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LeadershipNow 140: December 2020 Compilation


twitter Here are a selection of tweets from December 2020 that you don't want to miss:

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Acting with Power O
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Posted by Michael McKinney at 05:31 AM
| Comments (0) | LeadershipNow 140


8 Steps to High Performance

8 Steps to High Performance

MARC EFFRON believes anyone can be a high performer. That is a person “who consistently delivers better results and behaviors, on an absolute and relative basis, than 75 percent of their peers.” In 8 Steps to High Performance, he identifies eight proven performance drivers that we have the ability to implement.

Effron theorizes that each of us has factors that are the fixed 50 percent that affect our performance. They are things like our intelligence, core personality, and socioeconomic background. Some of these are genetic, and others are part of our environment growing up. (Which we can change if necessary as we grow older.) So it makes sense that we focus on practicing the things we can control that have the most impact on our performance.

The other half, he calls the flexible 50 percent. These are things in your control, like how you set goals, behave, develop, network, present yourself, and manage your sleep. Most of these boil down to getting out of your own way.

The 8 steps to high performance are:

Step One: Set Big Goals.

This step is, not surprisingly, critical. You can’t deliver big results if you don’t have big goals. And those goals should align with what matters most to the organization. “Bigger goals, focused on the right things, allow you to demonstrate higher performance. Bigger goals also test your capabilities and build self-confidence in your ability to deliver great results in the future. Since bigger goals are also more challenging to achieve, you’re forced to build new skills and capabilities to achieve them.”

Step Two: Behave to Perform.

You can control your behavior. Your behavior is what sets you apart, and it is what your boss and others you work with pay attention to. Effron shares some baseline behaviors that can help your performance—ability to connect, innovate, inspire, and model—and eleven behaviors that can derail your effectiveness like being excitable, skeptical, leisurely, bold, eccentric, a perfectionist. “High performers work hard to identify the most productive behaviors, learn new behaviors where needed, and stop showing the less helpful ones.”

Step Three: Grow Yourself Faster.

The more you grow, the better you can perform, and the more opportunities you will earn. Create a Personal Experience Map by asking experts in your field to identify the most meaningful experience for you to gain. “As working professionals, we grow our capabilities about 70 percent through our experiences, about 20 percent through others, and about 10 percent through formal learning.”

Step Four: Connect.

Build networks both inside and outside of work. “Those who connect more effectively have higher performance because they’re able to get more insights, favors, and answers from more people. And it’s almost entirely controllable by you.”

Step Five: Maximize Your Fit.

Continue to grow into the needs of your organization. “You’ll only stay a high performer if you adapt your capabilities and approach to what your company needs at the moment.” What does your company need for you to deliver?

Step Six: Fake It.

We manage impressions all the time. “As your career evolves, your continued high performance will require you to show new behaviors. How fast you adapt to these behaviors will help differentiate you as a high performer. Some of these behaviors won’t come naturally to you, and you may not be fully convinced they’re the right way to manage or to work.” Guess what? Growth is uncomfortable at first. Fake it until you get it right.

Step Seven: Commit Your Body.

“Your body plays a critical role in your performance; it’s important to eat right, exercise, and get enough sleep.” When it comes to sleep, quality is more important than quantity. Six and a half to seven hours is the sleep sweet spot. While studies seem to indicate that exercise matters a little and diet has no measurable effect on high performance, I think that may be short-sighted. And the two certainly play into long-term performance. It’s a package.

Step Eight: Avoid Distractions.

Effron dismisses many of today’s management ideas. And we do have to careful of the latest fads enlisting them as some sort of solution to all of our problems. He picks apart the strengths movement, emotional intelligence, 10,000 hours of practice, and growth mindset, among others. In the limited perspective he describes for each of them, he is right, but a thorough understanding of these concepts provides valuable insights for being a high performer. For example, emotional intelligence has very little to do with personality and is more about understanding your effect on others. Weaknesses need to be managed and often improved on, and a growth mindset is not about individual intelligence. Al of these ideas will help you increase your performance.

When looking over the 8 steps, evaluate yourself on which ones you have mastered and which ones you need to work on. You might not be able to hit all of the steps but take those you need to work on, one at a time, and you will be headed in the right direction.

8 Steps to High Performance is quite valuable in showing you how to get out of your comfort zone to begin to contribute to your potential. Each chapter ends with a section called “What Can Get in the Way” that highlights some of the rationalizations and obstacles one might encounter in taking the next step in their development.

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Acting with Power Courage to Execute

Posted by Michael McKinney at 01:27 PM
| Comments (0) | Personal Development


Leading Thoughts for December 24, 2020

Leading Thoughts

IDEAS shared have the power to expand perspectives, change thinking, and move lives. Here are two ideas for the curious mind to engage with:


Nobel Prize winner in Physics, Frank Wilczek on the truth of science:

“Science tells us many important things about how things are, but it does not pronounce how things should be, nor forbid us from imagining things that are not. Science contains beautiful ideas, but it does not exhaust beauty. It offers a uniquely fruitful way to understand the physical world, but it is not a complete guide to life.”

Source: Fundamentals: Ten Keys to Reality


Cistercian monk Michael Casey on the need to listen:

“In the short term it is easier to interact by assuming a surface calm. Mostly we do not want to listen to pressures building up inside others; we prefer to hope they will muddle through, and (anyhow) we have enough worries on our own account. Perhaps the most necessary of all skills today is the timeless knack of being able to listen to others, allowing them to tell their story, knowing that telling it will ease their burden and help them become stronger.”

Source: Toward God: The Ancient Wisdom of Western Prayer

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Leading Thoughts Best Books of 2020

Posted by Michael McKinney at 10:23 AM
| Comments (0) | Leading Thoughts


Acting with Power

Acting with Power

WE need to think about power differently. Deborah Gruenfeld has been teaching a class at Stanford University that is the title of her book, Acting with Power. It is a tour de force on what power is, how it works, and how it affects every aspect of our lives. We all have power. The question is, what are we doing with it?

