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Richard Branson on Success

When we place too high a value on achievement and fulfillment, we often overlook the important parts of life like character, relationships and service. Richard Branson made a profound statement on success in his book, Business Stripped Bare. The last sentence may take a few reads for its implications to soak in.
Successful people aren’t in possession of secrets known only to themselves. Don’t obsess over people who appear to you to be “winners”, but listen instead to the wisdom of people who’ve led enriching lives—people, for instance, who’ve found time for friends and family. Be generous in your interpretation of what success looks like. The best and most meaningful lives don’t always end happily.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 01:11 PM
| Comments (0) | Personal Development


Newswire: October 28, 2008 Learning from Success and Failure

    Over on professor Michael Roberto's excellent blog, he points to a study that brings out the importance studying both successes and failures than failures along in conducting postmortems.
  • Learning from Success and Failure
    by Michael Roberto

    "As firms study their failures these days, they should be systematically comparing the failures to past successes. Comparison and contrast will protect against spurious conclusions, and it will help refine their lessons learned."
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Posted by Michael McKinney at 10:49 AM
| Comments (0) | NewsWire


Weeding Out the Leaders We Need

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

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

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

Posted by Michael McKinney at 10:56 AM
| Comments (0) | Followership , Government , Leadership


Newswire: Keeping Calm in a Crisis


    Business Management magazine talks with Bruce Poon Tip, owner and CEO of G Adventures a Canadian adventure travel company, about staying clam in a crisis.

  • Keeping Calm in a Crisis
    by Ben Thompson, Business Management

    Tip has three recommendations for managing in a crisis:

    People are really important. “Make sure you have the right people actively involved. Usually, it’s not the top management that works day-to-day with the people and the issues involved; get your operations people in the war room, those staff members best equipped to get you through the situation. Identify who those people are and make sure you have them in the room.”

    Transparency is essential. “You have to be as transparent as possible to disarm people because unfortunately in this day and age, the first reaction of modern media is to punch a hole in the story or to find a flaw. And even if there is a flaw, if you’re transparent and put that information out, you’re able to defend it. So transparency is critical.”

    Identify who the leader is. “Managing a crisis situation is about keeping everyone together on a mental level. Everyone’s nerves are on edge, and at that time any kind of weakness in an organization can come out under stress. You have to be able to focus on the task at hand, understand what the goal is and be able to make some really tough decisions under enormous pressure. That’s about leadership.”

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 07:20 PM
| Comments (0) | NewsWire


Herb Kelleher: My Best Lesson in Leadership

Herb Kelleher: My Best Lesson in Leadership

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

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

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 12:14 AM
| Comments (0) | Leaders


Nothing Can Grow Forever

Leadership Nuggets
Nothing can grow forever, let alone at an exponential rate. Yet every fifty years or so, since the eighteenth century, the developed countries of the world economy have experienced a “go-go decade,” a decade during which growth was everything and everything was supposed to be growing forever. The first of these was around 1710, with the South Sea Bubble and John Law’s Louisiana schemes. The next was in the 1770’s and 1780s. There was a “go-go decade” around 1830, and another one around 1870. The one around 1910 was aborted—at least in Europe—by World War I; in the United States in continued until 1929. And then we had the 1960s and 1970s.

South Seas Bubble Playing CardsEvery one of these “go-go periods was followed by a massive hangover, during which everybody believed that growth had stopped for good. It never did, and there is no reason to believe that it has stopped now.

But in every such period, growth shifts to new foundations. It then becomes important for business to think through where the growth areas are for its specific strengths, and to shift its resources out of the areas in which results can no longer be achieved into those areas where the new opportunities can be found.

In every such period, obsolescence speeds up. And in turbulent times, an organized sloughing off of the past combined with a systematic concentration of resources are the first requirements of any growth policy.

In every such period it is important for a business, but also for a non-business public service institution, to decide just how much it has to grow so as no to become marginal in its market. For if one’s market grows, one must grow with it—to be marginal means to become extinct.

