creative Leadership Handbook of Leadership Development.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 08:58 AM
| TrackBacks (0) | Leadership Development

10.24.06

Henry Mintzburg and Frank Brown on Teaching Leadership

The Financial Times published yesterday in a special section on Business Education a leadership debate between Henry Mintzburg and Frank Brown that has gotten a lot of attention.
Henry Mintzberg
McGill University professor Mintzberg’s comments are a bit sensational at first blush, but he makes a good point. Mintzberg writes: “We have this obsession with leadership. Its intention may be to empower people, but its effect is often to disempower them. By focusing on the single person, even in the context of others, leadership becomes part of the syndrome of individuality that is sweeping the world and undermining organizations in particular and communities in general.”

At the core of what he takes issue with is the way leadership is portrayed. And rightly so. He has a problem with leaders being presented as “the great one who rides in on a white horse.” It gives the impression that the leader did it all by themselves. He adds: “We have too much of this leadership apart—the hyped-up, individually focused, context-free leadership so popular in the classrooms as well as the press. Courses and MBA programmes that claim to create leaders all too often promote hubris instead. No leader has ever been created in a classroom.”

How true. Leadership studies do need to be reconsidered. The current methodology no doubt lead Stanford’s James March to say the following in a recent interview in the Harvard Business Review:
I doubt that “leadership” is a useful concept for serious scholarship. The idea of leadership is imposed on our interpretation of history by our human myths, or by the way we think that history is supposed to be described. As a result, the fact that people talk about leaders and attribute importance to them is neither surprising nor informative.

Leadership can not be taught in the sense that a person can sit in a classroom and walk away a leader any more than one can read a leadership book every week and call themselves a leader. It is possible, however, to teach principles, to lay the groundwork for a way of thinking and to create awareness of traits and characteristics. But until a person combines all of that with their own thinking and character, making it a part of who they are, they are not a leader. And that simply takes time and practice. There is no short-cut to leadership.

The leadership journey is an ongoing journey into self-knowledge or awareness. It is a process of reflection to see where you stand in relation to where you should be and determining the steps you need to take in order to get there.

Mintzberg’s problem with the conventional MBA classroom is the way it is taught—overemphasizing the science at the expense of its practice and the kinds of “leaders” it tends to generate—MBAs that are too young, and have too little experience to appreciate what they are being taught. That is to say, it tends to produce heroic-type leaders that have no experience to fully understand the world they are charging-in to. As Mark Twain said, "When I was a boy of 14, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be 21, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years." It is astonishing how much these “leaders” find there is to learn after they’ve been out in the workplace for a while that never found a place—or they were never able to make a connection to—in the classroom.
Frank Brown


To get the experience and practice necessary to become leaders, Frank Brown, dean of Insead, writes, “Indeed, true leaders are committed mentors and supporters for training and development initiatives that allow employees to climb the leadership ladder.” He continues:
Simply said, the last thing the business world needs is more managers. On the contrary, it is in need of more leaders.

But let’s be careful how we define leadership. A leader may in fact be the person occupying the corner office. But, he or she may too be the person ascending the divisional ranks or the more youthful executive fresh from business school. The concept of leadership must not be confined to just the “headliners”; it must be a concept with the potential to include and apply to everyone.

On teaching leadership in the classroom you might take a look at Leadership Can Be Taught by Shanon Daloz Parks regarding Ronald Heifetz’s efforts at Harvard.

An important book in the area of leadership development is Welter and Egmon’s book, The Prepared Mind of the Leader, for this is where leadership really begins.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 12:42 AM
| TrackBacks (0) | Leadership Development

10.23.06

The Nature of Leadership

A surprise in this month’s crop of books is The Nature of Leadership by B. Joseph White. Essentially, it is a blueprint for leadership development. He has created a leadership pyramid founded on basics such as a desire to be in charge, and the corresponding ability, strength, and character that all leaders—especially the great ones—must possess. Mammal

From there he divides leadership characteristics between analytical reptilian leadership characteristics and those of the nurturing, engaged mammal. While we generally have a tendency to lean one way or the other, we must develop a capacity to deal effectively with both the reptilian economic and performance issues and the mammalian soft or people issues.

White cautions, “I make no judgment about the inherent value of Reptiles and Mammals in the workplace. Both are vital and most people are, of course a complex mix of the two. We need task-oriented, no-nonsense Reptiles to ensure the work gets done and done well. We need people-oriented, nurturing Mammals to maintain the human community through which work gets done.” He adds, “I believe organizations falter, fail, or don’t reach their potential both because of leadership that is inadequately Reptilian and because of leadership that is inadequately Mammalian.” Reptile

Finally, all these skills and qualities will coalesce into something bigger than the sum of their parts, an intangible but very real "sparkle factor" that separates the great leaders from the merely good.