Two statements she makes at the start caught my attention immediately:

Success, impact, and life satisfaction are not the result of how much power you can accumulate, or even how powerful others think you are; they are the result of what you are able to do for others with the power you already have.

People who use the power they have to manage their own powerless feelings are bound to stray from their responsibilities.

These two statements set the stage for what follows.

What Is Power?

Simply stated, “power is the capacity for social control.” On a more personal level. “what makes someone powerful—what makes others willing to comply with their wishes—is the degree to which they are needed. Any person’s power depends entirely on the context in which power is being negotiated.” Power is not a feeling, and if you have to talk about it, you probably have very little of it.

We can play our power up, or we can play it down. Both can be useful depending on the context and how we do it. “Pulling rank can be generous, or an expression of caring, when done by the right person at the right time.” As we see over and over in this book, the motive is the key. Sometimes you need to “power up because there will be times when other people need you to behave this way in order to protect their interests.” It lets people know, “I’ve got this.” Knowing when to power up or down is important to managing balance in a given situation.

Playing power down often helps you to connect with others and pull them in. “Playing power down is not showing weakness. It is showing that we are strong and secure enough to take personal risks and put others’ interests ahead of our own.”

Getting Good at Being Who You Are

In one of her most important and practical chapters, she talks about a much bandied and misunderstood idea—authenticity—being yourself. Too often, people get the idea the authenticity means doing whatever feels right to me because it’s who I am. I’m being real. Frequently, that will backfire.

In everyday life, we are acting, presenting an image of who we are. Being yourself is an act.

We strategically choose costumes and props, manners of speaking and moving, and even which stages to appear on, not to trick people into believing falsehoods about us but to define ourselves and express a stable, coherent identity that keeps us grounded psychologically as we grapple with the messiness, self-doubt, and confusion that are an inevitable part of the internal experience.

Acting, then, is not trying to be someone else. Acting is a disciplined approach—a code of conduct—for managing yourself. Actors are simply people who, like the rest of us, must manage the noisiest parts of themselves—their feelings, their needs and insecurities, their desires, their habits, their performance anxieties, and their fears—in order to bring the more useful parts out at the right moments.

When we behave any way we want, any time we want, we are losing the plot. We are connected to others playing a part in their stories as they do in ours. So, we need to always consider our role on the stage we are on. When we don’t, we fail the people who depend on us.

Losing the plot, like “going rogue,” describes acting in a way that is inappropriate because it does not fit the context and violates social norms in a way that is not helpful to anyone. In life, as in the theatre, the plot is the premise; it refers to the story like, the part of the given circumstances that defines what the actors have agreed to come together to do, and how they have agreed to behave while doing it.

Power as A Follower

All of us are subordinate to someone. If we are to be good in a supporting role, we first have to get our thinking right about it. If we can’t thrive in a supporting role, it means we have lost the plot if we ever really understood it in the first place.

Gruenfeld says it requires a different level of commitment and a willingness to put someone else first. Your contribution must come first without regard to recognition. “It signals clearly that you care more about the art than about being known as the artist.” Well put. People who know how to support and follow understand leadership better.

What is fulfilling, in life, is to serve a higher purpose in roles where you can have real impact—not just the ones that look good on a resume.

And then there are times when we need to step into a more powerful role. Usually, the people who want power the most, are the least qualified to exercise it.

One of the great ironies of power is that we seek leading roles in order to feel more secure and more in control, but then the joke is on us: we find that the moment we step into a powerful position is the moment we realize how little control we actually have.

The thread that runs through the abuse of power is insecurity. And we all have them. Because of that, when placed in positions of power, “people act more readily on all kinds of impulses and approach all kinds of rewards that satisfy personal needs and desires, in ways that make the most sense to them, with less concern for the social consequences of their actions.”

We know bad actors when we see them, but unfortunately, we have few role models to show us what it should look like. Gruenfeld examines some of the various types of bad actors and how we can best respond to them.

She suggests that we use a different standard when choosing leaders rather than the dominant individuals we typically associate with leadership. If we used beneficence — “the capacity in a high-power actor to prioritize the welfare of less powerful others” — then a different kind of men and women would rise to the top.

This suggests that to create organizations in which power is used effectively, it may be useful to cast people who have shown not just that they are capable of rising quickly but also that they are interested in the quality of their performances and are willing to do their time in a low-level position in order to learn, to hone their expertise, and to contribute (repeatedly) to something they care about.

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Leaders Who Lust Captain Class Greatest Teams of All-Time

Posted by Michael McKinney at 12:29 PM
| Comments (0) | Leadership


What Do You Do When Life Ambushes You?


WE are conditioned to believe that to be happy, for life to be good, everything should be going our way. Life is supposed to be comfortable when done right. Most self-help books are based on this line of reasoning.

But when you think about it, a constant state of comfort is numbing to the human spirit. It takes us nowhere. What really makes us feel alive are those times when we are challenged, pushed, distressed. In those moments, opportunities arise, our mind expands, and we grow—we learn.

What do you do when life ambushes you? When you are disabused of the status quo. Times like this can either shut you down or open you up. Ambushes create a question.

Former Navy Seal Jason Redman says when a life ambush— “a catastrophic series of events that knock the wind out of you, pin you to the pain, and forever alter your reality” —hits you, you must overcome. You must get off the X.

The X is the event that hit you. And we can get stuck there—sometimes for years. He says people respond to life ambushes in three ways. They are destroyed by it and can’t stop rehashing it. Or, like most people, they get through to the other side, but it is always a struggle for them. Or the third group turns the ambush into a launching point.