Adapted from Managing In Turbulent Times (1980) by Peter Drucker.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 09:05 AM
| Comments (0) | Leadership Nuggets


Positive Relationships: It's About Them

Positive Relationships

Positive LeadershipWE know that friendships at work tend to enhance and increase productivity and performance, but the reason why positive relationships produce these results is not what is commonly believed. A study cited in Positive Leadership by Kim Cameron, revealed that:

it is what people give to a relationship rather than what they receive from the relationship that accounts for the positive effects. Although it is clear that positive relationships are advantageous to psychological, emotional, and physical health, research has found that it is the contributions made to others that account for the advantages.

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Positive Leadership Bad is Stronger Than Good

Posted by Michael McKinney at 02:53 PM
| Comments (0) | Positive Leadership


Out of Context: Success is in the Details


"Success is found in much smaller portions than most people realize. A hundredth of a second here or sometimes a tenth of a second there can determine the fastest man in the world. At times we live our lives on a paper-thin edge that barely separates greatness from mediocrity and success from failure."

Posted by Michael McKinney at 07:23 AM
| Comments (0) | Out of Context


Communication: Keep it Simple

Keep It Simple

PROCTER & GAMBLE Chief Executive A. G. Lafley believes that simplicity is the key to good communication. He told the U.S. News and World Report:

Repeat after me. If that sounds simplistic, Lafley is the first to admit that it is. Yet in a company where more than half the employees don't speak English as their first language, he says his Sesame Street- simple slogans, repeated over and over, keep everyone trained on what's important. Human beings "don't want to stay focused," he says. "So my job is to get them to focus their creativity around the focus; focus their productivity around the focus; focus their efficiency or effectiveness around the focus."

Insecure leaders create complexity. Simple, direct language keeps people tuned in to what's important. Simple communication doesn’t come from a simple mind. It comes from tough-minded clarity of thought.

Jack Trout, a promoter of simplicity, suggests in his book The Power of Simplicity, that these famous adages wouldn’t be so famous if they had been written with a heavier hand and fancier words:

• Pulchritude possesses profundity of a merely cutaneous nature.
(Beauty is only skin deep.)

• It is not efficacious to indoctrinate a superannuated canine with innovative maneuvers.
(You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.)

• Visible vapors that issue from carbonaceous materials are a harbinger of imminent conflagration.
(Where there’s smoke, there’s fire.)

• A revolving mass of lithic conglomerates does not accumulate a congery of small green bryophitic plants.
(A rolling stone gathers no moss.)

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 11:57 PM
| Comments (0) | Communication


Thinking Gray and Free

Thinking Gray

IN The Contrarian's Guide to Leadership, author Steven Sample, shares the idea that leaders think differently. “Leaders are able to maintain their intellectual independence by thinking gray and enhance their intellectual creativity by thinking free.”

Leaders have to deal with ambiguities and unknowns. The idea is to learn to think gray while holding firmly to your core ideals. It’s not being binary and instant in your judgments and seeing the nuances to be found in many situations.

Free thinking is more than just brainstorming. It’s brainstorming beyond your current reality. What would we do if we had no budgetary constraints, no time restrictions, no personnel problems, no legal restrictions, and no fear of failure? It’s to “contemplate absolutely outrageous and impossible” ideas and solutions.

The leader whose thinking is constrained within well-worn ruts, who is completely governed by his established passions and prejudices, who is incapable of thinking either gray or free, and who can’t even appropriate the creative imagination and fresh ideas of those around him, is as anachronistic and ineffective as the dinosaur. He may, by dint of circumstances, remain in power, but his followers would almost certainly be better off without him.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 08:04 AM
| Comments (0) | Creativity & Innovation , Problem Solving , Thinking


Push Yourself Within Your Comfort Zone

Leadership Nuggets

Push yourself beyond your comfort zone. This sounds right because, of course, you should keep learning and growing and experimenting through your career. But it’s not true. It leads people such as Michael Jordan to try their hand at professional baseball.The Truth About You

Instead, you should push yourself within your comfort zone.

Your strengths are your comfort zone. Your strengths are not only activities that strengthen you, but they are also activities where you have the greatest capacity to learn and grow. So if you are going to push yourself—and you should—then push yourself to get better and better at expressing your strengths.