The authors have put together an online Nature of Your Leadership Self-Assessment that will help you to determine your preference—mammalian or reptilian—and thus the kind of functions you naturally gravitate to. The scoring is automated. The corresponding web site for the book graphically explains the Leadership Pyramid as well.

You can read Chapter 1 online: Become a Leader, a Better Leader, a Great Leader

Posted by Michael McKinney at 05:51 AM
| TrackBacks (0) | Books , Leadership Development , Personal Development

10.05.06

Teaching Leadership

This summer author Paul Taffinder spoke to the Wall Street Journal Online about teaching leadership:
I wouldn't say anyone is born a leader. There have been some studies that indicate people who have been exposed to psychologically traumatic experiences are better leaders. They've had to overcome trials and tribulations. So they're more inclined to be challenging and look deep within themselves for what they believe in. Leaders like that learn to be clear about the story they're telling about where they have come from and where they're going.

Teaching people to control risk is much easier than teaching people to create it. And it's essential for companies to draw the distinction between leadership and management. It's just wrong to use them interchangeably. Managers tend to react. Leaders tend to seek out opportunities. Managers follow the rules. Leaders change the rules. Managers seek and follow direction. Leaders inspire achievement. These are profound differences. Of course you need both. But organizations fail to recognize the difference.

Organizations start to fail when they start to produce too many managers and not enough leaders. Or too many leaders of a certain type. The lesson in the corporate world, how can you simulate that [traumatic experience] in the corporate world without destroying people. How can you learn from it without becoming a casualty.

Leadership Crash Course
Paul Taffinder’s book The Leadership Crash Course helps to translate lessons learned into practical applications to improve your leadership skills. Looking at the basic personal and emotional components of leadership, the book offers a series of modules that individuals at many levels can study, deploy and refer to from time to time. The lessons are geared toward diagnosing your own behaviors and then applying different techniques to leverage strengths and improve development areas. His web site has interactive tools to further explore your leadership style and preferences.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 08:58 AM
| TrackBacks (0) | Leadership Development

10.03.06

Leadership in Action is About Dilemmas

Paul Taffinder writes in The Leadership Crash Course that leadership in action is about dilemmas. In an age where we have more choices than ever before, the leader’s job becomes more urgent. The problem isn’t necessarily that we have so many choices, but what we base our selection of choices on. The leader’s job is to guide this process. This might be called imposing context.
choices
This speaks to the need we all share for a framework within which to live. Context takes into account where we have been and where we are and where we want to go. The leader must add to the conversation those things that need to be considered to make proper choices. A leader should help to cut through the clutter and help people to consider especially those things beyond the realm of selfish concern.

Ironically, getting where we want nearly always means not getting what we want. Leader’s frequently must guide people through behaviors and places they would never choose for themselves if left to their own desires. In a society that wants to achieve the desired ends by simply going straight to the desired ends and short-circuiting the necessary intermediate steps, this can be quite a challenge. At times like these, a leader’s self-knowledge becomes all the more important.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 08:44 AM
| TrackBacks (0) | Leadership Development

08.21.06

Leading From Within

From the classroom of Harvard Professor Scott Snook comes an article about leadership styles. It reaffirms the importance of the leader’s self-knowledge. This is not just a cursory overview but an understanding of what we really think on issues we would rather not think about. In Leading from the Maze Jeffrey Patnaude writes, “[T]he leader must be awake and fully alert. Like a nighttime traveler attuned to every sound in the forest, the leader must be aware of all possibilities lurking in the shadows. For we can neither challenge not transform what we cannot see.”

Professor Snook said:
What you believe about human nature influences your leadership style. If you believe people are fundamentally good—good meaning that they're trying to do their best, they're self-motivated, they want to perform—then your fundamental leadership style will be one way. It will be empowering them, getting obstacles out of the way, and setting high goals while maintaining standards.

If you believe people are fundamentally bad—if you believe people are constantly looking to get over and get by and won't do anything unless they're watched—then you'll tend to lead with a very transactional management style that's built primarily around rewards and punishments. Tight supervision, a controlling type of leadership style characterized by a great deal of social distance between leaders and led.
The better we understand ourselves, the more authentic the contribution we can make—shed the image and do the job.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 09:59 AM
| TrackBacks (0) | Leadership Development

06.16.06

The Fred Factor for Kids ... Too

I'd thought I'd pass this along for the Father's Day weekend. This is a timely piece from Mark Sanborn author of The Fred Factor one of our picks for Best Leadership Books of 2004. Mark writes:
0385513518


Proverbs 22:6 says, Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.

Parents and educators frequently remind me about the importance of teaching the principles of The Fred Factor to children. The only thing better than learning these lessons as an adult is learning them as a child. The sooner someone understands these timeless truths, the sooner they'll start experiencing the benefits in his or her life. Both the individual and the community are served by the integration of these principles and practices.