In Overcome: Crush Adversity with the Leadership Techniques of America's Toughest Warriors, he shares the story of he was caught in an ambush that left him severely wounded, almost losing an arm and half of his face shot off. He was caught on the X—the “kill zone, the point of attack” –bleeding out, sure he was going to die. He had to stay awake to stay alive. He had to overcome.

What would you do? “How you handle a life ambush, how you handle any crisis, is dictated by how well you lead yourself, and how well you lead others.” After an ambush, you have to take back control of your life and move from defense to offense or what he calls the Overcome Mind-Set. “Self-discipline is the best way to take control of your life again after an ambush.”

Your first move is to get off the X. Identify the issue and find a new direction. You have to REACT: Recognize your reality, Evaluate your position, Assess possible exit routes, Choose a direction and communicate it, and Take action. Moving is the key to getting off and staying off the X.

Once you’ve been through a life ambush, it’s so easy to look back at where you were in the past and think, “Getting back there is my goal.” It isn’t. It can’t be. You have to figure out what your new 100 percent is and build on it.

If there is an advantage to experiencing a life ambush, it’s the clarity it can bring about what is truly important in your life. Crisis crystalizes your thinking, and you become clear about where you stand—often for the first time.

Redman believes there are five areas of your life that when maximized will help you to face any ambush when it comes. The key self-leadership areas are physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, and social.

Overcome Jason Redman

Physical Leadership: “If you are ignoring your physical health, you’re in denial about the risks you are unnecessarily taking. Physical fitness is not just about being ripped or strong; it is about having the energy needed to lead. Physical fitness is the base. Everything is supported by this base.”

Mental Leadership: “You build mental leadership through broadening your perspective, increasing your knowledge, and getting outside of your comfort zone. An interesting recommendation from the Brain Center was to find a sport that requires balance, like paddle boarding, surfing, or even cycling. These exercises are great for mental training because you are using the muscles on both sides of your body, causing your brain to use both hemispheres.”

Emotional Leadership: “What we do with our emotions is a choice. We choose to allow ourselves to get angry and explode. We choose to verbally express our negative thoughts and frustration. Controlling our emotions begins by understanding the scope of our emotions and what patterns we typically fall into when we react.”

Social Leadership: “Often in those hardest moments you only have your close friends and family, and if you did not take the time to nourish those relationships, you will be trying to overcome the near impossible, climbing out of a deep hole without a rope or assistance.”

Spiritual Leadership: “Spiritual leadership means recognizing that you are a unique part of a much larger world and picture, and investing time and resources to make your community and world better. If you struggle with spiritual leadership, try a simple practice: gratitude. Gratitude forces you to look outside of yourself, to focus on something beyond your problems.”

If you are not maintaining each of these five areas, you will undermine your ability to lead others.

A Crisis Is a Launchpad

Overcome offers an approach to get you off of your X with a never-quit attitude. It’s about breaking down the barriers in your mind and keep moving forward despite your fears. It’s about perspective and gratitude.

A life ambush is miserable when we go through it. Maybe we don’t fully recover from it, but it creates a whole new path. So many people get stuck on what they lost or what they no longer have. They want the past so much that they’re not willing to turn around and look forward at what is in front of them. They fail to even consider, “Okay, what are my new opportunities, and could something better come of it.”

Choose to overcome—very good advice from someone who walks the talk.

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Extreme Ownership Dichotomy

Posted by Michael McKinney at 04:32 PM
| Comments (0) | Personal Development , Teamwork


Leading Thoughts for December 17, 2020

Leading Thoughts

IDEAS shared have the power to expand perspectives, change thinking, and move lives. Here are two ideas for the curious mind to engage with:


Margaret Heffernan on what it takes to make your predictions more thoughtful and accurate:

“Ordinary people who were open-minded, educated, prepared to change their minds, humble, and attentive could gain real insight and awareness into what might happen in the next year or so. These were people who were prepared to see multiple, not single, causes of events and who were comfortable updating or changing their initial expectations.”

Source: Uncharted: How to Navigate the Future


George Schultz, who turned 100 on December 13th, on creating a learning environment:

“I always have found that if I could create an environment around me in which everybody felt they were learning, I would have a hot group. I have always tried to include people in what I was doing, to encourage them to sat what they think, to let them see the problems that were confronting us all, and to create an atmosphere in which everyone could feel at the end of the day, or the end of a week or a month, that he or she had learned something.”

Source: Turmoil and Triumph: My Years as Secretary of State

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Leading Thoughts Best Books of 20209

Posted by Michael McKinney at 08:48 AM
| Comments (0) | Leading Thoughts


Uncharted: How to Navigate the Future


PREDICTION has never been easy – or that accurate. Over and over again, forecasts and models fail us. And when they do, they won’t go away because the agenda behind them lives on. As a model or a forecast is designed to do, we become “recruited into an army of believers.” “The more we believe, the less we question,” says Margaret Heffernan.

In Uncharted: How to Navigate the Future, she writes that “Overwhelmed with complexity, we seek simplification and too quickly reach for binary perspectives, just at the moment when we need broader ones.” How true. We crave certainty in a world that remains ambiguous.

In an outstanding first chapter—False Profits—she reviews the work of three economic forecasters and the shortcomings and consequences of each. Forecasts and models are useful if they get you thinking, but only if we see them for what they are—propaganda.

The point of prediction should not be to surrender to them but to use them to broaden and navigate your conceptual, imaginative horizons. Don’t fall for them—challenge them.

When we trade the effort of doubt and debate for the ease of blind faith, we become gullible and exposed, passive and irresponsible observers of our own lives. Worse still, we leave ourselves wide open to those who profit by influencing our behavior, our thinking, and our choices. At that moment, our agency in our own lives is in jeopardy.

Our past informs our present and future, but it can’t predict it. History, especially our personal history, defines a trajectory and provides us with probabilities. It tells us how we tend to react to what life throws at us, but we also have the capacity to learn and grow and change. New experiences shape us.