Adapted from The Truth About You by Marcus Buckingham

Posted by Michael McKinney at 12:04 AM
| Comments (0) | Personal Development


Newswire: Cast Your Vote For Which Presidential Candidate Is the Best Leader

• New Survey Asks Which Presidential Candidate Is the Best Leader

Politics aside, a new survey asks which U.S. Presidential Candidate is a better leader.

mccain obama
Leadership and learning expert Kevin Eikenberry says Americans are voting for more than a politician.

“When Americans go to the polls next month, we are voting for more than who’s the most successful campaigner; we really are casting a vote for who should be the next leader of the free world,” Eikenberry says. “The leadership competencies we’ve identified for businesses, communities and organizations apply equally to the president or any other elected official.

“It's not about traditional party politics. Our entire political system offers a great case study for leaders everywhere,” Eikenberry adds. “There are so many lessons you can learn and apply to your professional and personal life – everything from successful transitions to better communications to strategic relationships and more.”
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Posted by Michael McKinney at 12:10 AM
| Comments (0) | NewsWire


Employing New Thinking in Turbulent Times

Employing New Thinking in Turbulent Times

PETER DRUCKER wrote that in turbulent times, the fundamentals need to be managed well. He always stressed fundamentals.

Fundamentals do not change. But the specifics to manage them do change greatly with changes in internal and external conditions. Managing in turbulent times thus has to begin with a discussion of the new and different demands affecting the fundamentals of survival and success in the existing business. These are: liquidity, productivities, and the costs of the future.

Tom Peters has offered several fundamentals to keep in mind now (and always):

  1. Be conscious in the Zen sense. Think about what you are doing more than usual. Think about how you project.
  2. Meet daily, first thing, with your leadership team—to discuss whatever, check assumptions. Perhaps meet again late afternoon. Meetings max 30 minutes.
  3. If you are a "big boss," use a private sounding board—check in daily.
  4. Concoct scenarios by the bushel, test 'em, play with 'em, short-term, long-term, sane, insane.
  5. MBWA. Wander. Sample attitudes. Visible but not frenzied.
  6. Work the phones, chat up experts, customers, vendors. Seek enormous diversity of opinion.
  7. "Over"communicate!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
  8. Exercise—encourage your leadership team to double up on their exercise.
  9. Underscore "excellence in every transaction."

Another lesson worth remembering extracted from Drucker by Jeffrey A. Krames found in his book, Inside Drucker’s Brain is: Results are achieved by exploiting opportunities not solving problems.

Solving problems can only return the organization to its prior status quo. To achieve results managers must exploit opportunities. However, in most organizations, its best people spend too much time putting out fires rather than searching for new opportunities than can become tomorrow’s cash cows.

What are your hidden opportunities?

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 09:47 AM
| Comments (0) |


Marcus Buckingham and The Truth About You

Marcus Buckingham has done much to advance the understanding of strengths management. He has now turned his attention to crafting a program more specifically oriented to Generation Y, college students and young professionals.

If you ask young people in America ages 18 to 25, which do you think will help you win in life most, they overwhelmingly (70%) respond by saying, “fixing my weaknesses.” There’s a whole generation of kids coming into the workplace who may understand they are distinct and different, but don’t really know how to think about it or make use of that knowledge not only in the workplace, but in life in general.

Buckingham keeps driving the point (and rightly so), that we need to focus on our strengths, not our weaknesses. Build on your strengths and neutralize your weaknesses. In conjunction with his new book, The Truth About You, he has launched a U.S. tour of universities around the nation to talk to young professionals about to embark on their career paths.

The Truth About You The Truth About You focuses on how you set your career up right—how do you start in such a way that you can push the world toward the best of you; learning to express the best of who you are. It incorporates a candid 20-minute enhanced DVD (a reworking of the effective Trombone Player Wanted film); an interactive book, which takes up where the film leaves off; and a reMemo Pad, a way of using the raw material of your week to clearly identify your strengths and weaknesses. The DVD alone is worth the price of the book.

Counter-intuitively, he writes, “Your strengths aren’t what you’re good at and your weaknesses aren’t what you’re bad at.” There are things that you are good at, but they drain you, even bore you. Strengths are not activities you’re necessarily good at, they’re activities that strengthen you. A strength is an activity that before you’re doing it you look forward to doing it; while you’re doing it, time goes by quickly and you can concentrate; after you’ve done it; it feels good to do it. A weakness is an activity that drains you or weakens you, even if you’re good at it.