I was fortunate to have good teachers who instilled in me a love for learning. In high school I did a combined vocational education and college prep curriculum. Since I was a farm kid, and had gotten my start in speaking in 4-H, I wanted to belong to the Future Farmers of America (now FFA), and the only way to do that was to take vocational agriculture classes.

Without a doubt, the most important skills I learned in high school were through my participation in the FFA. The regular coursework was necessary for my future success in college, but FFA taught me things like teamwork, parliamentary procedure, leadership skills, public speaking and the importance of service. Although at the time I didn't use the same words and terminology I used in The Fred Factor, I was learning the same principles for success in life.

Vocational education organizations like FFA, FHA, VICA, DECA and others play a crucial role in teaching students skills rarely learned elsewhere in public instruction. Many students don't get a chance to participate in these organizations, so the involvement of parents in making sure kids learn these things is necessary.

Kids need to know that they do make a difference. They need to know that education isn't a preparation for life—education is life. Students shouldn't feel like they're in a holding pattern while in school, unable to truly experience life until after they graduate. They need to understand how to build healthy relationships and use their creativity to create value for themselves, their family and friends, and for an employer. And importantly, young people need to realize that each day is a chance to try again, to be better than the day before, no matter how good or bad the day before.

Talk to your kids about the principles of The Fred Factor. If they're old enough, have them read the book and discuss with them the ideas they encounter.

We'll all be better for it.

Check out the Fred Factor Web Site for resources and to subscribe to The Fred Factor eZine.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 01:20 PM
| TrackBacks (0) | Books , Leadership Development

06.15.06

Fathers: Raise A Generation of Outstanding Leaders

The National Fatherhood Initiative has found that 24-million American children (over a third of all kids in the U.S.) live in homes without their biological father.

Additionally, the absence of a dad from so many homes plays a direct role in a number of social ills. Kids in father-deprived homes are more likely to be abused, poor, prone to drug abuse, prone to poor scholastic achievement, and prone to emotional and behavior problems including suicide and crime.

A study if violent criminals in U.S. prisons showed that prison populations are overwhelmingly made up of males who grew up without fathers. 60% of convicted rapists, 72% of adolescent murderers, and 70% of all long-term prison inmates came from fatherless homes.

0830739025
Pat Williams, senior vice president of the Orlando Magic and author of The Warrior Within, writes, “I believe we should all reprogram our thinking about what ‘fatherhood’ really means. Instead of defining a father as ‘a man who procreates,’ we would instead say, ‘a father is a man who loves, nurtures, trains, mentors, teaches, disciplines, affirms, cares for, and provides for a child, regardless of whether or not he is genetically connected to that child.’”

Pat Williams has been going about the country for years stressing the need for fathers and their role in raising leaders. He insists that no child is too young to begin to develop traits that will serve to help them become outstanding leaders. He writes:
Kids want to lead. They enjoy setting goals and then taking the steps to achieve those goals. When do kids become bored? When they feel they are being forced to do something they don’t care about. When do they rebel? When they feel they are being told what to do and how to do it. But give then a chance to lead, give them the opportunity and responsibility to make their own decisions, and they will astonish you with their ability to get things done.

So the next time a young person asks you how to become a leader, just say, “If you want to be a leader, be a servant! Find a lawn that needs mowing and mow it—for free. Find a house that needs painting and paint it. Clean your room, load the dishwasher, set the table, wash the car. If you see a mess, clean it up—even if it’s not your mess. Pull weeds in your neighbor’s flowerbed. Go to Starbucks or a rock show and share your faith with someone. If you want to be a leader, be a servant.
talkingtokids
Williams authors, from his experience rearing 19 children with his wife, a book that is full of practical advice and examples of dealing with day to day issues. Just one more. Williams encourages, “Stop trying to force your kid to do this or that. You can’t control his or her choices. But you can control your actions. And you can make your kid wish he or she had chosen more wisely.”

You can read an excerpt of The Warrior Within. He is also the author of Coaching Your Kids to Be Leaders.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 12:24 PM
| TrackBacks (0) | Books , Leadership Development

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
| TrackBacks (0) | Books , Leadership , Leadership Development

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
| TrackBacks (1) | Leadership , Leadership Development



excerpts





Copyright ©1998-2014 LeadershipNow / M2 Communications All Rights Reserved
All materials contained in http://www.LeadershipNow.com are protected by copyright and trademark laws and may not be used for any purpose whatsoever other than private, noncommercial viewing purposes. Derivative works and other unauthorized copying or use of stills, video footage, text or graphics is expressly prohibited. LeadershipNow is a trademark of M2 Communications.