Our memories of the past don’t determine the future because they keep changing, and because we add to them. In the same way, history does not predict the future because we bring to each event knowledge that those in the past did not have.

It’s so tempting to think that when the past and the present look the same, they must somehow be the same—and play out in the same ways.

Believing that his history always repeats itself can lead to “blindness and blunder.”

We can’t see the future. Over the last hundred years, turning to models, data, history, profiling, and DNA has thwarted our craving for certainty. Models fail because they’re reductive, subjective, ideological. Confronted by the inherent unpredictability of life, many individuals and organizations have shifted subtly from trying to forecast our future to trying to influence us, using salesmanship and propaganda.

Defeated by the ambiguity and complexity of human life, it has become more profitable to reduce free agency than to predict it.

Much of what she is talking about here defines the year 2020. So, if we can’t predict the future, what can we do?

First, we can experiment more. In a time of crisis, we need to know more. We need to experiment. Experiments are an “antidote to helplessness or passivity. They set us on paths that reveal new knowledge and choices.”

We can develop scenarios to “identify and test how and where the future and the present meet.” Different from experiments that “reveal immediate internal features of a complex system, scenarios explore where the internal organization meets the external environment, where uncertainties lurk beyond anyone’s control.”

Scenario planning always surfaces conflict and there is always a moment when everything seems to fall apart. But getting the conflict out in the open, constructively, is crucial; it’s how and when people start to acknowledge and consider alternative perspectives.

Third, we need to think like an artist. Artists think for themselves. They pay attention. Notice more. And then they let it sit—simmer, filter, distill, digest. Then they act. The only way to know if you are on to something is to start. I liked the phrase: “moving in and out of focus, trying to get a feel for something that doesn’t exist yet.”

To have insights that are relevant to life requires having a life, one rich in experiences, and the time to internalize them.

Fourth, think beyond. Start a Cathedral Project. Cathedral projects are unpredictable from the beginning. “They are destined to last longer than a human lifetime, to adapt to changing tastes and technologies, to endure long into the future as symbols of faith and human imagination.” They are also full of experiments making them “intrinsically, ambiguous, uncertain, and full of risk.” They attract brilliant minds because “the scale of their aspiration ensures that, instead of being passive victims of the future, they are actively involved in making it.”

Imagination, creativity, compassion, generosity, variety, meaning, faith, and courage: what makes the world unpredictable are the same strengths that make each of us unique and human. Accepting uncertainty means embracing these as robust talents to be used, not flaws to be eliminated.

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Willful Blindness Farsighted

Posted by Michael McKinney at 05:11 PM
| Comments (0) | Problem Solving , Thinking , Vision


The Company I Keep: How Leonard Lauder Built Estée Lauder

Leonard Lauder

ESTÉE LAUDER founded what would become the Estée Lauder Corporation in 1933 on the conviction that “every woman can be beautiful.” Her ambition was to have a life filled with beautiful things, and that “rested entirely on her ability to sell her skincare products.”

The first five chapters of The Company I Keep: My Life in Beauty are a must-read for any entrepreneur. Her son, Leonard, details the tenacity, business acumen, salesmanship, and mindset of a superstar businesswoman. Her Uncle John developed a face cream, and she began demonstrating it in high school. She wrote, “Deep inside, I knew I had found something that mattered much more than popularity. My future was being written in a jar of cream. My moment had come and I was not about to miss seizing it.”

She pioneered the “sales technique of the century:” the free sample. No woman would ever leave empty-handed. Estée Lauder was built on the free sample.

Estee LauderShe also personally trained the saleswomen at the counter.

My mother didn’t realize it at the time, but her insistence on personally training saleswomen would be a key differentiator when she eventually opened counters in department stores. Other brands used saleswomen to merely sell products; thanks to my mother’s training program, her salespeople taught customers how to use her products to look their best.

Her hands-on approach—what her father had dismissed as “fiddling with other people’s faces” —was a charm. “Touch your customer and you’re halfway there,” she would preach.

And she was a tenacious saleswoman even following New Yorkers who headed south to winter in Miami—staying for months.

My mother stopped at nothing in order to inform every woman about her products so that she would tell more women. No one escaped. She stopped strangers on the street and on trains to give them beauty tips. She famously interrupted a Salvation Army sister’s bell-ringing to explain how she could make her skin look and feel fresher. “There’s no excuse for looking untidy,” she admonished. An acquaintance from those years remembered how my mother would approach someone she had never met before, evaluate her makeup, and proceed to tell her how to correct it. “She would end up selling her $40 worth of Cosmetics.”

Leonard learned many lessons watching his mother, and his quest for excellence served him well during his time in the Navy. One of the greatest lessons he learned there was, “No matter how smart you think you are, there’s always someone who’s smarter. No matter how good you are, there’s always someone better. I would search out and hire exactly those people.” This belief, he says, would help play an enormous role in the growth Estée Lauder. And if he had to fire someone, he took responsibility. “Everyone has worth. The fact that we have no been able to take advantage of your skills is not your fault. It’s our fault.”

He wanted to build Estée Lauder into the General Motors of the beauty business, “with multiple brands, multiple product lines, and multidimensional distribution.”

The book is full of great lessons and the stories behind them. Here are some I pulled out.

Positioning is the product.

Launch at the top and stay at the top. If you launch into the heart of the market, there’s always someone who will sell a similar product cheaper than you, and you have no way to go but down in what becomes a race to the bottom.

Having everyone know that they had to be good at their job and a good person to succeed made all the difference in the world.

Every brand president needs the opposite skill set in their number two. That’s what makes a great team.

Don’t fall into the trap of “How do we compare to others?” as opposed to “This is who we are.”

When you criticize, do it verbally. Never put it in writing. If you put criticism in writing, the person will read it again and again and again and get angry and stay angry. Conversely, if you put praise in writing, they will read it again and again and again and feel good about you.