Buckingham writes that you’ll never find the perfect job. You’ll need to build it—little by little—gradually.

Buckingham’s pragmatic application of these concepts is important. And the earlier in life you understand them and build on them the better. Hopefully Buckingham will now turn his attention to an educational system that overwhelmingly focuses on weaknesses and is not designed to encourage the development of student’s real strengths. All children have amazing talents and we squander them. We need to convert parents and teachers if we are to begin to abandon some of our counterproductive beliefs.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 12:01 AM
| Comments (0) | Personal Development


Newswire: What Leadership Looks Like

    Leader is a title we throw around too easily. A leader is someone who has earned the title. Leaders earn the title by helping others grow and by helping to become more ready for life's challenges. One of the fundamental indicators of integrity is doing the right thing without the expectation of a payoff or when doing so works against you. Leadership is above all, stewardship. Kim Strassel writes about the hard decisions that often accompany leadership. It's the story of Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan. Here are a few excerpts:
  • What Leadership Looks Like
    by Kimberley A. Strassel, Wall Street Journal
    Voting for what's right, not what's safe.

    If political leadership is hard to come by in Washington, it's because it invites political retribution. Just ask Republican Rep. Paul Ryan.

    Mr. Ryan, perhaps the free market's truest friend in Congress, earlier this week voted to help rescue that free market. He hated the Paulson plan, but hated more the economic crash he is convinced will follow inaction. And in casting his "yes" vote on Monday, he knew what was coming: "The easiest thing would be to vote no and go hide in my office and watch the markets collapse. I will suffer politically for this, but I will sleep at night."

    He was right. For his sin of acting to forestall economic mayhem, Mr. Ryan is being pilloried in Wisconsin, where he's in a competitive race. He's been accused of abandoning his conservative principles, of "caving" and "bailing out" Wall Street. He received 3,000 calls last week and wryly notes the "only one in favor came from Hank Paulson."

    Mr. Ryan is now busy sending out charts of Libor spreads to radio talk-show hosts (no joke), intent on explaining the seriousness of the crisis, and hopeful his credibility will see him through. "The best outcome is that [those of us who voted yes] take a political hit but avert a crisis," he says. How's that for leadership?
Read the complete essay online: What Leadership Looks Like
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Posted by Michael McKinney at 06:53 PM
| Comments (0) | NewsWire


The 2008 NeuroLeadership Summit in New York

NeuroLeadership Summit

The First NeuroLeadership Summit in North America will be held in New York on October 28-30. Spend two and a half days with some of the world’s leading neuroscientists and leadership experts, and explore new paradigms for developing today’s and tomorrow’s leaders.

Areas of focus will include:

  • The physiology of presence, trust, integrity and other leadership competencies
  • Why change is so hard at an individual and systemic level, and how to make it easier
  • The neuroscience of mindfulness
  • Why it’s often so hard to think clearly and how to make better decisions
  • The anatomy of an ’aha!’ and how to have more of them
  • Driving performance through understanding the goals of the brain
  • How we know ourselves and others
  • The neuroscience of social networks, and why the social world is so important
  • Learning about the brain in K-12 education
  • Teaching leaders and managers about the brain

These topics will be discussed by a great line-up of presenters including Jeffrey Schwartz, Amy Arnsten, Kevin Ochsner, Matthew Lieberman and David Rock.

Current information about the institute and upcoming conferences can be found on their web site.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 09:49 AM
| Comments (0) | NeuroLeadership


Leadership Books: October 2008

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

  Inside Drucker's Brain by Jeffrey A. Krames
  Performance Leadership: The Next Practices to Motivate Your People, Align Stakeholders, and Lead Your Industry by Frank Buytendijk
  High Altitude Leadership: What the World's Most Forbidding Peaks Teach Us About Success by Chris Warner and Don Schmincke
  The Maxwell Daily Reader: 365 Days of Insight to Develop the Leader Within You and Influence Those Around You by John C. Maxwell
  Lead By Example: 50 Ways Great Leaders Inspire Results by John Baldoni

A Sense of Urgency Performance Leadership High Altitude Leadership Maxwell Daily Reader Lead By Example

Posted by Michael McKinney at 01:29 AM
| Comments (0) | Books



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