Don’t hire your best friends, and don’t hire your former classmates. Friendship is friendship, but business is business.

It is very easy for established companies to get stuck in the trap of “this is who we are,” rather than follow the path opened by “this is who we must be.”

Act like an owner to get people to think like an owner. Ownership doesn’t come from the shares of stock that you have. It comes from the responsibility you feel for your company and your colleagues.

Our director of creative services, June Leaman, often said, “One idea is a great idea. Two ideas are less effective. Three ideas are ineffective.” I never relied on a committee for a final decision. Committees are the death of creativity and productivity.

Make tactical mistakes, not strategic ones. A tactical mistake is one that, if you make it today, will only cost you today. A strategic mistake is one that, if you make it today, will cost you tomorrow—and tomorrow and tomorrow.

Listening for, summarizing, and articulating a shared perspective was the first step in making progress. It’s easier to get things done if you start with a “yes” than if you start with a “no.”

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Robert Iger Leadership Lessons A Leader Wears Many Hats

Posted by Michael McKinney at 02:12 PM
| Comments (0) | General Business , Leaders


Leading Thoughts for December 10, 2020

Leading Thoughts

IDEAS shared have the power to expand perspectives, change thinking, and move lives. Here are two ideas for the curious mind to engage with:


Morgan Housel on finding the sensible balance between optimism and pessimism:

“Optimism is usually defined as a belief that things will go well. But that’s incomplete. Sensible optimism is a belief that the odds are in your favor, and over time things will balance out to a good outcome even if what happens in between is filled with misery. And in fact you know it will be filled with misery. You can be optimistic that the long-term growth trajectory is up and to the right, but equally sure that the road between now and then is filled with landmines, and always will be. Those two things are not mutually exclusive.

“Optimism and pessimism can coexist. If you look hard enough you’ll see them next to each other in virtually every successful company and successful career. They seem like opposites, but they work together to keep everything in balance.”

Source: The Psychology of Money


Arthur Jensen on what brings out genius:

“Genius requires giftedness (consisting essentially of some special aptitude or talent, such as mathematical, spatial, musical, or artistic talent). But obviously there are other antecedents that are elusive to us. Nonetheless, we do know of at least two key attributes, beyond ability, that appear to function as catalysts for the creation of that special class of behavioral products specifically indicative of genius. They are productivity and creativity.”

Source: Giftedness and Genius: Crucial Differences found in Intellectual Talent: Psychometric and Social Issues

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Leading Thoughts Best Books of 2020

Posted by Michael McKinney at 01:39 PM
| Comments (0) | Leading Thoughts


The Best Leadership Books of 2020

Best Leadership Books of 2020

2020 has tested us. It has illuminated our strengths and exposed our vulnerabilities. It has called on us to reinvent and transform. It has called on us to learn to think better.

In the list below, you will find resources to help you do just that—think better. Certainty is out. Complexity is in. We can’t repeat our experiences, but we can extract the lessons and principles and apply them to the changing circumstances of our non-linear world.

The more we use technology and outsourced thinking, we diminish our ability to think for ourselves. Common sense no longer helps us connect the dots. Other people’s agenda becomes our narrative.

Patrick Lencioni asks the most fundamental question of all: Why are you leading? Too many lead for the sake of position and power and what that entitles them to. Gruenfeld reminds us that we have more power than we think no matter where we are in life.

All of the resources below are designed to help us think better and therefore perform better as leaders and guides.


9781633698529 Teaching by Heart: One Professor’s Journey to Inspire
by Thomas J. DeLong

(Harvard Business Review Press, 2020)

Teaching by Heart summarizes the author’s key insights gained from more than forty years of teaching and managing. It illustrates how teachers can both lift people up and let them down. It proposes that the best teachers are also leaders, and the best leaders are also teachers. In examining how to lead and teach, renowned Harvard Business School professor Thomas J. DeLong takes the reader inside his own head and heart. He notes that, as teachers, we often focus more on our inadequacies and missteps than on our strengths and unique talents. He explains why this is so by dissecting and analyzing his own experiences—using himself as a case study. (Blog Post)

9781633697621 Competing in the Age of AI: Strategy and Leadership When Algorithms and Networks Run the World
by Marco Iansiti and Karim R. Lakhani

(Harvard Business School Press, 2020)

AI-centric organizations exhibit a new operating architecture, redefining how they create, capture, share, and deliver value. Marco Iansiti and Karim R. Lakhani show how reinventing the firm around data, analytics, and AI removes traditional constraints on scale, scope, and learning that have restricted business growth for hundreds of years. From Airbnb to Ant Financial, Microsoft to Amazon, research shows how AI-driven processes are vastly more scalable than traditional processes, allow massive scope increase, enabling companies to straddle industry boundaries, and create powerful opportunities for learning--to drive ever more accurate, complex, and sophisticated predictions. (Blog Post)

9781400210541 Restoring the Soul of Business: Staying Human in the Age of Data
by Rishad Tobaccowala

(HarperCollins Leadership, 2020)

Named by Time as a top five marketing innovator, Rishad Tobaccowala draws on research and interviews, as well as over three decades of experience as a business and thought leader, to describe how digilog companies—ones where digital tools and analog people are integrated expertly—develop a hybrid consciousness and learn to be proactive when they see warning signs that human traits are being subordinated to technology and data only decisions. Restoring the Soul of Business provides practical tools and techniques that every organization can and should implement, and challenges readers to move forward with the kind of balance that catalyzes transformation and produces one great success after another. (Blog Post)

9781541742710 Think Outside the Building: How Advanced Leaders Can Change the World One Smart Innovation at a Time
by Rosabeth Moss Kanter

(PublicAffairs, 2020)

One of the leading business thinkers in the world offers a bold, new theory of advanced leadership for tackling the world’s complex, messy, and recalcitrant social and environmental problems. When traditional approaches are inadequate or resisted, advanced leadership skills are essential. In this book, Kanter shows how people everywhere can unleash their creativity and entrepreneurial adroitness to mobilize partners across challenging cultural, social, and political situations and innovate for a brighter future. (Blog Post)

9780735217539 Leadership Is Language: The Hidden Power of What You Say — and What You Don’t
by L. David Marquet

(Portfolio, 2020)

In his last book, Turn the Ship Around!, Marquet told the incredible story of abandoning command-and-control leadership on his submarine and empowering his crew to turn the worst performing submarine to the best performer in the fleet. Now, with Leadership is Language he gives businesspeople the tools they need to achieve such transformational leadership in their organizations. (Blog Post)

9781119600459 The Motive: Why So Many Leaders Abdicate Their Most Important Responsibilities
by Patrick Lencioni

(Jossey-Bass, 2020)

New York Times best-selling author Patrick Lencioni has written a dozen books that focus on how leaders can build teams and lead organizations. In The Motive, he shifts his attention toward helping them understand the importance of why they’re leading in the first place. In what may be his edgiest page-turner to date, Lencioni thrusts his readers into a day-long conversation between rival CEOs. Shay Davis is the CEO of Golden Gate Alarm, who, after just a year in his role, is beginning to worry about his job and is desperate to figure out how to turn things around. With nowhere else to turn, Shay receives some hard-to-swallow advice from the most unlikely and unwanted source—Liam Alcott, CEO of a more successful security company and his most hated opponent. Lencioni uses unexpected plot twists and crisp dialogue to take us on a journey that culminates in a resolution that is as unexpected as it is enlightening. (Blog Post)

9781101903957 Acting with Power: Why We Are More Powerful Than We Believe
by Deborah Gruenfeld

(Currency, 2020)

Grounded in over two decades worth of scientific research and inspired by the popular class of the same name at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business, Acting with Power offers a new and eye-opening paradigm that overturns everything we thought we knew about the nature of power. Although we all feel powerless sometimes, we have more power than we tend to believe. That’s because power exists in every relationship, by virtue of the roles we play in others’ lives. But it isn’t a function of status or hierarchy. Rather, it’s about how much we are needed, and the degree to which we fulfill our responsibilities. Power isn’t a tool for self-enhancement or a resource for personal consumption. It’s a part you play in someone else’s story. (Blog Post)

9781633699212 Think for Yourself: Restoring Common Sense in an Age of Experts and Artificial Intelligence
by Vikram Mansharamani

(Harvard Business School Press, 2020)

Have you ever followed your GPS device to a deserted parking lot? Or unquestioningly followed the advice of an expert—perhaps a doctor or financial adviser—only to learn later that your own thoughts and doubts were correct? And what about the stories we’ve all heard over the years about sick patients—whether infected with Ebola or COVID-19—who were sent home or allowed to travel because busy staff people were following a protocol to the letter rather than using common sense? Why and how do these kinds of things happen? As Harvard lecturer and global trend watcher Vikram Mansharamani shows in this eye-opening and perspective-shifting book, our complex, data-flooded world has made us ever more reliant on experts, protocols, and technology. Too often, we’ve stopped thinking for ourselves. Mansharamani illustrates how in a very real sense we have outsourced our thinking to a troubling degree, relinquishing our autonomy. (Blog Post)

9781642932294 Stop Making Sense: The Art of Inspiring Anybody
by Michael J. Fanuele

(Post Hill Press, 2020)

There are a million books that can inspire you. This one will make you inspiring. In this fun and provocative page-turner, Michael Fanuele, one of the world’s most successful marketing strategists, shares The Six Skills of Inspiration. With insights from music, politics, business, neuroscience, and a recipe for radishes, Stop Making Sense shares the creative blueprint that can unleash the inspiring leader in all of us. (Blog Post)

9781982112622 Uncharted: How to Navigate the Future
by Margaret Heffernan

(Simon & Schuster, 2020)

How can we think about the future? What do we need to do—and who do we need to be? We are addicted to prediction, desperate for certainty about the future. But the complexity of modern life won’t provide that; experts in forecasting are reluctant to look more than 400 days out. History doesn’t repeat itself and even genetics won’t tell you everything you want to know. Tomorrow remains uncharted territory, but Heffernan demonstrates how we can forge ahead with agility. Drawing on a wide array of people and places, Uncharted traces long-term projects that shrewdly evolved over generations to meet the unpredictable challenges of every new age. Heffernan also looks at radical exercises and experiments that redefined standard practices by embracing different perspectives and testing fresh approaches. Preparing to confront a variable future provides the antidote to passivity and prediction. (Blog Post)

9781260459814 Ruthless Consistency: How Committed Leaders Execute Strategy, Implement Change, and Build Organizations That Win
by Michael Canic

(McGraw-Hill Education, 2020)

According to Harvard Business Review, “most studies still show a 60-70% failure rate for organizational change projects-a statistic that has stayed constant from the 1970s to the present.” Drawing on his 20+ years of experience as a strategy and execution consultant specializing in midsize companies, Michael Canic helps committed leaders drive the odds in their favor. In Ruthless Consistency, he identifies the three surprising reasons most strategic change initiatives fail. Simply put, leaders who develop the right focus, create the right environment, and build the right team-consistently-are leaders whose organizations win. Finally, it details each element of the model and offers ready-to-apply processes, practices, techniques, and tools to make it happen. It’s a must-read for every leader who wants to implement change successfully. (Blog Post)

9781541742055 The Myth of Experience: Why We Learn the Wrong Lessons, and Ways to Correct Them
by Emre Soyer and Robin Hogarth

(PublicAffairs, 2020)

Our personal experience is key to who we are and what we do. We judge others by their experience and are judged by ours. Society venerates experience. From doctors to teachers to managers to presidents, the more experience the better. It’s not surprising then, that we often fall back on experience when making decisions, an easy way to make judgements about the future, a constant teacher that provides clear lessons. Yet, this intuitive reliance on experience is misplaced. In The Myth of Experience, behavioral scientists Emre Soyer and Robin Hogarth take a transformative look at experience and the many ways it deceives and misleads us. From distorting the past to limiting creativity to reducing happiness, experience can cause misperceptions and then reinforce them without our awareness. Instead, the authors argue for a nuanced approach, where a healthy skepticism toward the lessons of experience results in more reliable decisions and sustainable growth. (Blog Post)



9780062990945 The Company I Keep: My Life in Beauty
by Leonard A. Lauder

(Harper Business, 2020)

In his much-anticipated memoir, The Company I Keep: My Life in Beauty, Chairman Emeritus and former CEO of The Estée Lauder Companies Leonard A. Lauder shares the business and life lessons he learned as well as the adventures he had while helping transform the mom-and-pop business his mother founded in 1946 in the family kitchen into the beloved brand and ultimately into the iconic global prestige beauty company it is today. (Blog Post)

9780385540551 The Man Who Ran Washington: The Life and Times of James A. Baker III
by Peter Baker and Susan Glasser

(Doubleday, 2020)

For a quarter-century, from the end of Watergate to the aftermath of the Cold War, no Republican won the presidency without his help or ran the White House without his advice. James Addison Baker III was the indispensable man for four presidents because he understood better than anyone how to make Washington work at a time when America was shaping events around the world. The Man Who Ran Washington is a page-turning portrait of a power broker who influenced America’s destiny for generations. His story is a case study in the acquisition, exercise, and preservation of power in late twentieth-century America and the story of Washington and the world in the modern era--how it once worked and how it has transformed into an era of gridlock and polarization. This masterly biography by two brilliant observers of the American political scene is destined to become a classic.

9781439192016 Eleanor
by David Michaelis

(Simon & Schuster, 2020)

In the first single-volume cradle-to-grave portrait in six decades, acclaimed biographer David Michaelis delivers a stunning account of Eleanor Roosevelt’s remarkable life of transformation. An orphaned niece of President Theodore Roosevelt, she converted her Gilded Age childhood of denial and secrecy into an irreconcilable marriage with her ambitious fifth cousin Franklin. Despite their inability to make each other happy, Franklin Roosevelt transformed Eleanor from a settlement house volunteer on New York’s Lower East Side into a matching partner in New York’s most important power couple in a generation.

9781524763169 A Promised Land
by Barack Obama

(Simon & Schuster, 2020)

In the first volume of his presidential memoirs, Barack Obama tells the story of his improbable odyssey from young man searching for his identity to leader of the free world, describing in strikingly personal detail both his political education and the landmark moments of the first term of his historic presidency—a time of dramatic transformation and turmoil. Obama takes readers on a journey from his earliest political aspirations to the pivotal Iowa caucus victory that demonstrated the power of grassroots activism to the watershed night of November 4, 2008, when he was elected 44th president of the United States, becoming the first African American to hold the nation’s highest office.


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Whats New in Leadership Books Best Books of 2019

Posted by Michael McKinney at 12:02 AM
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The Small Voice in the Room

Small Voice in the Room

ONE OF THE MOST challenging leadership problems is to get people to speak up, especially as it concerns realizing the value of the “small voice in the room.”

I had just come off my first CEO assignment with Pretty Good Privacy, Inc. a fairly notorious email encryption company both provoking concerns from the NSA but also putting privacy on the map as “the marketing gorilla of the Internet.” With this cybersecurity background, I was recruited to run another security company that had developed a clever computer card implementation of the emerging virtual private networking standard. With this impressive implementation, it had managed to enter into an agreement with a much larger, high-profile player in the industry. This partnership had the potential to put the startup on the map and create a high valuation for subsequent investment rounds.

When I joined the company, it was late delivering the hardware/software card to the partner. While I was able to secure a $6M investment from the partner, they were at the same time giving me increasing levels of grief for the delays. I had already completed some training in company principles and was pressuring the team to follow through on the “honoring commitments” part of the practices I had put forward. I had also discussed the “speaking up” practice, but one thing at a time. Unfortunately.

With this pressure on the team, it eventually delivered the card. The larger partner took three months to begin testing the card, during which further development of the card by the startup was suspended, finding it amusing that the partner who complained about our tardiness was even more tardy, soon to become a not so amusing lesson in avoiding smugness.

Once testing began, the card crashed. Repeatedly. And despite a desperate effort to remedy the problem, it turned out to be irretrievably flawed. During the testing process with the larger partner, one of the startup engineers was heard to say “They should be mad. That card is junk!” Had that fact been widely understood, the startup company could have used those three months to fix the card and save the partnership. Unfortunately, with time running out, the partnership collapsed. Somebody on the team always knows about a problem before it is detected by some kind of oversight system. That is why real teams provide a sufficiently safe environment to encourage speaking up no matter what consequences otherwise might attend the act.

Instead, another startup, employing a similar technology strategy, but running months behind, gained traction. It ultimately went public and ultimately was sold for $3 billion. The first startup eventually sold for $50 million, or a difference in outcome of $2.95 billion. That’s an expensive communication mishap.

In the Greek Pantheon, Hermes was the god of complementarity and communication. He encouraged not only open pathways but also actions to fill them. We think of Greek gods as curious figures from the past. They aren’t. They are an embodiment of human nature, and we might be surprised to find they are alive and well and present in our conference rooms. In this case, Hermes wept.

These and many other principles and practices are covered in my new book, Real Teams Win: What Smart Leaders Need to Know Now About Achieving Peak Performance.

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Leading Forum
Tom Steding has been CEO of more than 12 high tech companies and active chairman of several others. He is co-founder of the Mayfield Alliance with former Facebook Executive Blaise Bertrand whose mission is to deliver a transformational leadership methodology for everyone. He is the co-founder of Quadrix Partners providing leadership interventions. He holds a Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering from University of California, Berkeley, California, and a MS in Management (Sloan Fellow) from Stanford University Graduate School of Business, Stanford, California where he graduated top of his class. He was a commissioned officer and the Distinguished Graduate of Armor Officer Basic at Ft. Knox, Kentucky. He is also the co-author of Built on Trust – How to Gain Competitive Advantage in Any Organization.

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Find an Introvert Making Your Team Swing

Posted by Michael McKinney at 01:03 AM
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Leading Thoughts for December 3, 2020

Leading Thoughts

IDEAS shared have the power to expand perspectives, change thinking, and move lives. Here are two ideas for the curious mind to engage with:


Wright Thompson on doing the work:

“More and more today, we don’t want to do the work or take the chances required for greatness, and we try to fix all those shortcuts on the back end with marketing and branding—modern, fancy words than mean lie.”

Source: Pappyland: The Story of Family, Fine Bourbon, and the Things That Last


Arsène Wenger on coaching:

“The coach’s role is to make the player understand everything that serves the interests of the game. To do this, he must speak to the child within each player, to the adolescent he was and the adult he is now. Too often a coach tends only to speak to the adult, issuing commands for performance, victory, reflection, to the detriment of the child who is playing for pleasure.”

Source: Wenger: My Life and Lessons in Red and White

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Look for these ideas every Thursday on the Leading Blog. Find more ideas on the LeadingThoughts index.

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Leading Thoughts Whats New in Leadership Books

Posted by Michael McKinney at 12:01 AM
| Comments (0) | Leading Thoughts


First Look: Leadership Books for December 2020

Here's a look at some of the best leadership books to be released in December 2020. Don't miss out on other great new and future releases not listed here.

9781635577143The New Long Life: A Framework for Flourishing in a Changing World by Andrew J. Scott and Lynda Gratton

Smart new technologies. Longer, healthier lives. Human progress has risen to great heights, but at the same time it has prompted anxiety about where we're heading. Are our jobs under threat? If we live to 100, will we ever really stop working? And how will this change the way we love, manage and learn from others? One thing is clear: advances in technology have not been matched by the necessary innovation to our social structures. In our era of unprecedented change, we haven't yet discovered new ways of living. Drawing from the fields of economics and psychology, Scott and Gratton offer a simple framework based on three fundamental principles (Narrate, Explore and Relate) to give you the tools to navigate the challenges ahead. Both a personal road-map and a primer for governments, corporations and colleges, The New Long Life is the essential guide to a longer, smarter, happier life.

9781630061579Real Teams Win: What Smart Leaders Need to Know Now About Achieving Peak Performance by Thomas L. Steding

Highly respected Silicon Valley turn-around expert Thomas L. Steding presents his proven leadership process for achieving peak performance by accessing the untapped/unseen intelligence of deep imagination as well as the superior creativity and intelligence of the connected team. Thomas Steding has seen first-hand that the leadership skills that can take an organization from poor to peak performance and outdistancing its competition were not taught in business schools or management seminars or even a part of the leadership conversation. Real Teams Win is the culmination of Steding's four decades of high-impact methods that offer real change from within the organization with real results that work really fast.

9781546084716Overcome: Crush Adversity with the Leadership Techniques of America's Toughest Warriors by Jason Redman

Triumph over adversity using proven Special Operations habits and mindsets with this inspiring guide from retired Navy SEAL and New York Times bestselling author Jason Redman. Adversity can often catch you by surprise and leave you struggling with what to do next. What if you could confront any adversity, from the biggest challenges—the loss of your job, divorce, health issues, bankruptcy—to normal daily challenges—a late flight, a disappointing phone call, a missed promotion, a bad day—and not just survive it, but thrive afterwards?

9781119691297Empowered: Ordinary People, Extraordinary Products by Marty Cagan with Chris Jones

What is it about the top tech product companies such as Amazon, Apple, Google, Netflix and Tesla that enables their record of consistent innovation? Most people think it’s because these companies are somehow able to find and attract a level of talent that makes this innovation possible. But the real advantage these companies have is not so much who they hire, but rather how they enable their people to work together to solve hard problems and create extraordinary products.

9780306846335Embrace the Suck: The Navy SEAL Way to an Extraordinary Life by Brent Gleeson

During the brutal crucible of Navy SEAL training, instructors often tell students to "embrace the suck." This phrase conveys the one lesson that is vital for any SEAL hopeful to learn: lean into the suffering and get comfortable being very uncomfortable. In this powerful, no-nonsense guide, Navy SEAL combat veteran turned leadership expert Brent Gleeson teaches you how to transform every area of your life--the Navy SEAL way. Embrace the Suck provides an actionable roadmap that empowers you to expand your comfort zone to live a more fulfilling, purpose-driven life. Through candid storytelling, behavioral science research, and plenty of self-deprecating humor, Gleeson shows you how to use pain as a pathway, reassess your values, remove temptation, build discipline, suffer with purpose, fail successfully, transform your mind, and achieve more of the goals you set


For bulk orders call 1-626-441-2024

discounted books

Build your leadership library with these specials on over 28 titles. All titles are at least 40% off the list price and are available only in limited quantities.

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“Compare the difference between the life of a man who does no reading and that of a man who does. The man who has not the habit of reading is imprisoned in his immediate world, in respect to time and space. His life falls into a set routine; he is limited to contact and conversation with a few friends and acquaintances, and he sees only what happens in his immediate neighborhood. From this prison there is no escape.”
— Lin Yutang, The Importance of Living

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Whats New in Leadership Books Best Books of 2020

Posted by Michael McKinney at 12:10 AM
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Leadership Books
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